NO 37 I SPRING I 2015
land & people I state & society I economy & business I technology & innovation I culture & entertainment I tourism
Ambassador Of Fashion
Of The Year
and Music Play
In The Big
Pärnu mnt 69, 10134 Tallinn, Estonia
Ambassador Translation Agency
Design & Layout
A dedicated team of professionals at
Enterprise Estonia’s Investment Agency
supports companies investing and
expanding in Estonia. Come experience
the ease of doing business in e-Estonia –
the low-risk, high quality and competitive
location for your company.
SPRING 2015 I LIFE IN ESTONIA #37 3
Estonia – A Great
Home to Businesses
Estonia offers an unparalleled environment for doing business. The country has been eager to
develop and implement new IT solutions both in public and private sectors. ‘e-Estonia’ has be-
come the country’s new moniker, thus highlighting the broad use of IT in all fields of life. In De-
cember 2014, Estonia launched a governmental start-up, e-Residency, which both gives foreign
businessmen a secure digital identity and enables them to use Estonia’s e-services, do business
anywhere in the EU, and more.
This technological openness is a powerful catalyst for the success of Shared Service Centres
(SSCs). Currently, there are over 70 SSCs operating in Estonia, primarily serving large international
corporations. In contrast to many other CEE countries, Estonia offers a superb environment for
the offshoring of complex operational services. Benefits include service level quality, a process
improvement mindset and other new capabilities.
My long career as an Enterprise Estonia representative in Germany has convinced me that Estoni-
ans and Germans are a great business match. Strong economic ties between the two nations date
back as far as Hanseatic times. We share a practical approach to problems, we are ambitious and
diligent in work and our business cultures are similar, including a relatively simple legal system, low
levels of corruption, etc.
A few years ago, Kuehne + Nagel, a global player in the logistics sector, was searching for a loca-
tion for their new IT centre. Altogether, 14 European countries were compared according to various
statistics, with Tallinn scoring the highest.
The Tallinn IT centre has proved a win-win project for all sides. Mr. Martin Kolbe, the CIO of Kuehne
+ Nagel attributes this success to the expertise and resourcefulness of local IT talent. “We Germans
tend to over-engineer things. Estonians, by contrast, take a more pragmatic view when it comes to
solving problems. When both sides get togeth-
er, great solutions emerge,” says Mr. Kolbe.
In addition to Kuehne + Nagel, many other
Scandinavian and Western European compa-
nies have realized the advantages of offshor-
ing to Estonia. You can find out all about
them in this issue of Life in Estonia!
Estonia is an ideal location for SSCs for
numerous reasons, but the key to Estonia’s
vibrant and innovative financial and shared-
service export sector lies in its skilled, educated
and multilingual workforce. All functions are
represented, with higher-order tasks and re-
gional or global responsibilities becoming the
Clearly, attracting SSCs that offer more complex
services has become a considerable strength for
Estonia and also one of the main focus areas for
Enterprise Estonia Representative in Germany
6_ Where To Go This Season?
Life In Estonia Recommends
8_ News & Events
13_ Highlights of 2014
Which events and achievements marked the year 2014 for Estonia?
Take a look at the selection Life in Estonia made.
17_ Hardi Meybaum: Estonia is
Like a Peacock – Deceptively
Small in Size But Full of
Impact in Appearance
Hardi Meybaum (32) typifies the new generation of Estonian entrepre-
neurs, combining an innovative mindset with real success. He estab-
lished a company called GrabCad, raised tens of millions of dollars of
venture capital money and finally sold the company to Stratasys.
22_ Building a Digital Single
Market for Europe
In November 2014, the new European Commission commenced work
with Andrus Ansip in the post of the European Commission Vice-Presi-
dent for the Digital Single Market. Life in Estonia interviewed the former
Estonian PM about the challenges in his new line of work.
24_ E-Residency Goes Global -
Apply for One in Your Home
The success story of e-Estonia is something you may have heard about.
But what is e-Residency and why do people need it? In simple terms,
it is a digital identity issued by the Estonian state. Kaspar Korjus, the
Estonian e-Residency Programme Director, talks about the project which
aims to reach 2 000 e-Residents by the end of this year.
28_ ‘WorkInEstonia’ - Attracting
Talent From Around
Recently Estonia has been busy in developing many initiatives to help
and encourage foreign talent to relocate here. ‘Work In Estonia’ is one
such project, due to be launched by Enterprise Estonia in May 2015.
30_ State Shared Service Centre
Supports Innovation in
The State Shared Service Centre (SSSC) is a public body within the ad-
ministrative jurisdiction of the Estonian Ministry of Finance which pro-
vides nationwide financial, HR and payroll accounting services. Tarmo
Leppoja, Director of SSSC says that the aim is to conduct all public pro-
curement in Estonia via this organisation in the future.
32_ Estonia – the Smart Choice
for Shared Service Centres
Estonia is an ideal location for shared service centres for numerous
reasons, such as the local working culture, openness to development,
language skills, professional competences, acceptable cost level and
overall efficiency, not to mention the relatively few cultural differences
from Western European countries. In recent years, many Scandinavian
and Western European companies have transferred their shared service
centres (SSCs) to Estonia.
STATE & SOCIETY
ECONOMY & BUSINESSCOVER STORY
LIFE IN ESTONIA #37 I 2015 SPRING4
Hip-Hop, to Metal, to
Classical Music Rave -
Tallinn Music Week Has It All!
Despite her youth, Helen Sildna is already a respected old-timer in the
Estonian music industry. For the seventh year running, her main project
is the showcase festival ‘Tallinn Music Week’, which will be held again
from 25-29 March this year. We asked Helen about how it differs from
other festivals worldwide and who is expected to attend the event.
Guitar Hero Really Tears up
the Music Scene in the US
It is not commonplace for an Estonian guitar player to create waves
with country music in America. Laur Joamets, the former guitarist of
Dramamama, has already performed in ‘Late Show With David Letter-
man’ and Conan O’Brien’s talk show as part of the American country
singer Sturgill Simpson’s band.
72_ Two Restaurants, But Just
One Chef de Cuisine: the Best
Restaurant in Estonia 2014
Seven years of experience in choosing the top fifty restaurants in Estonia
demonstrates that local cuisine offers a great reason to visit the country.
This year, to borrow an analogy from sports, a photo finish was needed
to determine the NOA Chef’s Hall as the winner as no less than four
restaurants received an equal score for their food!
77_ Practical Information
40_ Orkla Group Pursues
Efficiency at Every Level
At the end of 2013, Orkla announced plans to establish a shared ac-
counting centre in Estonia, with a view to increasing the efficiency of
the Group’s accounting processes. Now, after more than a year of car-
rying out accounting for different companies in the Orkla Group, the
decision to stay in Tallinn has really paid off - Orkla has estimated their
savings to total around more than €2m per year.
42_ Samres Provides Transport
Services from Tartu
Swedish company Samres AB operates call-centres for mobility services,
medical service transportation, and other call-based transportation re-
quests. Samreis Eesti AS, a subsidiary of the Swedish company, is a call-
centre operating in Tartu, where it employs over 50 people. In March
2015, Samres celebrates a decade of operations in Estonia.
44_ OpusCapita Offers Automated
With their Shared Service Centre in the heart of Tallinn, OpusCapita dig-
itizes as many as 20 000 invoices every day, which largely emanate from
its mother company OpusCapita Group Oy, who have a large number
of clients based in neighbouring Finland.
45_ Aldo Järvsoo: Estonian
Ambassador of Fashion
Aldo Järvsoo is one of the most distinctive and celebrated Estonian fash-
ion designers and founders of the brand Embassy of Fashion. Life in
Estonia talked to Aldo about his life and career.
59_ Mission Impossible
Had anyone said a year ago that the Estonian movie ‘Tangerines’ would
be nominated for the Golden Globe and an Oscar, they would probably
have been laughed out of the room. And yet - little Estonia, where only
five feature films were produced in 2014, is suddenly firmly on the map
of the global film industry! Although ‘Tangerines’ did not win an Oscar
this time, hopefully this is just the beginning.
SPRING 2015 I LIFE IN ESTONIA #37 5
LIFE IN ESTONIA #37 I 2015 SPRING6
I WHERE TO GO THIS SEASON
Ballet by John Cranko after Alexander Pushkin
Performed by the Estonian National Ballet
Choreography and staging: John Cranko (Stuttgart Ballet)
Music: Pyotr Tchaikovsky, arranged by Kurt-Heinz Stolze (Germany)
World premiere on 13 April 1965 Stuttgart Ballet
Premiere at the Estonian National Opera on 19 March 2015
Conductors Vello Pähn, Jüri Alperten, and Kaspar Mänd
Staged by Jane Bourne (Stuttgart Ballet)
Designer Thomas Mika (Germany)
John Cranko’s “Onegin” holds a special place in the choreographic rep-
ertoire of the second half of the 20th century as one of the few original
full-length ballets. The dance version was born in 1965 for the Stuttgart
Ballet. The ballet tells the story of the arrogant and world weary aristo-
crat Onegin who rejects the love of the young and naive Tatiana only to
realize – upon meeting her again ten years later – that in her he threw
away the only woman who would ever have truly loved him. Cranko’s
absolute mastery of the art of the Pas de Deux finds its climax in “One-
gin”, where the relationship of Onegin and Tatiana is revealed in intense
and passionate duets.
“THE GREAT TCHAIKOVSKY”
15–19 April 2015
This year the Estonian National Opera celebrates the 175th
of the great Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky. Tchaikovsky has pre-
sented the world many beautiful operas and ballets, six symphonies,
instrumental concerts, cantatas and romances that have thrilled several
Estonian National Opera will celebrate the great event with a festival
that includes a selection from the composer’s diverse legacy: opera “The
Queen of Spades”, ballet “The Sleeping Beauty”, Piano Concerto No.
