Why we opened our business in Estonia and why you should too!
Tribe Theory launched a new startup hostel in Talinn, Estonia this month and Vikram Bharati has high-praise for the digitally-forward nation
by Vikram Bharati
I first visited Estonia in the summer of 2018. That was when I truly discovered it not just as a country but also as a seat of innovation. As Estonia and Singapore have excellent bilateral relationships, I began talking to Enterprise Estonia-Singapore to explore a possibility of opening Tribe Theory at Talinn.
Unlike the typical European Union headlines of refugee crisis, Brexit and protectionism, we have been hearing exciting news from Estonia. Despite being a small country with just around a million people as population, this former-Soviet nation has been the launchpad for a staggering number of tech companies like Skype, TransferWise, etc. With a global-minded young population, the country has an infectious sense of optimism backed by a forward-thinking government.
Estonia offers an attractive proposition to businesses with its tax reforms, pro-business incentives and digital initiatives like e-residency, e-governance, etc., With an ambition of creating a global community for Tribe Theory, we wanted to enter Europe. And Estonia felt like the best entry point to Europe in terms of cost of living, technology and innovation.
What more? Setting up a company as a foreign entity here was super simple! Not just that, we had tremendous support from existing businesses in Estonia; something you don’t often see in other countries. We set up business in three months and we’re now up and running!
Estonia is such a good role model to showcase what other countries can achieve when they embrace digital technology in the right way. From the legal to the financial processes, everything can be completed in a few clicks. Furthermore, the success of this place is due to the great public-private partnerships that help propel the network here and we are grateful to be privy to this support.
The e-Residency team helped us expand seamlessly into Talinn and establish a business. The e-Residency is a government-issued digital identity and status that provides access to Estonia’s transparent digital business environment for digital nomads and startup founders. This was quite a revelation for me! It completely echoes with what we believe in — building and fostering a community of entrepreneurs without borders. Through the e-Residency, digital entrepreneurs can now manage and run an EU-based company with the power of the Internet.
For timely legal counsel, we turned to the fantastic team at Hedman Partners. While their main firm offers legal services to big brands, their wing Hedman Lift gives back to the community by fostering the startup ecosystem. There are many free templates of legal documents and advice on their blog to help both aspiring entrepreneurs and seasoned investors. Hedman Lift helps startups with cross-border expansions, transitions from early-stage startups to growth-stage companies and helping investors manage a global portfolio. One can hardly wish for a better legal partner as Hedman Lift have gone beyond the call of duty and will be offering free legal advice and mentorship to our guests twice every month.
Other private companies have been very helpful to us in moving and expanding to Estonia. Notable among them is Funderbeam, an open and transparent platform that makes it easy to invest in private companies and offer your shares for sale whenever you want, headed by the inspiring Kaidi Ruusalepp. Yet another tremendous supporter of Tribe Theory has been Superangel, an early stage investment fund and company builder in Estonia who are behind Bolt, Pipedrive, Veriff and others. Superangel also hosts programs like Alpine House and Palo Alto Club to further cultivate entrepreneurship, especially among millennials, in Estonia and around the world.
These firms, amongst others, have lead the way in terms of ensuring our success of this new ecosystem. They work closely with the Government and public institutions like e-Residency to help build the Estonian community. I highly recommend businesses that are moving or wish to expand to Estonia to reach out to them for advice.
It is refreshing to see that Estonia’s success is also due to a lack of hierarchy and a heightened sense of community. People truly help each other and work together to look after communal interests and to put Estonia on the map. At our launch party, we were deeply touched to see so many entrepreneurs and startup enthusiasts drop by, simply because they were excited to support the new players in the market.
A good indication of the future of a country is when the young people are very optimistic. With optimism comes unconventional and bold decision making. Companies like Bolt are rising in strength, challenging prime ride-sharing operators like Uber and clinching new markets. And they have done this mainly by employing young talent emerging out of universities and giving back to their community.
Other countries have a lot to emulate from Estonia. Estonia shows all the signs of becoming a powerful entity that will create an impact and propel the future and growth of the European subcontinent. Despite their checkered past, they have reinvented themselves into an advanced nation, backed by the power of community.
We are extremely excited about this new beginning in Estonia. Our centrally-located Talinn property is housed in an old heritage building and is equipped with a mix of private and dormitory-style rooms, a DIY kitchen and a lovely space in the back for events. We may have just opened here, but we are already housing a lot of startups from around the world visiting Estonia as part of the various accelerator programs.
We see immense value in Tribe Theory being in Estonia and offering young startups affordable housing and infrastructure. With our speaker series, fireside chats and mentorship programs in the pipeline, in association with our local partners, we hope that Tribe Theory in Tallinn builds more momentum and becomes a place of congregation; thereby helping build the very community we so admire!
Backpacking through 50 countries across 6 continents after a long career in finance leads Vikram Bharati to his true calling of becoming an entrepreneur. Vikram founded Tribe Theory, a global chain of business hostels targeted for young startups and entrepreneurs. With current locations in Singapore, Bangalore, Hong Kong, Estonia, Yangon and Bali, Tribe Theory is expanding to 10 more countries in 2019.