Is Estonia Europe’s Newest Startup Hub?

April 13, 2016

10:00 am

Estonia is a tiny Baltic state with just 1.3 million people. One look at this miniscule country and you would dismiss the idea that it could ever become a major European startup hub. But look closer and you can find out some key reasons as to why it’s almost guaranteed to become a major startup hub.

What Estonia Has Going for It

The political situation in Estonia is one that’s particularly unique. First of all, it’s part of the European Union (EU) and uses the Euro as its currency. This makes it part of one of the largest trading blocs in the world, which already makes it ideal for entrepreneurs in any industry.

But it also has benefit of being perfectly safe. In fact, it’s so safe that residents of Tallinn commonly see the president of the country walking around the local park, and MPs take public transport to work each day.

The E-Residency of Estonia

Estonia is determined to build strong relationships with its clients in the business world. It’s grabbed headlines in recent years by becoming the first country to offer an electronic residency system for people who want to start remote businesses. This allows people to take advantage of the tax opportunities brought by Estonia, along with the security of a country with a good reputation for protecting the interests of businesses.

The e-residency system allows people to establish bank accounts, use physical Estonian addresses, register companies in Estonia, and digitally sign contracts. It’s relatively easy to obtain, which makes it perfect for Americans wanting to establish a company in Europe.

Why the Changes?

Estonia is not the only one of the Baltic states to act on business. The education system in this part of the world is becoming more proficient and governments are realizing that many young people are going to seek better opportunities in the US and elsewhere.

To stop the brain drain, they have implemented a range of policies in recent years to make it easy to setup and manage companies. They have cut through red tape and eliminated much of the bureaucracy that plagued the country during the Soviet times and the years immediately after gaining independence.

There’s no question as to whether this has worked because don’t forget that this was the country where Skype was established.

But What Support Can Startups Rely On?

It’s all well and good allowing companies to cut through much of the bureaucracy and red tape, but there has to be more than that. Conferences, for example, are the mark of a growing tech hub. It would be unreasonable to expect any of the Baltic states to host one of these alone, and so they have come together in order to do it.

The TechChill Baltics was held in the precise center of this region in Riga, which is the capital of Latvia. The focus was on entrepreneurs coming from the Baltics. The excitement was notable and the fifth anniversary of this event didn’t disappoint, with companies like Twino and Edurio impressing.

Why Location Isn’t All That Important

Estonia, which is in the darkest corner of Europe and bordering Russia, is surely in a disadvantageous position for anyone looking to do business. The online world has done a lot to change that. The location of Estonia is no longer relevant both due to the e-residency system and the rise of the online world.

If you want to get sales leads to chase you, they will do so as long as you have a strong online presence. The Baltic states are in a perfect position for anyone looking to build an online business.

The Quality of Life in Estonia

For anyone looking to actually move to Estonia, a good quality of life is a major influencer. For Western entrepreneurs, they are in luck because while prices are rising this is also a place that is far cheaper than both the US and the UK. Each dollar will go a lot further here.

The quality of English in the country is extremely advanced, and is among the best in Europe, making dealing with locals easy.

Future for the Baltic States

Estonia is a country that has accomplished a lot through changing its system to suit startups. There’s a good chance that Estonia will become a huge part of the startup community in Europe, but the Baltic states as a whole have an extremely bright future ahead.

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AJ Agrawal is an entrepreneur, speaker, and writer. He is the CEO and Co-Founder at Alumnify Inc.