1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23 as well as Symphony No. 3 in D major, Op. 29,
conducted by Nikolai Aleksejev, a ballet gala and John Cranko’s ballet
“Onegin” to the music of Tchaikovsky.
SPRING 2015 I LIFE IN ESTONIA #37 7
Balletto di Milano
Music Édith Piaf, Charles Aznavour,
Yves Montand, Jaques Brel
Choreography Adriana Mortelliti
Music Giuseppe Verdi
Choreography Agnese Omodei Sale,
Program includes films, opera and ballet
classes and fashion show of Estonian
VIII Jõhvi Ballet Festival
Jõhvi Concert Hall
Balletto di Milano
Music Édith Piaf, Charles Aznavour,
Yves Montand, Jaques Brel
Choreography Adriana Mortelliti
Music Giuseppe Verdi
Choreography Agnese Omodei Sale,
Program includes films, opera and ballet
classes and fashion show of Estonian
VIII Jõhvi Ballet Festival
Jõhvi Concert Hall
Opera by Paul Hindemith
Premiere at the Estonian National Opera on 14 May 2015
Conductors Vello Pähn, Risto Joost, and Lauri Sirp
Stage Director Vilppu Kiljunen(Finland)
Designer Kimmo Viskari (Finland)
Lighting Designer Anton Kulagin
“Cardillac”, written in 1926, is the first of Hindemith’s trilogy of operas
about the relationship between the artist and society. The others being
“Mathis der Maler” (1935) and “Die Harmonie der Welt” (1957). It was
one of the most frequently performed operas of the 1920s and went on
to become Hindemith’s most successful stage work of all.
The protagonist is a goldsmith Cardillac, who fabricates wonderful
things and because of his obsession with them he also retrieves them
by theft and murder. The plot revolves around the dilemma of revealing
to the public that the beloved artist is also the criminal who made an
entire city fearful. The citizens and police fail to make any connection
between the coincidence of the purchases and murders until Cardillac
finally confesses. A crowd then beats him to death, but after his daugh-
ter explains that the murders were merely the consequence of his love
of beauty, they sing a ravishing eulogy.
The Consumer Electronics Association has announced the winners of
the top global technology fair, ‘CES Best of Innovation’ and Estelon
Extreme, a new set of very high-end audio speakers developed by the
Estonian company Alfred & Partners, has won a CES award in the high-
quality sound and video equipment category. These awards are chosen
by an expert group of independent designers, engineers and media
Alfred & Partners is an Estonian family company which has in a short pe-
riod of time achieved international recognition for producing top quality
loudspeakers under the Estelon brand.
The sound quality of Extreme is the natural outcome of every engineer-
ing detail and design decision as a whole – the shape and the material
of the cabinet, the top tier components and the engineering experience
in skilfully fitting it all together. The result allows Extreme to deliver a
complete and harmonious soundscape which is greater than the sum of
its components. Estelon’s head-engineer, Alfred Vassilkov, who is also
founder and manager of the company, has provided the Extreme with
all the same innovative breakthrough technology and design principles
that he has been receiving awards for several times over the years.
Simply put, the loudspeakers look as good as they sound because they
are the sum of everything Estelon stand for as a leading innovator in
the high-end speaker industry. According to Alfred Vassilkov, this presti-
gious award motivates him to continue in earnest with his work.
Although most Estelon customers are based abroad, the majority of
production and development work takes place in Estonia.
SWISS PROPERTY is aimed to manufacture in Estonia pre-fabricated
high-quality buildings based on Cross Laminated Timber technology.
In addition to the growing architectural bureau, SWISS PROPERTY is
in the process of building an innovative and advanced factory for the
production of house elements.
The total production output of the factory, situated in the Rae Indus-
trial Park on the outskirts of Tallinn, will be exported to Switzerland. In
spring 2016, the first luxury family apartment house, replete with four
apartments, are to be exported in sections to Küsnacht district, where
it will then be reassembled. The apartment prices - apartments are a
couple of hundred square metres in size - start from €20 000 per m2.
The company expects to make a profit right from the first building. The
total sales goal up to 2018 is €200m. Within the next five years, SWISS
PROPERTY plans to create 300-400 new jobs in Estonia, and according
to the majority holder and CEO of the company, Dr. Lutz Mieschke, the
company’s goal is to become the employer of choice in Estonia.
SWISS PROPERTY has already got off to a great start - at a competition
called ‘Dream Employer 2014’, the company won the coveted ‘Future
Employer’ title. Last year the similar title was given to TransferWise.
Luxury Apartments Now
Being Constructed in Estonia
Loudspeakers Made in Estonia
Among the Best in the World!
Founded in March 2013, SWISS PROPERTY Plc is a subsidiary of SWISS
PROPERTY Group AG, a residential real estate development company in
Switzerland that capitalises on the development and application of an
industrially prefabricated construction technology.
LIFE IN ESTONIA #37 I 2015 SPRING8
Join the Tech Event
of the Year –
Estonian ICT Week
Estonian ICT Week takes place on 8–15 May
2015 and strives to be the most eventful week
in the centre of the sizzling Nordic-Baltic ICT
ICT Week brings opinion leaders, entrepreneurs, venture capi-
talists, foreign top officials and representatives of international
organisations to Tallinn and combines several conferences and
special events with keynotes you wouldn’t want to miss.
Last year over 1000 foreign guests made time to fly in and hear
the latest. This year Estonian ICT Week plans to go even bigger.
The main topics in 2015 will include e-Governance and e-Res-
idency, Green IT, Smart Industry, Fintech (Financial Technology)
and the Hardware Evolution.
8-10 May @ Tehnopol (Mäealuse 2/1)
Garage48 GreenTech Tallinn 2015
This spring’s Garage48 GreenTech event gives everybody an opportunity
to make their environmental improving ideas into reality, starting with
water, soil and waste improvement and ending with alternative energy
possibilities. The aim is to gather together people from different fields
and skill sets and unite them into well-working teams. For example, peo-
ple from environmental field with experiences and knowledge about
what is missing in the sector unite with IT experts who have the skills to
develop the ideas into working prototypes.
We are looking for different skill sets: IT developers, marketers, project
managers, designers, visionary entrepreneurs, environmental specialists.
See more information: garage48.org/events/tallinn
Follow us on FB & Twitter: garage48, @garage48
SPRING 2015 I LIFE IN ESTONIA #37 9
11 May @ Innovation and Business Center Mektory (Raja 15)
The future narrative?
Where should you start a tech start-up in 2015?
The answer is #Estonia!
What are the most burning topics of the Estonian Internet in spring
2015? Probably what could be our next Skype or TransferWise? Internet
has become a “lubricant” for economy and is always in need for some-
thing new and innovative. So are we! Do you know where the Internet
is heading? We don’t, but our aim is to get closer to knowing! The main
idea of the Estonian Internet Day is to bring together our Internet and
community enthusiasts to further discuss and give our contribution to
the development of the Estonian Internet.
Five topics, ten+1 keywords. Internet & Estonia. Privacy & Control.
Skills & Awareness. Internet of Things. Internet as Economy’s
Can you imagine yourself two weeks without the Internet?
Follow us on Twitter: @Eesti Internet #IPÄEV2015
* The event is in Estonian
11 May @ Swissôtel Tallinn, (Tornimäe 3)
Norway – Estonia ICT
by Innovation Norway
Trustworthy cooperation – key in developing innova-
tive solutions and conquering international markets
Over the last years the cooperation between Norwegian and Estonian
companies has increased especially when it comes to developing new
and innovative solutions within IT. Norway Grants Green Industry In-
novation Program with focus on green IT has played an important part
in this development.
The seminar will present best cases, competences and experiences
found in Estonia and Norway to inspire new solutions and partnerships.
Sub categories that the seminar will cover are green IT solutions within
energy, transport and logistics, and trade. In addition the seminar also
covers public-private partnership when it comes to e-Government solu-
tions. Further on we will support the creation of new contacts, coopera-
tion’s and networks.
Registration to the event is done by sending an e-mail to
Follow us on FB InnovationNorwaytheBaltics and Twitter @INBaltics
12-13 May @ Radisson BLU Hotel Olümpia
The concept also known as third or fourth industrial revolution goes
around with many names: Industry 4.0, Industrial Internet, Internet of
Things. It boosts the efficiency of manufacturing far further by connect-
ing the machines, enabling advanced analytics and empowering the
people. But taking new concepts into practice is often time consuming
The organisers of the conference believe that co-operation between ad-
vanced industries and Estonian ICT and manufacturing companies can
give the implementation of Industry 4.0 principles a vital boost. After
all, Estonia has been known as a tech advanced and agile society that
gets things done fast.
The event rises awareness about Industry 4.0 in creating higher indus-
trial efficiency. Collaboration possibilities and benefits will be outlined
together with practical case studies from ICT and manufacturing. Senior
decision makers from German and Nordic manufacturing companies
and top experts and decision makers of Estonian ICT and manufacturing
companies are expected to benefit from the event.
See more information: www.industry40.ee
12-13 May @ Nordic Hotel Forum (Viru väljak 3)
by e-Governance Academy
World’s leading e-Governance experts from governments, business, aca-
demia, international organisations and civil society groups will meet in
Tallinn to discuss: designing e-Governance strategies, 15 years of e-Gov-
ernance experience in EU Eastern Partnership countries, coordination
and communication in central e-governance implementation and cyber
security and e-governance.
The conference aims to serve the following interrelated communities:
government decision makers and strategists from countries implement-
ing national e-Governance strategies, focusing on the EU Eastern Part-
nership and Open Government Partnership countries, donor organisa-
tions supporting development of open, transparent and efficient gov-
ernance practices via IT solutions and companies developing e-Govern-
ance applications and assisting governments with their implementation.
