How e-Residency helped enable this German Digital Nomad’s Journey
Christoph Huebner is a German entrepreneur and digital nomad. A serial entrepreneur, he started his first business at just 16 years old making websites and never stopped building companies after that. The e-Residency team caught up with Christoph while he was managing his business remotely in Malta to learn more about his background, what drives him, and how he ended up becoming an e-resident.
Tell me about your background and how you got into startups?
I’ve been an entrepreneur all my life: I started my first little business when I was 16 years old and still in school. That was in 1999, long before the dot-com-bubble burst, so then it was just something outstanding and cool when you were able to write some HTML. So I made websites.
After finishing school at 19 I went full-time with an advertising agency I head founded together with a graphic designer. As of today my big passion is to digitize and modernize the all dust covered insurance industry.
What does your company do?’
Personal insurances in the life and health sector are my playground. Currently I’m involved at both ends of the lifespan: With www.kinder-privat-versichern.de I run a little company that is specialized in the brokerage of baby’s and children’s private health insurance plans in Germany. You wouldn’t believe this is so revolutionary but focusing on one niche, becoming experts there and then serving the nation-wide market is something really unusual. Currently insurance sales in Germany is still mostly done by local brokers who try to offer anything and everything but can’t be good at all of it. Instead of focusing on target groups in a shrinking market they usually try to broaden their assortment with contracts for energy supply and phone lines. You can see the disaster coming already…
So actually we are still the only ones going this specific way in our market for several years now!
And I’m also working on the end of the lifespan: My company exmedio.com offers digital precaution services for one’s own passing. Basically this is the extension of life insurances to the digital world: We inform your friends in case something happens to you. We care for your digital legacy. We terminate your contracts, subscriptions and memberships. So everything that needs so be done in case someone passes away. As this is a precautions service that addresses the living we simply help you to leave a positive last impression. And that is just the beginning. We’re just working on the next big step behind the scenes here.
My Estonian company is the perfect vehicle for all this: It serves as my personal holding company, it is the one I use to bill consultancy and other deals with and due to the unique system of deferred corporate taxation it is the perfect entity for long-term growth of wealth for retirement. I guess here I don’t need to say much about the perfect implementation of remote management capabilities through digital services and signature processes.
What motivates you to do your business?
I’ve always been an independent and self-employed person. The idea of knowing exactly how much money will be on my bank account next month, the month after that and this month next year really scares me. I don’t need the safety net below me but I need all the opportunities above me!
In almost 20 years of being an entrepreneur I have — of course — also gone through the phases when I didn’t know how I was going to eat the next day. I’m grateful for that, too, as it helps you to keep you grounded and to treasure the value of progress and prosperity even more. So giving up has never been an option as I’ve always seen the opportunities and I knew that I just had to work my ass off.
What does your day look like? What sort of challenges do you face on a day to day basis?
A typical working day starts around 10 with a nice breakfast in a café or coworking space. I mainly work on the computer, but the telephone and personal meetings are also very important. Actually I publish my travel plans for the next months on my website, password protected for friends and business partners. This inspires many of them to come and visit me along my journey and co-work here and there. Recently even a German journalist who I’m supplying with material for a story took the opportunity to do a short trip to Malta and met me there. So staying in contact with friends and family is easy as even my now retired parents are travelling Europe with their mobile home. Last time we met in Portugal where they went for the winter season.
Tell me about your experience with e-Residency. How did you find out about it, what led you to sign up, etc.?
I discovered it pretty early when it was first announced. I’m interested in foreign politics so I try to keep up with the news about developments like this. But it took a while until I really understood what the Estonian idea of “government as a service” really meant. If you’ve suffered from the German mania of paperwork and bureaucracy for almost your whole life it’s not so easy to imagine how a society and their public services could work in another way. You need to experience it first.
After I understood exactly what it meant, I bought into it immediately! I went to Estonia for a one week study-trip in September 2017 with my business partner. That week was fully packed with visits to officials like the e-Estonia showroom and companies like Pipedrive who we’d already been working with for almost a year back then. We’ve been so impressed and inspired that I took action without hesitation
So now it’s half a year of almost a daily smile when it comes to book-keeping, tax payment or any other smooth and no-hassle-transaction through my e-Residency card or my smart-ID.
What has e-Residency done or not done for you so far?
Since being an e-Resident I’ve learned that a society and respectively their politics actually can be future-optimistic and technology-positive. Growing up in Germany I went through the pain of knowing on the one hand that your nation is well-known for its technological inventions, for its bright engineers and its industrial competitiveness. On the other hand within the last decades you could learn that these advantages and openness really are something from the past. Banning even the research on safe nuclear energy, making it legally risky to provide open WIFI or restricting science and research in genetic engineering is today’s reality in Germany. Current political discussions aren’t about WIFI and tablets in schools and government offices but about putting up the Christian cross everywhere there. The majority in Germany is afraid of technology and pessimistic about the future.
Contrasting this with the secular Estonian society that even has a “Head of Business Development” for their e-Residency program is more than refreshing. I think the Estonian government is the only one in the world that it’s cool working for!
Biggest unexpected event that came from being an e-Resident?
So far the most unexpected thing is being asked for advice on the application process frequently and the general curiosity in my experiences here. Also take this interview as an example!
It feels like the e-Residency program is just seeing the tip of the iceberg. There seems to be so much interest and potential just waiting under the surface. When I was in Northern Cyprus in April there was a Turkish copywriter living in the same place as me. He translates English and French to Turkish for agencies and big corporates like airlines or car producers. So his customers are inside the European Union while he mainly lives in Istanbul but works location independently. He had already discovered the program by himself. One day that bearded guy surprised me with a blank shaved face and a fresh haircut. He was just coming from the photographer where he took the pic for the e-Residency application. His intention was to look serious and honourable. He didn’t want to fail the background checks by his regular visual appearance. If he had asked me about my opinion before going to the barber I would have laughed out loud. From my experience, the Estonians are among the most open and welcoming people on this little planet. They want you just as you are!
What advice would you give to other people who want to live a similar lifestyle to yours?
Just do it. Period.
Contact me when you need help with the practical last 10 percent. I’m happy to assist and to share my experiences. But the first 90 percent of the way must happen in your own head. Only there.