A tiny superpower?
Estonia is roughly the same size as Switzerland. But with 6x fewer people, just 1.3 million, we compensate in other ways. As any tiny overachiever would. Our superpower? Startups.
So far, Estonia has produced seven billion-dollar unicorns: Skype, Playtech, Wise, Bolt, Pipedrive, ID.me and Zego. A dozen home-grown startups are valued over $100m each.Noting this, successive governments have been eager to cement Estonia’s reputation as a startup miracle. They’ve adapted laws to reflect fast-growing companies’ needs, from introducing startup visas to killing silly rules that held founders back.
Being small is great. (Ask any virus or nanobot.)
We move fast. We have to. The community here is vocal, demanding, and rightfully so. Estonia’s two top cities, Tallinn and Tartu, host full-blown startup ecosystems with 500+ events, 70+ community groups, experienced mentors, and 140 business angels.
The Estonian startup scene is supportive, tight-knit, and eager to learn by sharing. Unlike in hyper-protective startup “communities” elsewhere, we’re not that into NDAs. The sign of an insecure amateur founder. Ideas are cheap. Execution is key.
Your startup OS and unfair growth hormone.
Big says it’ll get back to you in six months.
Big’s a fat cat. How about some thin and agile?
Estonia has worked hard to alleviate the pain of building your startup. Think of it as a fast, invisible OS that gets out of your way.
You’ve heard the pitch: Run your business almost entirely online, report automatically pre-filled taxes in a few clicks, and use mobile ID to sign legal documents on your phone. It’s true and it works. Want more? How about special startup visas and no corporate income tax. Government services are meant to run in the background and stay out of your way.
Run it from here. Execute anywhere.
Estonia isn’t your market. We’re your accelerator. Find your product/market fit, get ready to scale, and run your lines to where your client is.
Use Estonia as your base for anything that doesn’t need your physical presence elsewhere. Take Bolt. Launched in 2013 and a unicorn since 2018, it operates rides in 45 countries, but has kept its HQ and largest office in Tallinn, Estonia.
Estonia also makes financial sense. Your burn rate will be lower than in most other startup hotspots. Stretch that runway. Plug into the Estonian OS and run your European business.
Join the local startup community and use the startup visa we’ve introduced for foreign founders. Build your team with the talent you need, no matter where they’re from.
Responsive digital government.
Ignore the lazy stereotype. Most Estonians you’ll meet are a sincere, business-minded people with a chill attitude. And we really trust our government.
Yes, we still complain about certain people or initiatives. But at the core, there’s solid, earned trust in government institutions and the technology it employs.
Estonians have digitally signed binding documents since 2002 and voted online since 2005. We keep digital health records and other personal data online -- with baked-in safeguards against unwarranted government monitoring. Public services are digital, transparent, and secure.
Our leaders are our classmates, neighbors, and former colleagues. They cannot hide. If you need to meet the chancellor of this, the minister of that, or the president herself, they’re approachable.
"Estonia has embraced the digital revolution in a socially conscious way, showing countries far greater in size how to embrace digital change. Through integrity, hard work, and the ability to be open and exchange frank ideas."
-- Kieren Niĉolas Lovell, communications & cyber security specialist
€500m in available funding.
Several new seed funds and VCs are chasing world-changing ideas, and are all easily approachable. In addition to individual angels (see EstBAN), try Karma.vc, Superangel, Trind.vc, United Angels, Change Ventures, Tera.vc.
There is more than enough funding available. Given the size of this country, the €500m warchest total is quite stunning.
Quality of life before you're acquired.
Balance is key. Otherworldly bogs and peaceful forests are no more than 30 minutes away. (Yay for being #4 in global air quality.) And there is room for everyone -- Estonian population density is 4x less than the EU average. We like our personal space. Space is good.
Burnout doesn’t have to be a thing. Eat well, sleep well, think well. In Estonia, you don’t have to choose between your business and your life. Why would you, anyway?
Safe. Online and off.
If anything defines this small country, nimble and resilient comes to mind. Having endured foreign occupations, Estonia got back on its feet in no time.
In 2007, it was the first country to suffer a state-sponsored cyber attack. We got the message and built superb defensive capabilities.
Estonia organizes the world’s largest cyber-warfare drills and is the home to Guardtime, the world’s biggest blockchain company. In 2017, Estonia ranked first in the Global Cyber Security Index, and hosts NATO’s Cyber Defence HQ, and the EU’s IT agency.
Or just go walk our streets and ponder all this over coffee. The streets are safe and the coffee’s excellent.