More information and registration: tallinnconference.ee
Follow us on Twitter: #egov2015
LIFE IN ESTONIA #37 I 2015 SPRING
13 May @ Swissôtel (Tornimäe 3)
Nordic Digital Day
by the Ministry of
Last year some 300 e-Government experts and CIOs
from all over the world gathered to the Nordic Digi-
tal Agendas Day where Denmark, Norway, Sweden,
Finland and Estonia shared their vision for and major
action lines of their digital agendas. In addition, each
country introduced some crazy, yet necessary ideas
the realization of which is a challenge today, but could
provide valuable experiences and inspirations for fu-
ture cutting-edge innovation.
The Nordic Digital Day this year is even more inspir-
ing and is dedicated to the Nordic ICT innovations and
reforms that every country is particularly proud of. The
aim is to show the revolutionary projects that have had a big impact on
the daily lives of people and businesses in the Nordic countries. They are
something that every country should implement to make a new leap
forward in overall information society development.
More information and registration: e-estonia.com/nordicday/
Follow us on Twitter: #NordicDay2015
13 May @ National Library of Estonia (Tõnismägi 2)
International Forum 2015
This year’s Forum, jointly organised by FinanceEstonia, Estonian Private
Equity and Venture Capital Association and Estonian Business Angels
Network, focuses on the development of European capital markets and
increasing digital possibilities. In addition excellent networking oppor-
tunities will be provided both at the Forum and the Gala Dinner which
will take place in Energy Discovery Centre. Participation with invitations
More information and registration: www.financeestonia.eu/
13 May @ Tehnopol (Mäealuse 2/1)
LEAP by AIESEC
LEAP prepares startups for a big jump in their journey
by providing a learning space tailor-made for their
own needs and the interaction with International
VCs. Unlike others, LEAP is a fresh idea validated by the Estonian startup
ecosystem. At LEAP, you can expect mentoring spaces, skill workshops
and speeches tailored for you and your startups delivered by both Inter-
national and local experts. What’s more? LEAP is partnering with Lati-
tude59 to ensure that you get the best learning and opportunities from
both of the events!
More information: www.leap.aiesec.ee
14-15 May @ Creative Hub Kultuurikatel (Põhja puiestee 27a)
Latitude59 startup and investor networking conference will cele-
brate already its 8th birthday! This years’ special focus will be on
FinTech, Hardware Evolution and e-Residency. At Latitude59 e-Res-
idency will undergo scrutiny by seasoned entrepreneurs to understand
its real business potential. Some of the hottest Fintech startups will be
present to discuss disruptive business models in the finance sector. For
the first time we will offer a special insight to investing into hardware
startups and will feature several kick-ass hardware showcases.
Be aware, Latitude59 Startup Pitch Competition powered by Blackbox
and EstBAN presents born global startups from around the globe to see
15 May @ Rock Café (Tartu mnt 80)
Estonian ICT Week closing party “Rock IT”
Come see and enjoy the most innovative rock party of the week. RockIT
is a festival for ICT companies’ bands where 10 different groups will be
playing their favourite songs. The party starts at 19:00 and goes on until
the early morning hours. Tickets are available at the venue.
“Amazed, not surprised,
by the strength of tech and
talent in #Tallinn @latitude59.
Looks like I’ll be back!”
Gil Dibner @gdibner
REGISTER NOW: www.latitude59.ee
Follow on Twitter and Facebook @latitude59, #latitude59
SPRING 2015 I LIFE IN ESTONIA #37 11
Estonian pavilion “Gallery of_” features more than thirty
Estonian companies, Estonian music and design. In addition
a street food restaurant and a Rye bar with Nordic food and
drinks inspired by the local nature. The pavilion is a melting
pot for the high-tech and low-tech, presenting Estonia as a
dynamic little country where ancient traditions and unspoilt
nature fuse with technological innovation.
One of the highlights will be Estonia’s
national day on the 7th of June and
the attempt on the same day to set a
Guinness World Record in Kiiking –
swinging 360 degrees over the fulcrum
with more than a 7m high swing.
Have you ever wondered what it takes
to recharge a phone or turn on a light?
Energy swings on the first floor will give
you the answer and provide a unique
possibility to produce electricity by
Skype, developed by Estonians,
provides a virtual guide and a virtual
friend for the Estonian pavilion and its
visitors. Come and have a chat with IT
and learn new things about Estonia.
WATCH THE VIDEO
The Friends of Estonia
Celebrated its Fifth
Anniversary in the
Summer of 2014
The aim of the event is to recognise inves-
tors, politicians and artists whose activities
and support have helped Estonia to de-
velop into a progressive, fully-European
country with a dynamic economy and vi-
A hundred and six guests from 21 differ-
ent countries participated at the meeting
of 2014. The main topic of the event was
e-Democracy, the e-State and the role of
these institutions in contemporary society.
High-profile speakers at the symposium
included the President of Estonia Toomas
Hendrik Ilves, and Mr. Andrew M. Thomp-
son, founder and Head of Proteus Digital
At a seminar entitled “Global Estonians –
Contributing Towards A World Without
Borders”, organised under the auspices of
Enterprise Estonia, the Estonian Govern-
ment CIO Taavi Kotka introduced their lat-
est initiative to introduce e-Residence per-
mits to anyone around the world, grant-
ing the opportunity to utilise fully all the
benefits that ‘e-Estonia’ has to offer with
its many business services. In addition,
representatives of TransferWise, Teleport,
Google, GrabCAD, Planet OS and Tolaram
Group gave presentations on their own
The next Friends of Estonia International
Meeting will take place between 9-11 July
The Estonian Song and
Dance Celebrations are a
long-standing and very important tradition
for Estonia and the Estonian people (the
first song festival, or laulupidu, took place
way back in 1869 with first dance festival or
tantsupidu happening in 1934) and the ma-
jor festivals are today held every five years.
In 2003, this tradition of song and dance
celebrations was officially added to UN-
ESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Song Celebration and the 19th
Celebration, entitled “Touched by Time. The
Time to Touch” was held in Tallinn from 4-6
July 2014, and drew a record number of par-
ticipants and audience, with more than 153
000 people visiting the dance performances
and concerts. Most tickets were sold for the
second concert of the Song Festival “The
Time to Touch” on Sunday – 67 322 tickets.
The audience listened to and indeed sang
along with 33 025 singers joined by 10 082
dancers. The joint choir for the grand finale
consisted of over 22 000 singers.
Hirvo Surva, Artistic Director of the event
said, “I’m extremely happy to have been
born in Estonia, to be speaking Estonian. I’m
grateful to be able to give my little contri-
bution to the ‘laulupidu’ - there is nothing
better that that.”
1 240 overseas participants also took part in
the event. These guests were amazed to see
choir conductors heartily cheered and even
lauded like rock stars.
The next Youth Song and Dance Celebration
will take place in 2017. And, 2019 will see the
Song- and Dance Festivals which will mark the
anniversary of the very first event.
HIGHLIGHTS OF 2014
SPRING 2015 I LIFE IN ESTONIA #37 13
PM Taavi Rõivas’
and Business Delegates’
Visit to the USA
In December 2014, Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas made an of-
ficial visit to the United States, with the focus on three primary fields:
economic cooperation, bilateral relations between Estonia and the USA,
and security. The business delegation accompanying the Prime Minister
included representatives of over 40 Estonian companies. The visit be-
gan in Silicon Valley, where the delegation visited renowned technology
enterprises like Google, Tesla, Microsoft and GrabCAD (which also has
Estonian roots), Twilio, Yammer, and others.
At a business forum called ‘e-Estonia and the Digital Society’, held at
the University of Draper in California, Steve Jürvetson and his business
partner Tim Draper were presented with the first Estonian e-Resident
cards to be issued in the United States.
Prime Minister Rõivas called upon companies based in Silicon Valley and
in the rest of the world to make full use of e-Residency to simplify their
online activities and to bring new services onto the world market: ‘Es-
tonian e-Residency has already received a lot of attention, even though
we are in the initial phases and just discovering the potential of this
undertaking,’ Rõivas said.
Prime Minister Rõivas also gave a public talk at the University of Stan-
ford, Connecticut, in which he emphasised the importance of the US
as Estonia’s key ally in security policy, including cyber-security. The Es-
tonian Prime Minister remarked that the primary security challenge for
Estonia comes from the East. However the country has to be prepared
for attacks from other directions as well, principally cyberattacks, and
Estonia’s preparedness to implement new technologies and IT solutions
in fighting cyber attacks is paramount.
“Cyber-security is an aspect of security which needs constant national
and international attention,” said Rõivas. In Washington, the delegation
met with the US high-ranking state officials and with organisations of
interest for the defence industry.
The visit ended in New York with the opening of the NASDAQ stock ex-
change day and meeting with representatives of investment companies.
President Barack Obama’s
Visit to Estonia
US president Barack Obama visited Tallinn on 3 September 2014 as part
of his official trip to Estonia and Wales, UK.
During the highly-anticipated one-day visit, Obama got to see the 18th-
century Kadriorg Art Museum, the Stenbock House (the seat of the Es-
tonian Government) on Toompea and also gave a very well-received
speech at the Nordea Concert Hall, during which he complimented both
Estonia’s continued efforts in maintaining and cultivating democracy
and the country’s notable entrepreneurial spirit.
“Here in Estonia, we see the success of free markets, integration with
Europe, taking on tough reforms. You’ve become one of the most wired
countries on Earth, a global leader in e-government and high-tech start-
ups. The entrepreneurial spirit of the Estonian people has been un-
leashed. And your innovations, like Skype, are transforming the world,”
the US President said.
With the NATO Summit Session in Wales his next destination, Mr Obama
also emphasised the dedication the US has demonstrated towards rec-
ognising and collaborating with its NATO allies now and in the future.
In the joint press conference with Estonian President Ilves which fol-
lowed, Mr. Obama went on to say that:
“Estonia is one of the great success stories among the nations that re-
claimed their independence after the Cold War. You’ve built a vibrant
democracy and new prosperity, and you’ve become a model for how cit-
izens can interact with their government in the 21st century, something
President Ilves has championed. With their digital IDs, Estonians can use
their smart phones to get just about anything done online – from their
children’s grades to their health records. I should have called the Estoni-
ans when we were setting up our health-care website!”
