Estonia boasts over 2000 islands, two UNESCO world heritage cities, and an impressive nine unicorn companies, making it the leader in Europe for the number of unicorns per capita. In this article, we will explore the thriving startup ecosystem in Estonia, including the key factors driving its success, as well as the leading players in the industry. Let us guide you through the innovative landscape of Estonia, uncovering the top Estonian unicorns and Estonian soonicorns emerging from the country.
Estonia has established itself as a fintech powerhouse in the Baltic region, boasting the highest number of fintech unicorns and a large number of fintech minicorns. The country's startup ecosystem is renowned for its vibrancy and dynamism, with its fintech industry ranking 11th in the world.
Estonia has achieved this success by leveraging its innovative e-Residency program, streamlined online services, and simple company registration and management process. The country strongly emphasizes technological development, creating a national IT infrastructure called e-services. This infrastructure enables individuals to conduct all their affairs online - including launching a company.
Estonia had a total of 1365 startups in 2022. The key drivers behind these startups' success are the government's support and the adoption of innovative technological solutions. For example, one of the unique features of Estonia is its zero corporate income tax policy on reinvested profits, making it an attractive location for entrepreneurs looking to establish a company.
Unicorn refers to companies with values over $1 billion that are privately held. Startup companies with unicorn status often stand out for innovative approaches that disrupt their industries. As companies with key market positions and exceptional industry expertise, unicorn startups are preferred by investors. Here are the ten unicorn leaders within the Estonian startup ecosystem.
Founded in 2003 and spun off into a unicorn company two years later, Skype was among the first companies to pioneer video conferencing and develop its basis, leading to how we communicate virtually today. Users can chat with each other, take part in video calls, and have group conversations with this telecommunications company created by Janus Friis and Niklas Zennströ. Only seven years after the company's launch, it reached 660 million users and provided its services in 27 languages.
In the years following Microsoft's acquisition of the company, several functions were changed, including implementing a new business function. Despite this, Skype's character remains intact and is used today to connect friends, families, and teams around the world.
Wise is a fintech leader in the industry, founded by Kristo Käärmann and Taavet Hinrikus in 2010, that has completely disrupted the fintech field and practices. Instead of relying on banks as intermediaries, Wise focuses on finding the most effective and affordable means of transferring funds between countries. Wise's customers' demands are met by the company's features, which include automatic identification verification, online and in-app technical support, and estimates of when money transfers will arrive.
According to the last report, private investors value the dominant unicorn company at $5 billion. The Wise platform disrupts the fintech practice and business operations with more than eight million users globally. The fintech future proves to rely on Wise, and it does it wisely.
Carlos Paniagua founded Glia in 2012, and it has driven more than 10 billion digital customer support engagements. With Digital Customer Service (DCS), Glia enhances online and mobile interactions with on-screen collaboration, digital communication features, and AI-enabled support. As the company's global visibility increases, so does the number of clients spanning 12 countries.
To enhance the client experience and promote business outcomes, Glia has worked with more than 250 banks, credit unions, insurance companies, and other financial institutions globally. The company has reportedly secured over $150 million in funding from key investors.
With the increasing threat to which the digital world is exposed these days, the demand for cybersecurity solutions also rises, and Veriff provides an innovative response to them. Veriff, a cybersecurity solution, was established in 2015 by Kaarel Kotkas and Janer Gorohhov and offered means for digital identity verification.
Veriff minimizes and eliminates any fraud risk using automation technologies based on machine learning and AI. In this system, a local device captures images of the customer, which are then compared with the identity information stored in government databases. This comparison is based on the ratios between various points on the person's face.
A mobility solution that solves taxi transportation issues and delays, Bolt was born from the necessity of change. With a long journey ahead, Bolt was founded in 2013 as a developer of an on-demand transportation platform created to streamline day and night transportation solutions.
Thanks to the company's platform, Bolt's customers now have access to affordable and convenient ride-hailing, micro-mobility, and food delivery options. Using the app, users can search for and book vehicle types based on their preferred location, date, cost, and rating. As well as enhancing convenience and affordability, Bolt contributes to the safety of the mobility industry.
The dynamic digital landscape of the 21st century has made print-on-demand a necessity for many companies, organizations, and independent actors. With its wide range of printing services and options, Gelato was founded in 2010 by Mike Arbuzov to meet these demands. With over 100 production partners in 32 countries, the platform relies on high-quality printing practices and exceptional designs.
The company raised $240 million in its last successful funding round. Gelato's success has also been printed in several media outlets.
The Pipedrive sales pipeline management solution was developed in 2010 by Timo Rein, Urmas Purde, Ragnar Sass, Martin Henk, and Martin Tajur to help customers manage their sales pipelines more effectively and aesthetically. Salespeople at small firms may organize their actions, manage deals, and keep track of conversation history using the platform's excellent facilities for email tracking, data importing and exporting, and drag-and-drop functionality on the sales pipeline.
