searching for a suitable setup for their global startups need look no further
than the digital nation of Estonia. The ‘Silicon Valley of the Baltics’ may be
a small country of 1.3 million people in North-Eastern Europe, but it certainly
packs a punch when it comes to fostering startups through its advanced digital
infrastructure, IT capabilities, and innovation mindset.
startup unicorns Skype, Transferwise, Bolt, and Playtech have roots in Estonia,
where digital transformation has remained a key national strategy for nearly
three decades. After Estonia regained independence in 1991 when the Soviet
Union collapsed, it needed to adapt fast to ensure its economic survival and
the future prosperity of its citizens. The government identified technology as
its number one priority and set out to digitally transform the country from
in Estonia (or e-Estonia
as it has become known), 99% of public services are available online via its
transparent and secure e-governance system. Digital transformation has reaped
economic and political benefits for the country, and raised its profile around
the world as a ‘digital pathfinder’ and a ‘pioneer’ in e-governance.
was launched in 2014 as the first program of its kind in the world. It allows
people outside its borders to access Estonia’s online e-services and business
environment using their individually verified digital identities and secure
authentication technology. Location-independent entrepreneurs operating in
diverse sectors can use e-Residency to quickly establish a company online,
digitally sign and encrypt documents to the highest EU standards, and grow
their business by easily integrating all the tools needed — from business
banking to payment processing solutions, and from virtual office to accounting
solutions. E-Residency does not give any right of travel, residence or
citizenship to Estonia or the EU.
over 70,000 e-residents from all over the world are using Estonian digital
services and have set up over 13,000 companies. Two e-residents who have
successfully applied e-Residency to their business structures are Sri Lankan
Alagan Mahalingam, founder of technology consulting firm Rootcode Labs OÜ
and Nevena Sofranic, founder of Recrooit and Omnes Group OÜ,
providing online recruitment solutions.
became an e-resident in 2019 in order to help scale and globalise Rootcode Labs
into the EU. Sri Lanka has a vibrant tech community of energetic startups and
entrepreneurs but being registered in the EU makes it easier for Rootcode Labs
to work with EU-based companies. Alagan was impressed from the outset:
it was possible. From the time of signing up, I was impressed with how the
ecosystem worked, how easy the e-services worked, and how easy it was to start
is also the creator of Expert Republic, an award winning app for 1:1
video calls with experts from a multitude of industries. He built this app
(formerly called Serw) with his Rootcode Labs team in less than 48 hours at the
Fighting the COVID-19 Crisis hackathon in April 2020 and ended up winning the
work track. Expert Republic was recently featured on Product Hunt and is
growing in popularity and use every day. Alagan has an ambitious vision for
Expert Republic, as a modern platform where business can happen digitally and
without borders for decades to come. Read more about
Alagan’s entrepreneurial journey here.
long-time digital nomad, Nevena runs Recrooit through her Estonian company
while on the road, dividing her time mostly between Belgrade, Serbia and Los
Angeles, USA. When she found out about e-Residency a few years ago, she
immediately saw that it would be a perfect solution for her business plans so
she applied and received her digital ID card in 2019:
the simplicity of the entire process, and most importantly, the level of
security and the fact that it’s completely in line with European laws made it a
launching a startup during a pandemic might be intimidating to some, Nevena is
optimistic. In May 2020, Recrooit was accepted to Amazon’s AWS Activate
Founders’ Program, and is considered the most promising Estonian startup in the
program. Since soft launching on Product Hunt a few weeks ago, job positions on
the platform and the Recrooiter community are starting to grow. Read more about
Nevena and Recrooit here.
are just two great stories in our community but there are many others running
successful businesses thanks to e-Residency. In the last six years, it has
proved to be a suitable business structure for entrepreneurs around the world,
particularly those working as remote freelancers or digital nomads, running
location-independent or service-based enterprises, or founding online startups.
has already transformed the way a country serves people beyond its borders
through programmes such as e-Residency. Now with its brand new Digital Nomad
Visa, Estonia is transforming how people in the world choose to work. The visa
will allow remote workers to stay in Estonia for up to a year and have peace of
mind that they can legally work. For the latest on the Digital Nomad Visa, visit
our website and subscribe to our newsletter.
look forward to seeing you in Estonia or e-Estonia very soon.
Brown is the Head of Content at e-Residency, an initiative of the Republic of Estonia. Views expressed in the article are of the author)