LIFE IN ESTONIA #37 I 2015 SPRING14
I HIGHLIGHTS 2014
#estonianmafia at SLUSH
Estonian entrepreneurs participated enthusiastically in the Finnish start-
up-investor conference ‘Slush’, with a delegation led by the Prime Min-
ister of Estonia, Taavi Rõivas. Several promising Estonian start-ups made
the short trip to Helsinki to meet with investors at Slush including start-
ups Heelosophy, Fleep, Jobbatical, GoWorkaBit, WellBiome, VTT-TNM,
Comfee and Hyperion Tech.
‘I always thought Silicon Valley was the epicenter of global innovation.
After Slush, I changed my mind,’ said Wang Jian, CTO at Alibaba after
visiting the startup conference in Helsinki, Finland last November. Esto-
nians and Finns are uniting to grow the Nordic startup scene more pow-
erful. Also the governments are cooperating to innovate the countries.
The strongest message to come from the stage was expressed by the
Prime Minister of Finland, Alexander Stubb, when he announced that
Finland is about to commence integrating the e-Governance and e-Ser-
vices in Estonia into Finland as well.
Estonia Ranks First in
the Tax Competitiveness Index
According to a survey conducted by the Tax Foundation (based in Wash-
ington DC) Estonia has the most competitive tax system in the OECD.
The foundation analysed over 40 variables related to tax policy, divided
them into five categories and ranked all the OECD member states ac-
cording to their scores in each category. Estonia ranked no less than in
first place in the Corporate Tax Rank and Property Taxes Rank, as well as
second in Individual Taxes Rank!
Samsung Sourcing in the Nordics
At the end of August, Samsung Electronics and the Estonian Investment
Agency jointly hosted a pitching event ‘Get Global with Samsung’ in Tal-
linn, for connecting tech companies from the Nordic-Baltic region with
the global big hitter Samsung. The team from Samsung Electronics had
come to search for innovative technologies that might be integrated
into Samsung’s future products.
Altogether, 14 tech companies from Estonia, Finland and Norway
were pre-selected by Samsung and got the chance to introduce their
The Samsung representatives were pleasantly surprised about the great
way they seemed to click with local companies. They emphasised that
they see a lot of great innovation happening in Europe and assured
everyone that they would take that message back home to Samsung
Headquarters in Korea.
Become an e-Estonian Now!
This Fantastic Governmental
Start-up is Taking the World
E-Residency is a state-issued secure digital identity for non-residents of
Estonia. This may sound counter-intuitive, so let’s explain how it works.
Estonian e-Residency is issued by the Government of the Republic of
Estonia only, though it does not bring physical residency or rights of
entry to Estonia or the EU in and of itself. Estonian e-Residency does
however facilitate the digital authentication and digital signing of many
E-Residency does not entail any residential or citizenship rights as such,
and it cannot be used as a physical identification card or travel docu-
ment. Its main purpose is to make life easier for anybody by giving them
access to various secure e-Services which have already been available to
Estonians for years.
By providing e-Residency rights, we in Estonia are moving towards the
idea of a country without borders. Ever since Estonia announced its e-
Residency program in October 2014, the potential implications and ben-
efits of this innovation have been debated. The program’s detractors have
dismissed it as anything from a mere PR stunt to a real security threat,
but in the meantime the Estonian government has been positioning e-
Residency as a ‘governmental start-up’, giving the unvarnished truth and
so pointing out that every innovation comes with an upside as well as a
downside. In this way they have more than answered the critics.
But what is the correct response to those who criticise e-Residency on
the grounds that Estonia itself doesn’t stand to gain anything out of it?
In fact we are helping the whole world with this project, and the bene-
fits will be long-term and not just short-term. While the country will not
be directly profiting from those who enrol as e-Residents any time soon,
with the services available to be utilised by e-Residents only just starting
to unfold, the very fact of having what are effectively Estonian ‘ambas-
sadors’ all over the world means the venture is already paying off.
The very first two e-Estonian ID cards were issued to the prominent
Economist journalist Edward Lucas together with the Estonian-Ameri-
can investor Steve Jürvetson. The reasons for these choices are simple.
Lucas has been one of the most significant international messengers of
the Estonian story for several years now, and he has also done some
great work in contributing to the country’s reputation in the electronic
and technological spheres. As stated, Jürvetson has Estonian roots, and
he is a very well-known Venture Capital investor in the US.
SPRING 2015 I LIFE IN ESTONIA #37 15
#estonianmafia amongst greatest
success stories in 2014
The Estonian-founded, London-based, money transfer giant Transfer-
Wise has received US$58m in investment from the investors led by the
Silicon Valley-based American venture capital firm Andreessen Horow-
itz. TransferWise’s existing investors, including Sir Richard Branson, Peter
Thiel’s Valar Ventures, Index Ventures, IA Ventures and Seedcamp, also
participated in the investment round.
Ben Horowitz, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, joins the board of
TransferWise to help accelerate the company’s global roll-out. His firm’s
previous notable investments include Facebook, Twitter, Airbnb, GitHub
The start-up will use these funds for its global ex-
pansion. It will open its US office next month and
is set to open offices in Germany and in Australia
in the next few months as well. The company
plans to open 300 further currency routes over
the next year. The funding round is thought to
value the company at almost US$1bn.
TransferWise was launched in London in early
2011 by two Estonians: Taavet Hinrikus, Skype’s
first employee, and Kristo Käärmann. The firm
started with making transfers between the Brit-
ish pound and the Euro. It now has 250 members
of staff, 292 currency routes and continues to
grow between 15-20% a month. The company
says that customers have transferred £3bn using
In 2014, Estonian-founded, US-based startup
GrabCAD was acquired by the US-Israeli pro-
vider of 3D printing solutions, Stratasys Ltd, for
around US$100m.This was the second biggest exit
for an Estonian startup to date and the biggest for
Estonian seed investors.
Founded in 2010, GrabCAD is helping engineers get products to market
faster by connecting people, content and technology. “GrabCAD was
founded to bring the world’s engineers together and help them collabo-
rate to bring better products to market faster,” said Hardi Meybaum,
co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of GrabCAD.
“By joining forces with Stratasys, a global leader in 3D printing and ad-
ditive manufacturing, we believe we can extend the reach of one of
the most exciting and innovative design collaboration technologies
In January 2015, it was announced that NASA uses online engineering
platform GrabCAD to design a handrail clamp assembly (HCA) for the In-
ternational Space Station (ISS) that can be printed on the ISS 3D printer.
Read more about GrabCad >
as New Tech City
The website virgin.com is of course the home-
page of the world-famous entrepreneur Rich-
ard Branson, and it now promotes the capital
of Estonia as one of the four new destinations
for founding your seed company.
If the rental prices for a decent pad in London
and San Francisco are beyond the pocket of
a young entrepreneur, and if the creativity in
those cities also comes at a premium, where
should a technology start-up look next?
Eleanor Ross, the author of the article in ques-
tion, has ranked Tallinn as THE top destination
for new and budding technology entrepre-
neurs to locate and grow. Tallinn is followed
by Malmö in Sweden, Eindhoven in Holland
and Brno in the Czech Republic.
“Unsurprisingly, Tallinn has its own version of
Silicon Valley in the form of Technopolis, which
is located near to the airport. It hosts a large
number of tech enterprises, with both SMEs
and more established companies,” writes Ross.
“Tallinn has over 30 WiFi hotspots for its citi-
zens and visitors, most of which are in the city
centre and the Old Town, and many are near
popular tourist attractions. The network, Tal-
linnWifi, may be connected to for free and its
has a download speed of 15Mbps per hotspot.”
Amongst other things, Ross praises the public
transport of Tallinn as an innovative and smart
solution. ‘From getting a free bus ride by swip-
ing a smart card that then tracks your move-
ments (all public transport here is free if you’re
a Tallinn resident) to using a special code to
mail a package from one locker to another, Tal-
linn residents use advanced technology every
day. All ID cards have chips in them, and park-
ing is paid electronically using a mobile phone
code,’ explains Ross on the website.
LIFE IN ESTONIA #37 I 2015 SPRING16
I HIGHLIGHTS 2014
Estonia is Like
a Peacock –
in Size But Full
of Impact in
By Holger Roonemaa / Photos by Mardo Männimägi
Soon after graduating from Tallinn University of Technology he estab-
lished a company called GrabCAD, relocated to Boston to continue its
development there, raised tens of millions of dollars of venture capi-
tal money and finally sold the company – allegedly for USD100m – to
the world’s largest 3D printing company Stratasys. Nowadays, Hardi is
working at Stratasys’ and heads GrabCAD development there.
For those of you not familiar with GrabCAD, the easiest way to describe
it is to say it is a collaboration platform that brings together some 1.8m
engineers (that’s greater than the population of Estonia incidentally) and
presents them with the tools to collaborate on both open and private
projects. GrabCAD’s clients include such august institutions as NASA
and General Electric among others.
We asked Hardi about what has been happening with GrabCAD lately.
Hardi Meybaum (32) is just one example of a new generation of Es-
tonian entrepreneurs – thinking out-of-the-box, having an innovative
mindset and most important – actually being successful.
SPRING 2015 I LIFE IN ESTONIA #37 17
COVER STORY I
Tell us what has been happening with GrabCAD
during the five months since you sold
the company to Stratasys?
For one thing, we just announced that GrabCad Workbench is now free
for all users. This is really great and positive news for our customers,
because prior to that you needed to pay USD70 US per user, per month,
in subscription fees. But that system is no more, and every designer,
engineer and manufacturer can now start using GrabCAD for free.
