When most companies imagine working with the public sector, they envision complex layers of bureaucracy, endless meetings with officials, and a myriad of unnecessary rules that have to be navigated before any kind of partnership can be created. As a result, many companies think they can’t work with a government — or at least not until they’re big enough that they can afford to allocate someone to work on a deal for a year before seeing results.
We believe Estonia is different.
Estonia is often described as a digital nation — nicknamed ‘e-Estonia’ — because citizens and residents can do almost anything online using their secure government-issued digital identities. This minimizes bureaucracy and makes everyday life and business easier for everyone.
Four years ago, Estonia then went even further by inviting people around the world to join the digital nation as ‘e-residents’ and receive their own Estonian digital identities. The main advantage so far has been their ability to then establish and manage a trusted EU company entirely online from anywhere.
Estonia’s e-resident population is growing at ever faster rates and now includes approximately 50,000 people from more than 150 countries who have so far established more than 6,000 new companies.
This successful growth is due to the fact that e-Residency is a national initiative in which the public and private sector work together in order to ensure that e-residents can gain as much value as possible from being part of our digital nation. E-residents are highly entrepreneurial and are continuously looking for different products and services that support their activities, but there will never be one solution that is right for everyone. That’s why we work hard at the e-Residency programme to encourage the growth of the entire e-Residency ecosystem with a wide variety of solutions for everyone.
Here are a few examples of e-Residency partners that have stepped up to this challenge.
LeapIN is a startup that was established in 2016 to provide business services to the e-resident community. They are now one of Estonia’s fastest growing companies and employ more than 50 people in Tartu and Tallinn.
1Office is another Estonian company that provides business services globally but was already providing this when they recognised the opportunity to serve e-residents too after the programme was launched. E-residents now account for approximately 80% of their business at the Estonian branch and that now also helps provide work for about 50 employees in Estonia.
Holvi is a Finnish payment institution that was providing banking services to entrepreneurs in Finland, Germany and Austria when they chose to invest in e-Estonia as their next national market because e-Residency provided them with a way to serve global entrepreneurs based in one jurisdiction. They were so pleased with their investment that they were able to considerably lower their prices for e-residents one year later.
There are many more great examples, but even these companies are only providing a small proportion of the products and services that e-residents need so we are pleased to continue working with them, as well as help more companies reach the e-resident market.
The e-resident community is diverse so there are many different opportunities for companies that want to serve them, but our current focus at the e-Residency programme is on improving the experience of e-Residency for location-independent entrepreneurs, often known as ‘digital nomads’. As a result, we’re able to provide the most support to companies that support solutions for digital nomads.
What can the e-Residency programme offer partners?
First and foremost, we are here to provide advice to any company that is interested in engaging the e-resident population, as well as larger companies that are interested in establishing connections with Estonia more broadly.
We can discuss your product fit for the e-Residency market, as well as offer guidance on technical integration and compliance with Estonia’s business environment. Your company might, for example, benefit from integrating the Estonian digital ID card for logging into your service. Alternatively, you might want to know about rules and regulations that affect how you can offers your services to Estonian companies. The advantage with e-Residency is that you only have to understand these rules in one jurisdiction before being able to reach a wide range of global entrepreneurs and, as mentioned, Estonians like to keep bureaucracy to a minimum already.
For many companies, this guidance might be all that is needed to get started serving the market. After that though, there are endless ways we can work together just as there are endless solutions to offer to e-residents.
The next level of support comes with being officially listed as a partner to the programme after your company and its offering have been vetted as suitable and valuable for e-residents. As mentioned, we are currently prioritising deeper relationships with companies that support digital nomad. E-residents have 100% control of their companies so of course, they are free to choose the products and services that they need from anywhere. However, e-residents do also appreciate guidance on which solutions are most suited to their circumstances so that’s where we can provide support to partners.
There are then endless opportunities to work together more closely as our partnership develops — particularly when it comes to communications. The e-Residency program is keen to support partners that want to provide guidance about their unique offering and how their services can be used. This could include webinars, joint market and PR, and even guest posts on this e-Residency blog.
In addition, we are developing new ways to make it easier for e-residents to connect with each other and find the products and services that they need to grow their companies. Our aim is that this will provide partners with even more ways to reach the e-resident market.
Once you establish a foothold in Estonia’s business environment, such as by serving e-residents, you might notice that there are even more opportunities for your company here. That’s why the final area in which we can support you as a partner is to help you gain more connections in Estonia across either the public or private sector.
We work with global companies and Estonian companies
When you work with e-Residency, you get access to a massive network of entrepreneurs, influencers, and investors from across the world. We have nearly 50,000 users from over 150 nations and more than 6,000 businesses formed via our program. Not only that, but you have a chance to get access in one go to a completely global audience, so if you’re still figuring out where your next expansion market should be, e-Residency is a good tool to help test market demand and get feedback from entrepreneurs from Bali to Bangalore to Boston. Of course, there’s also the credibility you get as a startup or company partnered with a government agency. For many companies getting that first relationship is the hardest before being able to expand into more partnerships with enterprises and governments — we’re happy to be your first government partner and show you that it isn’t always a pain to work with government agencies!
