The first quarter of 2023 for the Estonian startup sector

With nearly 10,000 jobs and 53 million EUR paid in employment taxes, along with 568 million EUR in generated turnover, the Estonian startup sector is proving to be resilient in its growth plans. Despite a decline in both the quantity and frequency of investments - indicative of the global economic downturn and causing many investors to keep their golden gunpowder - the industry has consistently demonstrated its ability to adapt quickly to challenging circumstances. It almost seems as though crises are the bread and butter of the local startup scene after all. Let's take a closer look at how the industry fared in the first quarter of 2023.

To date, the Estonian Startup Database is home to 1460 startups. So far, 14 new startups created in 2023 have found their way into the database. 43% of the startups in the database have been active for 5 or more years. The largest sector in terms of active startups is Business software & HR, with 254 active companies (17% of all startups in the Estonian Startup Database), followed by FinTech with 194 active startups (13%) and Consumer products & services with 163 active companies (11%).

Employment numbers and taxes

The employee count in Estonian startups has stayed stable during the past quarters. According to the Estonian Tax and Customs Board, Estonian startups employed 9970 people as of March 31, about the same as at the end of 2022 (9954) and 9% more than in Q1 2022. The biggest employers among startups were Wise, (1890 employees), Bolt (1285), Swappie (443), Veriff (343) and Monese (249). Moreover, 59% of the total number of people employed in the whole startup sector at the end of Q1 of 2023 were employed by TOP20 startups.

Based on the statistics from the Estonian Tax and Customs Board, we can see a slight growth in the employment taxes paid, as the sum of employment tax contribution at the end of Q1 of 2023 was 53M EUR (+32% compared to Q1 2022 and +4% compared to Q4 2022). The substantial contributors of employment taxes among startups in Q1 were Bolt with 8.5M EUR, Wise with 8.3M EUR, Veriff with 2.5M EUR, Glia with 1.2M EUR and Monese with 1.2M EUR.

In terms of employment taxes paid in the first quarter of 2023, the largest contributing startup sectors were FinTech (16M EUR); Transportation & Logistics (11.9M EUR); Business software, services & HR (6.5M EUR); CyberTech (4M EUR); Advanced Manufacturing & Industry (2.5M EUR).


In the first quarter of 2023, Estonian startups generated 568M EUR in turnover, growing by 34% year-on-year. Among startups, the largest turnovers were generated by Bolt (290M EUR), with a bit more than half of the turnover in the sector(!), Swappie 26M EUR, Veriff 20M EUR, Crezu 8M EUR and Viseven 7.8M EUR.

Please note turnover data is published based on the quarterly data from the Estonian Tax and Customs Board and therefore is not comparable with companies’ financial year annual reports data.

Investments and Exits

Based on the crowdsourced database and the Estonian Startup Database, Estonian startups signed 14 funding deals for 62M EUR in Q1 of 2023 (compared to 906,6M EUR at the end of Q1 2022). Even though the investment figures in Q1 2022 were heavily affected by Bolt's massive investment round (628M EUR), we can see the decline in funding deals and the size of investments raised in Q1 2023. The average deal size was 5M EUR per deal, and 9 startups raised investments of more than 1M EUR. The biggest investments in Q1 2023 were raised by RangeForce (17M EUR), Planet42 (14,1M EUR), EFENCO (12,3M EUR), (6,45M EUR) and Salv (4M EUR).

During the first quarter of 2023, we already saw 3 acquisitions in the ecosystem. Communication startup Snackable, developing an AI tool to find the most powerful moments in your video and audio for you, was acquired by Amazon. FinTech startup Ignium, an all-in-one solution for enabling micro and small businesses to raise funds from their community, was acquired by Coinmetro. Transportation & Logistics startup Autolevi, a peer-to-peer car rental platform, was acquired by Forus International (after the deal was given the go-ahead by The Estonian Competition Authority). Furthermore, 6 startups reached maturity: ViisTek Media OU, Marketing Sharks, shoproller, zazler, Airpatrol and Warren.