Looking at the bigger picture, our team has multiplied in size, and though
we do everything as we used to do before, we do it much faster now. We
have launched a couple of very interesting challenges in recent weeks;
one of them was initiated by NASA and another by General Electric.
What does it mean when you say that
you’ve launched a NASA challenge?
Our concept incorporates a challenge-oriented environment, where dif-
ferent companies can ask for our users to come up with their solutions
for design problems posed. We have nearly two million users, who can
all contribute to solving these challenges. Over the last couple of years
we have launched many such challenges.
Now NASA have approached us and asked for help regarding a specific
detail in a space station. Our users have already provided them with
nearly 500 designs!
How does it work? Did NASA find you or
the other way round?
We have never had a classical outbound sales team – usually people ap-
proach us and sign up without us directly talking with them.
With larger customers it is sometimes necessary to talk a couple of times
on the phone and agree on the details, before they sign up. It is very
similar with the challenges. Companies contact us and then we help
them set up the challenge.
You stated that the Workbench is now available
for free. What is the business logic behind that?
On the surface it seems you could potentially
lose revenue by following this step
That’s true, but this is part of the charm in being part of a large corpora-
tion. GrabCAD’s vision has always been to reach every engineer’s desk.
We have effectively achieved this goal through our community.
We have 1.8m users now as I said. The other part of our vision is that
every engineer will store their files on our Workbench. The hefty price
that we used to charge made this difficult to achieve. But now that we
made it free, potentially everyone can access the Workbench. In the
future we plan to combine the Workbench with Stratasys’ products and
see how such synergy will work out. But today we keep focusing on
developing a really good product.
There is also another huge difference between being an independent
company as against being part of a large corporation.
As a startup we used to operate in an 18-month cycle. Startups have
to raise new venture capital on average every 18 months until one day
you’d ideally make an IPO and then get to factor public money raised
on the stock exchange into the equation.
This means that as a startup you keep working on short-term goals only.
Now we can look considerably further up the road and make decisions
that will affect the company maybe as far ahead as 5 or 6 years from now.
Tell us a bit about the deal with Stratasys.
Why did you decide to sell GrabCAD?
There had been interest to buy us since basically day 1. GrabCAD’s com-
munity has always been neutral towards different software producers.
We are almost like the ‘Switzerland’ of companies in that sense!
It doesn’t matter what kind of software you use or in which industry you
work in - there’s always a place for you in GrabCAD.
Now, if we had sold to a strictly CAD company, we would have lost that
neutrality. For this reason I was never really interested to sell GrabCAD
to a pure software company. But ever since we first met with Stratasys,
we understood that we shared very similar visions.
This was a really cool thing to discover. GrabCAD’s main vision was to
help our clients get their products to the market faster. So was Strata-
sys’. Their 3D printing is neutral in exactly the same way as we are.
How did you and Stratasys find each other?
A year before our deal, Stratasys bought a company named MakerBot.
MakerBot has sold the highest number of 3D printer units worldwide,
although Stratasys’ revenue has been larger. As it happened, the found-
er and CEO of MakerBot went on to become a really good friend of
mine when I built GrabCAD.
So a little the MakerBot deal I was having dinner with him and he said
“you know, Hardi, I think you should also sell to Stratasys, so we can
work together”. He introduced me to the right people, we had negotia-
tions for six months and then concluded the deal.
Can you tell us how many interested parties you
effectively snubbed before you made the deal with
Stratays? From what I understand, it wasn’t the
pricetag Stratays offered but more their overriding
philosophy that you found appealing?
That was exactly the case. So I have never really worried about what
would happen with GrabCAD since the Stratays takeover.
The question had always been more whether to sell at all. But we have
been lucky to have attracted a lot of users and attention since the very
beginnings of GrabCAD.
So, whilst I can’t give you a precise figure, I can say that there were
plenty of meetings with people interested in buying us up. In the end,
though, it is one thing to meet and talk, but another thing to actually
reach a deal. Only that matters.
LIFE IN ESTONIA #37 I 2015 SPRING18
I COVER STORY
It has been reported that the deal with Stratasys
came to a cool USD100m. Is this true?
Sorry but I can’t comment on the specifics of the deal.
After selling GrabCAD you didn’t leave, but instead
were retained by Stratasys. How do you see your
own future at the company?
To be honest, I don’t set long range plans for myself. As long as it is
still interesting to me, I’ll stay. And so far it has been really interesting!
But still, how can you motivate yourself now that
you don’t own the company anymore?
I like new challenges. As long as I have them and I still feel like I’m learn-
ing something new, then I don’t mind if the company no longer belongs
to me. Stratasys’ turnover was around USD780m last year and it keeps
growing by 35 per cent a year! That is an amazing statistic!
Furthermore, the entire market sector is growing by an estimated 35-40
per cent a year. It doesn’t happen too often that someone can work for
a market leading company in a field that itself is growing at an incred-
ible pace, AND you can affect the company’s direction every day!
This on its own thrills me and that’s the reason why I’m staying here for
What will the relationship between GrabCad/
Stratasys and your native Estonia be?
We are still hiring in Estonia, and even faster than before. Estonia is, and
will be, a very important place for both GrabCAD and Stratasys. We are
very positive about the different projects regarding our Estonian office.
Could you elaborate on that? Do I understand
correctly you correct that it’s not only GrabCAD
that’s expanding in Estonia, but also some of
Stratasys’ other activities?
Yes. An important change that has already taken place is that Grab-
CAD’s team is nowadays also Stratasys’ development team. We have
already integrated the software development teams and our engineers
work for both GrabCAD and Stratasys in Tallinn as well as in our other
offices in other countries.
Your Tallinn office is close neighbours with
another Estonian-born startup that is making
headlines around the world, TransferWise. Both of
you are expanding. Is there a hiring ‘war’ going on?
I don’t believe in doing that. I think that the time when people joined
software development companies purely because of the money are long
gone. There must be something really wrong when a person chooses
between us and TransferWise based solely on the wage we offer. We
are just such different companies, with radically different engineering
Still, are there enough people to hire? There is
yourselves, then TransferWise, then there are
other local IT-companies and startups, finally
Russian IT-giant Acronis is establishing its
development centre in Tallinn.
True, in an ideal world we would like to hire faster. There is a need for
significantly more people with a technical background in Estonia. But at
GrabCAD we are used to such an environment. We are also competing
for IT talent in Boston, which is a ten times crazier scene than Estonia’s.
In other words, there are a lot more IT people in Boston, but the com-
petition to hire is also much higher. Or take Cambridge, England, which
is a well-known development hub for lots of large companies solving
extremely challenging engineering problems. We are used to competing
for the best talents and we have always been able to hire exactly the
people we want.
SPRING 2015 I LIFE IN ESTONIA #37 19
What are your own plans regarding Estonia? Are you
thinking of giving something back to the community
here after your deal with Stratasys?
Yes I am thinking about that a lot. As a matter of fact I’m set to launch
a project in Estonia, probably in April this year. Without giving too much
away, I can say it is connected with education, and the goal is to help
provoke interest in a technical education amongst young people. I know
I am being vague, and I must apologise but I’m not in a position to give
more detail than that just yet. There are still a lot of ‘Is’ to dot and ‘Ts’ to
cross before I can go public with the plan, so please sit tight!
Can you at least drop a couple of hints?
(Laughs) I really wouldn’t like to say anything more yet. Let’s wait for the
public launch, then we can talk again!
How often do you come to Tallinn these days?
Over the last five months there have been just two weeks when I
haven’t had to get on a plane to somewhere. As a result I unfortunately
haven’t been able to visit Estonia for a while. But I plan to stay in Estonia
for three months this summer. And that’s something I haven’t been able
to do for the last five years!
How will you find the time for that now?
Well, instead of Boston being my adopted home town and Boston Lo-
gan airport my home airport, it will be Tallinn and Lennart Meri airport
instead. I will still have to travel a lot, though.
GrabCAD came about through the use of tech
accelerators, but as I’ve gathered from talking
with various people, you yourself are quite critical
of accelerators. Why is that?
I am critical of certain accelerators and also perhaps of certain compa-
nies joining accelerators. Some companies, because of their nature, sim-
ply shouldn’t join accelerators and others should at least ask themselves
which is the best accelerator to join. Actually that said I just made my
first ever investment - and it was into an accelerator - Bolt!
Bolt is a Boston and San Francisco-based hardware accelerator. Bolt
doesn’t teach you how to build a team, because you can find advice on
that online or simply ask your investors. Instead they provide you with
space where you can build your prototype, and then help find the best
manufacturer in China, that can make you as many as 100 000 of your
I like such types of accelerators, because they give you a very clear idea
of what you can expect from them.
Then there are accelerators that offer you the same know-how that you
can also find online. So if you have a startup that’s already making some
money and you can find a seed investment on your own, you really
don’t need an accelerator in fact.
Do you mean that some accelerators have
basically turned into chatrooms?
Yes, exactly! Problem number one is that they’re completely over-hyped.
People tend to think that if you join an accelerator, miracles will start to
happen. That is simply not the case. The company still belongs to you
and it is you and you alone who has to fight for it and push it further.
Problem number two is that people tend to think that once you get into
an accelerator, you’ve made it – you’re successful! That is not a good
indicator of success though. Real success is when you find clients who
love your product, who are prepared to pay for it, not to mention when
you see consistent, month-on-month growth.
So with your views on accelerators in mind,
do you have regrets about entering
accelerators with GrabCAD?
I do regret entering Seedcamp [a popular London-based accelerator –
ed.]. When you join an accelerator, you lose a significant part of your
share of the company. So you have to calculate things carefully, to be
sure the accelerator are giving you enough value in exchange.
We definitely didn’t gain enough from our participation in Seedcamp.
In Techstars [GrabCADd entered Techstars Boston in 2011] however, the
share was 50/50. They didn’t directly give us much new, but member-
ship did help our brand development.