Sales representatives developed the message behind the innovative solution for the needs of other salespeople.
Zego is a leader in the insurance industry with a niche focus on vehicle insurance policies. With a coverage range extended to above 400 000 vehicles for numerous companies, Zego partners with well-known delivery and transportation leaders such as Uber, Uber Eats, Bolt, and Freenow. As part of its innovative approach, the insurer considers industry-standard factors and data on driver behavior and working practices when determining price ranges.
With more than five times more data collected about each vehicle than any other insurance provider, Zego was founded in 2016 by Harry Franks and Sten Saar. As per Zego's last company valuation, $1.1 billion was allocated to the company in 2021.
After a remarkable 33% revenue boost last year, Playtech has been dubbed a unicorn startup in the Estonian startup ecosphere and beyond. Playtech is the world's major gaming software supplier. With its innovative visions, exceptional software development, and cutting-edge technology, Playtech was founded in Tartu in 1999 by Teddy Sagi.
Since then, the company's expansion and influence have become ubiquitous, and last year the company's valuation reached €1.6 billion. Currently, Playtech operates in 19 nations across the globe, owns more than 300 gaming brands, and licenses more than 150 gaming brands worldwide.
Soonicorns are startups that have not yet reached unicorn status but have achieved a valuation of at least $500 million and are expected to reach a $1 billion valuation soon. Often, these startups receive funding based on potential growth and estimated valuations exceeding their current value. Here are a few Estonian soonicorn startups you should know about. You may be interested in reading some more of our articles if your interest is still piqued after reading this one.
Founded in Tallinn in 2009 by Oliver Ahlberg, Taavi Madiberk, Dr. Jaan Leis, and Dr. Anti Perkson, Skeleton Technologies manufactures energy storage systems. The company specializes in ultracapacitor-based technology, which provides high-power energy storage services to various industries. Skeleton Technologies' energy storage systems are characterized by high power density, quick recharging capability, and long lifetimes. Fuel consumption and carbon emissions are reduced by these systems in the automotive, transportation, industrial, and renewable energy sectors.
A minicorn startup is a startup with a valuation of $1 million or more and is relatively new to the business. Despite being in their infancy, the minicorn startups appear to have the potential to become unicorns shortly. Capital, ambition, and vision are the pillars of a minicorn's success. This section provides a peek into the visions and concepts of the leading Estonian mincorns.
A Tallinn-based delivery company, Starship Technologies, has disrupted the delivery industry with its autonomous delivery innovation. This company developed a zero-emission delivery robot in 2014 that makes more than 100,000 road crossings per day, has completed three million commercial deliveries, and has traveled more than three million miles. The company was founded by Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis (co-founder and chief architect of Skype), with Alastair Westgarth as CEO.
Batteries power the robots, which can move as fast as a pedestrian and navigate the footpaths of different neighborhoods using sensors, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. The company's innovation has not gone unnoticed, and through its last secured round of funding, it has raised $42 million.
Realeyes is a company that specializes in using cutting-edge technology to measure people's emotions and attention via webcams. The company's AI-based solution allows brands, advertising agencies, and media agencies to measure their marketing strategies accurately and optimize them accordingly.
Established in 2007 by Mihkel Jäätma, Martin Salo, and Elnar Hajiyev, the company's clientele includes major brands such as Coca-Cola, Hershey's, and AT&T, as well as leading agencies like Ipsos, MarketCast, and Publicis, and media companies like Warner Media and Teads.
Monese is a financial services company founded in 2015 by Norris Koppel, offering a diverse range of financial products for both individuals and businesses. These include prepaid debit cards, cross-border remittances, mobile payments, a credit-building tool, and insurance.
The company is an innovative digital banking alternative that provides mobile-only accounts in 31 countries across the European Economic Area, supporting multiple currencies. Its fully localized app offers customers a wide range of language services and banking experiences. People and businesses across Europe can now manage their finances like locals with Monese's spending and saving tools.
With expertise in banking and fintech, Tuum was founded in 2019 by Jan Lakspere, Ove Kreison, Rivo Uibo, and Vilve Vene. To satisfy the needs of a diverse range of clients, the company has developed a highly adaptable and modular platform. Through Tuum's cloud-based platform, financial service providers can effortlessly introduce new products and services.
Based on a microservices architecture, the platform comprises versatile and autonomous modules encompassing all retail and business banking capabilities. Besides supporting all major cloud providers, Tuum's platform can also be deployed on private clouds.
Founded in 2017, Katana offers manufacturing companies, ranging from hobby makers to large manufacturing firms, a comprehensive platform that integrates all the processes, tools, and software necessary to run their businesses efficiently. As a result of its intuitive and easy-to-use ERP, Katana has built a portfolio of over 1,300 companies.
Unlike traditional siloed enterprise solutions, integrating Katana's enterprise solutions creates an ecosystem for manufacturers. Katana's approach brings manufacturing software into the digital age, bringing it up to the same standards as other SaaS verticals and consumer technology. Customer reviews consistently rank Katana highly for its support and ease of use, and Gartner has recognized Katana as an industry leader.
