Let´s just be honest here – Estonia wasn’t exactly in the top five of the countries I wanted to visit, but I have to say this country has charmed the bad Norwegian out of me.
It´s old, it´s beautiful and the people have a very distinct cultural charm. They are also progressively active in building their economy.
– The government is making the entire country into a Digital Nation
– The Estonian Art Scene has some pretty wild stories to tell
– The Startup Ecosystem is blooming
– Global mindset and are calling for international talent
– Its cheap AF compared to Norway
When you first arrive in Tallinn you realize how easy it is to get around. Having been in San Fransisco lately I appreciate the convenience. With a 15 minute taxi ride from the airport at the price of 6 euros, suddenly you´re standing in the middle of Old Town and The Financial District. Nordic and Baltic tourists merging seamlessly into the medieval spirit hanging over the city, grabbing your nose with the smell of freshly burnt sugary almonds and hot chocolate. This old school cultural heritage lies deep with Estonians. Modern design, technology and architecture on the other hand is inspired by the Nordics.
The first time I visited Tallinn it was a gray and wintery-ish day, perfect for checking out museums and taking some time off with some spa infused wellness. The beautiful Christmas Market in Old Town and the best hot chocolate one could find in the area. We went to Kumu Museum of Modern Art and had dinner in an old train cart in the industrial hipster area Kalamaja.
With a less abundant selection of food, they do have some amazing coffee, and new hipster places are popping up everywhere. Avocados on the other hand are hard to find, but I do encourage you to check out the Central Market; they have all the weird stuff you didn’t know you wanted. The Cherry Chocolate is recommended.
A Digital Nation
Estonia has decided to become a digital nation, which means they are building digital systems for every public sector or activity: Digital Residency.
This means that as a resident you can vote, do your taxes, keep track of your health plans and so on – all online.
The world doesn’t need more borders, and this is the solution Estonia has chosen to boost pride in their own country as well as for digital nomades aka millennials get the freedom to travel and work anywhere, and still be part of the Estonian government. They aim to attract international talent as well, so anyone can apply to get an E-Residency.
Online, of course.
The Upcoming Art- and Music Scene
During a dinner party I came to learn that the music scene in Tallinn is quite unique; They had just finished a week long festival with hundreds of concerts with artists across the Baltics and Nordics. Somewhat similar to Bylarm og Musikkfest in Oslo, they turned the whole city into a festival where you can attend concerts in cafes, private luxury apartments, dry cleaners and abandoned buildings. Parks, courtyards, people seemed to make a sport of how many concerts they are able to attend during these days to soak up as much culture as possible. I’ll be going next year.
Blooming Startup Community
The initial reason I first visited Tallinn and Estonia was for the official opening of Spring Hub from Spring Capital. Leading players in the community are caving the way to boost the entrepreneurial spirit and Estonians in general have a spirit of helping each other up and out to new markets.
Even though Sweden has taken ownership over where Skype comes from, this big time Unicorn originally came from Estonia. Another company that seems to close up on international recognition of the mythical creature based evaluation is TransferWise, which is a clever new way to convert money to send abroad. So far they have raised $58,000,000 in a Series C from VC Firms from Silicon Valley, New York and London.
Latitude 59 is their version of Helsinki and Tokyo based SLUSH, and attracts 1500 participants spanning from Finland to Ukraine, and investors from across the globe, and is the perfect introduction to how the startup community there is operating.
They Have a Global Mindset
My perception of this challenge is not unique for Estonia; we all need to open mindsets and doors for people with a different background than ourselves. With the E-residency Estonia aim to facilitate for a more global mindset throughout the country as well as for expats touching down in Tallinn for the first time. They want to show their countrys best assets and open up for more opportunities. This country is a front runner in “scaling global” in my books. Norway might be pivoting its entire country around entrepreneurship, Estonia as a young dependant nation is born global.
They are looking for talent merely within tech and management, so if you are looking into working in Estonia you should check out https://www.workinestonia.com/.
It´s cheap AF
Speaking of Norway, being a Norwegian I´m used to high pricing in food, rent and alcohol – coming to Estonia is like coming to a more exotic Sweden where no one actually understands your native tongue.
Cost of living in Estonia is 50.82% lower than in Norway (aggregate data for all cities, rent is not taken into account). Rent in Estonia is 63.55% lower than in Norway.
And Estonia being a cheap country screams opportunity: With an E-citizenship you can start a business here knowing taxes are being used to literally build a country. The money being invested there are most often smart money coming from highly experienced people, and Spring Hub and Startup Wise Guys are the biggest players in several parts.
I personally see a great amount of opportunities in this region, and if you want to know more about my experiences with the culture, startup community etc feel free to reach out at email@example.com