Thanks to Techstars we weren’t just an Estonian company in the US any
more. Back in those days being an Estonian startup didn’t mean nearly
as much as it does now. Furthermore, being part of Techstars made
investors fight over us, because they knew that we were likely t be
exposed to plenty of investors at the Demoday.
In other words everyone was afraid that they’d lose out on their chance
to invest in us.
Is being an Estonian startup really a brand of it’s
own nowadays or does hype also come into play?
Estonia is fast turning into a place that people know all about. One of
our investors has compared Estonian startups with Swiss Army knives
‒ because they guarantee quality. I agree with him and this is also an
image that is taking shape in Silicon Valley, as well as Boston and New
When an Estonian founder is able to enter the US market and make
appointments with VCs, that’s impressive on its own. Second, Estonians
have a tendency to over-engineer their products, in my view. What I
mean is, first we make the perfect product and only then do we start
thinking about selling it.
The approach in Silicon Valley is completely the other way round. When
you add the eEstonian concept and the PR that president Toomas Hen-
drik Ilves brings to the Estonian IT-brand into the mix, we end up with
a very good result.
LIFE IN ESTONIA #37 I 2015 SPRING20
I COVER STORY
What more can we do here
to improve our brand even further?
The next step should be to take a deeper look inside. Estonia reminds
me somewhat of a peacock. If you take a close look at it, you can see
that it is a really small bird. Its body is often little more than the size of a
man’s fist, but when it spreads its wings it gives the impression of being
a big, powerful bird.
Similarly, Estonia appears to be a major dynamic IT-focussed country
boasting lots of startups, but in actual fact we have had just a few real
success stories to our name so far. So we must do everything we can to
ensure we get more GrabCADs and TransferWises in future.
Do you plan to cast your eye around as a potential
investor yourself now?
I do indeed. I have just invested in a Boston-based startup Dunwello. Dun-
wello is a community for professionals inside existing organizations. They
occupy the gap between Linkedin recommendations and Yelp. The commu-
nity is definitely ahead of the curve, but I believe in the vision and the team.
I plan to invest more in the future as well. Investing is a great way to
give back what you’ve learned and help other starting businesses into
the bargain. This also helps you to get to know new industries. I have
experience in production, design and engineering, but it’s really cool to
be learning about other industries now.
So is investing a business, a method of education or,
alternatively, a charity?
I hope it’s not entirely a charity! I do plan to get a return from my invest-
ments! But I don’t do it just for the money, but more to educate myself
and help young entrepreneurs as well.
You’ve also published a book. How was that even
possible with all your work in developing GrabCAD?
Yes, the name of the book is “The Art of Product Design - Changing
How Things Get Made”.
The cool thing about the book is that it was published by Wiley, which
is the number one business books publisher in the US. We noticed that
The Internet had transformed a lot of different industries. For instance
we don’t need walk-in travel agents any more, we can order taxis with
an app etc.
This effect was spreading to the production industry as well. This is
also the reason we created GrabCAD. We saw that there were a few
hundred companies that were approaching production in a new way.
As it turned out, they were all clients of GrabCAD! So with the book we
wanted to inspire the other 99.99% of companies also to do things in
a new, more creative and more efficient way.
Writing a book isn’t exactly the easiest thing I’ve done in my life.
And writing a book at the same time as running a fast-growing
company is really difficult. Luckily we had a great research team and
we expressed our vision and story through our clients. In fact the
second part of the book is about our vision on how to move on in
And how has the book been doing?
Very well, thanks it has fulfilled all of its goals in fact. I still receive
emails from people saying telling me the book was exactly the thing
they needed to inject new breath into their work.
It has also gained a lot of attention for GrabCAD. We’ve been invited to
attend many conferences, whereas we couldn’t have got an entrée to
them without having published the book.
Finally, what do you plan to do
I probably won’t work out my entire career down to retirement at
Stratasys. When it’s time to move on, I will be sure to let you know!
SPRING 2015 I LIFE IN ESTONIA #37 21
Estonia is no stranger to the digital world. As long ago as 2005, it be-
came the first country to hold an election where people could vote
online. I was one of the first people to try out the new system. Now, in
February 2015, the number of Estonians to cast an e-vote in parliamen-
tary elections rose to a record number – 31 per cent of those who voted.
I am immensely proud to have been at the forefront of the digital trans-
formation of my country, which today has probably the most joined-up
digital government anywhere. Estonia has managed to create a true
e-Society that has improved peoples’ lives in many different ways.
Take digital signatures, where we have more than a decade of experi-
ence. They allow people to vote electronically, do their banking, de-
clare taxes, fix contracts – all without leaving either home or the office.
When Estonians started to use digital signatures, it was like a social and
commercial explosion. Since the system became available, more than
100m digital signatures have been made in Estonia.
I would like to see digital signatures mutually recognised across the EU’s
Every Estonian citizen now has an ID card, which contains biometric
information about them as well as digital signing capabilities. Again, I
was one of the first people to start using these.
That said, I don’t always want to point to my own country as a shining
example. However, what is now normal for Estonians in their daily lives
is not yet the same for people in much of the rest of Europe.
During my nine years as Prime Minister, I supported the goal of creating
a digital single market for the European Union that really works. Digital
issues are close to my heart, which is why I was pleased to be nomi-
nated as Vice-President for the Digital Single Market at the European
Commission in Brussels.
Building a Digital
Single Market for Europe
By Andrus Ansip / European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market
Andrus Ansip was appointed Vice-President
of the European Commission with responsibil-
ity for the Digital Single Market in November
2014. Before moving to Brussels, he was a
member of both the Estonian and European
Parliaments. This followed almost nine years in
Tallinn spent as Estonia’s longest-serving Prime
Minister, when Ansip worked with both centre-
right and centre-left parties to lead three dif-
ferent coalition governments. During his time
as Prime Minister, he also acted as chairman of
Estonia’s liberal Reform Party.
Ansip first entered national politics in Septem-
ber 2004 when he became Minister of the
Economy. Up to this point, his career was spent
in Estonia’s second largest city of Tartu where
he was born in 1956.
Ansip was Mayor of Tartu for six years after
working in banking and business. A chemistry
graduate from the city’s university, Andrus An-
sip is married with three children.
LIFE IN ESTONIA #37 I 2015 SPRING22
I STATE AND SOCIETY
Digital activity is everywhere. Every economic pursuit, every sector of
society uses digital tools and online networks. With the power of cloud
computing, the growing reach of social networking, the rise of big
data, all manner of mobile devices available, technology is developing
at lightning speed.
Europeans want the best that the Internet can offer; they want safe, ac-
cessible and fast online services; they want more choice and competitive
prices that the world’s largest marketplace should be able to provide.
They want to be able to enjoy online films, music, books bought any-
where in the EU. No price discrimination, website blocking or re-routing
because of where they happen to live.
Unjustified geo-blocking is unfortunately still a reality, with messages
like ‘This service is not available in your country’ that can appear on
screen. For me, this is a form of discrimination – and something we
fought hard to remove in the physical world. People do not understand
why they cannot access content they have paid for when they travel
abroad. In the same way, they cannot understand why they cannot ac-
cess content they are willing to pay for in the first place. This should all
be possible in the 21st
century, the digital age. But it is not yet a reality
There is still a lot of work to do to achieve a truly connected digital sin-
gle market. A market where every consumer can enjoy digital content
and services – wherever they are in Europe, including government ser-
vices. It means every company should be able to share and sell its wares
online to a market of 500m consumers, with ease.
Today, a small business trying to spread across the EU faces no less
than 28 regulations concerning consumer protection, data protection,
contract law and tax rates. People trying to buy online in Europe today
face endless barriers. It also costs too much, both for consumers and
Take the cost of getting delivery of a parcel of goods that you have
bought online, but from a retail website based in another EU country.
The charge for delivering across an EU border can be five times – even
more, sometimes the national equivalent.
We are working hard to remove the obstacles to create a connected
Digital Single Market for Europe. Bringing down barriers is what Europe
is about, to give all Europeans more opportunities so that they can enjoy
competition, convenience and choice online. At the same time, we have
to set about building, improving and connecting digital Europe.
Building trust and confidence, for example, so that people are confident
about using the Internet and online services. Or improving areas like
technical interoperability and standards across the EU, which will also
help to improve access to networks between countries.
Connecting everyone, everywhere, by investing in modern and joined-
up broadband infrastructure, so that people in the remotest areas can
also enjoy high-speed Internet access. Fast, reliable, secure connectivity
These main principles will form the basis of a long-term digital strat-
egy that the European Commission will present in May. It will contain
proposals for new legislation and the updating of existing laws so that we
have better regulation – rules that are ‘fit for purpose’ – in the digital age.
For people, the Digital Single Market will be a digital space where users’
electronic data can easily be carried or transferred across platforms and
systems in all EU countries, without discrimination based on nationality
or unjustified geo-blocking.
For businesses, it will allow them to reach new EU markets easily, backed
by a clear set of rules. Companies, particularly small and/or online busi-
nesses, should be able to start operating across the EU with just one
click of the mouse, without burdens or restrictions. This will allow them
to grow, scale up quickly and transform their business and industrial
models to include digital technologies.
This means moving further on consumer rights, and simplifying and
modernising rules for online purchases and digital products, for both
buyers and sellers. It will mean concluding negotiations on data protec-
tion and cyber-security. It will also involve reforming and modernising
EU copyright rules.
We have a great opportunity and should make the best of it. My aim is
to make sure that Europe, its citizens and businesses, get the best of the
online world in the safest and most open environment possible.
Openness and opportunity: not obstacles.
SPRING 2015 I LIFE IN ESTONIA #37 23
Global - Apply for One
in Your Home Country By Holger Roonemaa
Perhaps you have heard the success story that is e-Estonia? That you
can start a company in Estonia in just a few minutes, whilst sipping
a cappuccino in a café; that it takes just a few minutes at worst and
sometimes just a few seconds, to submit online tax declarations; that
contracts are mostly signed with digital signatures and you can be thou-
sands of miles away from the co-signatory to the contract?
