Estonia is one of the most digital societies in the world and is very much punching above its weight when it comes to producing successful startups.
This spring, Oslo Business Region visited Tallinn with three main goals:
- connect our two ecosystems through meeting the most influential stakeholders in Tallinn
- learn from Estonia how they have transformed their society to become the most digitally advanced country in the world
- find inspiration and bring home ideas concerning talent attraction and retention
Estonia’s position as a startup hub
During our visit, we discovered key aspects of Estonia's thriving startup ecosystem. Notably, Estonia has built trust by being transparent and making entrepreneurship cool. We observed their pragmatic approach, ease of doing business, and favorable tax regulations, which have led to a growing number of founders staying in Estonia and international talent being attracted to the country. Estonia's emphasis on prioritizing the tech sector, welcoming foreign talent, and setting ambitious goals - such as targeting a 30% GDP contribution from tech companies by 2030 - offers valuable lessons for our own startup ecosystem.
Our key takeaways
One interesting thing we discovered was that the story everyone told about Estonia was pretty much the same from everyone we met whether that was a scaleup tech founder or a public sector officer. It made their message clear and trustworthy. Secondly, Estonia has managed to include growth companies as one of the key pillars in their economy. The sense of urgency has made them embrace entrepreneurship and startups.
We look forward to continued collaboration, following each other's journeys.
People and organizations we met
Erika Piirmets - Digital Transformation Adviser at e-Estonia: digital society of Estonia, which facilitates its citizens' and residents' interactions with the state through the use of ICT
Leonardo Ortega - Head of International House of Tallinn: one-stop shop for information and counselling about relocating, working and living in estonia
Karoli Hindriks - CEO and Founder of Jobbatical: Jobbatical provides visa and relocation-enabled services to companies and their employees
Eve Peeterson - Head of Startup Estonia: Startup Estonia is a governmental initiative aimed to create more success stories of startup companies in Estonia by developing three building blocks: availability of human resources and capital, open and connected community and services, and transparent and straightforward regulative infrastructure.
Kaidi Ruusalepp - CEO and Founder of Funderbeam/Founders Society: founded in 2009 to boost local startup community, strengthen direct relationships between founders, meet face to face in a social setting, share experiences and empower new young founders.
Rannar Park - Community Manager at Lift 99: The mission of LIFT99 is to strengthen the global startup community and to help startups succeed by bringing founders together, both physically and digitally.
Sille Pettai - Fund Manager SmartCap: SmartCap provides cornerstone investments for private fund managers to create a vital venture capital market in Estonia