Earlier this year, we asked e-residents to share their stories about the biggest challenges that they faced while building their businesses. Those with the most helpful advice for other e-residents could then earn a trip to Estonia’s flagship technology conference, Latitude59, to showcase their companies.
We received stories from e-residents around the world with tales as diverse as the e-resident community itself.
This included raksha pai who moved from the UK to innovate health care delivery in India, Dante García who established upKaizen to offer business consulting while having more time to enjoy hiking, and Luca Desienna whose company Gomma Books produces high quality photography books such as Mono and awards the highly sought-after Gomma Grant each year.
Luca is actually one of the newest members of the e-resident community and says that he decided to relocate his company from the UK to Estonia through e-Residency due to the uncertainties of Brexit.
We’ve now selected two of the e-residents who shared their stories to join us at Latitude59 and share them with even more people.
Latitude59 takes place this year on 16 & 17 May 2019 at Kultuurikatel, an old power station in Tallinn that has been transformed into a vibrant creative hub. More than 2,500 visitors are expected there, including around 200 investors and 150 startups. There’s also an exiting lineup of speakers, which includes leaders in innovation across both the private and public sector, such as Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid.
So even if you weren’t selected this time, we would always encourage e-residents to visit Estonia and join us there because it’s a valuable opportunity for entrepreneurs to showcase their companies, network with the local startup community, seek out investment and partnership opportunities — and venture out beyond the conference to explore more of their digital nation offline.
A number of e-residents have taken part in previous Latitude59 events, including as speakers and exhibitors, as well as attendees.
Ian Wagner is attending Latitude59 for the fourth time along with his business partner Luke Seelenbinder who is attending for the third time. Both are e-residents from the US who are now working together on their own startup Stadia Maps, which they plan to showcase again at their own company booth. We previously featured them on the e-Residency blog here.
“Latitude59 was my first introduction to the vibrant Estonian startup scene 3 years ago,” explains Ian. “There are always great thought-provoking sessions, but the thing that really keeps me coming back is the people. It’s a great place to meet like-minded people with a global perspective, and I always make a new friend or 3. I’m looking forward to my 4th trip this year.”
And the winners are…
We received a great selection of e-resident stories this year, but two stood out for the way in which they opened up about their challenges while also providing very useful and straight-talking advice for other e-residents following a similar path.
Coincidentally, both are making apps — although in very different ways. Coincidentally, both are also happen to be female founders, despite the fact that the e-resident community is roughly 90% male. We didn’t select them to help balance that out, yet we are grateful that they are helping inspire people from all backgrounds to unleash more of their potential through e-Residency.
Kaitlyn agonised for a long time about how to incorporate an international business, she explained, but starting a global online company was simple after discovering e-Residency.
The biggest challenge therefore was just building their first product. Kaitlyn chose to start with a ‘to-do list’ app for a very simple reason: She needed one herself as a newly self-employed entrepreneur. She imagined this would be a fairly quick process and that she could then move onto building another, more original app.
But then reality struck.
“It takes so much time,” she wrote, appreciating the irony given what she was building. “ It’s hard to find time to work on something that might never make any money. How do I justify asking others to do the housework or watch the kids so I can work on my company? Why should I deny myself relaxing or fun time to work on my company?”
On top of that, Kaitlyn had to consider many other aspects of building a business that were new to her, such as marketing. Her inbox would be constantly filled with new ideas and offers to promote her product to potential customers, yet she simply wanted to focus on her product first.
Kaitlyn persevered. She doesn’t think she’s quite overcome the challenges she identified, but she can certainly see the milestones that she’s passed along the way:
“There was the point when I had an app functional enough to use myself. There was the private beta I was only a little ashamed of and asked my friends to try. There was getting over my fear and launching publicly. There was the major epiphany I had on vacation on a better design for the main page. There was my first paying user.”
And for that, we are incredibly inspired and thank Kaitlyn for taking the time to share her advice for others, which you can read in her more detailed blog post here:
The biggest challenge building Simply Goals & Tasks
Without a doubt, the hardest thing has been building the actual product.
We’ve already downloaded her product here in the e-Residency programme office and have been trying it out for ourselves.
If you have an Android then download it for yourself here: Simply Goals & Tasks To-Do List. The iOS version is under development.
Invisible City is an app to help people find more culture around them offline by supporting emerging performing artists who need to book venues and build their audiences.
The vast majority of companies established by e-residents are limited companies (abbreviated to OÜ as a legal abbreviation). Invisible City is one of the few e-resident companies that has been registered as a non-profit organisation (known as an MTÜ).
Lispoeta | Лишь Поэт explains that they chose to establish as a non-profit because it’s a structure that enables them to focus on their core mission to help artists — and not just those that are already well established — and also because it best supports the volunteering and fundraising needed to make the app happen.
There were a few problems with that plan though.
The idea of a non-profit organisation is based on clubs and associations so that means countries usually require a high number of minimum founders. On top of that, all the countries where they initially considered registering the company required visits to government offices that would add time and travelling costs — especially as the evidence suggested that just one visit wouldn’t be enough. Finally, the team behind the app speak nine languages but are most comfortable working together in English so they thought it was really important that the administration and all relevant legal documents were in English for everyone too.
The solution for all these problems turned out to be registering the company in Estonia where companies can be run entirely online in English and a non-profit organisation requires a minimum of just two founders (although a limited company can be run with just one).
That doesn’t mean everything worked perfectly.
Here at the e-Residency programme, we’ll be the first to admit that Estonia’s business environment is under constant development and there are plenty of examples of ways in which it needs to be improved — which is also a key part of e-Residency 2.0.
“The first time we tried to use our cards to access the services, nothing worked,” said Lispoeta. “The setup process is still messy, while both the UX and the UI of the web applications feel early 2000.”
After that, the trickiest process was opening the bank account, which she says is a topic with “many contradicting myths” based on lack of direct experience with the process. We agree — and more information about banking for e-residents is available here.
Lispoeta and her team were fairly easily able to open an Estonian bank account though (while other options are available from the global fintech industry) and the app is now up and running. You can read her story in more detail here:
How we registered our non-profit in Estonia through its e-Residency programme
Why are we a non-profit?
To begin with, why did we decide to register Invisible City as a non-profit, and not as a…
We’ve already downloaded the Invisible City app here at e-Residency and will use it on our next trips to promote e-Residency abroad, although we are also eagerly waiting for the day when we (and e-residents) can use it around Estonia too.
Lispoeta has even kindly offered her contact details for anyone who would like to talk, including others interested in setting up a non-profit organisation through e-Residency.
We look forward to seeing you all in Latitude59 where you may get the chance to speak with Kaitlyn and Lispoeta for yourself about their inspiring journeys.
More information about attending Latitude59 is available here: https://latitude59.ee/