Well if you didn’t know all that before, you do now! And there’s even
more great news – from now on anybody, anywhere in the world can
benefit from many of the services e-Estonia offers, whether it be sim-
plifying one’s business-related activities, starting a new company or just
trying out something innovative and cool which is not available any-
LIFE IN ESTONIA #37 I 2015 SPRING24
I STATE & SOCIETY
Kaspar Korjus is the e-Residency Program Director, which means
that he is the person in charge of the first ever Estonian governmental
But what is e-Residency and why should people need it? In very simple
terms, it is a digital identity issued by the Estonian state.
To put it even more simply, it is a plastic card with a micro-chip. This card
provides two options: the ultra-secure authentication option and the
opportunity to digitally sign all manner of documents. In other words,
this card opens the doors to the Estonian e-Services to everybody who
is not an Estonian resident, and perhaps has never had any contact with
The purpose of e-Residency is to make life easier by using secure e-
Services that have been accessible to Estonians themselves for quite a
few years already.
By providing e-Residency, we are moving towards the idea of a nation
without borders. The e-Residency project which started in its beta-ver-
sion during the last months of last year, is now ready to take the next
giant leap. ‘What we aim to do is to create a worldwide virtual business
environment, where people from both the developed and developing
countries can easily become entrepreneurs and start doing business
anywhere in the world. Physical national borders and restrictions will
no longer present an obstacle. You can start a business, open bank ac-
counts, make transactions, sign contracts and even declare taxes, all on
your computer,’ says Korjus.
More than that, the opportunity to use mobile-ID for e-Residents to
sign and get authentication for their documents is also in the pipeline.
Four big goals
‘When we went live with the e-estonia.com/e-residents page some
months ago, we received over 4 000 applications in 24 hours from peo-
ple who wished to be kept informed about the e-Residency launch.
Those contacts came from 140 different countries,’ says Korjus.
At the end of last year, the opportunity to apply for e-Residency was
launched and, to date, 900 people have applied. The aim is to reach 2 000
e-Residents this year. ‘Until now e-residency has been able to sell its own
concept without us pushing it, rather the opposite - in the beta phase, it has
been a struggle sometimes to meet the excessive demand,’ explains Korjus.
Actually it seems the whole e-Residency project had been without a
team until recently: ‘Everything we have done up to this point has been
at a beta-level. Now we are gradually beginning to develop the service
in order to make it into a finished product,’ Korjus explains.
Korjus has the task of putting together a seven-member team by April
2015, which will concentrate on developing, marketing and packaging
e-Residency to the world. From this moment the clock will be ticking
for a year and a half, during which his team will need to demonstrate
real results. ‘Within this period, e-Residency must become a finished,
saleable product. It must be totally user-friendly and offer enough im-
portant and comfortable services and it has to attract mass users,’ says
Korjus, summing up the challenge ahead.
Apply at home, receive without
needing to travel to Estonia
Korjus is confident that things will start happening fast. Whereas until
now it has only been possible to apply for and receive e-Residency in
person in Estonia, the whole procedure will be available online from
April onwards. ‘Applicants can fill out an online application form and
select a location where they wish to receive the card,’ he explains.
The list of places issuing e-Residency cards comprises currently 38 Esto-
nian embassies and consulates all around the world. For example you
can choose the Estonian embassy in Beijing, Washington or Moscow to
receive your card. Upon going to collect the card, the applicant needs
to present a valid passport and be prepared to give some biometric data
(ie. fingerprints); once this data has been processed, the card is ready
for immediate use.
The second task for Korjus’ team is to push through some legislative
changes in order to make more e-Services available for easy use by e-
Residents. For example, until now it has not been possible to open a
bank account in Estonia without turning up at a bank in person. ‘Our
research shows that 65 per cent of people wishing to apply for e-Res-
idency wish to do so for business reasons. The e-Residency will give
them the opportunity to digitally sign payment documents via Internet
banks, but in order to open an account they would have to travel to
Estonia,’ explains Korjus.
LHV, Stripe and PayPal enter the game
LHV Pank is one Estonian bank willing to offer the option to open a
bank account on the basis of a digital application. ‘I really hope that
this opportunity will be given to us by law, because at the moment we
are unable to offer non-residents a comfortable way of communicat-
ing with our bank,’ says Andres Kitter, Head of Retail Banking at LHV
It is technically possible to open a bank account from a distance, but this
option is only available to Estonian residents, and even then quite com-
plicated limits apply. ‘For example transactions can only be made within
Estonia, and one cannot even pay one’s monthly Spotify bill,’ says Kitter.
Kitter explains that a lot of preparatory work, including technical and
legal analyses, has gone into opening bank accounts for e-Residents at
LHV. ‘We are really waiting for legislation to catch up with this great
application,’ he says.
Kaspar Korjus explains further that e-Residency services will not only
be limited to services offered by the Estonian state. ‘On the contrary, it
is our wish and expectation that the private sector will start to develop
new services. We can create great conditions for it’, he states.
The first steps in this direction have already been taken. For example
the influential Stripe who also offer an online payment environment
to Kickstarter, Twitter and Facebook are developing a solution to offer
authentication with the extremely secure Estonian ID-card. This devel-
opment should reach the testing phase by summer. Similar ideas have
been discussed with the secure credit card payment service PayPal.
SPRING 2015 I LIFE IN ESTONIA #37 25
Japanese entrepreneur: a world-changing idea
The task of Korjus’s team is to give a push to creating an e-Residency
community. ‘It is clear that once e-Residency takes off into the masses,
we will be physically unable to deal with all questions, requests, con-
cerns. We wish to create a separate e-Residency community, which
would help each other and also support our marketing efforts,’ says
One person who could be a potential voluntary leader of the e-Residen-
cy community is the Japanese IT entrepreneur Tsutomu Komari.
Just a year ago, Komari knew little about Estonia, when he accidentally
stumbled upon the e-Residency topic on the Internet and started to fol-
low the developments of the project with great interest. Of course he
already has an e-Residency card in his pocket! ‘It is a globally totally new
idea, it is cheap and ultra-comfortable to use,’ says Komari who sees
both business and private opportunities in being an e-Resident. ‘I just
received my card, so I have only used it on a few occasions,’ he states.
He explains how he wanted to test the card and so took a look at the Es-
tonian business registry and almost literally drowned in the possibilities on
offer. ‘It took me a while to sort out which are the most important services,
which I can use. You should quickly develop a user-manual for beginners,’
he says and adds that the Japanese are very strong at creating manuals.
Until such a time as a manual exists, however, Komari is relying on Es-
tonian friends who have been helping him to orientate himself to the
number of services on offer.
The idea of having Komari as a leader of the e-Residency community is
not arbitrary, it has to be said. He fulfils all prerequisites you could imag-
ine for an e-Residency booster in Japan. He is the first Japanese person
to receive the e-Residency card and he is hugely interested in the project
too. He even promises to make a note of all his thoughts, comments,
recommendations and ideas and to submit them to Korjus’ team.
First e-Residents Based in the U.S.
During the business visit to the U.S. last December, Prime Min-
ister of Estonia, Taavi Rõivas handed out e-Residency cards to
three men who all have special merits.
The first American to get an e-Residency card is a world-famous
venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson (DraperFisherJurvetson - DFJ).
Steve was born in the US but both of his parents are Estonians!
Steve recommends e-Residency to Americans saying: “With Es-
tonian e-Residency it will be easy for U.S. startups to set up their
The second U.S. citizen to become e-Resident of Estonia is Tim
Draper (DFJ & Draper University). Both Steve and Tim were
amongst the first investors in Skype!
Third was Balaji Srinivasan, who in addition to being a partner
at AndreesenHorowitz (a16z) is a co-founder of Teleport together
with two Estonian ex-Skypers, Sten Tamkivi and Silver Keskküla.
Balaji’s quote on e-Residency went viral: ”This is so freaking
huge man, it´s insane! The plan to let anyone become European
Steve Jurvetson Tim Draper
LIFE IN ESTONIA #37 I 2015 SPRING
I STATE AND SOCIETY
• New York City and
Washington DC, USA
• Cairo, Egypt
• Tbilisi, Georgia
• Beijing and Shanghai, China
• Dublin, Ireland
• New Delhi, India
• Tel Aviv, Israel
• Tokyo, Japan
• Ottawa, Canada
• Astana, Kazakhstan
• London, UK
• Kiev, Ukraine
• Minsk, Belarus
• Moscow, Pskov and
St Petersburg, Russian
• Riga, Latvia
• Helsinki, Finland
• Stockholm, Sweden
• Paris, France
• Athens, Greece
• Berlin, Germany
• The Hague, Netherlands
• Copenhagen, Denmark
• Lisbon, Portugal
• Madrid, Spain
• Oslo, Norway
• Prague, Czech Republic
• Rome, Italy
• Warsaw, Poland
• Vilnius, Lithuania
• Brasilia, Brazil
One of the Many
While Edward Lucas, senior editor
at The Economist was presented
the first e-Residency card by Esto-
nian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Hamid Tahsildoost is
the first person to receive e-Residency through the regular appli-
cation procedure. Hamid works for Skype in the US and regularly
travels to Estonia to meet with his colleagues here. We asked him
about his expectations for e-Residency.
How did you hear about e-Residency?
I heard about eResidency from multiple people at Skype and outside
of Skype, including our HR Department. With the current and up-
coming functionality being built into this, e-Residency really has the
potential to change the world.
Why did you decide to apply for it? Was it for the sheer
innovativeness of it or some real benefits that you saw
coming from it?
I applied for it because it’s the type of project that can change the
world, and I wanted to be among the first to use it. Seriously, I think
anything that can be done digitally should be, but not without ad-
equate security. The security of this card sets the standard for the
world. Keep in mind, I’m from the US, where we predominantly still
use magnetic strip credit cards.
How (if at all) have you already
benefited from being an e-resident?
I’ve been mostly experimenting with document signing. Digital doc-
ument signing is gaining popularity in the world, but I haven’t seen
any place doing it as securely (and openly) as Estonia.
How do you expect to benefit from it in the near future?
I have a few things I still want to do, and I strongly suspect I’ll be
able to. In the near future I want to personalize my Ühiskaart [a
smartcard used for public transportation in Tallinn – ed.] so I can
top-off online, conduct online banking with an Estonian bank ac-
count, enjoy some of the mobile ID benefits that Estonian citizens
have, and see if I’m able to access other electronic services in Eu-
rope using e-Residency.
Global Cities Where You Can
Obtain Your e-Residency Card
At An Estonian Representation
As early as March 2015 he is set to organise a conference in Japan
introducing Estonia and its local business opportunities to Japanese en-
trepreneurs. The proponents of e-Residency will have their own des-
ignated area at the conference. The Estonian Ambassador to Japan,
Jaak Lensment, and by far the most famous Estonian in Japan the
retired sumo wrestler ‘Baruto’ (Kaido Höövelson) will assist Komari in
Komari has already created a Japanese language Facebook page intro-
ducing the concept of Estonian e-Residency, and will soon be develop-
ing another one for Asia on the whole.
Until now most people who have applied for the beta-level e-Residency
card have come from Estonia’s neighbouring countries of Sweden, Fin-
land, Latvia, Russia. This is understandable as up to now an applicant
has had to come to Estonia, not once, but twice, in order to get a card,
and most benefits of the card have been felt by people who have had
some connections to Estonia already – for example they either work or
study here or have business relations with Estonians.
Once applying for e-Residency becomes simpler from April and more
and more comfortable services and user options will be created, po-
tential users will grow more diverse. Kaspar Korjus says, ‘I am sure that
the largest interest in the service will be where the level of pain is the
Signs show that this is the case in countries outside the European Union
such as Ukraine, but also Asian countries where business regulations,
bureaucracy and relations with European countries have been very com-
plex up to now.
SPRING 2015 I LIFE IN ESTONIA #37 27
Estonia has been getting busy recently, developing many initiatives to
help and encourage foreign talent relocate here.
‘WorkInEstonia’ is one such programme, and is due to be launched by
Enterprise Estonia in May 2015.
The goal of ‘WorkInEstonia’ is to simplify the process for local compa-
nies to employ overseas experts. The programme will also introduce
Estonia as a destination for living, to potential, talented would-be em-
Estonia is often referred to as a pioneer and innovator in ICT. It there-
fore comes as no surprise that this is the sector which is doing the most
Companies like TransferWise, Skype and Kuehne + Nagel are just a few
examples of employers who are already actively recruiting globally. The
demand for top specialists is expected to grow in the future as well, in
line with the growth of ‘ e-Estonia’ and its ICT sector.
‘WorkInEstonia’s’ raison d’être is to make international recruitment
easier not just for ICT companies, but also for companies hiring in other
sectors such as mechanics and electronics industry, finance, etc.
Competing for talent
In May 2015, the web page www.workinestonia.com is due to go live.
This website will advertise international jobs available in Estonia and
also gather relevant information necessary about relocation from an-
Frequently asked questions such as ‘where to live?’ ‘How to cope the
necessary paperwork?’ ‘Where to find a doctor?’ ‘Where to go out and
how to get by in general?’ will be listed and answered on the site.
‘At first glance, it may seem ridiculous that one small Nordic country
could compete for talent alongside places like London, Berlin or Silicon
Valley,’ says Kristel Kask, Project Manager of ‘WorkInEstonia’.
‘In reality, Estonia has several advantages that make this country an at-
tractive place for many future-orientated, high-achieving talent from all
over the world.’
Kask gives some examples of these, including the possibility of rapid
professional growth. Because of the low hierarchies in Estonian compa-
nies and the over-all working mentality and business culture, it is highly
likely that a young professional with enough ambition might climb up
the corporate ladder quite quickly and be part of the strategic decision-
making processes at a young age.
‘Compared with “old-Europe“ where the professional career after grad-
uating is often slow to progress, Estonia can be described as a place that
believes in the capabilities of motivated youth, and age on its own is not
understood to be the measure of skills,’ says Kask.
Executive positions for persons under 30 are not uncommon here. Fur-
thermore, the scope of effect that one can implement on a national
(and sometimes even global) level, due to the fast reactions and easy ac-
cess to decision-makers, is rather impressive compared with many other,
LIFE IN ESTONIA #37 I 2015 SPRING28
I STATE AND SOCIETY
Not only for employees
One of the reasons behind this phenomenon is likely to be the fact that
Estonia itself is relatively both small and young. Therefore the nation is
prone to adapting to fresh ideas and change much faster than other,
more-established countries, as proven by the extensive use of e-Ser-
vices, Internet voting and the recently launched e-Residency program.
‘The web page will also provide relevant information about interna-
tional recruitment for employers, in order to help the hiring process go
smoothly,’ says Kristel Kask adding that ‘WorkInEstonia’ is also a good
channel for companies in Estonia to promote themselves and make it
easier to be seen by the international talent pool – through the web
site, online marketing as well as campaigning and special events that
‘WorkInEstonia’ will organise overseas.
Finland is the first country where ‘WorkInEstonia’ will focus its market-
ing efforts – one of many good examples Finnish-Estonian cooperation.
The transition for talent coming from Finland is obviously much easier
than it is in the case of those relocating from more distant destinations.
It is also good for the region in general not to lose the local talent to
“Destination Estonia – Relocation Guide” is
the first material already published under the
’WorkInEstonia’ programme and is currently
available as an online handbook that pro-
vides a useful overview on housing, taxes,
transportation, education and everyday
life and key figures. The online manual is
currently available in English, Finnish and
In the recent Global Talent Competitiveness Index, created by INSEAD,
which measures a country’s ability to attract and incubate talent, Estonia
placed 19th out of 93 countries. The European countries still continue
to dominate this year’s list, with 16 of them in the top 25. This alone
shows that Estonia is in good and respectable company and is a viable
alternative to more well-known competitiveness leaders like Switzer-
land, Luxembourg or Singapore!
“Destination Estonia –
SPRING 2015 I LIFE IN ESTONIA #37 29
People moving to Estonia from western coun-
tries consider the main motivator and attraction
of Estonia to be its compact organisational hier-
archy, which enables people to climb up the ca-
reer ladder more rapidly that in other countries.
Whereas in the USA, Germany, Spain and
Scandinavian countries, employees typically
reach a certain career level in their forties, this
is possible significantly earlier in Estonia.
Teams are smaller and everyone has the
chance to have their say in decision-making.
Young employees have opportunities to lead.
Staff members and their contributions are no-
ticed and rewarded.
The high level of English language skills is
considered a very positive thing. Non-Estoni-
an speakers do not generally feel helpless in
Estonia. Whether at the doctor’s, on the street,
at the shops or official institutions, it is usually
possible to at least get by in English.
The Estonian living environment is considered
to be notably safe. Life is not over-regulated.
The streets are safe. The pace of life is not as
hectic or stressful as in larger cities. In just half
an hour one can be out of the city and sur-
rounded by unspoilt nature, and even in the
towns, the level of pollution is very low.
There is plenty of both fresh air and fresh
food. People from a variety of different cultural
backgrounds admit that they feel comfortable
Although recognizably ethnically different
people may stand out or be noticed happily
they generally do not report experiencing sig-
nificant prejudice, and indeed sometimes at-
tain positions within the public sphere.
Effectiveness in dealings with
both the state and with business
As services are digitalised, everything here
takes place quickly and painlessly.
Expats reported they particularly appreciated
the opportunity to directly interact with offi-
cials – you always knows who is dealing with
your case and what is the status of the case is
(since officials pro-actively contact you via tel-
ephone or email).
The tax system is transparent and simple. Yet
at the same time it’s important to state that
Estonia cannot be advertised as a tax haven as
such. Several other countries have done much
more in this area (eg. Singapore, Luxembourg,
and the Republic of Ireland).
Despite the small size of the country, it is possi-
ble to visit great concerts and exhibitions here.
Research conducted for ‘WorkInEstonia’ among highly-skilled expats during autumn 2014 pro-
vided some interesting insight about what individuals who have moved to Estonia have found
positively surprising about local life. In short, Estonia is easy and affordable, open-minded and
What kind of services does the SSSC offer and
who are the beneficiaries?
Tarmo Leppoja: Currently the SSSC offers financial, HR and payroll
accounting services to four ministries out of the total 11 (namely the
Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Social Affairs, Ministry of Economics and
Communications, Ministry of Justice).
These also happen to be the four largest ministries in the country, which
between them are responsible for 80% of the state budget. At present
we at he SSSC only offer our services to state institutions like these,
but not to local government or state administered companies, though
we are considering a step in this direction and taking steps to broaden
The SSSC has been in existence for two years and in that time we have
become convinced that our centralised model of support services is
well-suited to Estonian state institutions.
At the same time, we have also downsized our workforce by 20% and
today employ around 100 people.
State Shared Service
The State Shared Service Centre (SSSC) is a public body
within the administrative jurisdiction of the Estonian Min-
istry of Finance, and which provides nationwide financial,
HR and payroll accounting services.
Tarmo Leppoja, Director of the SSSC says that besides
the services on offer already, their future aim is to con-
duct all public procurement in Estonia via their organisa-
tion. “I am convinced that centralising competence gives
us a better result.”
This is in addition to the benefits that economic effective-
ness will have on the state budget.
Life in Estonia asked Mr. Leppoja about the SSSC, its role,
and how he sees things panning out in the future.
LIFE IN ESTONIA #37 I 2015 SPRING30
I ECONOMY AND BUSINESS