Estonian Startup Visa

Estonian Startup Visa continuously supports the sector’s demand for talent in the technology and IT field. In the first quarter of 2023, companies founded with Estonian Startup Visa (18% of startups in the Estonian Startup Database) paid 2,4M EUR in employment taxes (+47% compared to Q1 2022), employed around 396 people in Estonia (+15% compared to Q1 2022) and brought their revenue to 26,2M EUR (+36% compared to Q1 2022).

Eyes on Deep Tech startups

As the world faces huge global challenges, more and more focus is targeted towards Deep Tech startups that aim to solve complex problems by creating innovative technologies. To boost the emergence and growth of Deep Tech teams in Estonia working with innovative technologies, Startup Estonia and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications have prepared an action plan to develop research- and technology-intensive startup entrepreneurship and aim to become a centre of excellence for deep technology startups.

Estonian startups in the field of deep technologies, along with representatives from universities and research parks, attended the Hello Tomorrow Global Summit in Paris through the Startup Estonia program. Gelatex Technologies and LightCode Photonics, both Estonian deep technology startups, participated in the Global Challenge competition and were among the 70 finalists out of over 4,000 companies worldwide.

Gelatex Technologies, which develops technology for producing nanofibers used in lab meat production, wound healing, and energy storage, won the food and agriculture category of the competition. Meanwhile, LightCode Photonics, a startup that emerged from a University of Tartu research project, was among the top six in the industry and autonomous machines category. The company produces innovative 3D cameras that could transform how robots perceive the world.

At the Deep Tech Atelier conference in Riga, startups showcased their solutions to potential foreign investors and customers, creating new business contacts.

Representatives from ESA BIC, the Estonian business incubator of the European Space Agency, also attended the conference and performed on the stage dedicated to space technologies. The incubator provides financial support and mentoring for the product development of Estonian space startups. Despite not being known as a space country, Estonia has proven its reputation in the European Space Agency, and Estonian scientists and startups contribute remarkably to the development of the field.

Vaido Mikheim, Project Manager of the Deep Tech field at Startup Estonia, explains:
"There is a race between countries to attract founders and teams to their country, because big and intense projects are done in international partnerships. The presence of international teams would also give impetus to the development of the Estonian ecosystem, because our concern so far is both the involvement of international top players and bringing Estonia into the field of view of investors across the border. That is why it is very important for us to be visible at top international events, being primarily an active participant."
Sigrid Rajalo, Head of Development and Innovation at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, emphasized that globally, a new wave of innovation is expected from the deep technology field, and Estonia needs to be up-to-date with the latest deep technology developments to avoid being left behind. She argues that the networking of companies at events like Deep Tech Atelier and Hello Tomorrow is crucial.

To date, the Estonian Startup Database is home to 123 Deep Tech startups who, in Q1 2023, paid 7,5M EUR in employment taxes, generated 41,9M EUR turnover and employed 1586 people, about 16% of all startup sector employees. Furthermore, Estonian Deep Tech startups signed 6 funding deals for 22M EUR in Q1 of 2023. The biggest investments were raised by EFENCO (12,3M EUR), (6,45M EUR) and VOOL (1,7M EUR).


Despite the decline in investment during the global economic downturn, the Estonian startup sector continues to demonstrate resilience, adaptability, and growth. While every challenge has its own tune to exercise in the orchestra of global changes, the startup ecosystem in Estonia has been quite remarkable in listening to others while holding its own course. Let’s keep on going (aka also known in well-known Estonian folklore song as “hakkame mehed minema!”)!

Sources: Startup Estonia, Statistics Estonia, Estonian Tax and Customs Board, Estonian Startup Database, Funding of Estonian Tech Startups Eesti Päevaleht, FoundME, Tehnopol, #estonianmafia.
Data crunched by: Signe Reinumägi.
The blog post was written by: Signe Reinumägi, Marina Bachmann and Ettie Mikita.

Startup Estonia connects and supports Estonian startups and develops the sectoral ecosystem. The Estonian Business and Innovation Agency implement the Startup Estonia program. SmartCap implements the activities of the Startup Estonia research accelerator. The Startup Estonia program (project number EU50651) is financed from the resources of the European Regional Development Fund.

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