E-Residency is an Estonian initiative, but we work with companies based both inside and outside Estonia if they can offer value to e-residents. Estonia has a very open business environment and the e-Residency programme would not succeed if the ecosystem around it was limited to only Estonian companies.
Take financial services, for example. Estonia recently changed the law to ensure that Estonian companies have the freedom to conduct all their business banking using any credit or payment institution across the European Economic Area. This gave more freedom of choice to e-residents (as well as citizens and residents of Estonia) and recognised the important role that partners like Holvi can offer Estonian companies from outside Estonia.
We do work particularly closely with Estonian companies to help them serve e-residents and we will be scaling up this support to them throughout 2019. Note though that Estonian companies can be run by citizens, residents or e-residents so you don’t have to be Estonian to receive this specialist support (but we will be providing more support in the Estonian language for the majority of them).
There are two reasons that we provide even more specialist support to Estonian companies. Firstly, it’s because the Estonian people invested in creating the e-services and business environment on which e-Residency depends so they are essentially the first shareholders of our programme. Secondly, it’s because there is demand from e-residents to work with more Estonian companies. There are numerous practical reasons for this, but we also hear frequently from e-residents that they feel that they want to develop their connections within the digital nation they have joined.
Whether your company is an Estonian company or not, and whether you are working from inside Estonia or around the world — we want to hear from you if you have something valuable to offer e-residents.
What do e-residents need?
The main criteria beyond table stakes items like being reputable, having a high-quality service, etc. are that a partner should provide something really unique and really useful for our community. While our community is incredibly diverse with users hailing from nearly every nation, most of our core users are location independent entrepreneurs and need tools and services to enable their lifestyles. Today we already work with dozens of service providers for legal, accounting, and tax services specialized in different areas and geographies, digital signature firms, relocation and job portals, and much more.
If you have a service that helps enable location independent entrepreneurship, we’re interested in hearing from you. Especially if it falls into one of the below categories:
Financial Services / Fintechs: One of the first things that e-residents need after establishing their companies in Estonia is a business account for it. Improving access to banking services has been one of the biggest challenges since e-Residency was launched, but considerable progress has been made in ensuring that e-residents have access to the widest possible range of choice from both inside and outside Estonia. You can read the latest developments here:
Estonian companies now have greater freedom in business banking
The Commercial Code has been amended to improve the ease of doing business for Estonia’s citizens, residents and…
If you’re at a bank or fintech that provides business solutions that are suitable for location-independent entrepreneurs — such as remote account opening, EU and multi-currency IBANs, cross-border payment features, etc, then we definitely want to hear from you.
Insurance: Both as business owners and as individuals, our users often have insurance needs and we feel that there is a lot of room in the sector to innovate and provide specific services tailored to location independent entrepreneurs
Remote Work Opportunities: Two of our biggest user segments are consultants and software development firms and while platforms already exist to facilitate remote contract work like Nomad Jobs and Upwork, these often can be difficult to navigate or get started on. We see real opportunity in matching jobs for our e-Residents based on their skill sets and would love to work on helping facilitate that
Business services: This has been the largest area of growth so far for e-Residency partners because e-residents often need a range of services from the very start, including accountancy and a virtual office, international tax advice, as well as support for legal and compliance. In fact, one of the reasons that many entrepreneurs choose to start their companies in Estonia is because they are attracted to the range of competitive business services offered to e-residents in a clear and easy to understand way.
Co-working and business incubation opportunities: Many e-residents are on the move and end up working in any new spaces they can find, which might not always be suitable or offer them the sense of community and connections that they still crave. As a result, we are keen to speak with companies that can provide a network of flexible spaces that are suitable for travelling entrepreneurs. At the same time, we are also open to developing partnerships with individual co-working or business incubators that would be interested in introducing e-Residency to their existing community.
Professional and creative services: Business services only cover the administration of a company, but e-residents also need a range of support in order to develop and grow their business. This could include everything from designing that first logo to support with virtual assistance, marketing, marketing, public relations, graphic design, copywriting, content writing, web design and hosting, and video creation. It’s not always easy to know where to turn to for trusted providers of these services — especially if you are location-independent and have no fixed business ecosystem around you physically — so we are keen to speak with companies that can offer these services to the e-resident community. This could include tools that make it easier for them to work remotely from finding their first customer to ensuring those customers can easily pay them. It can also include tools that help them navigate the world along the way — from finding flights and accommodation to more convenient places to work. It can also include solutions to less obvious, but just as fundamental problems, such as overcoming loneliness and other challenges, such as by finding a community to connect with.
The next step
We want to make it as easy to partner with us as it would be to partner with another startup (actually we take pride in being a ‘startup’ within the government).
To work with us, it’s as simple as sending us a message and pitching your services. We have a very diverse team that is here to help (hence why you see e-Residency ‘program’ written in both US and British English! There’s no crazy paperwork or forms, no civil servants trying to find ways to kill your proposals, just people who want to build something awesome for our community and for the world. To that end, we also try to work with as many partners as we can at some level, but we are still highly selective and can offer more support to companies that add more value to e-residents, especially if it means making life easier for our users, starting with digital nomads and IT freelancers and eventually many more personas.
If you’re interested in partnering with e-Residency or have more questions, please send us a message here on our website.