Scoro, a work management software platform, was established in 2013 by Fred Krieger and has its headquarters in London, with additional offices in Tallinn and New York. Specifically designed for professional services and creative industries, the platform caters to the collaboration needs of teams. Regardless of where teams are located, Scoro offers a variety of tools for managing tasks and projects efficiently. As an end-to-end solution, the software empowers teams to manage their work more effectively. In recognition of its innovative approach to work management, Scoro has won a number of awards.
Testlio is a testing company founded in 2012 by Kristel Kruustük and her husband, Marko Kruustük. The company offers full-service QA testing that covers all aspects of the testing process, from beginning to end. It provides web and mobile developers with the necessary resources to improve their products through software testing and quality assurance. Over 150 testers have joined Testlio's freelance network, speaking 36 languages from 33 countries. Testlio's global community of QA engineers and a robust test management platform ensure consistency, transparency, and speed for its clients.
The cybersecurity and enterprise software development company RangeForce was founded in 2015 by Taavi Must, Jaanus Kink, and Margus Ernits. In addition to Microsoft, Barclays, Santander, and Pipedrive, the company boasts a global customer base in the financial, tech, and healthcare sectors. RangeForce provides cybersecurity and IT training services to assist businesses in dealing with cybersecurity vulnerabilities.
Its learning platform covers the entire threat lifecycle management operations spectrum through realistic cyber siege scenarios. Additionally, companies can continuously assess and monitor their teams' readiness for cybersecurity threats with RangeForce's performance-based skills measurement analytics engine.
LeapIN, now known as Xolo, is a startup established in 2015 with a mission to simplify the process of setting up and running micro-businesses. With Xolo's comprehensive online platform, individuals can form a company, access banking, send invoices, and track accounting activities. With the platform, customers can reduce the complexity and costs of dealing with national governments and administration service providers.
Xolo has been successful in its mission, having established over 3,500 companies in Estonia and providing services to more than 100 countries worldwide. Over 80 employees work at the startup, providing a hassle-free and location-independent service to millions of freelancers, contractors, and digital nomads worldwide.
Wolf3D was founded in 2014 with the goal of creating a virtual identity platform specifically for games and VR. With its software, Ready Player Me, users can create a full-body avatar from a selfie that can be used in multiple integrated games. This software is suitable for a wide range of games and genres due to its ability to support a variety of avatar art styles.
In the long run, Wolf3D envisions its platform as a link between various virtual experiences, creating a seamless virtual world that users and their avatars can explore together. In this way, multiple virtual experiences would be integrated into one cohesive and interconnected world.
Founded in 2009, the Tallinn-based startup Click & Grow produces self-watering indoor gardens using electricity. These "smart gardens" consist of frames for special plant pods with LED lamps and a water distribution system. Click & Grow founder Mattias Lepp was inspired by a NASA report on growing plants in space and a research paper that revealed that billions of euros worth of houseplants are discarded yearly due to mismanagement. Click & Grow aims to address this issue by providing an easy-to-use solution for people to grow plants at home.
Estonian startup eAgronom was founded by Robin Saluoks in 2016 in Tartu. Its main goal is to encourage farmers to adopt more climate-friendly practices by providing a platform that offers economic benefits. To promote climate-positive food production, eAgronom works with various stakeholders, such as agribusiness dealers, banks, food companies, and landlords.
Initially, the company aimed to reduce the paper-based administrative burden farmers faced. However, eAgronom has evolved into one of Europe's largest farm management software solutions. Utilizing satellites and artificial intelligence, the company's emissions monitoring, data verification, and program certification capabilities help farmers access lower interest rates from financial institutions and receive pre-payment for high-quality carbon credits.
Jobbatical was founded in 2014 by siblings Karoli Hindriks and Ronald Hindriks. Relocation administration is perceived to be a cumbersome and time-consuming process, which this tool aims to automate. Furthermore, Jobbatical provides a variety of value-added services, such as bank account opening, housing search, and tax filing assistance, which can help with many relocating challenges. Currently, the company relocates employees and recruits talent from other countries for companies like N26, TravelPerk, and Personio.
Estonia has become a prominent fintech hub in the Baltic region, boasting the highest number of fintech unicorns and a large number of minicorns. There is a dynamic and vibrant startup ecosystem in the country, ranked 11th in the world for fintech. A number of factors have contributed to Estonia's success, including its innovative e-Residency program, streamlined online services, and straightforward company registration and management procedures.
Technology plays an important role in the country's development, which has created a national IT infrastructure called e-services, which enables individuals to conduct all their affairs online, including starting a business. Additionally, Estonia's zero tax on reinvested profits makes it an attractive location for entrepreneurs seeking to start a business. Besides sharing an innovation-thriving spirit, Estonia provides a growth-oriented environment for entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts.