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NO 40 I WINTER I 2015 / 2016


Technology Meets Finance Settle In Estonia e-Estonia Conquers The World Funderbeam Creates ERPLY Helps Global Startup To Sell More Marketplace Listen To The ForEst Sounds land & people I state & society I economy & business I technology & innovation I culture & entertainment I tourism

Estonia – the Land of 1 000 Innovations Many countries are world-renowned for their magnificent landscapes. Finland is the country of 1 000 lakes; the US-Canadian western border boasts over 1 000 islands, Hawaii’s Oahu Island is a mystical land of 1 000 waterfalls... Estonia’s nature is equally remarkable, but in addition to 1 500 islands and 1 200 lakes we can call this country ‘land of 1 000 innovations’. This is the feeling when you have to describe Estonian technological landscape.

COVER Kristo Käärmann Photo by Atko Januson

Executive publisher Positive Projects Pärnu mnt 69, 10134 Tallinn, Estonia Editor Reet Grosberg Translation Ingrid Hübscher Language editor Andrew Whyte Design & Layout Positive Design Partner

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A dedicated team of professionals at Enterprise Estonia’s Investment Agency supports companies investing and expanding in Estonia. Come experience the ease of doing business in e-Estonia – the low-risk, high quality and competitive location for your company.

Estonia is especially rich in innovation in the financial technology sector, perhaps surprisingly, but the smallness of the country seems to be an extra benefit here. Smallness means that you simply do not have the resources to do things in a complicated and expensive way even if you want to. That applies especially to the financial sector, where the same functionality has to work just as well in the country with 1.3m citizens as it does in one of 130m citizens. Estonians simply have had to be so much more efficient. Multiply this with exceptionally good financial knowledge and it’s now hardly surprising that fintech innovation is deeply rooted in the Estonian mindset. Looking for some proof? The fintech solution that touches everybody no less, the Estonian Tax and Customs Board, which has the world’s most innovative tax collection and declaration platform, giving Estonia the title of the most efficient tax system. Estonia collects more taxes than Latvia despite its significantly smaller population. But this is not the time to rest and get complacent – the Tax Board is moving towards RealTimeEconomy and is working together with Uber and other tech companies to innovate in the P2P field as well. Transferwise is revolutionizing the foreign payments market, Erply provides next generation POS and retail software systems, and Funderbeam helps angels and entrepreneurs discover, benchmark, and analyse startups at a low cost. Nevertheless, these are just a few names in a long list of companies that cover everything, starting from young and innovative banks and ending with world class IT and business tech companies. The number of fintech companies in Estonia has grown significantly in the last few years, and the growth seems to be just the beginning. FinanceEstonia is working to bring all those companies together into one strong cluster. This issue of Life in Estonia takes a look at the many Estonian fintech companies which are working on changing their respective industries. The current technological cornerstones of world’s financial system are pretty old – instead of constantly patching the existing system, Estonian fintech companies have chosen the path of building the new cornerstones, no less. Bill Gates has famously been quoted as saying: ‘We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten’. Estonian fintech companies maybe are a bit optimistic about the next year, but they are also probably far from overstating what they are likely to change in the next ten. Margus Simson Financial Technology Area in FinanceEstonia, CEO of Ziraff

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6_ Where to Go this Season? Life in Estonia Recommends 8_

News & Events

e-Estonia is conquering the world: Japan is going to implement a digital personal identification card, following Estonia’s example; Finland and Estonia will adopt the latest version of X-Road which will be basis for entire Finnish e-state architecture; The Netherlands is considering adapting Estonia’s e-services. Estonian e-Residency program, officially launched in 2014, has now 7 200 members from 121 countries.

Global Ambassadors of Estonian e-Governance Studies 26_

According to the IBS, 89 per cent of international students at Estonian universities are satisfied with the quality of education on offer. Crystal LaGrone from the USA is studying e-Governance Technologies and Services at TUT. She says that the course has exceeded her expectations and she has become ‘an agent for change’ who wants to take ICT to the next level in her home country, after finding inspiration in Estonia.



Kristo Käärmann: TransferWise Makes the World a Better Place

TransferWise has had a very successful year: the company has mediated international payments to the value of over a billion dollars and Ernst&Young named the founders Käärmann and Hinrikus the UK Entrepreneur of the Year. Kristo Käärmann reveals what lies behind the meteoric rise of TransferWise, talks about future plans and the reasons why banks have become clumsy and profit-hungry and predicts what could happen in the finance sector in the next five years.

Move My Talent: Relocation Updated Global awareness of Estonia has been steadily increasing in recent years partly thanks to media coverage on many new startups growing to an international level. This has turned many eyes towards the country, creating opportunities for those who now see potential in relocating to Estonia. Move My Talent has revolutionized the existing process. Read about the stories of three expats and the specific services Move My Talent provided to them. ECONOMY & BUSINESS

e-Estonia @ Mobile World Congress 32_

For any true player in the mobile ICT industry, the Mobile World Congress taking place in Barcelona each year is the most important mobile technologies conference in the world and not to be missed. In 2016, the e-Estonia stand is welcoming everyone to apply for e-Residency on-site and experience first-hand the true mobility of managing your business from your smart device. Take a look at which ten companies will be demonstrating Estonia’s mobile technological solutions at MWC 2016. STATE & SOCIETY


The Netherlands Considers Adapting Estonia’s e-Services

A group of Dutch IT-entrepreneurs visited Estonia to get acquainted with e-services. During the busy speed-dating day, 16 meetings were held covering topics from e-school and e-health to satellite operations and cloud-based back-end parking operations. After the visit, the specialists formulated twelve initial principles with the overall purpose of accelerating the digitalization of Dutch society on the basis of the Estonian e-governance concept.


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Creating the World’s Startup Marketplace 35_

Soon it will be much easier to trade startup investments, liberating countless early-stage investors worldwide as Funderbeam is building a marketplace for just this purpose. Although the trading platform is still in private beta-testing stage and looking for three good test cases to truly make the system bulletproof, it will be opened to the public in the first quarter of 2016.



Creators of ERPLY: Businesses Depend on Us

Kristjan Hiiemaa, founder and CEO of retail business software ERPLY, and Sander Sebastian Agur, VP at ERPLY Retail, talk to Life in Estonia about why retailers all over the world should use the Point-of-Sale (POS) software created by their company instead of the cash register.

Kodumaja – Company of the Year 2015

Hunting With an App 66_

When looking for Estonians’ most notable characteristics, two things stand out – closeness to nature and an affinity to tech. And surprisingly the two are not mutually exclusive. A ‘match made in the forest’ is the Huntloc app, created by a team of Estonian hunters and software developers aimed at making hunting safer and more effective.


The annual Estonian entrepreneurship competition has been running for 15 years. This year, the award went to the Tartu-based construction company Kodumaja AS, which, having survived several crises, has taken the Scandinavian market by storm.


Estonia as a Unique Conference Venue

Why pick the same familiar places when you can treat your group to something new and exotic? If your delegates have never been to this up-and-coming region, they’ll definitely appreciate the novel experience Estonia has to offer. Get acquainted with the fantastic venues in Tallinn: the Creative Hub, the Seaplane Hangars and the TV Tower.


PORTFOLIO Mart Anderson Masters the Face of Estonian Type Design 50_

The availability of thousands of fonts on the computer has taken typographic design to the masses. However, there are still people who are only satisfied with unique tailor-made results. One of them is Mart Anderson who works as a graphic designer in the world of advertising and publishing, which he also considers to be a testing ground for his hobby – the creation of typefaces.

Surreal Megaphones in the Forest 62_


New Culinary Winds in Tallinn There’s a lot of change and excitement on the culinary scene in Tallinn these days. Even with the best intentions, one cannot conceivably visit all the new restaurants which have popped up recently. The great thing about the newcomers is that they have a unique face which makes them stand out from older restaurants as well as the other newcomers. Take a look at some of them: Tuljak, Farm&Rukis, Hotokas, Kuldmokk, Pööbel, Art Priori, Kalambuur and La Tabla.

Three larger than life wooden megaphones amid the land of the fairies – the tranquil, mossy soft and evergreen forest in southern Estonia. Welcome to the first library of its kind in the world, not for reading in the forest but for reading the forest. Life in Estonia talked to Birgit Õigus, author of the idea and a second year student of interior design.


Practical Information for Visitors WINTER 2015 / 2016




CARDILLAC Opera by Paul Hindemith Premiere at the Estonian National Opera on 14 May, 2015 Performances on 11, 19 and 25 February Conductors: Vello Pähn, Risto Joost, Lauri Sirp Stage Director: Vilppu Kiljunen (Finland) Designer: Kimmo Viskari (Finland) hooaja peatoetajad

MustonenFest 29th Jan – 6th Feb 2016

“Cardillac”, written in 1926, is the first of Hindemith’s trilogy of operas about the relationship between the artist and society. The others being “Mathis der Maler” (1935) and “Die Harmonie der Welt” (1957). It includes some of the composer’s most engaging music, conveying the opera’s power, strange beauty, and eccentricity sometimes leading to absurdity. “Cardillac” was one of the most frequently performed operas of the 1920s and went on to become Hindemith’s most successful stage work of all.

AIDA Opera by Giuseppe Verdi

Boriss Berezovsky Giora Feidman Trio Moscow Virtuosi

Eesti Kontserdi suurtoetaja

Ametlik autopartner


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Premiere at the Estonian National Opera on 22 January, 2016 Performances on 24 and 28 January, 5 and 13 February, 11, 20 and 22 May Conductors: Vello Pähn, Jüri Alperten, Risto Joost Stage Director: Tobias Kratzer (Germany) Designer: Rainer Sellmaier (Germany) ‘If anyone had told me a few years ago that I would write an opera for Cairo, I would have said he was mad,’ wrote Verdi in 1870. Nevertheless, the madness became reality and the Egyptian viceroy Ismael Pasha commissioned an opera from Verdi, who was at the height of his career. “Aida” combines the elements of Grand Opèra and the magnificence of Egyptian pharaohs, powerful and gripping melodies as well as a passionate love story.

Photos by Harri Rospu

MEDEA Ballet by Gianluca Schiavoni

Music: Igor Stravinsky, Alfred Schnittke, Dead Can Dance Conductors: Vello Pähn, Risto Joost World premiere at the Estonian National Opera on 13 March, 2014 Performances on 4 and 18 February, 5 March Gianluca Schiavoni has created a ballet for the dancers of the Estonian National Ballet – a contemporary version of the famous myth of Medea with a new dramaturgy by Marco Gandini, a stunning and symbolic set design by Maria Rossi Franchi and Andrea Tocchio and costume design by Simona Morresi.

Heli Veskus

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Cybernetica Innovates European Privacy and Cyber Security The IPACSO Consortium announced the 2015 Champions of the European Cyber Security & Privacy Innovation Awards. Estonian company Cybernetica became the winner in the Privacy of Cyber Security Innovator category. The winners were selected out of 30 finalists from 11 countries. The jury praised the application of constant innovative developments of the Estonian based, R&D intensive ICT company Cybernetica. Its Sharemind

software enables sharing and processing confidential data while maintaining data owner’s control. Its cryptographic guarantees allow organizations, governments and individuals to combine data to create new knowledge and not reveal it to third parties. Cybernetica is an excellent example of Estonia as leading provider of Cyber Engineers in Europe. Cybernetica is a developer and manufacturer of original hardware and software systems, a system integrator, an auditor of information systems, and an information security centre of excellence. Cybernetica has participated in several programs initiated by the Government of Estonia, including the pilot project of Estonian ID-card, government project of digital document management, X-Road project for secure use of governmental databases over the internet and Estonian internet-voting system.

AWARDS WON BY ESTONIAN ENTREPRENEURS IN 2015 GameFounders wins EEPA Supporting Internationalisation of Business GameFounders, the first global gaming accelerator, was awarded with the first prize in the category of Supporting Internationalisation of Business in the European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA). Hundreds of projects competed in the 2015 national competitions for a chance to represent their country in EEPA. A total of 32 countries entered the awards this year, of which 19 projects were shortlisted to compete in seven categories. The winners of the European Enterprise Promotion Awards were announced at the SME Assembly in Luxembourg. ‘GameFounders operating both in Europe and Asia, is a global top player and also a good example regarding trailblazing Estonian companies as well as proof that Estonia is a good place to establish a smart company,’ said Liisa Oviir, Minister of Entrepreneurship of the Republic of Estonia.


LIFE IN ESTONIA #40 I 2015 / 2016 WINTER

GameFounders co-founder and CEO Kadri Ugand said, ‘International recognition is certainly a sign of quality for many of the gaming companies participating or thinking of participating in our program – certifying that we are a trustworthy and reliable partner to them’. Created in Estonia in 2012, GameFounders is the first global start-up accelerator that is purely focused on gaming. The launch of the accelerator was partly financed by Enterprise Estonia’s Startup Estonia program. The accelerator offers young game companies high-level mentors, partnership deals and a global contact network with a sprinkle of startup capital. GameFounders Asia was launched in 2015 in alliance with MDeC, a Malaysian government agency, which drives the National ICT Initiative; MSC Malaysia and the National Digital Economy Initiative; Digital Malaysia.

Skeleton Technologies the Best ‘Smart Green Startup’ in Europe Skeleton Technologies, Europe’s leading manufacturer of high-performance, graphene-based ultracapacitors, has won the ECO15 London Award out of 37 nominated startups.   Ultracapacitors are energy storage devices with much higher power and longer life cycles than batteries. The technology excels in capturing and releasing vast amounts of power within a short time frame. Skeleton Technologies is the only ultracapacitor manufacturer to use graphene in their cells. The company uses a patented material that has curved graphene layers, allowing for better conductivity and higher surface area. So far this year, Skeleton Technologies has announced a major deal with the European Space Agency (ESA) to send ultracapacitors into orbit; it has raised €9.8m in Series B financing; and developed the highest energy density ultracapacitor on the market. The company has helped launch several new products including the world’s first Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) for freight vehicles, an Engine Start Module (ESM) for trucks and a hybrid Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) for defence applications.

Based in Estonia and Germany, Skeleton Technologies boasts 51 employees, mid-scale manufacturing facilities in Estonia and advanced plans for mass manufacturing in Saxony, Germany. The company has now raised a total of €13.7m and is currently progressing with Series C fundraising.

ReLaDe Redesigns the Laundry Detergent Concept Estonian startup ReLaDe became one of the top 3 winners at the Europe’s biggest greentech competition ClimateLaunchpad 2015. According to the international jury of the competition, the reusable detergent system created by the Estonian startup changes the market which has not developed in the last twenty years. Chemical detergents are toxic and harm reproductive health when spread into the water ecosystem. Instead of these toxic compounds, biological enzymes can be used without any loss of performance and with lower energy consumption. ReLaDe representative Mart Ustav Jr claims that their solution will make the enzymes which wash laundry reusable, which gets rid of the consumers’ need to buy detergents. ‘We use magnetic nanoparticles to bind enzyme molecules and magnetize them. The resulting magnetic detergent molecules can be easily removed from waste water via magnetic force and reused in subsequent wash cycles for months. Thus, we have redesigned the laundry detergent concept, creating a sustainable, reusable product which, if produced on an industrial scale and adopted into widespread use, could have significant positive health and environmental implications,’ added Ustav Jr.

This year’s competition attracted over 700 cleantech entrepreneurs from across 28 countries. A total of 81 teams were shortlisted to enter the challenging ClimateLaunchpad programme to refine their business offering, including perfecting their business model, value proposition and pitch. The first and second place at the idea competition went respectively to the Norwegian startup ‘Desertcontrol’ and the Icelandic startup ‘Energy Efficient And Environmentally Friendly Process For Production Of Aluminium’. The three highly promising winners received financial awards in the value of up to €10 000 and in addition the opportunity to enter the Climate-KIC Accelerator together with a €95 000 start capital in order to develop their innovations and fast-track their businesses.

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asaki applied for Estonian

Venture capitalist Guy Kaw


e-Residency Celebrates First Anniversary as it Adds New Services One year has passed since British journalist Edward Lucas became the world’s first e-resident and the Estonian e-Residency program was officially launched. Non-Estonians around the world were invited to join the program and take advantage of Estonia’s convenient e-services. As of today more than 7 200 people from 121 countries have joined and Estonian e-residents have established more than 240 new companies. More than 530 entrepreneurs use e-Residency to administer their businesses. The utility and versatility of e-Residency has grown substantially since its launch a year ago. NASDAQ recently announced its intent to cooperate with Estonia developing secure e-services. ‘Although the keystone to e-Residency program appears to be the e-resident’s digital ID, the platform goes far beyond that, taking full advantage of Estonia’s simple tax system and transparent business environment,’ said the head of e-Residency program board and CIO of Estonia, Taavi Kotka. ‘It is like an app store – the more partners and services we have, the more people in the world can take advantage of all the good things we have to offer but also increasing Estonian economic space,’ said he. The e-Residency program director Kaspar Korjus said that at times during the last year the applications of would-be e-residents exceeded Estonia’s ability to process them. According to Korjus the program is still in beta and the team is thankful for all the feedback that early adopters of e-Residency have offered.


LIFE IN ESTONIA #40 I 2015 / 2016 WINTER

E-residents from outside the European Union can establish companies and use Estonia as a base of operations in EU. Companies launched in Estonia can be managed and administered from anywhere in the world and e-residents can conduct banking business, use international payment service providers, declare taxes, and sign all relevant documents and contracts remotely.

More information about third party partners: Fundwise for investing in startups Funderbeam, the world’s first startup marketplace to use Estonian e-Residency for investor authentication Teleport  provides information on best places to live and work eResNetwork  provides secure and transparent communications for e-residents SignWise for simplifying document handling


Japan to Implement ID cards Following Estonia’s Example

Japanese IT entrepreneur Tsutomu Komori sees both business and private opportunities in being an e-resident.

Japan is the first large country who is going to implement a digital personal identification card, following Estonia’s example.

During the meeting, Amari presented Rõivas with his personal MyNumber card. Amari, in turn, became an e-resident of Estonia.

The step was announced on 23 October, following a meeting between the Estonian Prime Minister, Taavi Rõivas, and the Japanese Finance Minister, Akira Amari, who visited Estonia to get acquainted with Estonian e-services. The two ministers discussed developing digital societies and closer economic relations between the two countries.

Japan will launch the MyNumber National ID system in January 2016. It is Japan’s first national ID system and as declared by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is expected to be a step towards a ‘single card society’. Abe himself became Estonian e-resident earlier this year.

‘I am glad Japan has taken a decisive step towards laying a foundation for the digital society of the 21st century by creating a unique personal identification code system,’ Rõivas said when acknowledging the successful launch of the Japanese MyNumber project. ‘I am delighted that Estonia’s experiences and knowledge in relation to the ID card are useful to others as well. Cooperation in this field will certainly continue in the future,’ Rõivas added.

The Estonian ID card system, one of the most advanced in the world, is the basis for all of the digital services that are available in the country. Introduced in 2002, the ID card is not just a typical piece of plastic with a picture, but a highly sophisticated digital access card for all of Estonia’s secure e-services. The chip on the card contains embedded files which, using 2048-bit public key encryption, enable it to be used as definitive proof of identity in an electronic environment.

New Europe 100 Challengers: Innovation Leaders in Central and Eastern Europe Announced This year the second edition of the New Europe 100 list of Central and Eastern Europe’s most outstanding innovators includes eight nominations from Estonia: Karoli Hindriks, whose job portal for professionals brings together companies in need of short-term effective staff and experienced employees; Taavi Madiberk, cofounder and CEO of Skeleton Technologies, Europe’s leading manufacturer of ultracapacitors; Kristjan Vanaselja, Manager of GoWorkaBit which offers flexible job schedules; Jaanika Merilo, ‘economic angel’ of Ukraine; Kristel Viidik and Marko Kruustük, founders of the mobile app testing platform Testlio; and Martin Koppel, cofounder and CEO of the mobile payment platform Fortumo. The list also recognizes prominent political figures – among the awardwinners are Toomas Hendrik Ilves, President of Estonia – one of the architects of his country’s highly developed economy, one that is now synonymous with innovation and e-solutions in economic, educational and political sectors – and Andrej Kiska, President of Slovakia. Among the 100 leaders of change in the region, there are individuals who employ modern technology to create new pathways in culture, politics, business, science or in social activities. The majority of them are entrepreneurs (50 per cent) or activists and politicians (32 per cent).

It is used as the national health insurance card, as proof of identification when logging into bank accounts from a home computer, as a pre-paid public transport ticket in Tartu as well as for digital signatures, online voting, accessing government databases to check medical records, filing taxes, and picking up e-prescriptions.

‘This list showcases people who will be the drivers of change in Central and Eastern Europe in the near future,’ said Wojciech Przybylski from Res Publica Foundation, initiator of the project. ‘The diversity of the list shows that economic and social innovation in Central and Eastern Europe have considerable potential for growth, creating strong business ventures, jobs and economic growth,’ explained Agata WacławikWejman, Head of Public Policy, Google CEE. Challengers were selected by the organizers based on public nominations and suggestions from Nominating Partners in the following categories: business, science, media and culture, society and politics. The main idea behind the New Europe 100 list is the need to show appreciation and highlight authors of such creative and innovative ideas. According to the organizers, many of such ideas are born in our region, and their authors often operate on a global scale. The project is organised by the Polish think-tank Res Publica, whose partners Visegrad Foundation, Google, UK newspaper The Financial Times and many other outstanding organisations active in the region.

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Karoli Hindriks, co-founder and CEO of a startup Jobbatical




Highlights from Nordic Business Forum 2015 On October 1-2, 2015, Estonia was again present at one of the biggest and most exquisite business seminars in the Nordic countries - Nordic Business Forum. The Estonian Investment Agency and the e-Residency team introduced the efficiency of running a business in Estonia and our revolutionary e-services to leaders and entrepreneurs across the world. Not to mention the e-Residency program that took the event by storm! Over 40 e-Residency applications were submitted by both participants as well as distinguished speakers, among others the former chief evangelist of Apple Guy Kawasaki, business innovator and author Nilofer Merchant and the moderator of Nordic Business Forum in 2014, André Noël Chaker.


World chess champion and strategy expert Garry Kasparov who was also one of the Forum’s keynote speakers, visited the Estonian stand.

the Land for Unicorns Strong at Startup Conference SLUSH 2015!

Estonia Took SLUSH 2015 on Many Fronts

Estonia’s small size and flexibility make the country the best place for testing new ideas and innovations and thus making Estonia the perfect startup country. Estonia was out at SLUSH 2015 presenting its success stories in the startup landscape, as well as attracting new talent to work in Estonia’s up and coming startups and companies.

Kristo Käärmann, the CEO of Estonian-founded fintech business TransferWise gave a talk on ‘Building the next killer app in global payments’ and stressed the value of company culture in a start-up, giving a short but wise piece of advice to all startups: ‘Doing a startup is hard enough. There should be no drama!’

President Toomas Hendrik Ilves discussed the future of the common European digital market with the former European Commission Commissioner for Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes.

Estonian Government CIO Taavi Kotka gave a powerful speech on eResidency: ‘Estonia is aiming to be the biggest country in the world with only 1.3 million inhabitants.’ At the end of his speech Estonia warmly welcomed two new e-residents – SLUSH founder Miki Kuusi and CEO Riku Mäkelä.

Q&A Sessions with Estonian Startup Masterminds at the e-Estonia Stand Kristo Käärmann, Co-founder and CEO of Transferwise shared his experience on building a unicorn: ‘Instead of stressing about raising money, keep building your product and getting in front of your customers.’ Karoli Hindriks, Co-founder and CEO of a rising startup Jobbatical talking about how her new startup brings together job seekers who like to travel, and about opening international employment opportunities. e-Residency Programme Director Kaspar Korjus and CIO of Estonia Taavi Kotka – the men behind the first government startup e-Residency – explaining how the Estonian e-Residency program aims to disrupt how people file taxes, vote, and do business across the world.


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Co-founder and CEO of Teleport Sten Tamkivi: ‘Every government in the world should compete for every citizen, startup, etc and Teleport is going to make it more transparent.’

Estonia Invites India to Join its Digital Population An Estonian IT delegation led by Taavi Kotka, the Estonian Government CIO, visited the Indian cities of Bangalore and New Delhi from 1417 October, 2015. The key aims of the delegation were to explore business opportunities, promote e-Residency and attract Indian talent to study and work in Estonia.The delegation included representatives from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, Estonian Embassy in New Delhi, Enterprise Estonia, EstVCA, Viljandi ICT Academy, ERPLY, Mainor Ülemiste, Flydog Marine, Estelon, DGRID, Medisoft and LeapIN. For most delegates the visit was their first venture into India and they were positively surprised by the opportunities India has to offer.

Kotka also expressed hope that ‘Indian entrepreneurs, especially those in IT and tech would find synergies from what e-Residency has to offer.’

The four-day agenda included four different conferences, where Estonia enjoyed a great presence on stage with its keynote and panel speakers. Taavi Kotka also visited some educational institutions, including India’s largest technology school IIT Delhi, amongst other things to attract some of their talent to work in Estonia.

Viljar Lubi, Ambassador of Estonia has previously stated that ‘In India, it has been proven time and again that good ideas spread the fastest by word of mouth.’

Whilst visiting NASSCOM Product Conclave in Bengaluru, Kotka, who is responsible for Estonia’s digital architecture, opined that e-Residency could turn Estonia into a national startup: ‘If Uber is the world’s largest taxi company, but owns no vehicles, Facebook is the world’s largest media owner, creating no content, then why can’t Estonia be the world’s “largest” country with 1.3m physical residents?’ he said.

The Estonian government first unveiled its eResidency program, granting digital identities to allow foreign nationals to establish, own and run European Union-based companies online, in December 2014. So far approximately 6 500 people have already applied for e-Residency, including 200 Indian citizens, most of whom have already received their e-resident status. India is among the top 10 countries with the most Estonian e-Residency applications, even though the program has not as yet been specifically promoted in India.

During an event organised by the Embassy on 16 October, a number of reputable Indian eResidents shared their views on the program. Pramod Bhasin, Founder of Genpact said: ’It’s a unique digital platform that provides great access for doing business with all of Europe from anywhere in the world – and especially from our offices across India. It’s a great way to work in this digital era.‘ Mittu Chandilya, CEO AirAsia India stated that: ‘I am deeply passionate about Estonia

Taavi Kotka, the Estonian Government CIO, having a conversation with Indian entrepreneurs

as a country and all the advances it has been making from a technology perspective. The e-Residency program seems to be the natural progression for that.’ Harkirat Singh, Managing Director of Woodlands said he was ‘Proud to be an e-resident, which makes doing business much easier and more cost effective. I hope to see a few Woodland stores coming up in Estonia.’ Ambassador Lubi considers it likely that by end of 2016 there will be at least 1000 e-Residency applications from India: ‘e-Residency will be especially beneficial for companies which already have a base in Europe, and could save them time and money thanks to Estonia’s business-friendly bureaucracy and tax environment,‘ he said. The visit was organized by the Embassy of Estonia in New Delhi and Enterprise Estonia in collaboration with the Estonian Honorary Consulate in Bangalore.

Latitude59 31 May — 1 June, 2016, Tallinn

Don’t miss the greatest tech event in Estonia!

Latitude59 tech conference turns nine years old in 2016 and has become the largest international startup and venture capital gathering in Estonia a great platform for all globally minded to meet potential partners. • • • • •

the ultimate go-to place for Nordic & Baltic startup scene 1500+ innovators & entrepreneurs inspiring program and discussions perfect for real networking powerful community

In spring 2016, we are expecting 1500+ participants including top notch startups from the Northern European region as well as investors from Silicon Valley, Europe, Russia and Asia.

The discussions will focus on hot topics like Virtual Nation, FinTech, Augmented Reality and many others.

Get your tickets and stay tuned for updates at @latitude59 Latitude59 #latitude59 See you @Latitude59!

WINTER 2015 / 2016




For the first time in the history of world exhibitions, Estonia has won a medal! – The bronze medal, awarded in the exposition design category of constructed pavilions below the size 2 000m2. Austrian and Iranian teams clinched the gold and silver medals. The Estonian pavilion was visited by 3.4 million people a record number in the history of Estonian participation in world exhibitions and for the record almost three times greater than the population of Estonia. CNN selected the Estonian pavilion from the 22 most interesting ones and much praise came from other media outlets, various EXPO rankings and architects. We interviewed Andres Kask, Project Manager of the Estonian representation at EXPO.

Estonia Enjoys the Most Successful World Exhibition to Date in Milan! Which success stories would you like to highlight? The pavilion itself! Visitors have really praised its design and the exposition as a whole, which was really multifaceted and interactive. The concept of an open pavilion paid off. The success story of kiiking, a sports invented by Estonians, is worth mentioning as it is an entirely new category. Over four hundred people tried it out and thousands more enjoyed the spectacle. Two world records were made in kiiking at the Milan EXPO – initially by Ants Tamm which was subsequently broken by Kaspar Taimsoo, with 7.0m and 7.15m long swing arms respectively.

How successful was EXPO for Estonian companies? There were about 40 Estonian companies and organisations represented at the pavilion, and plenty of separate business meetings were held by companies who were exhibiting their products. In addition, we organised Estonian Tourism Days and a tourism seminar, a logistics seminar and series of meetings, Estonian Beer Days, Estonian Rye Days, Estonian Grill Days and Estonian Food Days.


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Several Estonian companies found business partners. Thanks to EXPO, a company called Reliefwalls received its first contract from Germany and, with the help of EXPO, Moe Distillery and Liviko found distributors, who have also put in the first orders.

What kind of interesting contacts were created at EXPO Milan? In addition to the permanent exhibit ‘Powered by Estonia’, which was open to all visitors, various cultural and business events took place in our pavilion. If we consider the permanent exhibit as a contact, we can say that we had over three million ‘interesting contacts’, most of whom took photos of our pavilion and the exhibition or their companions doing some activity in the pavilion (such as dancing Estonian folk dances in the Song Festival Box or kiiking) and shared it with many of their social media followers all over the world. It is the first world exhibition to date where social media has significantly multiplied each contact. In addition there were many concerts, a fashion show, spontaneous piano recitals and various delegation visits.

The award-winning exhibit was created by the following: EXPO team of Enterprise Estonia Creative agency: AKU / Uku-Kristjan Küttis, Alari Orav Architectural Bureau: Kadarik & Tüür Interior designer : Kadri Tamme Execution: Produktsioonigrupp / Andrus Kõresaar RGB Eesti Idea

EXPO Project in Numbers

What made the Estonian pavilion really stand out from the crowd? The openness of the pavilion, kiiking and 36 swings at the pavilion definitely made us stand out from the others. People were swinging and sharing photos on the high-energy swings. The open pavilion concept was also unique in that entering the majority of the other pavilions involved queuing for hours.

With hindsight, did the building of Estonia’s own pavilion pay off? Building our own pavilion really paid off because, whilst we had the smallest budget from all self-built pavilions, our location by the main thoroughfare and the visually exciting architectural solution made us stand out. In a cluster of pavilions we would have remained invisible.

What will happen to the Estonian pavilion now? The Estonian pavilion building will be taken down just like the pavilions of most other

countries. Approximately a half of the pavilion material can be reused, however. We have announced a tender for the demolishing and recycling of the pavilion and we hope to be able to find a contractor who will give the pavilion another life somewhere else than in Estonia. For example, the town of Monza with Italian entrepreneurs have shown interest in reerecting the Estonian pavilion.

Is it feasible that one day in the future Estonia will organise the World Exhibition Itself? As Estonia stands out clearly, with its modern e-solutions and developed information society, I have proposed that Estonia organise the World Exhibition in the cloud – e-EXPO. We have a solid basis for this; it would save on travel costs and building and demolition costs and it would also enable the inclusion of other countries who have no means to participate in the ‘real’ EXPO.

The preparations and implementation of the project took 2 years and 2 months, 1 000 days in total. The pavilion was built in a record speed of 72 days. Altogether, the team consisted of 27 people. The building and creation of the exposition brought together hundreds of people, approximately 70 people worked on the idea of the project in various think-tanks. The Estonian pavilion exhibited products from 40 companies and organisations. By the end of October, the total budget of the project was €4.93m, out of which 3.56 million was spent on the building of the pavilion and the exhibit. An additional €1.16m came from Structural Funds.

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1. The Trip We had the crazy idea to host the international hackathon of 100 people on a tiny island of Vormsi. The capacity problem wasn’t the only factor to made the idea even more complicated than it was already likely to be. Estonia is not primarily famous for its beautiful weather, for instance.

Garage48 Brainstorms e-Residency

So we held our collective breaths that the weekend in September wouldn’t be too harsh with rain and cold, as it often would. Everyone was pleasantly surprised, then, that it turned out to be warm and sunny, which was perfect for exploring the location and the beautiful nature of Vormsi. It felt like all the participants were on a small trip with some work attached, rather than a purely working engagement. Plus points also go to the local catering by Krog No. 14, who offered super-tasty food throughout our stay there.

By Triin Liiv and Kai Isand, Garage48 / Photos by Maido Parv

On the 11-13 September, 2015, Garage48 teamed up with Enterprise Estonia, the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, and the Information System Authority, to organize the Garage48 e-Residency hackathon on Vormsi island. This was the first ever hackathon in the world where international teams developed products and services for the digital identity platform. Though the Government of Estonia has developed a technical platform that enables people from any corner of the world to have a virtual residency in Estonia, there is a lack of services that can provide the readiness for the use of the platform for non-Estonians. e-residents can register a company online, perform e-banking transactions, access international payment service providers, declare taxes online, manage a company remotely, and digitally sign documents and contracts. But what could be done with these solutions? Who should be using these services? Can we find in-demand solutions with these innovations? To answer these questions, Garage48 gathered web and mobile engineers, designers, marketers and actual e-residents to join forces in development, brainstorming and market research. Whilst Garage48 has already organised 50+ hackathons in 14 countries and on 4 continents, has attracted 3 500+ participants who have developed 500+ working prototypes, we were still blown away by how inspiring the atmosphere of the event really was. The sum it all up, we listed 10 key factors that made Garage48 e-Residency unforgettable and essential for the digital residents of Estonia.


LIFE IN ESTONIA #40 I 2015 / 2016 WINTER

2. The Participants Garage48 e-Residency gathered over 80 participants and mentors from various professions. Even more impressive is that we had a record number of 26 nationalities, coming from: Japan, China, Anguilla, Latvia, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Portugal, USA, Switzerland, Columbia, Australia, the Netherlands, Belarus, Finland, Poland, Lebanon, Uzbekistan, Turkey etc. Notably, almost all of these nationalities were already e-residents, which is why we trust that the products and services developed during the event will be immediately put to good use.

5. The Development In order to deliver a working prototype in just 48 hours, the whole team needs to work very hard (without sleeping, preferably). The most crucial job, however, has the developer, who needs to build either a mobile app or a website by Sunday evening. The idea is to build a minimum viable product (MVP) of the desired product, meaning the working prototype needs to contain just the core features that can actually be built during the short time-frame.

3. The Pitches Garage48 is all about action – Richard Branson’s ‘screw it, let’s do it’ motto is the watchword we all live by. But still we need concrete ideas that we can act upon. Which is why on Friday evening we had 28 ideas presented on the stage by our visionaries. Only 90 seconds to sell your idea, grab some attention and stand out from the crowd! Out of these 28 pitched ideas, the 10 that seemed most promising and exciting made it through into development.

6. The Mentoring The event couldn’t be possible without our mentors, who help all the teams during the development. The mentors help with problems ranging from coding to design to marketing to business and to some very specific field-based questions. It is an open secret also that often the mentors get their hands dirty by helping the teams with code and design, plus giving some invaluable advice. For this hackathon we were lucky enough to have Siim Sikkut, Taavi Kotka, Kaspar Korjus, Priit Salumaa, Martin Grüner, Konstantin Tretyakov, Martin Paljak, Toomas Seppel, Jaanus Sakkis, Maido Parv, Andres Kütt, Raigo Lilleberg, Annika Ljaš and Calum Cameron as mentors helping the teams, with all the know-how they collectively have to offer.

4. The Teams One of the questions that Garage48 is often asked is – ‘Well, I have an idea or I am skilled at this or that, but I do not have a team. Can I still participate?’. The answer is: YES! Indeed, the point of the event is that we bring people from different skill-sets together to form teams at the event. The whole process of team formation happens very organically where all the participants can decide themselves which teams they go to. The teams consist of 4 up to 9 participants, where everyone carries out a specific role and has the responsibility to deliver within the confines of their skill-sets.

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9. Final Demo The demo of the finished prototypes is the highlight of the whole hackathon. The 48 hours are now over and everyone wants to showcase what they have built. The preparations for the final event start bright and early on Sunday morning, when the team leads start to practice their pitch for the presentations of their working prototype. For the final presentations, each team has 3 minutes for pitching, which means all aspects of their product and service need to be explained for the audience and jury. Even though there is a huge amount of pressure for the speaker giving the final pitch, thanks to the practice sessions in the morning and afternoon, at least they are well-prepared.

7. The FUN Garage48 hackathons aren’t just about the hard work and sweat, we do have some fun as well. Thanks to the modern technologies, the participants can share their photos and thoughts on their social media channels. We encourage to use our official hashtag #garage48, which is the same for every event we organise, so that everyone will know where and how to find us. The entire event was captured by the talented photographer Maido Parv, who is actually a recognised Visual Designer and does photos just for fun, you name it! We also have the tradition of making team photos, where the saying ‘the crazier, the better’ applies.

10. The Prizes + Winners Everyone who participates in the hackathon should feel like a winner! It is not easy developing a product from A to Z, with people you have never met, on a remote island, while being photographed and evaluated by the jury and mentors. So we want to transform this ‘pain’ into a real gain by giving out some awesome prizes!

8. Live Stream


For the winning teams we have prizes given out by our supportive and loving sponsors and partners that believe in our teams and in what we do. The winner of Garage48 e-Residency was InstaVisa, who got tickets to the SLUSH and Latitude59 conferences +€1000 worth of legal services from Hedman Partners!

Did you know that our demo presentation of Sunday evening was streamed live for thousands of people around the world? You can watch the entire final event live from wherever you are and see for yourself what the teams have been working on.

Our runner-up eResNetwork got direct access to Ajujaht TOP30 + access to Startup Wise Guys accelerator program and our 2nd runnerup IDid got tickets to the Latitude59 conference for the whole team + access to Startup Wise Guys accelerator program! Thank you to all our sponsors, partners and supporters!

You can stream live on our webpage or on Delfi or via the Postimees online portal, which also feature our live stream.

If you want to join our next hackathons in Estonia and abroad, then check out our webpage:

LIFE IN ESTONIA #40 I 2015 / 2016 WINTER

TransferWise, founded by Estonians Kristo Käärmann and Taavet Hinrikus, has had a very busy year. And a very successful one. In the beginning of the year, the company raised $US58m in an investment round led by Andreessen Horowitz, the best known venture capital company in the Silicon Valley. Apparently, this increased the value of TransferWise to a billion dollars. Simultaneously the door to the US market was opened where, to date, the company has mediated international payments to the value of over a billion dollars. At the end of the year, Ernst&Young named Käärmann and Hinrikus the UK Entrepreneurs of the Year. Kristo Käärmann talks to Life in Estonia about what lies behind the meteoric rise of TransferWise, about future plans and about the reasons why banks have become clumsy and profit-hungry and what could happen in the entire finance sector in the next five years.

Kristo Käärmann: TransferWise Makes the World a Better Place By Holger Roonemaa

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TransferWise has become a unicorn, meaning that the value of the company is at least one billion dollars. What was your most optimistic vision when you started five years ago? Our goals were certainly in a different dimension. We started with a very specific task – how to solve the problem of making international payments at a reasonable price. In the early days, Taavet and I solved the problem for ourselves – I transferred money to Taavet in one country and he transferred money to me in another country. That was the first phase. The second phase when we founded TransferWise was a kind of a test to see whether we could solve this issue for other people as well. Within the first six months to a year, we realised that indeed we could. Since then I think our main question has been whether 100 per cent of international transfers could move through something like TransferWise or would that percentage more realistically be 80, 20 or even just one. The truth lies somewhere in between.

One might say the more you eat, the hungrier you get? Perhaps it is more accurate to say that when you are already doing something, you become more courageous. We are more and more convinced that our work is valuable.

You have recently said that after PayPal and before TransferWise nothing much happened in the field of financial technology (fintech). Why was there such a long period of silence? After all, there were ten years between PayPal and Transferwise. That is a really good question. More in-depth analysis would take time but I think the problems [of the finance world] are not the easiest ones.


LIFE IN ESTONIA #40 I 2015 / 2016 WINTER

When you have the technology – computers, internet, mobile phones – you can solve simpler things first and start with those. Finance is more complicated. And if you take healthcare, it is even more complicated.

What makes fintech so complicated? In other fields solutions are in a sense more tangible and accessible faster. There is a lot of inertia built into financial services. In Estonia it is different, but there are very few people in Western Europe who have ever switched their bank account. You are virtually born into a particular bank and do everything the bank tells you to do. When you write your will, you give your account to your children or trustees and that’s it.

When will I be able to have a savings account with TransferWise? We’re focused on international money transfer for now. Who knows what will happen in the future.

Lets come back to the timing of your idea. You obviously preceded the fintech trend. In January 2011, when we blogged about TransferWise going live, it was the perfect timing. People were just beginning to trust online services. A couple of years earlier, it would have been much more difficult. Since then trust in online services has increased rather than decreased. We have certainly ridden that wave of trust, comfort and acceptance. People are beginning to realise that they no longer need high street bank offices. Online services are just as safe as your brick and mortar alternative.

How often do you think that if you hadn’t set up TransferWise, someone else would have done something similar? If you had postponed it by even a couple of years, you would have missed the boat?

I presume that you have to collaborate with the same ‘angry’ banks which are the target of your powerful advertising- and PR campaigns. What is their attitude towards you?

Then someone else would have had all the fun! I think a similar product would have been created for sure. It is difficult to evaluate whether it would have been equally successful as fast as TransferWise has. With hindsight it is emotionally more significant for me that we have in a sense achieved ‘nothing’.

Very confident. We have about 50 banks all over the world who we work with on a daily basis. These are the banks who see that we do not directly compete with them in that field. They know that TransferWise works. They play along with us. Although our advertising may seem a bit aggressive, it is only aggressive about very specific things. I always try to say very clearly that banks in and of themselves are not bad. They experience hard times as everyone else does – there are always new capital regulations, disgruntled customers, 60-year-old infrastructure – you try work in these conditions! It is not easy to make it worthwhile to run a business.

This is because only zero point something of the world’s money transfers currently move via TransferWise. On the other hand, it is important that we have proved that this product is viable, it is successful and people need it. If TransferWise were to disappear tomorrow, we would still have created the innovation. The next player would come along, take our lessons learned on board and solve the problems of international payment further.

To what extent do you think you benefit from post-financial crisis movements like Occupy and the general scepticism towards banking? The fact that the financial world has the reputation of being unfriendly, inflexible, bureaucratic and greedy machinery? The global financial crisis and the loss of trust in the banks probably accelerated the uptake of fintech – I have a good example to illustrate this. Three weeks ago I was in the USA and met with people who were both already using TransferWise and not yet using it. We found that there is much more blind trust in banks in the USA than for example in the UK. Four or five years ago there was a large payment protection insurance (PPI) scandal in England. It emerged that over ten years banks had been charging for an insurance product from all mortgage owners which in fact did not insure anything. It was a typical scam! They got caught out and the sum of money which they had robbed from people stretched into tens of billions of pounds. It was a huge scandal in the UK. The majority of people had bought this service and as a result distrust in banks skyrocketed.

Why has banking become so disreputable? I can also ask why Volkswagen became a bad car producer. Great engineers made a great car but now they are bad polluters.

Is it just the money? You could be forgiven for thinking so. It does happen in large corporations that people forget why they are working there in the first place. If you forget that you created a bank in order to provide loans to people and a place to keep their savings and to earn some interest, and you only worry about how to take more money away from your customers, then of course there will be people in banks who become greedy as you suggest.

What I am opposed to and ready to speak up against every minute and every hour is that banks have developed a habit of charging hidden fees. If you say that an international transfer costs €3 but then secretly take €300 more due to the exchange rate difference, then that is not fair. We are educated, we know how to do our maths and, if necessary, we calculate these hidden fees. Some people do not have the time or inclination to do that. But it is not nice to take away money from trusting people.

Reading your blog, one gets the impression that you don’t really trust banks. In a recent post you said that you just keep a very handy amount of money in the bank and, in an illustrative sense, are building your own personal one. That is true but it is not only a question of trust. I do not believe that banks can really fail because governments will always bail them out. Rather the problem for me is that because governments are always ready to bail banks out, banks can afford to take risks for which they do not have to pay.

Therefore it is a matter of a philosophical lack of trust not just the practical lack of trust? Yes that’s more the case. I do not see any value in letting a bank take a risk with my money, if I earn nothing from it. I would then rather invest in government bonds.

Is it true that you put a significant part of your savings into German bonds and P2P loans? I don’t know if it is a significant sum, but yes I try to always save something.

Is it schizophrenia or risk management? It is more of an experiment. To understand whether my life will be any worse off if I do not keep my money in a bank. Until then it hasn’t happened.

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Lets talk also about TransferWise. You are in the middle of conquering the US market. How is it going?

How big is your real market share for example in England, where you have been for the longest time?

It is actually going very well. I did say before that the US mindset is typically less suspicious, but they are still suspicious enough to understand how banks are robbing them. The US market is growing fast for us.

We can just have a guess, but our market share is becoming visible. It is no longer zero point something. There are four large banks in England who basically have divided the market between themselves. We are not currently on the same scale as any of those yet, but it is not a utopian dream that soon more international payments will move through TransferWise than all of those banks. That would be really great.

How easy or difficult it would have been for you to enter the US market without the investment and the name of Andreessen Horowitz? Traditionally it is not easy for European start-ups to enter the US market. True. It is interesting that in the USA their banking habits are very different from those in Europe. My first biggest shock in going to work in England in 2007 and having my first contacts with a bank there was the thought that I have to go back home. I cannot do it, I do not understand how it works here! They barely had internet banking. In order to open a bank account, I had to go to an interview. In addition you had to go into a bank physically to do transactions, then you got a cheque-book. It all seemed like I’d gone back to the Middle Ages! It felt very Harry Potter-like in fact! In time I discovered that although the beginning was very difficult, most things could be settled with a debit card. You do not make many bank transfers there, which is more common in Estonia. When we now went to the USA, the ways of moving money were again very different. Without a cheque-book it is impossible to rent an apartment. You have to write about five cheques a month, there is no way around that. If you now ask how our product would work in that environment... That is the biggest challenge.

How much money currently moves through TransferWise on the US market?

We will be immensely proud as it will mean that our customers would save a lot more money. Knowing the kind of people who we have brought together, we will probably not have much time to party. If we reach about 20 per cent of the market, we will automatically begin to think about the rest of the 80 per cent.

Business Insider recently pointed out that TransferWise is not profitable yet but you do not think that you need to rush to make a profit. How much time do you have? A lot. It depends whether the investments we make are reasonable. As long as we invest wisely, we will have money. Today we can choose whether to be profitable or not.

If you wanted to, you could become profitable in an instant, but that would mean letting go of some ambitions? Today we have made our choice and we plan to keep on investing.

The total sum just recently came to a billion dollars. The growth has been very rapid.

Does that mean that the next round of investments is around the corner?

How many other places you want to go to? You are in Europe, the USA and soon in Japan.

There will be a time for that. At the moment we like to invest and we plan to continue with that.

We want to be everywhere where people need to transfer money internationally. It will be very interesting to see how our product works in the wide world – Canada, the USA, Europe, Australia, Japan. Then the question becomes whether we just exist on the market or whether we become a mass solution.

Recently many people from leading global companies have joined TransferWise. What arguments do you use to attract people from leading positions in Google or PayPal? What do you say to them?

Whereas your monthly growth at the moment is around 20 per cent, the real scaling should start when you have physically entered all markets?

It is not that complicated. Especially for people who work in big companies who are sometimes struggling to see any impact they are making. It is very difficult to translate what you are doing into any positive changes in the world. People who are mission-driven often struggle to see their impact in large organisations. Those who have joined us see that we have very clearly phrased the problem we are trying to solve. They see that they can do exactly that and understand how that one problem is solved in the world. Immediate impact is mostly what makes people decide. After all it is about making the world a better place. I don’t think we are utopian world fixers. We are just practical, rational people.

Yes, of course. The latest report by McKinsey claimed that the service fees of banks on international payments are US$300bn a year. We calculate that we save US$30m of customer money each month. Quick maths says that our market share hence is 0.1 per cent or less. On one hand it is cool to know that thanks to TransferWise one million dollars are saved each day. On the other hand, we see the real potential.


When that happens, how will you celebrate?

LIFE IN ESTONIA #40 I 2015 / 2016 WINTER

This kind of ‘inventive’ handling of the exchange rate gives TransferWise the cause to blame banks for hidden fees. TransferWise always offers the official mid-market rate in making international transfers and will take a fixed commission or a fixed percentage from your transfer.

How Does TransferWise Work? If you want to transfer money from one country to another, the bank will probably charge you an official commission and in addition converts the sum of money from one currency to the other using an exchange rate slightly below the mid-market rate.

The difference of the exchange rate from the official central rate is how the bank invisibly puts some of your money in its own pocket. With bigger sums you can lose tens, hundreds or even thousands of Euros without even noticing it.

How does it work? TransferWise converts your money at the mid-market rate and matches you with people sending in the other direction. According to data released by the company, this leads to customers saving approximately €30m each month – money which would otherwise go straight into the banks’ pockets.

There is probably a long queue of engineers behind your door? Certainly we have got people interested in working for us. We probably interview around ten engineers a day but that does not mean that we don’t have twenty available positions to be filled. So anybody who wants to have a go is welcome to get in touch with us.

make promises that we will do something. That is also why I don’t want to give a timeline. Perhaps we could think about what kind of banking problems we could fix. We don’t have to solve everything at once. Actually smaller problems are already dealt with. It is more interesting to ask

When will TransferWise offer additional services on top of international transfers?

when will the time come when you can manage your money without using a universal bank. That is where we could be in five or ten years. We will see what the role of TransferWise will be in this process.

I have a very boring rational answer – when we see that it will enable us to achieve more. When the next ten people who we employ can accomplish more with a new banking product than with the one we already have. Today we know how to make payments cheaply, quickly and comfortably. Not a single bank today is able to move money from, say, England to France within 17 seconds as we do. Today it still makes sense to invest into the money transfer product.

But are you thinking of new things and services? Certainly in the sense that we are looking into things which are wrong and which we could deliver much better than banks.

For example? There is no point for us to create a product which is only somewhat better than the available standard. If we do something, the solution should be five times better. In the case of international transfers, we are eight to nine times better than banks when it comes to costs and five times better when it comes to speed.

How likely is it that in a few years’ time I will be able to keep my savings by TransferWise? That my salary would come to you? Are you experiencing complications in Estonia with this?

Not on a practical level, but if I see that somewhere it is easier and more pleasant, then… Most people are rational and act on their practical needs. Especially in this sense banks in Estonia range from good to excellent. I don’t want to

How much do you pay attention to what is happening in the fintech sector? I do pay attention to it a lot and I consider many founders to be among my friends. We talk to them and exchange experiences. For example about what they see on different markets whilst optimising card payments or providing loans. Each Friday we invite a guest speaker to the office; often it is another founder who is working on something cool.

The volume of investments into fintech sector has jumped from what seems like a zero to US$14bn in a couple of years. We could say that the fintech sector is booming, but how much room do you think there still is before reaching the ceiling? If you take this 14 billion and compare it with the sum which banks have as shareholder value, you will see a crazy difference. In comparison to banking, fintech is still tiny.

So this $US14bn dollars in investments a year does not mean the market has become over-saturated? I don’t think so. If we consider tech companies which deal with solving financial problems as part of fintech, then there are so many issues which haven’t been dealt with at all. If you consider house loans for example, there are not enough investments in this field. The same applies to insurance. I am not aware of a single pension fund start-up. But they will come, for sure. Sometimes it is interesting to think how historians 20 years into the future will look back at our present day. Perhaps they will see it as the digitalisation period of the finance sector. It could happen in the way that companies like TransferWise appear and take bits away from banking. It could also be that some bank just solves the problem.

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The Netherlands Considers Adapting Estonia’s e-Services Last year the Dutch Parliament conducted an investigation into the cost of ICT spent on government institutes. The research revealed a total waste of €1-5 bn over the past years. Surprisingly, the results were not disputed by any party, including the IT companies involved. As a result, 52 measures have been implemented to prevent future waste of tax payers’ money. As a consequence, existing IT projects are now under heavy scrutiny and new projects are not being initiated as easily as they previously had been.

The main interest of the delegation that consisted of specialists from private and public sectors comprised e-governance, digital identity, conception and design of the X-Road, and optimization of digital services.

A group of Dutch IT-entrepreneurs recognized that although this may reduce misspending, it may also set back the Netherlands when it comes to digital transformation. After all it is inevitable that all public services will need to get digital and a highly effective IT infrastructure is key to the competitive position for any country.

Out of the many companies the delegation visited, developer and manufacturer of original hardware and software systems Cybernetica, that has participated in the pilot project of Estonian ID-card, X-Road project and Estonian internet-voting system; software developer Helmes, blockchain technology vendor Guardtime and e-Health Foundation proved to be the most interesting for the visitors due to their contribution to the Estonian digital society.

It is for this reason that the group of eight Dutch IT-entrepreneurs under the leadership of the Dutch IT tycoon Jan Baan, the founder of the Baan Company, that took global control the ERP market at the turn of century, decided to embark on a trip to Estonia, which seems to be doing ten times better with a ten times smaller budget. ‘Being first and foremost entrepreneurs we wanted to visit companies and talk to the people that actually build the stuff and not just to the people who spend the money. We didn’t just come to learn, but we are also actively interested in pursuing business opportunities,’ said Jan Prins, founder of performance management consulting company PRiMAN, who initiated the mission. Meüs van der Poel, lobbyist with Statendaal, added: ‘Traditionally the Netherlands acts as a gateway to the rest of Europe, so the road leads from The Hague to Tallinn but also vice versa.’


LIFE IN ESTONIA #40 I 2015 / 2016 WINTER

During the busy speed-dating day, 16 meetings were held covering the topics from e-school and e-health to satellite operations and cloudbased back-end parking operations.

Jan Prins: ‘It’s fascinating to see how our joint enthusiasm for the Estonian X-Road, e-Residency and its 3 000 public and private online services has united all members of the delegation in the goal to establish a similar system in Holland’. After the visit, the specialists formulated twelve initial principles with the overall purpose of accelerating the digitalization of Dutch society on the basis of the e-governance concept. ‘We see e-governance not just as services, but more as a way to bring about coordinated civil empowerment, based on design principles,’ says Roy Tomeij, an independent consultant for the Dutch government.

The members of the delegation included Jan Baan, Vincent Everts, Meüs van der Poel,Teus Baars, Roy Tomeij, Jan Prins, Albert Akkermans, Leo De Bakker, and Marco Bogers.

‘Areas where we see a need for application of the e-Governance concept include e-health, e-voting and e-Residency for non-Dutch citizens. This last one is especially interesting, given the surge of applications for Dutch citizenship fueled by the refugee/migrant crisis. Via e-Residency, we can offer services to those who feel somehow affiliated to the Netherlands, but do not have a status that allows them to become a full citizen’. Thijs de Neeve, the representative of Enterprise Estonia in the Benelux countries, stated that ‘In the first half of 2016 we intend to organize an event for which we invite government bodies to act as guinea pigs for developing a relevant and effective e-service. In this hackathon we will facilitate developers and e-governance experts from Estonia and the Netherlands to work together to create high-impact solutions. The aim is to get e-governance high on the political agenda’. Roy Tomeij: ‘Within a few years EU legislation (eIDAS) requires that national governments agencies accept digital IDs issued in other EU countries. As a playful action to create awareness we are offering a large cake as a prize to the first Dutch government agency that provides a log in with e-Residency!’

Vincent Everts, the Netherlands’ best- known and influential trend watcher and keynote speaker, became an e-Resident in Estonia during the trip. ‘At the moment Jan Prins, Meüs van der Poel and myself are e-residents of Estonia. It was a smooth process to go through and the digital identity is now in my wallet. Now it’s my goal to see if I can use it. During my next visit I will get myself a bank account and start a company. I will visit the hospital and a GP and see how easy it is to look into my own patient record. My goal participating in the Estonian e-identity is to show the Dutch and European governments that smart working is possible and desirable,’ said Vincent.

Watch Vincent’s appearance on Dutch TV introducing e-Estonia:

Jan Baan, who has over 35 years of entrepreneurial and business leadership experience in the software sector, said after the trip: ‘Based on the lessons learned, I’m looking forward to spread and help shaping the dream of a true digital society throughout Europe’.

Speed date with Paul Liias at Cubehub, where crowdsourced network solves the most daunting problems in satellite operations – limited communication time and expensive ground stations.

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Global Ambassadors of Estonian e-Governance Studies By Silver Tambur, EstonianWorld

In Estonia today, there are dozens of institutions offering higher education, including public and private universities, institutions of professional higher education and vocational schools. The Tartu University is now among the top three per cent of the world’s universities, and the highest ranked in the Baltic states. Similarly, Tallinn University of Technology (TUT), whose alumni include world-class start up entrepreneurs, has ranked among the 500 best universities in the world. Higher education is open to all eligible students, at bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate levels. In the universities, many courses are taught in English and have drawn a wide variety of international students through the high quality of teaching and environment. According to the International Student Barometer (IBS), 89 per cent of international students at Estonian universities are satisfied with the quality of education on offer. One of those international students, who have found Estonia on their path, is Crystal LaGrone from Oklahoma, United States. LaGrone is currently half-way through the eGovernance Technologies and Services Master’s program at TUT. Developed in cooperation with the public and private sectors, the program is listed as one of the priority


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curriculums in Estonia, even promoted by the tech-savvy Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, amongst others. LaGrone says that the course has exceeded her expectations and she has become ‘an agent for change’, who wants to take the ICT to the next level in her home country, after being inspired in Estonia. Her story is a curious one – first arriving at Estonia as a visitor with the Methodist Church three years ago, she instantly fell in love with the country. ‘I’m a true Estophile now,’ she says, warmly. ‘I discovered that it is a very progressive country with a very advanced ICT and internet voting, specifically,’ she continues. Being politically active since her youth, LaGrone believes that internet voting will increase political participation and thus democracy, because it gives an opportunity to vote for those who otherwise might not have done it. Since Estonia became the first nation to hold legally binding general elections over the internet in 2005 – something that has become a norm now, while most countries, including the US, are still only contemplating about the possibility – LaGrone decided to learn first-hand how

to implement changes, all with an aim to take this experience back home. ‘I applied to the Master’s program here, even though I don’t have a tech background. But the university accepted people with diverse backgrounds: Bachelor in Law, Public Management, IT, Economics or other related field. And I have to say that it really improves the dynamics of the class,’ LaGrone explains. ‘People at home asked me why on earth do you want go all the way over there to study. But it is because the curriculum is so unique,’ LaGrone says with a smile. ‘The difference is that in the US you can take eGovernance, cyber security, computer science classes separately – but there is nothing that can combine all this. You may be able to piece them together, but you won’t have enough to make any sort of degree out of that. Here, it is already combined for you,’ she adds. Indeed, the Master’s program in e-Governance Technologies and Services gives students broad knowledge about the makings of a modern state – the transition into e-Governance, its management and development. The curriculum brings together science, practices and knowledge in these fields.

LaGrone observed that it is all very dynamic. ‘As we go along, they add new information and also ask feedback from the students – so we get to play part in putting the curriculum together, which is a very unique opportunity. On top of that, you have a chance to study in Estonia, where it is all implemented. We get to see the practicality. We got the residents permits, so we can use the digital signatures, for example,’ she notes. The practicality of her studies is what LaGrone emphasises the most. ‘Back in March, during the last Parliament election, I got to meet the people who actually implemented internet voting. This reminds me another important point about Estonia: in the US, there is a saying about six degrees of separation – you are six people away from somebody you need to talk to, when you want to dig deep into something. In Estonia, it’s down to one or two, so it is all very accessible. For me as a student, it is a big thing – here, when you ask someone what it actually means, you get a response.’ Both the lecturers and the students involved with the e-Governance program embody the fact that Estonian universities have become more international recently. Most lecturers have extensive global experience. ‘I’m really happy with the lecturers, because they have been able to pull people who really know their subject,’ LaGrone remarks, while highlighting that Head of Research at the e-Governance Academy, Swedish-born Katrin Merike Nyman-Metcalf, has worked in about 40 different countries. The students are from different countries too: Ukraine, Georgia, Hungary, Germany, the US, from the Palestinian territories, and of course, Estonians. ‘Some are jealous of how close-knit our group is. We all learn from each other because we have such different specialities and background. We have taken trips to the Estonian countryside, and we have had cooking nights. We have made a commitment to get through our course together, because we all want to graduate,’ LaGrone reveals. LaGrone underlines that some students will be global ambassadors for Estonia. ‘Many will go back to their country, working and implementing the solutions they learned in Estonia. Some will do it for their governments, some for private businesses. And there are some, who really like Estonia and want to set up startup here. We really appreciate what we have learned,’ she explains, while noting that the

ever-present startup community has not left wanting either – Skype’s Tallinn office and the Mektory Innovation and Business Centre are in the vicinity of the university. LaGrone herself works at the e-Estonia showroom part-time, while she is not studying. There are few things that she would improve. While her Master’s program is conducted entirely in English, LaGrone says that it would benefit Estonia if the other information around the university and elsewhere would be more widely available in the pre-eminent international language, too. The issue of Estonians still being cautious of embracing people with different backgrounds is also a topic recently, especially since the most serious refugee crisis hit Europe in spring 2015. ‘I appreciate Estonians’ will to retain their identity and culture, but we all live in a global society and it is important to embrace other cultures too. Estonia would miss out on some great things if it was afraid of something. I believe that Estonian spirit is so strong that you would never lose your culture and identity. I have watched ‘The Singing Revolution’ – a film about the non-violent path Estonia took to free itself from Soviet occupation – many times, and it spoke volumes,’ LaGrone underlines. LaGrone now sings in Estonian in the university choir – truly trying to embrace her university experience: ‘Estonian is very phonetic language, so it is not too hard to memorise the songs. More difficult are the vowels – ’ä‘, ’ö‘, ’ü‘, ’õ‘,’ she says, laughingly. While there is a widespread stereotype of Estonians being cold and distant, LaGrone insists that she has never experienced that herself: ‘For me, Estonians have always come across as warm and generous. Because I had heard this stereotype in advance, prior to my studies,

my goal was to make Estonians laugh at least once a day – and I have succeeded, although it usually means that I need to poke fun at myself!’ She has also learned to appreciate some of the local food – ‘kohuke’, an Estonian curd snack, being the particular favourite, as well as products from the local confectionery maker Kalev. ‘I always bring Kalev back home to my family in the US – they are completely spoiled with Estonian chocolate!’ she adds. As with most of her fellow students, LaGrone has the ambition of going back to the US and making a difference, based on what she has learned in Estonia. In her case, it is of course the internet voting. ‘We put a man on the moon – and we brought him back! So internet voting cannot be as hard as rocket science! Ok, I say this half-jokingly, because there are threats in cyber space. Voting is a very important issue and you would want to adhere it properly, but the paper election is more likely to be fraudulent. For example, back home we had a case where the ballot box wasn’t properly emptied and some voting papers were still left inside,’ LaGrone remarks. LaGrone says that the US can learn from Estonia when it comes to internet voting, and she will be one of the ambassadors to implement it, once the time is right – using the knowledge she has learned while studying in Tallinn. ‘I believe that the democracy is heading towards internet voting. Estonia is dealing with the cyber threats very well – the technology is really there to make e-voting transparent. We at the US have a chance to embrace the technology and be at the frontline – or lag behind. I will certainly fight for it – even if it happens when I’m 90 years old, I am determined that I will vote online one day!

Last spring Crystal and her fellow students put together a hackathon team and founded a fictional (but possible) startup called 'Taara Express' with the aim of learning the practical side and applicable skills.

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Move My Talent: Relocation Updated By Robyn Laider

Global awareness of Estonia has been steadily increasing in recent years, thanks in part to media coverage on many new startups growing to an international level. This has turned many eyes towards the country, creating opportunities for those who now see potential in relocating to Estonia, new groups of organizations, and a new generation of more switched-on and savvy expats. This influx has brought to life a specific market segment of people, making their move to Estonia, who are being expertly served by full-service, game-changer, Move My Talent. Utilizing nearly a decade in combined experience of international travel, Move My Talent was formally founded in early 2014. Their goal? Providing a smoother, and easier experience for companies and people getting settled in Estonia. Knowing first-hand the impossibility one person can face when organizing relocation to a new country, Move My Talent has revolutionized the existing process. Offering cohesion, they are the one entity knowing all requirements and able to provide English translations of needed documents. Managing Partner, Laura Salu tells me more on their specialized skill set: ‘Our assistance covers everything from the legal and bureaucratic immigration aspects to the practical hand-holding and making sure that everything the newcomers need, is organized. This includes


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helping people find homes, schools for their children, help them with all necessary registrations … cultural and social life in Estonia and just being there for them.’ Normally clients turn to Move My Talent if they already intending to relocate. However Laura points out that Move My Talent also provides consulting roles when considering Estonia against other options, helping to weigh the pros and cons of what to be aware of when choosing it as a home or business environment. Laura emphasizes that Move My Talent is able to work with anyone who needs it, including individuals and families deciding on Estonia for their own reasons, though she estimates that ‘60% of [their] clients are international or foreign companies who are bringing their operations to Estonia and who wish to support the relocation of their entire team.’ Impressively, since establishing themselves, Move My Talent have been instrumental in the movement of people from every continent in the world apart from Australia (yet!). Serving clients from: Russia, Ukraine, Venezuela, Nigeria, Sweden, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Bhutan, the US, and much more, with the majority of their clients originating from outside of the EU.

From Turkey to Tallinn. A New Student Volkan Tanisman (25) is a second-year masters student studying Industrial Engineering and Management at Tallinn University of Technology. From Istanbul, Turkey with an academic background in Manufacturing Engineering, he was first attracted to Estonia by the educational opportunities available here. He used Move My Talent from the very beginning of his relocation process, before even arriving in Estonia. Volkan was made aware of Move My Talent: ‘by my University, who sent an email to everyone I think, telling them that there is a service that helps you move from one place to another, so I thought I would give it a shot because I was having trouble finding a suitable place for myself. So that was my first problem actually; finding accommodation was really hard.’

Move My Talent has supported the relocation of individual students, people with pets, and entire organizations, facilitating moves of over 30 employees (plus families). Providing specialized knowledge and a proven track-record dealing with relocation processes and requirements, they are an invaluable service to modern companies in these times, when borders are being examined more than ever. With evident pride in their ability to deliver, Laura makes it clear that while their costs vary based on the situation, Move My Talent will always tailor a solution for every scenario. If company requires full support, they can get everything, including, as Laura states: ‘pre-work with immigration paperwork as well as being here for the family at arrival, helping to find a home, schools, doctors, getting all the registrations done and introducing local life’. Clients stand to save themselves significant costs, and potentially months of time by using Move My Talent’s services. Over the next few pages you will be introduced to the stories of three expats and the specific services Move My Talent provided to them.

Fondly recalling his experience, he communicated with Move My Talent via Skype and email from Turkey. Volkan told Move My Talent some criteria; rent price range, location and things like that, some kind of details … and they visited ‘about four apartments that were suitable for me, giving me some photos and detailed descriptions … so I could choose from those options, the more suitable, that which I liked more. It was very convenient for me’. Taking only one or two weeks from start to finish, Move My Talent helped him ‘relocate here completely. To get used to this environment, they helped me to get my first furniture, my bank account and telephone card, essentials when you are moving to another country’. Move My Talent also helped him once in the country. Upon arriving in Estonia he discovered that signing an internet contract required an ID card he would not receive for at least a month. Once more reaching out, Move My Talent found and arranged an Internet Service Provider for him he could use immediately, without the card. Having had a very successful experience with Move My Talent, Volkan says that he would definitely recommend contracting the company. He feels that it is very hard to get a suitable place of your own in Estonia and notes that particularly right now, with the refugee crisis going on in Europe, many landlords are having a harder time trusting foreigners, preferring locals if only due to the language barrier. Volkan relocated with Move My Talent using the ‘Home search & moving in’ service.

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From Sri Lanka. With Family Imagine you are an executive of a global organization in Sri Lanka, juggling business duties, the responsibilities of motherhood, and family life. One day you are asked by your company to move your entire family to Estonia to run the company’s new branch. Oshani Weerasinghe, (35) doesn’t need to imagine. She moved her husband and two young children to Estonia to facilitate the expansion of Elusion Group. With the knowledge that her professional duties could not be put on pause while having to navigate the move, Oshani’s top concern was finding a way to ensure her oldest child’s education continued uninterrupted. When asked about her experience, Oshani proclaims enthusiastically just how easy Move My Talent made the process for her. Normally an incredibly complex process, including multiple forms, and visits with differing governing bodies, before and after arrival, Move My Talent condensed everything, meaning minimal documents, and no research needed for her. Clarifying all this she states that all she had to provide was proof of her education and employment. Using Move My Talent boiled down the process to the absolute basics – ‘everything was step by step’.


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As an experienced business woman, she also praises the follow up she received: noting that ‘there was no need to ask [Move My Talent] what was going on, what happened, what will happen? They know. The next step [they] know and email … “this is the current situation, this is the next step, so be ready for that”, they kept you updated with everything.’ Due to the expertise the company provided, Move My Talent not only secured the last school vacancy for Oshani’s eldest child, they ensured that he was able to start school on the same day as all of his classmates. Adding to the family’s comfort, Move My Talent also arranged to accompany the entire family to the school, facilitating a tour and introducing the principal to the family once they were in Estonia. While talking with Oshani, it is easy to see that she is clearly thrilled with the entire team and the results Move My Talent have provided, saying she has already advised her contacts, that this is how her move to Estonia was made possible, and to follow suit if they are in the same situation. Oshani relocated with Move My Talent using ‘Immigration procedures’, ‘Home search & moving in’, ‘Settling-in assistance’ and ‘School search’ services.

Mikhail Zholobov (25) is nearing the completion of his first year in Estonia, an Automation Engineer with Parallels, the Second Best Cloud Computing Company in 2015 according to Forbes, he arrived in January 2015. When Parallels decided to expand to Estonia, they asked for volunteers to relocate as part of the expansion’s first wave, Mikhail was one of the first who signed on-board, bringing along his wife – then pregnant with their first child. Joined in the relocate by over 30 of his co-workers, plus families, Move My Talent was contracted to take care of all immigration procedures required. In addition Move My Talent also tailored the experience to each employee’s specific needs. For Mikhail, with a baby on the way, this meant timing a staggered relocation for his family. Arriving in January, his wife followed in April, allowing her to take advantage of her Russian maternity benefits. The later arrival also meant that Move My Talent was able to organize her Residency Permit in advance, which Mikhail notes as the ‘most difficult part.’ This meant that should she go into an early labour, or have any complications, her Residency Permit entitled her to treatment under the Estonian System at no extra costs to her family. Mikhail is incredibly calm while speaking about his experience with Move My Talent, alluding to the confidence the company instilled in him. In fact, he tells me, he and his co-workers were so pleased with Move My Talent they requested Parallels to make their contract on-going, so were any challenges to arise; the new expats have someone to reach out to. He adds as a final note, that he feels more secure utilizing Move My Talent – that they are a boon. He states if he were ‘alone to deal with a problem, or a day-to-day task, there could be language problems, it may take longer than required, or the person on the other end could ask unneeded questions.’ Alone there is an atmosphere of the unknown, but with Move My Talent anything can be taken care of; quickly, easily and behind the scenes. As Mikhail says; ‘It’s what they specialize in.’ Mikhail relocated with Move My Talent using the ‘Immigration procedures’, ‘Home search & moving in’, ‘Settling-in and adaption training’, ‘Cross-cultural differences training.’ and ‘individual assistance with some specific matters’ services. See more of the program at

Photo by Terje Lepp

From Russia to Estonia. Relocating Across the Great Divide

The Welcoming Programme for New Arrivals Has Started In order to support foreign nationals who have migrated to Estonia to settle in and to acquire the primary knowledge and skills needed for successful adaptation, Estonia is now offering all new arrivals the opportunity to participate in an introductory welcoming programme. The programme is aimed at foreign nationals who have legally resided in Estonia for less than 5 years and have been granted a temporary residence permit, have acquired a temporary right of residence or have been granted the temporary right of residence in Estonia. The Welcoming Programme consists of various informative training modules as follows: • basic module which gives an overview of the functioning principles of the Estonian state, society, culture and people, rights and obligations of residents, public services etc.; • thematic modules which give an overview of working and entrepreneurship, family life, studying and research; • additional training modules for children and young people under the age of 15 and for the beneficiaries of international protection. All training modules include vital practical examples which are aimed at helping new arrivals to better understand life in Estonia. All modules are 8 hours in duration. In addition to practical information, the Welcoming Programme also contains basic level Estonian language training (level A1) which lasts for approximately 80 hours. The program is offered in English and Russian at locations in the Estonian cities of Tallinn, Tartu and Narva. Participation is free of charge and participants can choose which module or language training to take part in and also in which order to do so. A precondition to participating in the trainings is a referral to the program by the Police and Border Guard Board of Estonia. Those arrivals who have arrived in Estonia after the 1 August 2015 will be referred to the program automatically. Those who have arrived prior to the 1 August 2015 are required submit an application to the Police and Border Guard Board in order to obtain a referral to the program. You can find out more about the program, forms for referral and register for training at The Welcoming Programme is offered by the Ministry of the Interior of Estonia and funded by the European Social Fund (ESF), the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and the Estonian state budget.

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@ Mobile World Congress 2016


For any true player in the mobile ICT industry, the Mobile World Congress taking place in Barcelona every February is the most important mobile technologies conference in the world and should definitely not be missed.

Highlights from previous years:

Over the last three years, Estonia has had the privilege of presenting its cutting edge e-services, as well as introducing our top companies in the mobile and ICT field. Investment in revolutionary ICT infrastructure, adoption of e-services and a world-class, multi-lingual ICT talent pool have together established Estonia as one of the best new locations worldwide for developing, testing, implementing and supporting ICT services.

• In 2015 Estonian Government CIO and European CIO of the year Taavi Kotka shared the revolutionary e-Residency program in his keynote address.

Visit the e-Estonia stand at Mobile World Congress and learn about the revolutionary concepts and disruptive technologies of the world’s most advanced digital societies!

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In 2014 Regio Ltd won the Global Mobile Award for its Reach-U LBS analytics platform.

World Chess Champion and special guest of e-Estonia Garry Kasparov held a chess tournament with fans and ICT executives at Mobile World Congress 2014. In 2015, robot football and sumo matches were held at the Estonian stand where everyone could bet on the winning robot.

In 2016, the e-Estonia stand is welcoming everyone to apply for e-Residency on-site and experience first-hand the true mobility of managing your business from your smart device

These ten companies will be demonstrating Estonia’s mobile technological solutions at MWC 2016:

GoSwift manages the border crossing of about 1.7 million vehicles every year.

BAMBOO GROUP helps companies to discover new and improve existing revenue streams in 22 countries worldwide.

GoSwift creates innovative traffic management solutions based on web and mobile platforms. Since 2011, we have facilitated the virtual queuing of vehicles at border crossing points, ports and tourist attractions. GoSwift is a strong advocate of Smart Traffic for the Smart City, based on the better use of existing infrastructure and at a fraction of the cost. GoSwift’s services have been implemented in four countries.

Bamboo Group is an Estonian IT company that provides custom monetisation and marketing solutions for growing businesses. We work on highly-challenging projects which demand constant innovations and research. We help our customers discover new revenue streams and improve existing ones where other providers are afraid to take on the challenge.

Fortumo now processes twice as many payments per second as there are babies born! Fortumo is a carrier billing company present in more than 90 countries. Fortumo’s payment products work across a wide range of platforms, from smartphones to smart TVs. Fortumo provides merchants with one integration to 350 mobile operators and a single point of contact for settlements, reporting and support. Carriers connecting to Fortumo get access to additional revenue from leading app stores, game developers and digital media companies.

The owners of Ecofleet Eesti Ltd include four of Skype’s founding Estonian engineers. Ecofleet is an international software company that specializes in GPS-based fleet and team management solutions. We optimize car fleets and workflows to help our customers reduce costs and increase revenue. Our expertise is in sales, service and R&D. We offer a wide range of standard solutions, but also provide scalable solutions for individual needs.

Nutiteq maps power more than 30 million devices globally. Nutiteq Maps SDK for Android, iOS and Windows Phone shortens time to market, enables offline maps, GIS data and much more for every app. Nutiteq’s customers include mobile application developers, enterprises and solution integrators all over the world.

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Estonia is the only country in the world to have official statistics produced from telco data.

SK provides the secure PKI-based Mobile-ID service in Estonia most widely used around the world.

Positium has analysed location data from mobile network operators since it was founded in 2002. We have worked on more than a hundred projects in tourism marketing, urban and regional planning, geomarketing, safety and security, and official statistics, among others. We work with the scientific community and different international organisations (World Bank, UN, ITU, Eurostat) that see the benefit of using telco data to build a better future.

SK is the certification authority of Estonia, providing certificates for eID carriers: ID-cards, Digi-ID, Mobile-ID, residence permit and eresident’s card. We provide eID infrastructure, Mobile-ID technology, authentication and digital signature solutions with around 60 million signatures processed each year. SK’s core function is to ensure the reliability of the Estonian eID system. Our customers include top private and public sector facilities. Most enterprise mobile applications fail because of lack of user adoption caused by poor design and user experience. Mobi Lab is mobile design and development agency based in Estonia. Our mission is to create the best mobile experience in the world. Our inhouse team consists of creative designers, technically skilled mobile software engineers and experienced business analysts. We are proud to work with clients and partners globally – including Skype, Microsoft, Samsung, Ericsson etc.


Mooncascade has managed to sustain 100% growth year-on-year since its creation.

Yoga Tiny is the world’s smallest and most secure smart home gateway.

Mooncascade is a software development company specialising in mobile. We work with the region’s biggest telcos and often are a partner in innovation projects. Our team is open-minded, hungry for innovation and eager to create smart technical solutions. We enjoy working with the best clients in a fun environment. Our values of passion, openness, innovation and quality have made us the fastest growing mobile and web development company in the region.

Yoga Systems have developed a secure smart home and IoT solution, employing Intel Internet of Things (IoT) technologies designed to enhance the connectivity, manageability and security of home devices, which service providers can turn into profit. Telecom service providers Elion in Estonia, and Sonera in Finland currently offer Yoga Smart Home to their customers. TeliaSonera will launch this product in all Nordic and Baltic countries.

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Soon it will be much easier to trade startup investments, liberating countless early-stage investors worldwide. Funderbeam is building a marketplace for just this purpose. Unlike traditional stock exchanges, theirs is an alternative, blockchain-based marketplace, which combines syndicated startup investing with a trading platform. Instead of stocks, investors trade digital tokens which represent syndicates’ underlying investments. For the first time in history, startup investors have an ondemand liquidity option.

Creating the World’s Startup Marketplace Funderbeam is changing the way new companies are financed

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Founded in Estonia two years ago, Funderbeam recently raised €655k ($745k) from angel investors and 3TS Capital Partners, taking the company to €1.75m ($2m) in total funding. In November, Funderbeam tested their platform by syndicating a small €10,000 investment round from employees and current investors.

The second thing we witnessed was the development of technology. Technology today has become so advanced that a contemporary stock exchange can be created in a much easier way – with a beautiful user interface and powerful underlying technology,’ explains Ruusalepp.

‘We had to be the first to eat in our restaurant and we liked it,’ says Funderbeam’s cofounder and CEO Kaidi Ruusalepp. Although the trading platform is still in private beta-testing stage and looking for three good test cases to truly make the system bulletproof, it will be opened to the public in the first quarter of 2016.

‘As all of us had different experiences of startups, we realized that we would be able to change the way company growth is financed all over the world’. Think of Funderbeam as Bloomberg, Angellist and Nasdaq having a baby.

The Founders ‘The journey to Funderbeam began with the background of myself and other founders. We all come from the world of finance,’ says Kaidi Ruusalepp. She has managed the Tallinn Stock Exchange, Estonian Central Register of Securities, and been Legal Advisor to the Government of Estonia. The other founder, Urmas Peiker, has a background in security regulation and law and, before the founding of Funderbeam, he worked as Head of Compliance at LHV Bank. Villu Arak was PR Executive at Skype and CEO of the PR firm Hill and Knowlton in Estonia. ‘Our combined experiences led us to understand that stock exchanges today have changed in nature - in terms of raising capital - to final stations where the victories are formalized. Whereas 10-15 years ago one entered the stock exchange in order to find capital for next developments and to take on new markets and products, today the growth of start-ups is financed by venture capital or crowdfunding.


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The Syndicate Funderbeam serves the startup and investment community in two ways. Their current data and analytics platform provides global intelligence on early-stage companies. The nascent trading platform combines data with syndicated startup investing and trading. Every investment journey starts with informed decisions. Who are the players, their competitors and investors, where is the industry going? This is the business-intelligence component available for Funderbeam users today. At the time of writing, the company has data on 150 000 startups and 20 000 investors. When an investor wants to invest in a startup, Funderbeam steps in with a syndication platform. The lead investor will negotiate with the startup and then pool capital from other interested investors into a syndicate, a fund-like investment vehicle. The syndicate invests in the startup, with the startup’s only contact point being the lead investor – other investors will be behind the screen, so to speak.

The Investors Anyone can be an investor, but it is vital to understand that this is the amongst most risky investments that can be made: ‘It is not a piece of art you hang on the wall and the worth just keeps growing. Investing in startups means you can lose your money,’ counsels Kaidi Ruusalepp. That’s why Funderbeam also provides data analytics so that investors don’t make their moves in the dark. Funderbeam welcomes all angel investors who seek to invest across borders and enjoy on-demand liquidity – the option to sell their investment, or a part of it, at any time – as long as there is a willing buyer. ‘Investors can quit their startup investment when it suits them, without having to wait five to seven years before an acquisition or IPO provides the exit event. Investors won’t be locked in, because thanks to Funderbeam and a bit of technological ingenuity provided by the blockchain and digital tokens, their investments are tradeable,’ says Ruusalepp.

‘Fintech companies are among the strongest in the Estonian startup community,’ says Kaidi Ruusalepp, and points to the experience and creativity of its electronic banking system, and other digital services. To grow Funderbeam, she taps into her own experience from her tenure as CEO of Nasdaq OMX Tallinn where she took on an wide range of tasks. ‘Tallinn Stock Exchange was unusual in that the stock exchange and depository were under the same roof. The people working there knew everything – how to trade, settle, and clear. The whole cycle.’ When asked to highlight the most promising Estonian fintech startups, Ruusalepp mentions personal loans platform Bondora, London-based money-transfer platform Transferwise (a global ‘unicorn’), and the mobile payment solution Fortumo. ‘Among newer teams, I see a lot of promise in banking reformers Pocopay and Monese, and the financial consolidation and group-accounting software Rephop’.

‘Syndication also opens up startup investing to those who don’t usually have access to amazing opportunities – lined up behind an experienced and well-connected lead investor, backers will be able to get in much more easily and at lower sums. Instead of having to shell out €50k, a syndicate could be backed at a fraction of that level’.

The Companies So, who are the companies that Funderbeam is looking for to their marketplace? ‘We’re focusing on European companies at first, as we operate under European legislation. Investors may join us from all over the world (except from the United States) for now. We’re monitoring ongoing changes in American law to see if and when it makes sense to branch out to that market as well’. Funderbeam has been in discussion with many startups interested in raising funds on its platform. ‘We’re mainly looking at companies which already have some traction and a reputation that would attract broad investor interest. We are also looking to sign up new experienced lead investors to really shine the light on the first public syndicates’. When it comes to investments in very young companies, Ruusalepp says it’s probably wise not to trade them in the first year: ‘Give them time to gain traction, to prove themselves. And watch the value of your investment grow. For more mature startups, trading from day one makes much more sense. And it can help the company a lot in marketing. It might be a good idea to look at the lead investor for guidance on when to start trading,’ she explains.

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A Glimpse into the Diverse Fintech Sector of Estonia The number of companies providing fintech services in Estonia is vast bigger than most people could imagine. The following is only a snapshot of Estonian fintech companies, so be sure to keep an eye on other key players in the field.

Bondora is a leading platform for investing in European personal loans. Since 2009, over €400m of loan applications from prime and near-prime borrowers have been processed. More than 9 000 investors from 37 countries have funded €35m in loans and received over €4m in interest payments. The loans are funded directly by investors. This allows Bondora to cut down on processing costs and avoid the complexity of traditional banking, while the investors can keep the interest income. There are no hidden fees or charges and no fees for investing into new loans, although there is a small fee for trading already issued loans with other investors on the platform.

Codeborne is creating software solutions that enable fast and convenient customer interaction with your company in the web, mobile, set-top box or Internet of Things. Established in 2010 by the team who created and upgraded award-winning online banking for Swedbank in the Baltics, we have created a number of internet banks, energy and telco information systems, ID-card and photo shooting software and much, much more.Clients include Ericsson, Swedbank, Elion, Eesti Energia, Bank Saint-Petersburg, Ural Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Elering, and Starman.


LIFE IN ESTONIA #40 I 2015 / 2016 WINTER is a peer-to-peer lending platform, where private people and juridical entities can raise capital straight from private people and investors can invest in secure mortgage loans. EstateGuru is the first Estonian crowdfunding platform to offer loans secured by a mortgage. EstateGuru is also eyeing up European expansion: the platform already facilitates investment from across the EU, with the majority of its investors sourced from Estonia, Germany and the UK.

Fundwise is a crowd investment platform for small to medium businesses in the CEE region. Funding hardware, consumer products, ICT, energy & clean tech and gaming projects. Fundwise is brought to you by the people who built Hooandja – the CEE region’s first nonprofit crowdfunding platform.

Fortumo is a leading global provider of direct carrier billing. Fortumo payments cover 92 markets and connect merchants to subscribers of more than 350 mobile operator networks. In addition to product innovation, Fortumo has a razor-sharp focus on emerging markets, where mobile payments make the biggest difference. Fortumo has the longest experience in providing carrier billing in Central and Eastern Europe and Latin America in the industry. We also unlock new markets for merchants before any other carrier billing provider can get there: our trailblazing territories include China, India and Kenya, just to name but a few. www.

Insly is an insurance broker software development company offering insurance broker software for insurance brokers and insurance agents. Insly team consists of 60 dedicated insurance and IT professionals working in London, Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius, Warsaw, Panama City, Nairobi, Cape Town and California, USA.

Investly is an online platform where small companies can get business loans from other people. On one side, there are 2/3 of businesses get rejected when applying for a loan from a bank although they’re creditworthy. On the other side, investors are earning less than 1% from their deposits or an average 3-5% from their pension funds. Investly connects these two, enabling companies to raise finance vital to sustaining or growing their business as well as giving investors the opportunity to earn above average returns. Launched in Estonia, working on UK entry.


Mobi Solutions was founded in 2000 as a mobile value-added services provider. Now it’s a parent company for a number of successful startups and active seed and early stage investor in Northern Europe. These invest in companies primarily in the B2B SaaS and mobile space areas, which have global focus and scalable business model. Mobi works actively with portfolio companies, helping them with our technical and BD resources.

Vivalte is an export agency that helps enterprising people as well as start-ups and already firmly established businesses that wish to grow, implement changes, improve performance or surpass problems in finding their identity. Vivalte cooperate with partners in Sweden, UK and Germany and are in process of building up new export relations in Finland, Norway, Denmark, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, France and Portugal. Areas of expertise include banking, payments, micro financing; enterprise IT systems, IT consultancy and e-channel development; logistics and production.

Ziraff is an e-services specialist with a focus on three main areas – finance and accounting, e-health and e-government. Our experts have been behind the most important e-services in Estonia and Baltics including banks, telecoms, utilities, e-health and public sector. Ziraff’s clients are companies which offer mission-critical services to mass customers. These companies e-services typically need a breakthrough – in strategy, processes, services and user experience need to reach the new level. Ziraff makes it happen – 16 years and 30+ projects of experience have taught us how internet services can improve a company’s business results and what is really important for the customers.

e-Receipt Service Portal and m-Wallet Concept The e-receipt represents an electronic version of a traditional paper receipt. The concept of an e-receipt portal will make all receipts conveniently available in an electronic form in a cloud-based environment. The uniform/common e-Receipt system means a software solution which integrates the existing e-Receipt systems, offering a chance to join the system to companies that don’t currently employ the e-Receipt system and making the data available (by means of electronic identification) to other service providers.

receipts even in the absence of an internet connection (on the plane etc). Warranty documents will be archived electronically. It is easier to trace warranty period, return goods and approve repayments. e-Receipt project is lead by Omniva, who leads project consortia (ICT Demo Center, Estonian Telecom, Trinidad Consulting, Helesinine and Authente). The m-Wallet concept is lead by Estonian Telecom.

An e-receipt portal enables access to receipts from different retailers from one environment. It makes electronic archiving and inquires to the cloud based data­ base possible. m-Wallet concepts make it possible to receive after-mobile payment m-receipts to your mobile in real time, and receipts will be saved in the cash memory. The m-Wallet gives freedom to the customer to explore

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The Future of Fintech Lies In Innovation Life in Estonia asked Neil Mathieson, Business Development Director at Union Financial Technologies to share his views on the fintech sector. How is fintech IT changing the sector? Technology which enables financial solutions has been around for decades – the move from mainframes to the web, SWIFT payments, capital markets systems, etc. The current wave of fintech started around a decade ago and is considered by many to be different.    Start-ups often lead the disruption because they are able to specialize in particular parts of the financial relationship, deliver a great user experience and are prepared to invest in it too. They are very agile and innovative compared with existing providers.   The power and affordability of technology has also meanwhile advanced. In consumer markets, mobile devices are now ubiquitous, while enterprises digitise their operations. Technology enables new possibilities in innovation, client service and decision-making.   A global fintech industry has emerged in less than a decade, creating many valuable jobs and companies. Investment volumes in fintech have boomed, but remain far behind what existing financial services firms invest in their IT.  

Which way are things heading?

There is a lot of debate on just how far this trend will continue. At present there is a lot of innovation in payments, marketplace lending,


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blockchain, etc. but there are many providers, and most are loss-making. Valuations are high but exits are low thus far. Regulation will also erode certain unfair advantages that exist between fintech and traditional financial services providers in certain segments. Traditional providers are also starting to react; we see them investing in, and innovate alongside, fintech firms. We also see tech giants like Facebook and Amazon becoming active in this area – they may yet emerge as dominant players too.

How do you see future of the Union Financial Technologies? We are very optimistic. Our existing solutions help financial service providers to serve clients better, reduce cost through process automation and improve data for decision-making. Whether you are an international bank or local specialist, these are fundamental challenges which never go away.   As we utilise digital solutions it is also easy for us to innovate, and we will shortly launch a solution for Crowd/P2P providers that allows them to manage investors, borrowers and the marketplace in real-time. We are also exploring adding analytics to our solutions, such as predicting credit defaults and making better client offers; monetizing data will be a game changer.

What do you consider your main achievements? We are proud to have helped Finora Capital establish their digital bank here in Estonia. Our solutions were used to originate deals online, manage credit quality and automate the back office, all in real-time. Although just part of the story, this helped Finora secure their credit license and grow fast. The solution is also very scalable; Finora can add new products and countries easily as they expand.

How do you see Estonia’s role in fintech? The building blocks for success are there. The workforce possess good math, IT and language skills; the country is world class in digital identity and applying technology in everyday life; there is a lot of entrepreneurial zeal. Certain challenges must be overcome. A small domestic market compels overseas growth but this creates challenges in terms of more demanding clients and volumes, it takes time and resources to build the organizational capacity to manage that. Parts of the value chain we see in mature markets such as the US are also missing. Estonia has successfully managed the IT of Nordic banks for years and is well integrated to the regional fintech market, it is now time to replicate that in the wider world.

Changing Business Environment – Innovation in the Tax System and Banking in Estonia Innovation takes place everywhere, but the fintech sector in Estonia is really flourishing.

Estonian state are to be required in the e-invoicing format, which proves the Estonian state’s interest in developing RTE.

‘One effective example of cooperation between the public and private sectors is the pilot project from technology company Uber and the Tax and Customs Board of the Republic of Estonia (EMTA); the latter provides a solution for global cash-free taxation services. Estonia is looking for a solution, instead of prohibiting any new form of business,’ said President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves in his speech held at the technology conference Slush in Helsinki.

The hottest word in fintech sector is undoubtedly blockchain, which is becoming unavoidable. Bitcoin, the most well known implementation of blockchain technology, flipped the money transfer industry on its head as early as 2007. Nowadays start-ups are using blockchain technology to implement a wide range of services.

As a pilot project of the cooperation between Uber and EMTA, a new tax declaration platform has been created which will simplify the tax declaration process for the partner managers of Uber. The first results are expected in 2016, and the wider aim of the project is to develop suitable solutions for the payment of taxes for expanding sharing economy services all over Europe. In fact this collaboration is nothing to be surprised about, as EMTA has the world’s most innovative tax collection and declaration platform, which has brought Estonia the most effective tax system title. The Tax Foundation’s International Tax Competitiveness Index (ITCI) finds that Estonia has the most competitive tax system in the OECD. For example, Estonia collects more VAT than Latvia, even though our southern neighbour has a larger population and a slightly larger tax rate (20 per cent in Estonia vs 21 per cent in Latvia).

But this is not only about start-ups. Estonia’s LHV Bank has also discovered blockchain’s advantages, compared to a present day centralised database. Just to name only some – blockchain is resistant to cyber attacks and data leakages, because there is no central core to attack and data only exist in heavily encrypted form. It can also be used for building blocks for new, innovative financial products, because it is more easily programmable. So in cooperation with one of the leading blockchain technology companies, Chromaway AB, which is mainly involved in the so called Colored Coins technology, LHV Bank has developed a new, innovative solution called Cuber Wallet app which is available on both Android and Apple devices and enables users to send and receive euros instantly and free of charge. Rain Lõhmus, CEO of Cuber Technology, a subsidiary of LHV Group, said in a statement: ‘We hope Cuber can liberate innovation from organizational borders – truly decentralize it. And true innovation in the financial sector will flourish.’

Overall, the next generation of entrepreneurs will be doing business in Real-Time Economy (RTE). RTE in this case means that all transactions are digital, automatically generated and completed in real-time. In other One of Estonia’s real success stories in fintech sector is Fortumo, words, there is no need to isolate financing, accounting and reporting the most developer-friendly mobile payments provider around. Marprocesses and their timing from each other – data flows are automat- tin Koppel, the CEO and co-founder of Fortumo was just recently ic. This is why Finnish and Estonian technology promotion organiza- handpicked in the list of The New Europe 100. It is a list about tions are already thinking about it and have signed a Letter of Intent individuals from Central and Eastern Europe who are changing the to strengthen cooperation in cross-border RTE development. The Esworld and improving people’s lives with ideas that scale up in the tonian–Finnish business environment already Kristjan has theHiiemaa, first components founder anddigital CEO ofworld. retail business software ERPLY, and Sander Sebastian Agur, of RTE. For example, quick establishment VP of at a company, ERPLY Retail, user-friendly talk to Life in Estonia about why retailers all over the world should use the Point-ofonline business and land registers or electronic Sale (POS) submission softwareofcreated annualby their Withcompany roots dating instead backofalmost the cash 15register. years, Fortumo ‘Our aimisisnow to keep usedgrowing by more reports. But having elements is not enoughuntil – the companies next steplike is real-time Microsoft get than nervous,’ 91 000says developers Kristjan with in every a grin. corner of the world. They cover 92 interaction between databases, processes, and systems to enable live markets and connect merchants to subscribers of more than 350 mobile services across enterprise boundaries. The state can also set the pattern operator networks and allow any merchant to set up one-click payment in fostering RTE. For example, in 2016 all the invoices made with the processing for Web and mobile services, games or apps.

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Creators of ERPLY: Businesses Depend on Us

Kristjan Hiiemaa, founder and CEO of retail business software ERPLY, and Sander Sebastian Agur, VP at ERPLY Retail, talk to Life in Estonia about why retailers all over the world should use the Point-of-Sale (POS) software created by their company instead of the cash register. ‘Our aim is to keep growing until companies like Microsoft get nervous,’ says Kristjan with a grin.


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By Ann-Marii Nergi

There are thousands of business software developers in the world. What is special about Erply? What makes it a real management platform which, as you claim on your company webpage, ‘makes your customers buy more’? Kristjan: Erply offers retailers a single integrated platform, which is web-based and enables users to sell through various different channels – store, online store, warehouse etc. We are independent from any particular platform, which means that you can run our software on an iPad or in Windows. Whereas it used to take a couple of days to set up a point-of-sale, our software enables customers to do it in five minutes. There is no need to install anything. We offer retailers software which they can adapt and connect to their existing hardware. Our software solutions makes us competitive with the global giants, but we have still been active in taking on new customers. Some of the biggest clients who have come to us in the last few months include Disney, Sony and Garmin; even Zappos – the shoe business segment of online giants Amazon – are now our client.

Why have such global players like Disney or Sony opted to use the Estonian-born Erply? Kristjan: Well, for example, Sony has 550 retail stores in the USA, all of whom use Erply POS software. Whilst we are also active and successful in other countries including Australia, we consider the USA to be our ‘home’ market. We have over 300 000 customers, meaning different stores, in total. It is commonplace in the USA that one brand has 300500 stores and, in order to manage risk effectively, each store is treated a separate business. Clients often prefer us because we offer more functionality. There are not many cloud-based software providers like us with such a long list of clients and references. We have perhaps around ten big competitors, notably Microsoft, Oracle and SAP, with whom we regularly compete at tenders.

Erply software has many different functions. What are some of your latest additions and future plans? Kristjan: In Estonian folklore, there is a mystical creature kratt, which collects treasures for its master. We aim to create a software system kratt which helps the retailer sell the right goods to the right customers. Retail management is a complicated task and it could be done much more efficiently than it often is. For example, it is a common problem that often once a product is sold, replacing it with another one from the warehouse is neglected. Or another issue arises, namely that retailers do not understand which products are popular and end up selling things which people don’t really want to buy. In other words, if you see that red T-shirts are bought more often than blue T-shirts, do not order more blue T-shirts! Simply put, sell what people want to buy!

Our software also collects data which tells the retailer which products to order and which to ignore. Here is another real-life example of how information sharing does not work: a store of a large furniture retailer put some left-over chairs on sale at the end of the season. These were sold, with the central warehouse assuming the popularity of the product and sending some more chairs to the store, which they then could not sell even at a much reduced price! Stores generally tend to have at least five replacement products for one item with each one having a different cost price, but as a rule of thumb c. 20 per cent is marked-up in the store. In reality, the selection should only include products where the retailer can add the mark-up which is profitable for him because, at the end of the day, this is what pays the bills. It does not make sense to put too much work into more expensive products as this does not bring in sales, and product turnover will also remain low. We try to help retailers to sell the so-called key-products, which people also want to buy.

How much does it cost for a company to transfer to your system? Kristjan: The monthly fee starts with €50. The data can be checked at home via a server, there is no need to keep an IT-specialist on watch or use a local server – that means a real saving in costs.

What else can be done with Erply software? Sander: I would also mention our loyalty program and the fact that we accept payments from cash to bitcoin. This creates more opportunities. We offer a customer program in collaboration with the Estonian startups Svipe and LHV Bank. It enables retailers to collect customer data straight onto an iPad and also enables the customer to make his/her presence known already upon entering the store (for example by doing a check-in) and thereby to receive a great service. Kristjan: We joined the Svipe project because other customer loyalty systems seemed so expensive, complicated and lacking. Customers are not treated well enough, the services offered are often lacking in individuality and the marketing does not take into account the customers’ wishes. I can give you an example from personal experience. We went to buy a toy for my child from his own savings of €50. He selected a Lego which cost just one Euro more, but he had unfortunately left his customer card (which would have entitled him to a sufficient discount) at home. The sales assistants stated it was not possible to offer a discount based only on the client’s name. So this somewhat expensive toy remained there – we didn’t buy it but found it in another store instead. The main point is if €50 just ups and walks out of your store because of a rigid customer loyalty program, it can represent a big problem for the retailer.

How many competitors does Erply have? Kristjan: Thousands. Maybe even tens of thousands and this number is growing, which is great, as it shows that the sector is alive.

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I ECONOMY AND BUSINESS Sander Sebastian Agur (24): Sander Sebastian is an aviation manager by education. He graduated from the Estonian Aviation Academy and the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, majoring in Aviation Management. ‘I was warned that managing an airline company is the toughest business in the world. So I thought this is exactly what I should do, because everything else is much easier compared with that,’ says Sander. ‘For some years, I worked as a business analyst at the Estonian national airline Estonian Air. An airline has to work like a Swiss watch, the difference being it’s really about the masses of people who just cannot be late. But I was looking for a challenge to take a business global. An airline can grow five, ten, maybe hundreds of times, but the market has physical limitations. So that’s when I discovered retail software, and realized that business software in general can be scaled million times, and there still will be space left for growth.’

Erply is a start-up which has attracted US$4m in investments from investors since the founding of the company in 2009 - not a huge sum in comparison with other start-ups and considering that you continue to grow fast. Kristjan: We are earning money – we have always operated at a profit and grown our funds. We have enough money to pay for our future mistakes and experiments. During the course of our next expansion, we will definitely organise the next round of investments. There have already been several efforts to buy us, but at the moment we have so much excitement and we enjoy our work. Whilst you may think we have been in existence for long enough, we have not really conquered the whole world. We would ideally like to grow large enough to make companies like Microsoft at least a little but nervous! There are always certain expectations involved in raising a lot of money in one go, which changes the face of the company. Second, our software platform is quite specific and detailed – it is complex content as we need to create correct mathematical formulas which would in reality help retailers. We are totally aware of the fact that real lives and business success depend on us.

In the last few months you have been testing your new partner program. How does it work? Sander: The idea is dead simple. If you’re an entrepreneur or a company with software development experience, you can get all the ERP tools, training and 24h customer support from Erply, and can start selling a ready-made set of retail software products without vesting years on development.


LIFE IN ESTONIA #40 I 2015 / 2016 WINTER

It is really fresh and new as we only developed it last summer. It is based on the principle that we franchise out our software just like McDonalds, for example, franchises out its restaurant chain all over the world. We provide our local partners with the chance to resell our software, because they know the local market and have the necessary contacts, hence they are able to sell our best POS solution from day one. In Mexico, we teamed up with an experienced company who had released their own accounting software. They want to expand their services and instead of spending a whole lot of effort on building new tools, they just built an integration with Erply suite. Erply has invested 10 years and millions of development and live testing hours into the products, and a partner has these practically instantly. We organised some web-training from our Tallinn office for them and created accounts for them. The beauty of the whole thing is precisely that our set-up is so easy that we don’t need days on travel and consultations. What we do need to take into account, however, is local tax regulations, setting up bank connections and translating the program into local languages.

So tell us, where’s the catch for the partners? Sander: There aren’t any! The only risk for a partner is that, if they drop out, they lose the one-time commitment fee. It’s the first year of operation and we haven’t had cases like that. The commitment fee varies according to the partner exclusivity requested. We see a huge value in Erply’s products, especially in emerging markets, where our partner can instantly become the market leader. Furthermore, the partner can use our customer support people until

Kristjan Hiiemaa (36): Kristjan was born in a small village in Estonia and his businessgene was revealed already in early youth. When he was only 14, he created his first inventory software with his 386-processor computer. He sold the software to the local store and bought himself a new and more powerful computer. In 2009, the Erply team won the Seedcamp competition for startups in the UK, regardless of the fact that they were not the only entrants to the competition with the same idea. ‘We had the courage to dream big,’ says Kristjan. ‘Already in 2009 just after the iPad had come to the market, we wanted to create point of sales software for it.’ Erply has raised over US$4m in financing from premier venture capital firms and private investors. The first two million dollar investment came in 2010 thanks to the Seedcamp competition. At the same time TechCrunch called Kristjan’s company ‘the Skype of business software’. In 2013, US$2.15m were raised. The round, which is Erply’s Series B, was led by Redpoint Ventures with the participation of Index Ventures and Dave McClure’s 500 Startups.

there are resources available to keep up local support. We have all the time zones covered 24/7. What I’d like to emphasize, too, is the zero maintenance cost with Erply. With our product, you won’t get a certain software version, as is the case with most of the solutions. You get Erply that is constantly and seamlessly updated. Oh, and did I mention marketing tools? We can help in setting up a local customized web page, as well as branding, logo, tips and idea how to get to the clients. The technology itself is amazing. Reports that used to take a couple of months to build, now take just a few clicks. The e-Commerce platform offers a very wide range of integration with third-party software. To be honest, we haven’t had to advertise the Partner Program very much at all. The commitment fee is several times lower than the startup fee of a McDonald’s restaurant. Unless the partner wants exclusive right for a large region, the fee can easily be just a few thousand bucks. Basically we just charge for the time we invest in partner training. So the commitment fee and working hours is the only possible loss, if the partner does not make it.

Are there any risks with using Erply? Sander: We are extremely careful in selecting our partners. If they come with a homepage from the last century, we will not talk to them. And there are also a lot of little businesses who are not able to pay the commitment fee. There are many daily requests for partnerships coming from Africa, Asia and the USA. Even during the course of this interview I have received two offers! But it makes no sense for us to establish partnerships with companies who do not know how to make ends meet a month later; at one point they will not be able to offer quality.

Where do you already have existing franchise offices and why have you decided not to set up the offices yourself? Sander: In addition to Mexico, which I already mentioned, there are resellers in South-Africa and Australia. In Finland our partner is the technology corporation Elisa, who sell Erply software under the private label Elisa Kassa. I have just come back from negotiations in India. We have signed the contract in Botswana and the contract with the Nigerian partner is currently being reviewed. Asia is the only region we haven’t entered yet. We have offices in New York, Sydney, London, Copenhagen and Tallinn, of course, but the answer is in scalability. Local partners bring in their experience and contacts, so the business grows at an amazing speed. Erply went global quite a few years ago, and we know how much value is in the deep knowledge of the market. The services must be top notch for the end users, and this demands a personal approach. We cannot spend time on entering new markets the classic way, by opening a local office, hiring people. We want to work with people who already know how to do business in the particular environment. This is the value we are looking for, and that is why we are keen to share the profits.

After our interview you will fly to Florida for a couple of months. What plans do you have there? Sander: As we already have an office in New York, I also want to run some operations in Florida, to open a small office and employ some people who will sell Erply. The US market is so huge that we can expand.

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Text: Toivo Tänavsuu / Photos by Egert Kamenik and Kodumaja


Company of the Year 2015 The annual Estonian entrepreneurship competition has already been going for 15 years. The competition consists of two components: the Estonian Companies’ Competitiveness Ranking 2015, organized by the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Estonian Employers’ Confederation, and the competition Entrepreneurship Award 2015, organized by Enterprise Estonia. An independent jury selects a company that is awarded the title Company of the Year 2015 from among the strongest of both competitions.


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Group of Kodumaja Companies Company of the Year 2015 Exporter of the Year 2015

Economic Indicators 2014 Sales revenue €52.2m Business profit €9.2m Labour costs €12.1m Employees 463 Value added per employee 48 100

Flats in Norway

Assembly of a building on site

This year, the award went to the Tartu-based construction company Kodumaja AS, which, having survived several crises, has taken the Scandinavian market by storm. Kodumaja, one of the biggest employers in Tartu county, builds timber-frame apartment houses from prefabricated modules. Whether an invidiual house or multi-storey building, factory-produced prefab modules are transported to the construction site and mounted on a foundation to form a single building. Lembit Lump, Chairman of the Board, explains that the foundation is the only part of the house which must be built on site and cannot be pre-produced in the factory. In Sweden, a new market for the company, Kodumaja aims to be the main contractor, responsible for all aspects of construction, including the building of foundations. To date the company has built only retirement homes in the country. But the Swedish market is expected to offer a balance to the Norwegian market, where Kodumaja is already well-known and very successful. Currently the dependence on one market is too great. In addition, the Norwegian currency, the Krone which fluctuates strongly in relation to the Euro, can be troublesome for the company.

A house you can ‘move into’ while it’s still at the factory In reality Kodumaja is a construction, and not a production, company, because looking at pictures of complete buildings it is not obvious whether the houses have been built traditionally on the building site or prefabricated in a factory and assembled on site:

‘We have found the solution to not having to work in outside conditions. Most of the work is carried out under cover,’ says Lump. In the two factories in Tartu, the company produces spatial elements, which are subsequently transported on trailers onto a boat and shipped to Scandinavia. Normally housing factories produce ceilings, walls or other single parts of a building, which are then taken onto a building site to be assembled, followed by the installation of cabling and piping systems and finally the interior and exterior finishing work. Kodumaja, however, produces all spatial elements in the factory, whereby one element may contain several rooms (bathroom, bedroom, kitchen and so on) or even an entire, smaller apartment! The room (spatial element) which is transported from the factory is 95 per cent complete: in addition to the finishing, it includes the furniture, sanitaryware, plugs and electrical switches, lighting, home appliances and the kitchen – sometimes there is even a bottle of champagne waiting for the new owners in the fridge! A single spatial element may be over five metres in width and nearly fifteen metres long, which means that an entire two-room apartment can be constructed in the factory in its entirety. All that remains to be done is to lift it onto a foundation and move in. Lump claims that this method of construction saves on time and costs. This applies especially to markets with changeable weather conditions and high labour costs, such as Norway. In addition, there is nothing ‘typical’ about the products of Kodumaja – to a large extent, this building method enables to meet the wishes of customers and architects.

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The world’s tallest wooden building

As a renewable material, wood is predicted to have a bright future. As at the end of August 2015, the group of Kodumaja companies had built 5 800 living spaces, mostly for the Norwegian market. Wooden buildings have a high reputation in Nordic countries. For example one apartment building built by Kodumaja in Oslo was selected as the best housing project of the country in 2013.

Many are surprised that apartment buildings can be constructed from wood At the end of this year, the world’s highest apartment building to comprise a wooden framework – fourteen floors in total – will be completed in Bergen, Norway. It comes as no surprise therefore that the apartments of this building are to be built by Kodumaja. Most of the 62 flats, with square metre prices reaching over 8 000 Euros, have already been sold. This remarkable project has brought no shortage of worldwide recognition to Kodumaja. Naturally, the building meets all earthquake and fire safety requirements. The Bergen building is constructed in three stages: five floors initially, followed by another five floors and then four floors. After each stage, a concrete platform is made which forms the basis for the next stage. The spatial elements are integrated with a laminated timber framework, which takes some of the pressure onto itself. The staircases and the elevator shaft are all made of wood.


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All good things come to he who has patience The company started twenty years ago with founders of the former Hansapank as its investors. The first building was erected onto the foundation in November 1995. Lump recalls that back then, nobody dreamt of having the principle market outside Estonia, nor was anybody even remotely thinking about building all apartment buildings solely of wood. But in the mid 1990s, the company experienced serious trouble. There were even thoughts of terminating all activity. In the end, a ray of hope came from Scandinavia. In 1997, contacts were made with Norwegian entrepreneurs who wanted to build a three-storey building comprising 21 apartments in the town of Bodø. ‘We had no idea what would lie in store for us, but half an hour before the Norwegians boarded their flight home, we signed that contract on the bench at the Tallinn Airport, whilst kneeing on the floor ourselves!’ says Lump. The door to Scandinavia was opened. Then something

The best residential building 2013 in Norway

strange happened: the company built several apartment houses in Norway (including the first four-storey wooden framed building in the country) and the contractors were happy and everyone was admiring the work. But there were no new contracts. For three years nothing much happened and then suddenly contracts started to pour in: ‘I asked our customers what they had been waiting for during those three years. They said we had built so rapidly that they wanted to see whether the buildings would also collapse just as quickly!’ Now with the original buildings still standing firm, the export orders to Kodumaja started to grow almost exponentially, tripling and quadrupling in just a few years. The situation was booming. Kodumaja built their second factory near Tartu by 2008 ... and then the economic crisis of 2008-2010 came. Once again the company was experiencing real trouble. Their turnover dropped fivefold. The new factory, which had cost nearly 15 million Euros, just stood there idle. Only a couple of the five or six big customers remained, others went bankrupt or cancelled their projects. The company cut jobs and made savings on all sorts of other costs. Performance pay, which had made up a significant part of the income of employees, disappeared overnight. Furthermore the main salaries were cut significantly. The company paid loyalty payments to those staff who

had to stay at home due to the lack of contracts. Lump says that this paid off, as very few employees resigned on their own initiative. This period of suffering lasted for a year and a half. During this time the management of Kodumaja held an information session for employees on each Monday in order to provide updates on the status of the company – everyone was involved in trying to save the company together. The saying goes that one should not waste a good crisis. Kodumaja made sure it didn’t. During those complicated times, the production process was made significantly more efficient. And as a result, during the last five years the turnover, per employee has almost doubled. ‘It turned out that 2009 where we made a loss was the most beneficial year for Kodumaja, because it brought us big success in the years that followed,’ says Lump. The numbers prove it: each year the company has made record turnover, hoping to reach €100m in annual turnover by the end of the decade. Although Estonians like to build houses and have a lot of success in export, there is no other Estonian construction company of that size on the Scandinavian market. *First published in the booklet ‘Best Estonian Enterprises 2015’.

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I CREATIVE ESTONIA Sensitivity to what letterforms look like has grown in step with quality of life. For the illiterate, letters do not exist and their design poses no problem. For a typographer, however, they contain an entire universe. Recently there has been a lot of media attention on Finland's plans to stop the teaching of handwriting in schools. The reason - this difficult task has been replaced by technology. Are human hands destined to lose this skill, then? continues on p. 59 >

Mart Anderson

Masters the Face of Estonian Type Design By Anneliis Aunapuu


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PORTFOLIO_MART ANDERSON Poetry of type specimens by (:)kivisildnik














A S Sulane










Offers bloody entertainment

PROPAGANDA AND The fat contentment



regular, semibold, heavy




seven thousand million


who don t ’ GIVE A SHIT ABOUT YOU the can’t be





since the day




THE PAIN AND HUMILIATION Everyone is only talking about the arse of the ship emerging and sinking


ICEBERG has long been forgotten



bold, heavy, black I



a lovers’ couple

an ambulance




a garbage car


a case too serious




regular, italic, bold, black



Bury my heart Under the parking lot

Of my home super

MARKET Near the entrance Of the flower shop My heart won’t be good

For the frozen smoked

PRODUCTS As I am not a smoker

Too lazy for that Aestii


light, regular, medium, bold, heavy + italics




Why don’t we talk about kitchen renovation

MY GOD HOW TIRED I AM Of these group sex stories


Or then not at all

Why would I need meeting sex

PARADE SEX RINK SEX And singing festival sex I don’t get it

To be an Estonian Not only means to be proud


Kvickly type



light, regular, bold, extrabold + italics



Chalk lettering workshop by Igor Mustaev 2015

Making of Sydbank type family

Handwriting and Machines

Free from the Grip of Technology!

Teaching handwriting to the computer has yielded excellent results. What once began with crudely-formed letters has grown into a gazillion adaptations of letter shapes.

One successful designer in this field is Mart Anderson. He works as a graphic designer in the world of advertising and publishing, which he also considers to be a testing ground for his hobby – the creation of typefaces.

Before the era of typewriters every person developed his or her own unique handwriting style. Some people were coming closer to perfection – calligraphers’ work was highly artistic and flawless, having almost a printed look. But it was never quite enough. To overcome the imperfections and limited productivity of the human hand, printing was invented. Starting with Gutenberg, movable type systems, initially made from wooden blocks and later from lead, were introduced. But printed text no longer revealed the personality of the writer. Therefore, for more special occasions – such as for book-covers or posters – letters were and sometimes still are created by hand, in order to give them an individual edge. The availability of thousands of fonts on the computer has taken typographic design to the masses. However, there are still people who are only satisfied with unique tailor-made results. There is a growing need for new typefaces. So, creating fonts – a specific and demanding job – has become the skill and hobby of a select few.

Mart’s first experiences of typographic design stem from his childhood. His uncle, a designer, had some fascinating black plastic sheets – negative prints of font samples – on the top of his cupboard. After his architecture and graphic design studies at the Estonian Academy of Arts, Anderson went to work for the music event production company Makarov Music. In tandem with Meelis Mikker, he designed the journal ‘Muusik’, which later changed its name to ‘Kuum’. For some reason, music magazines never lived long in Estonia at the time. However it was a good testing ground for typeface design as the world of music with its big logos, band names and concert posters is known for its sensitivity to fonts. Next Anderson joined the advertising agency Vatson and, in 2000, the textbook publishing house Koolibri. Under the watchful eye of demanding pedagogues, he was dropped into the world of manipulating, operating and boosting fonts. The reason was that fonts with incomplete glyphs (ie. characters) at the time made creating textbooks in the Estonian language singularly uncomfortable. Hence the first task was to complement existing typefaces with additional glyphs – namely characters with dots and diacritical marks, plus characters from the Cyrillic script for Russian language textbooks.

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Since then Anderson has regularly been diving into the world of fonts, which far from being just concerning some special dashes or curves of the letter, often involves proper programming. One of the more complicated designs created back then was the font ‘Kaldkiri’ (Italics-ed.), which hides higher technical pilotage behind its schoolboy-like harmonic look. In order to finalise the creation of the typeface, Anderson published a whole grotesque booklet together with author Sven Kivisildnik. The brochure looked like an exercise book in spite of its merely absurd content. The latest publication to feature the font was Arvo Pärt’s CD of children’s songs. During the same period Mart happened to visit his first typography conference – Atypl (Association Typographique Internationale), in Leipzig. Since that time he has often been attending the conferences, which take place in a different country and city, every year. These events have become priceless meetings between colleagues, fellow thinkers and friends.

Pagana and Humala Anderson has clearly been influenced in applied graphic design by the works of grand Estonian masters Günther Reindorff and Paul Luhthein. Evidently he has spotted something characteristically Estonian in those works, which he considers worthwhile to develop, especially now that we have access to digital technologies which these masters couldn’t even have dreamt of half a century ago. The letters designed by Reindorff gave an impetus to the design of the ethnic Estonian type family known as ‘Pagana’ (Pagan’s–ed.). Ten years ago when the Koolibri publishing house decided to reissue the iconic book illustrated by Reindorff called ‘Ancient Tales of Estonian People’ (2006), Anderson was contracted to do the design. During this demanding task, he focused more in depth on the titles and illustrated capital letters of this beautiful book and adapted his font ‘Pagana’ for the new design. The second fairly well-known type created by Anderson grew out of Luhthein’s stylish designs – the letters of ‘Humala’ (‘Hops’–ed.) seem to be dancing merrily whilst the written text as a whole leaves a calm and unified impression. In final font design, these typographical idols played mostly the role of inspiration; Anderson was only able to adapt their art for the design of capital letters of the font; all the lower case letters had to be created and drawn from scratch. As contemporary demands and opportunities for the font family are much broader, this required a flawless sense of style and many working hours. What is involved in the creation of a typeface? It means giving shape to letters which can be applied to the whole alphabet. The volume of work depends on adding opportunities to the font until it covers the requirements of all European languages. For Estonian language text, the font needs at least 32 letters. But that is not all – one also needs capital letters (32+32=64), numbers (+10) and special glyphs (+20) – which means 100 glyphs in total. If we consider the requirements of other European languages, it means adding in another hundred. The Russian language adds another hundred for instance. And this is just one Regular version of a font. These days other versions are needed (Bold, Condensed, Light, Thin, Italic, etc), meaning that the number of necessary glyphs grows and grows. Thus work on one type family can take up to a year, or even longer. There are not that many contractors who can afford such work, which means that creating full sets is more or less a hobby for the designers.


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Font as a Statement When asked to count the fonts created by him, Anderson hesitates before he says ‘about a hundred’. That includes all versions within a given typeface. As the creation and modelling of typefaces is time-consuming work bordering on a hobby, Anderson is also a full-time user of fonts, often his own fonts, as he designs publications, logotypes, company styles etc. Some of his recent projects include developing a type family for the Estonian National Museum, modernising the graphic design of the Pärnu Hanseatic Days, and creating the visual identity of the Estonian Football Union (all in the so-called ‘Kalevipoeg’ style). After the England-Estonia football match, design and football friends noticed the re-designed crest with its angular lettering on the back of the Estonian players’ shirts, and praised it for its typographical boldness. Luc Devroye, Professor at the Montreal McGill University has mentioned its similarities with the traditional Basque style. Anderson’s long shelf of book designs includes some earlier achievements, such as the festive collected works of Estonian paper money and coins contracted by the collector Allan Tohv, which brought Anderson the award for the most beautiful Estonian book design. Another award-winning design was created in collaboration with Andres Rõhu for the English language version of the Estonian national epic ‘Kalevipoeg’, created for the 150th anniversary of the first print. The list continues with books of various top authors like Armin Kõomägi’s debut ‘Amateur’ which boasts with the ‘Humala’ font, showcasing its effectiveness and flexibility on the bookcover and in the contents. Between the books we can find the latest catalogue of the typography conference as Anderson has just returned from São Paulo, Brazil, where the conference ATypl no. 15 took place. Knowing the importance of meeting with one’s fellow thinkers, Anderson organises the forum in Estonia together with the Estonian Union of Graphic Designers and the Union of Publishing Houses, the third seminar for typography enthusiasts, called ‘kirjak’, took place in April (the name hides a pun as the Estonian word for ‘font’ is kiri and kirjak is a peasant name for a cow and also refers to the word kirju (ie. ‘spotted’) which somewhat reflects how the animal looks).

Looking for a Unique Face A century ago, Estonia was looking for its face everywhere, including in its style of writing. Inspiration for letter shapes was sought in folk art, in ethnic belt- and carpet patterns. Considering the triumph of rustic fonts in Estonia today, it seems that we have already developed our visual font identity and its future fate will be up to art schools. Together with designers Marko Kekišev, who is known for his strong decorative style, Mart Anderson is leading the students of the Tartu Art School into the beauty and pain of the graphic and visual advertising world. For the students they are the new Reindorffs and Luhtheins. Furthermore, Anderson’s fonts of today carry with them an ancient stamp. With a hint of laughter in the eyes, these fonts look far back into history, but it is not yet known whether they look into the future as well.

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Surreal Megaphones in the ForEst By Marika Makarova / Photos by Tþnu Tunnel and ATKO JANUSON Three larger than life wooden megaphones amid the land of the fairies – the tranquil, mossy soft and evergreen forest in southern Estonia. Welcome to the first library of its kind in the world, not for reading in the forest but for reading the forest.


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Birgit Õigus

Over half of Estonia’s mainland is covered in forest, its silence yet simultaneous abundance of sounds being ancient symbols of the country. Since autumn, giant megaphones installed in the woods in the Võru county have provided the opportunity to tune in to both: whether lounging, sitting or even sleeping inside the megaphones! Estonian woods now boast a new and unique library of nature. The forest megaphone project titled Ruup was born a year ago, when interior design undergraduates of the Estonian Academy of Arts began to explore the idea of a forest library together with the writer and semiotics expert Valdur Mikita, author of the book ‘Linguistic Forest’ which talks about the Estonian language, nature and its magic. What could it be? Where could it be? What could it look like? How could it surprise hikers or berry-pickers? ‘I think the main value of Ruup is that one can hear one’s own thoughts through the sounds of nature. The further away we come from the dense vibration of the city, the better we sense the lower frequencies of nature. So this installation would not reach its perfect essence if it was located in the environs of Tallinn,’ explains Hannes Praks, initiator of the project and Head of the Interior Design Department of the Estonian Academy of Arts. ‘The location of the megaphones in Pähni is near the border of Estonia, in the midst of thick woods. Mobile phone signals are weak there, which means that chasing the newsfeed of social media is heavily interrupted. Meeting one’s own thoughts may offer a pleasant break…or a terrible experience,’ smiles Praks, and recommends that visitors to the megaphones test the specific surround effect which are created due to the particular distance and angles the speakers have from each other.

Inside the megaphones one can listen to the amplified sounds of nature, take a break, teach a school lesson in the open air and organize smaller cultural events. As the megaphones are waterproof, less serious hikers can even spend the night inside!

Life in Estonia talked to Birgit Õigus, author of the idea and a second year student of interior design.

What gave birth to the idea of listening to silence and why were megaphones seen as the best choice for creating a forest ‘bandstand’? I got the idea of listening to silence and reading the forest when I explored the notion of a library versus a forest library. As the environment changes the essence of the thing, we had to let go of the standard meaning of a library and to find a way to leaf through the book of nature. At first I thought about a real library, but we could not avoid the question of how long real books would survive in forest conditions sufficiently well that they could still be read. Humidity would damage them and there would be spiders and other bugs in between the pages to negotiate. I felt that this would be less of a library for me. It makes more sense then to read the only, unique and continuously renewing book of nature where we hear exactly what we want to hear, whether it be the rustling of the leaves or… our own thoughts. This is when the idea was born to find a form which would amplify sounds and also replace furniture where one could sit in comfort.

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What did it feel like to climb inside the megaphone for the very first time? As the first megaphone was starting to take shape and the boarding for one side was done, I spent several hours inside one at the end of the working day. I ran my hand over the smooth boards, traced the screws with my fingertips, thought about the day and kind of drifted away in my thoughts. It was really cosy and warm to be in there….with my back against the wall and my feet supported against the ceiling.

The fact that more than half of the constructors were female not male has no significance whatsoever in architecture design. Staple items in my handbag are a measuring tape, screwdriver and lipstick! During the building process we learned a lot, not so much about the technique – I am already good at using saws and drills – but about tricks and approaches. For example how to use the circular saw in a way which would yield a brilliant result even if you are doing several things at once.

As we constructed the megaphones in the university workshop in Tallinn, it was impossible to hear any sounds of nature then. But when in the midst of all this banging and sawing, we put on some music next to the smallest opening of the megaphone, it soon functioned like a giant megaphone!

What is your relationship to wood as a material and what is your favourite tree?

The megaphones are three metres in diameter, made of wood and positioned at a specific angle from each other. How was the idea for the construction of the installation born?

I really like wood, it always has a warm and cosy feel. It is a material which suits everywhere alone or with other materials. There are endless possibilities. Sometimes to give a more massive effect wood works well even with metal and concrete.

My aim was to create a kind of a macro-environment when we look out of the largest opening of the three megaphones and a micro-environment where one’s eye only sees the forest when we look out of the smallest opening. In addition, the sound was supposed to come into the megaphones from the forest and move into the imagined central point coming from all three megaphones and at this point the sound would be the loudest. This point is located six metres from each megaphone. The specific distances from each other were calculated by acoustic specialists.

My favourite tree is oak – nothing can compete with its grandiosity.

The diameter of the largest opening is three metres because the megaphones are also three metres in length so this should be on the same


scale. We created around twenty test designs of the megaphones. Although the initial plan was not to create the whole installation on our own, we decided in the end to do just that – the megaphones are handmade and made of one material, namely un-planed larch boards.

LIFE IN ESTONIA #40 I 2015 / 2016 WINTER

What are the influences behind your ideas and your creativity? Mostly the spaces where I have been. It is not that I have wanted to analyse a room, but the room itself starts to analyse itself through me…. what disturbs me, what I like, what could be different, should the ceiling be higher or lower or the windows positioned elsewhere? Should the floorboards run the other way or the light fall differently? And so on and so forth.

Ruup facts * Ruup are three wooden megaphones 3m in diameter and length, born in 2015 in collaboration with the Estonian Academy of Arts and the Estonian Forest Management Centre RMK. * The initial spark for Ruup came from the Estonian writer and semanticist Valdur Mikita and his dream to establish a ‘forest library’. * Designed and built by nine students of the Department of Interior Design of the Estonian Academy of Arts. The idea by Birgit Õigus. * Located in southern Estonia, in the forest of Võru county near Pähni village. * Coordinates: Long-Lat WGS 84 x:26.75534 y:57.62998 L-EST 97 x:664578 y:6390903.

It is probably a very common and dull response that people around me have influenced me. Sometimes it is quite funny when someone tells me what they have been up to and their story starts to form into shapes in my mind’s eye. Sometimes after I have enjoyed a cup of tea with a friend, I leave with a collection of lamp ideas or an idea for a room or a building or a thought about how one or another building should be positioned in relation to each other. It is not that I have been thinking about those things, but someone else’s stories are translated into shapes and ideas in my mind.

You are a town girl from Tartu. Some people are afraid of the woods, some are attracted to the woods… what is your relationship with the forest? It is true that my home has always been in the city but I also have a rural summer house near Tartu so I spent a lot of time with my father and grandfather in the forest as a child. When I travelled to the countryside, my mother always packed sandwiches and tea in a thermos. I liked hanging out in the forest. Walking amongst the trees, I imagined a fairy-tale land of branches and roots. But my first trip to the forest was in the winter, sitting on a sleigh with a horse when we went to collect a Christmas tree with my dad and grandpa. I still have a warm recollection of that time. I still have a good relationship with the forest. At moments where everything seems to be falling apart or I feel like hitting the restart button, a walk in the forest has a surprisingly positive effect. You admire nature’s beauty, its silence, life… listen to your own thoughts which you have not paid attention to. It is true that after a trip to the forest I always have fresh ideas and thoughts, sometimes even too grand and utopian. Trees and the clean environment allow for ideas to fly as far and high as we ourselves let them…

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I CREATIVE ESTONIA When looking for Estonians’ most notable characteristics, two things stand out – closeness to nature and an affinity to tech. And surprisingly the two are not mutually exclusive. A ‘match made in the forest’ is the Huntloc app, created by a team of Estonian hunters and software developers aimed at making hunting safer and more effective.

Hunting With an App By Maris Hellrand / Photos by FABIAN WEISS


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< Herko Sunts and Martin Tammejuur, creators of Huntloc

Saturday morning, 8 o’clock at a bus station in Kaiu, about 100kmfrom Tallinn... A few dozen hunters – young and old, women and men – line up to receive instructions for the upcoming elk hunt. This might perhaps look like an unlikely client base for yet another smartphone application, but many members of the hunting party are indeed fiddling around with their smartphones. Herko Sunts and Martin Tammejuur assist some new users of their invention – Huntloc, the app set to revolutionize the ancient art of hunting. The hunters set off in cars. While Herko explains the basic functions of Huntloc, we suddenly discover that we must have taken a wrong turn and have lost the rest of the party in this misty late autumn morning. Hunting now seems like a challenging activity before it’s even begun. This of course gives us the first chance to test the Huntloc app in action – Herko quickly locates the other hunters on the map in app, and, racing on gravel roads, we catch up with the rest of the party. For Herko and Martin this is not home turf. Since the launch of Huntloc they have been spending every weekend with a different hunting club to promote their app and to get feedback from users for improvements and fine-tuning. Late autumn is the time of a year when most Estonians take a short break from their outdoor lifestyle – the hikes and mushrooming of early autumn are over, but the skiing season hasn’t started yet. So it’s just the men at work in the woods now, rediscovering their ancient roots. It all began a few years ago while Herko was out boar hunting with his father. For non-hunters it might come as a surprise, but the main activity during a hunt is to sit around and wait quietly with not much else to do

but absorb the sights and sounds of nature - not at all the adrenalinefilled action that one would imagine! So while sitting and waiting alone in the -15C temperatures for over an hour and not knowing what’s going on, Herko finally gave his father a phone call. Dad was not happy about the disturbance, to put it mildly! This was the moment when Herko thought ‘I’m standing here with a smartphone, there must be an app to show me where everyone else is located during the hunt and what they are doing’. His search for the elusive product came up with no results – there was nothing out there. So he started a thorough research into the subject, set up a team and developed the Huntloc app, which first and foremost aims to make hunting safer and more effective. In the process Herko talked to many hunters and showed them his plans. The reaction ‘now I finally see a reason why I should buy a smartphone’ by seasoned hunters reassured him that he is on the right track. In Kaiu meanwhile, Huntloc tells us that a male elk has been sighted. Then we hear a shot. One bull down. The beaters and hunters reassemble for a new hunt in the next forest, all positions and landmarks neatly pre-marked in app by the leader of the hunt. Huntloc made the first major breakthrough at the start-up competition called Ajujaht (‘Brainhunt’) in spring 2015 when finishing as the second team (among more than 300 competitors) and attracting the first angel investors. The funds raised as a result helped to develop new functions for the app that now has more than 2 700 users.

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The app helps to organize the hunt by locating and following all participants throughout the hunt. One major issue while hunting are still accidents where people get shot at. In Kaiu the hunters were warned that just a week ago a hunter shot another one in his leg. In the US, more than 1 000 people get shot at in hunting accidents annually. So while locating all participants Huntloc helps to avoid this kind of accidents. Another major annoyance for hunters is losing their dogs during the hunt. For instance in Kaiu a hunter just bought the new dog tracking collar developed by Huntloc, as just a week earlier he had needed to search for his dog for several hours after the hunt had finished, and ended up driving more than 100 km in the process. As a result the Jämthund (Swedish Elk-hound) in question, Milla, wears a Huntloc collar to the amusement of the whole hunting party who can follow her private hunt via the app. Once Milla got a little distracted from the elk hunt and chased some wild boars for more than five km instead! The Huntloc tracking collar is visible to all hunters who are signed in with the hunt. Even if the dog chases an animal for a long distance as Milla did, it’s now easy for the owner to locate him or her and to collect them up afterwards. Milla’s owner is not worried at all today! ‘At first we didn’t plan to make our own dog trackers. We hoped to integrate some available models with our platform. Unfortunately while we were testing the affordable


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collars in the Estonian woods, all of them failed the climate,’ Herko explains regarding the new line of products. ‘So we have developed our own tracking collar that helps to follow the dog without a distance limit by all hunt participants’, he continues. Huntloc helps the beaters get lined-up and better organized during the hunt, thus making the whole operation more effective. Many people still use the radio when hunting, but with inbuilt communication tools such as messaging and in-app one-click calls, Huntloc is already able to eliminate the need for radio altogether. Another useful function is the review and analyses of the hunt on the Huntloc portal. The Huntloc app uses GPS and mobile networks, so an obvious worry is the network coverage. ’In Estonia there are very few spots left where the mobile operators fail to provide 3G access. In fact, even on the most remote bog island you may well be able to get 4G reception. And even if you or your dog suddenly drop out of from the network, after moving around a little, you’ll have coverage again. So this is no big worry. Not at least in Estonia,’ assures Herko. It certainly is a niche product, with the maximum likely number of users in Estonia standing at around 20 000. The annual license fee of €19.99 means that in order to grow and transform Huntloc into a larger business, the Huntloc team has to look abroad.

Huntloc’s team of eight founders and freelance developers works from all around Estonia, and keeps in touch via Skype. Huntloc is available in Estonian, English, Russian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Finnish, Swedish, Italian, German and Spanish. Huntloc is available for Android on Google play and iOS in App Store. Try it out on free trial for one month! The annual license fee for full functionality is €19.99. Huntloc has already been used in a search and rescue operation to find a missing person in a remote location!.

Today Huntloc has about 2 700 users, two thirds of those in Estonia, with hunters from Latvia, Lithuania and Italy among the other largest groups. The app and online platform are available in 10 languages, and the company is putting marketing efforts in place in major European hunting countries like the Nordics, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Herko Sunts trying out his creation

The hunters of Kaiu have had a successful day – one elk bull and two calves have been shot. The plan was to shoot a female elk as well, but she had a lucky escape today. The hunters sighted 17 elk and a few dozen boars over the course of the day – so there’s plenty of game around. It’s not that Estonian hunters are all too eager to shoot as many animals as possible. In fact the number of hunt licenses for each season is determined jointly by the hunters, landowners, government and conservation officials. The landowners themselves are pushing for the highest viable number of elk, deer and boars to be shot, since they can cause damage to crops and forest etc. The hunters for their part have the obligation to shoot a certain number of game to keep the balance in nature. Particularly this year, with the wild boar population hit by the African Swine Fever outbreak, the workload for hunters is huge. But a tasty elk stew at the end of a long day is a welcome reward! And anything that helps to make their job safer and more effective is appreciated by the hunters. Just remember to tear your eyes away from the phone in enough time so as not to miss the elk altogether, and so take in the beauty of nature!

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Estonia as a Unique Conference Venue Estonia always keeps the conference delegates happy FRESH DESTINATION: Why pick the same familiar places when you can treat your group to something new and exotic? If your delegates have never been to this up-and-coming region, they’ll definitely appreciate the novel experience Estonia has to offer. PERFECTLY SIZED: Forget about taxis, traffic jams and complicated schemes of how to get from A to B. Imagine instead being in your hotel 20 minutes after your plane touches down. Estonia’s small size and compact city centres mean reaching your destination is a breeze. And once you get there, you can usually just walk to wherever you’re going – it’s probably just around the corner. CAN-DO ATTITUDE of TEAM ESTONIA: Setting up your event will be incredibly easy thanks to the pro-active attitude and Nordic working culture of Estonians. Those in the industry speak English, respond promptly, offer flexible solutions and keep their promises. There are no hidden costs and bureaucracy is practically nil. Cooperation can be critical in a small destination such as Estonia which is why our hotels, venues, destination management companies and city officials all work together to ensure smooth running of topclass events.


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Besides having one of the best IT infrastructures, Estonia is becoming a popular destination for conference organizers in search of a balance between an innovative approach, historical ambiance and beautiful nature. Unique venues of different sizes and characters, from medieval manor houses to modern science centres, are to be found throughout Estonia, while the primary conference destination remains the capital city Tallinn. Tallinn has lately been among one of Europe’s fastest-growing conference destinations, particularly for small and medium-sized events. As the word has spread, the city has begun attracting large conferences as well - it recently had a record-breaking year, holding three events in the ‘1 000 participants and over’ category, even without a purpose-built convention centre. According to the latest ranking list of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), Tallinn is in 25th place among the conference cities in Europe. While still working on the conference centre project, Tallinn is open-minded enough to offer you different unique venues on large scale, depending on the needs of the given event.

Latitude59 conference supporting the global expansion of innovative companies in Tallinn Creative Hub

November 2015 saw the opening of the Tallinn Creative Hub (Kultuurikatel), one of the city’s most unusual facilities for hosting large events – a historic power plant building that has been fully revamped and preserved with bricks, boilers and all. This fantastic example of early-20th-century industrial architecture served as part of the city’s central power plant from 1913 to 1979. Its name in Estonian translates to ‘Culture Cauldron’ in reference to the former boiler room that now makes up the largest meeting space of the 500-person venue. A pair of giant steam boilers is the prominent feature of the Cauldron Hall, a high-ceilinged room that offers 700m² of space for seminars, concerts, gala dinners, receptions, exhibitions and the like. At 504m², the slightly smaller Black Box can accommodate more than 400 seated guests, depending on the arrangement. Several breakout rooms are also available. Last not least, with its city-centre location just outside the Old Town, the Tallinn Creative Hub is within walking distance of major hotels.

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The Seaplane Harbour accommodating one of the Europe’s grandest maritime museums have been recognized with EU prize for cultural heritage – Europa Nostra Grand Prix 2013

Tallinn’s Seaplane Harbour is home to the city’s famous, century-old Seaplane Hangars and serves as one of the grandest maritime museums in all of Europe. It is a place filled with great ideas, adventures and history. The architecture of the Seaplane Hangars – a building connecting the sea and sky – is unique. In fact, the hangars were the world’s first thin-shell concrete domes of their size. Among many prizes, the building has been awarded the Europa Nostra 2013 Grand Prix for cultural heritage. The vast Seaplane Hangars that house the museum are filled with hightech, hands-on exhibits covering nautical curiosities of both civilian and military nature, including even a submarine built in 1936. More ships, such as the world’s oldest steam-powered icebreaker, can be found in the museum’s outdoor collection, in the harbour itself. The Seaplane Harbour is suitable for: • • • • •


spectacular celebrations of important corporate events: stand-up receptions for up to 1 500 people. receptions or gala dinners with tables laid for up to 800 people. concerts and show programs for audiences of up to 600 people. various large-scale events for families, companies, institutions or organizations, both in the indoor and outdoor areas. corporate motivational and team-building events, even for smaller numbers of participants.

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Go for a stroll along the edge of the Tallinn TV Tower – 170 m above the ground!

The 314-metre Tallinn TV tower is more than just the tallest building in Estonia – it’s also a high-tech attraction packed with multimedia activities. Most visitors come for the amazing views of the city and surrounding forest or to have dinner in the brasserie restaurant. A few daring ones might also take the ‘Walk on the Edge’ tour around the rim of the observation deck. They’ll also get to enjoy an interactive exhibition on the greatest achievements of Estonians through the ages, and a fascinating overview of the history of the tower itself, before heading up to the viewing platform and café at the 170 metre level – the highest in the country. Here a special panorama program magnifies the view by a factor of ten. Visitors can also record video greetings in the tower’s television studio and broadcast them globally. The landmark building plays host to high-flying occasions – festive and formal events, conferences and inspirational seminars up to 100 persons and open air events at various times throughout the year for up to 500 people. Estonian Convention Bureau at your service at

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New Culinary Winds in Tallinn By Ene Kaasik, KÖÖK

There’s a lot of change and excitement on the culinary scene in Tallinn these days. Even with the best intentions, one cannot conceivably visit all the new restaurants which have popped up in recent times. True, some dining places have closed down as well, but the buzz of the new overshadows those losses. The great thing about the newcomers is that they have a unique face which makes them stand out from older restaurants as well as the other newcomers. Gone are the days when all you needed to set up a restaurant was a suitable location and a good chef. Today, those in the restaurant business have realised the importance of a clear concept, a story of one’s own to tell and a face which sticks out in the crowd. Next to the ‘local and seasonal’ which has become a daily slogan in the Nordics and in Estonia – and thus a bit boring – there are new restaurants with a completely novel approach. Even our retro-style cult restaurant Tuljak, dating back to the Soviet times, does not limit its menu to local and seasonal ingredients, but brings in nuances from Europe and Asia. There are also many unique street-food restaurants; the triumph of interesting beverages on the menus continues and it is especially great that there are hotter flavours and colours which fit our cold climate.


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TULJAK Pirita tee 26E, Tallinn Shortly after OKO’s owners Tõnis Siigur, Marko Zukker and Martti Siiman had launched their next successful restaurant NOA, rumours started about their idea of reviving café Tuljak, which had been abandoned for years. This was greeted as great news because for Estonians this building is a symbol, which they were sad to see fall into disrepair.

The legendary café building from 1964 is one of the top works of Estonian modernist architecture from that era. The café is situated by Lillepaviljon (Flower Pavilion), its expansive glass surfaces and multilevel design making it a wonderful match with the coastal scenery. The Lillepaviljon quickly became popular, and it was necessary to have a café built next to it. Tuljak with its ascetic exterior is a nice contrast to the playfulness of the pavilion, and the laconic glass facade of the former was the first unpartitioned glass surface of its size in Estonia.

ART PRIORI Olevimägi 7, Tallinn

Now Tuljak is back – restored very nicely and with heart and soul – and has become a chic restaurant. The dark interior design contrasts nicely with the light flowing in from the windows; the furniture is distinguished and not at all representative of the Soviet retro style, and even the restored ceiling lights have a sort of contemporary effect. One of Tuljak’s charms is its large summer terrace, which is definitely one of the most unique ones in Tallinn. The once-popular grilling area where smaller groups can book a table and cook foods prepared in Tuljak’s kitchen has been restored.

This restaurant appeared mysteriously and quietly, although behind closed doors they had been conducting culinary experiments for a long time. The chef duo comprises the young and talented Orm Oja and Mart Klaas, who complement each other’s work extremely well. The highlight of its kitchen, equipped with the latest technology, is the rustic furnace – a wood heated grill used to add the final touches to most of their dishes. The menu is distinct, it displays a clear Nordic character, with a focus on basic products and bringing out their best qualities. Half of the menu is vegetarian. It is definitely one of the most exciting newcomers in the Estonian dining scene, interlacing history and contemporary modern both in the kitchen as well as in the dining hall. The guests can enjoy art in different forms on the walls of the restaurant as well as on their plates.

The menu is, of course, characteristic of Tõnis Siigur, and quite surprising – you will not find anything retro here. The flavours have Mediterranean, Estonian and Oriental influences, and perhaps only the cognacfilled signature confectionery is reminiscent of the original Tuljak. The servings contain plenty of surprises, and quite a few dishes resemble works of art – for example the tiramisu, the shape of which mimics the contours of Tallinn Bay. There are plenty of wow-moments, and the food here will not leave anyone cold. Tõnis Siigur has jump-started the kitchen, and given his chef’s hat over to Lauri-Alvari Vahemaa, in order to return to his experimental kitchen as the chef de cuisine at NOA.

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HOTOKAS Toompuiestee 16, Tallinn The first – and hopefully not the last – hot dog café in Estonia. When Hotokas opened, more than a few people must have wondered why no one else had had this idea before. The founders got the idea from Australia, where they spotted many nice hot dog joints – so they did not really re-invent the wheel, but turned their plans into action. The tiny Hotokas with its extremely simple interior attracts even those who do not think very highly of this sausage-in-a-bun type of food. There are lots of seasonal extras available – from chanterelles and avocados to sauerkraut. There is a plethora of fresh recipes in this tiny kitchen.

PÖÖBEL An eatery with a trendy interior and a rather unexpected name. After all, Pööbel means ‘the commoners’ or ‘the uneducated masses’, in a slightly derogatory way. There is no sign of uncouthness in this house, however, as witnessed by the long bookshelves and the beautifully and pithily scribbled walls-lamps-ceilings. There is plenty to admire, but that is not why people come here. Pööbel’s mission – as they refer to it – is to educate people about beer and vodka culture while offering good food to go with it. The restaurant’s location near Toompea makes you wonder about the irony of our parliamentarians exclaim before lunch: ‘Let’s go to the Commoners’!

KULDMOKK This rather small but cosy restaurant with its Mediterranean-style menu is a great new addition to our restaurant landscape. The Greek chef de cuisine, Nikolaos Stavrakakis, does not limit himself to flavours from the most famous Mediterranean countries, but skilfully gathers fascinating nuances from other shores as well. The result is an interesting fusion, which should not disappoint any fans of good fodder. The restaurant’s wine selection is interesting – the owners import them to Estonia themselves. The restaurant’s name Kuldmokk (‘Golden Lip’) is also great – swapping one letter in a word denoting one of our songbirds (kuldnokk, the common starling) results in a deeper, yet enjoyable nuance. There could well be two birds: one for singing, the other for eating. And you will definitely be well fed at Kuldmokk.


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KALAMBUUR Toompuiestee 8, Tallinn Vladislav Korzhets is a renowned Estonian humourist and TV host whose greatest passion is fishing and seafood. When the Korzhets family opened a cosy fish restaurant in Hirvepark in Tallinn, they did not even have to advertise it – his name was famous enough. Actually, it is Vladislav’s son Kaarel, who is busy in the kitchen, having learned everything about fish from his father, and now starting to step out from his shadow. The menu is short, the dishes are simple, and the owners are passionate about their work – what more could you want? Longevity, nothing more.

LA TABLA Telliskivi 60, Tallinn Albeit there are many new restaurants popping up in Tallinn, there are not so many eateries offering great exotic tastes. Having opened near the Telliskivi cultural city, La Tabla is a great Latin American newcomer. The food culture in this part of the world is multifaceted - on one hand tex-mex and on the other hand cuisine from Peru which is considered to be amongst the best in the world. La Tabla does not limit itself to one country or one type of cuisine, instead offering a bit from here and a bit from there. You can find ceviche, nachos and tacos on the menu, as well as Argentinian steak with chimchurri, pork Puerto Rico style, and so on. The menu is as colourful as the restaurant with its hot rhythms playing in the background. The cocktail menu is also worth a mention. In addition to the traditional Margarita, one can order Pisco Sour and other less known beverages.

FARM & RUKIS Müürivahe 27B, Tallinn Restaurant Farm, designed in the style of an affluent 1930’s farmhouse, and the café-bakery Rukis (‘Rye’), with a simpler but fascinating interior design, are new and courageous Estonian-minded newcomers in the Old Town of Tallinn. Farm, the first to open, was a pleasant shock to refined gourmands, boasting ‘festive’ stuffed animals and other surprising elements. However, the dishes that were brought to the table consisted of clean flavours familiar to Estonians, displayed the clearly distinguishable work of the chefs, and were served in the most pleasing manner. No wonder, because the chef de cuisine Dmitry Rooz who has been active in the Estonian restaurant scene for a long time already and head chef Mihkel Kalbus make a great team. Recently, the restaurant was expanded with the addition of the cafébakery Rukis. These eateries, situated in the Vana Wiru hotel, form such a great whole that you can barely notice their connection with the hotel – there is too much to gaze at as it is. Mihkel Kalbus is also responsible for the café’s kitchen. The menu here is simpler and shorter, but full of surprises when it comes to the servings and the flavours and ingredients. There is a good strong team in this house and we sincerely hope that the early morning aroma of freshly-baked pies will waft far and wide, attracting many new fans.

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Practical Information for Visitors

Visitors arriving in Estonia with visa must have national passports valid at least 3 months after their planned departure from Estonia. Children aged 7 to 15 years of age must have their own passport when travelling to Estonia or be registered in their parents’ passport, including a photo next to the name. Persons above 15 years must have a separate travel document with a photo.

Arrival By plane: The modern and user-friendly Tallinn Lennart Meri Airport is located just 3 km from the city centre and provides an easy access to most hotels and restaurants located in the city centre. Among other amenities, travellers have access to a free WiFi area in the

popular border crossing in eastern Estonia on the Russian border is Narva, located on the St. Petersburg-Tallinn road. Other border crossings with Russia include Luhamaa, Koidula and Murati. On the Estonian-Russian border, all traffic is subject to border formalities both when entering and leaving Estonia. By coach: When travelling between the Baltic states and nearby locations such as Poland and Germany, coach travel might be the most convenient option. Regular connections to Tallinn and Tartu depart from all major cities in the Baltic countries and St. Petersburg. Eurolines and Lux Express offer comfortable Riga Airport transfers from Tallinn, Pärnu, Klaipeda, Vilnius, Panevezys, and Šiauliai. Prices start from €20. By train: An overnight train service from Moscow to Tallinn is available.

For more travel details, please consult the sources below: (Estonian Tourist Board), Tourist information centres are located in all larger towns. The Tallinn Tourist Information Centre in the Old Town is located at 4 Kullassepa Street - no more than 10 steps from the Town Hall Square (ph.: + 372 645 7777, e-mail: turismiinfo@ A wide selection of maps, brochures and publications in several languages (largest selection in English) can be found at local bookstores and tourist information centres.

Visa Estonia is part of the Schengen visa area, granting the nationals of EU and EEA member states free entry to Estonia. The required travel document for entry is a national ID card or passport. In addition to the citizens of EU and EAA states, nationals of numerous countries can extend their visit up to 90 days in any 6-month period. The required travel document for entry is a valid passport. A comprehensive list of countries is available at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website at Citizens of countries not listed require a visa to enter Estonia.


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transit zone. The airport’s 24-hour customer service telephone is +372 6058 888. Tartu Airport is situated near Tartu, hosting frequent flights to Helsinki. By ship: The Port of Tallinn, hosting over 6 million passengers annually, is undoubtedly the main gateway to and from Estonia. Large passenger ferries depart daily to Helsinki and Stockholm. Cruises from Tallinn to St. Petersburg depart less frequently. The 85-km TallinnHelsinki ferry journey takes approximately 2 hours, and slightly less by hydrofoils and catamarans in service from spring until late autumn. Travellers should note that different ferry lines depart from different terminals and harbours. The City Port with its four terminals is a 10-15 minute walk from Tallinn Old Town; the Paldiski-Kapellskär line uses the Port of Paldiski, about 50 km from Tallinn. By car: Visitors from Central and Western Europe can drive to Estonia via Latvia. Ikla and Valga border checkpoints greet travellers entering or departing the country. The most

Customs The limit on import of alcoholic beverages from outside the EU is one litre for beverages over 22% alcohol content, and two litres for beverages up to 22%, and four litres for wine. Import of tobacco and tobacco products from non-EU countries is limited to 40 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 50 grammes of tobacco products. Counterfeit goods, including pirated CDs, video and audio tapes, are prohibited by law. A special export permit is required for specimens of plants and animals of endangered species, protected species and hunting trophies (please contact the Nature Conservation Department, Ministry of the Environment for details). Articles of cultural value produced in Estonia more than 50 years ago also require special permits (please contact the National Heritage Board). We suggest travellers consult with the Estonian Customs Board help desk (ph.: +372 880 0814 or for details.

Getting Around Estonia Inter-city public transportation Public buses are the easiest, cheapest and most convenient solution for visiting Tartu, Pärnu and any other larger Estonian town. Buses from Tallinn to Tartu depart in every 30 minutes and to Pärnu every hour. On weekdays, seats to these destinations are almost always available even immediately before departure (watch out for special events). For weekend travel or trips to more remote locations with fewer connections, it is advisable to buy a ticket in advance. The Tallinn Bus Terminal is located at 46 Lastekodu Street. The timetable is also available online at and ticket information is available by phone: +372 6800 900.

possible to rent the car in Estonia and drop it off at a rental agency in Latvia or Lithuania. The speed limit in rural areas is 90 km/h and in cities 50 km/h. In some areas the highway speed limit is increased during the summer months. Headlights and seat belts (front and back) must be on at all times. Acceptable blood alcohol limit in Estonia is up to 0.2 % BAC.

Local Transport Taxis: Taxis must clearly display their fares, driver’s taxi service licenses, and a meter. The initial charge for entering a taxi ranges from 2 to about 4 euros. Different taxi companies have different rates, but the average charge per kilometre is 0.5 euros. There is no additional charge for ordering the taxi by phone, and it usually takes the cab just five to ten minutes to arrive. All taxi drivers must give you a receipt (in Estonian, ask for “Kviitung, palun”). Locals usually give the exact fare and no tip. Public transportation: Tallinn has a public transport network of buses, trams and trolley buses. Schedules are posted at bus stops and tickets available at newsstands (the yellow and blue “R-kiosks”) and from the driver. Check the prices and timetable for Tallinn bus lines for any bus stop at

Tickets for Visitors

Trains from Tallinn to Tartu leave 3-4 times a day, and it takes a little more than 2 hours to get to Tartu. The Balti Station is situated just outside the Tallinn Old Town and sea port, a taxi or tram No. 2 (from the port). Trains are comfortable and you can use WiFi in the first class.

Travelling by car Travellers hoping to see more of the country and the rural areas it would be best advised to travel by car. The roads are quite good and traffic is light. Crossing Estonia from north to south or west to east by car takes approximately three to four hours. All major car rental agencies have offices in Tallinn. It is also

The Public Transport Card Ühiskaart may be purchased for a couple of euros. Smart card and e-tickets can be purchased from post offices and online at Personalise the card for a small charge at the point of sale or for free at If you are using pay-as-you-go credit, your smart card automatically calculates the cheapest fare within the next 24 hrs (never more than one-day travel card). Validate your journey with the Ühiskaart immediately after entering the public transport vehicle. You can also buy tickets from kiosks and from the driver (single ticket €1.60 and student ticket €0.80). Try to have the exact change (cash only) when purchasing from the driver. The ticket is valid for one journey only in that specific vehicle. Discounts are available only for ISIC Scholar and Student Card holders. Holders of a validated TallinnCard are entitled to a free ride.

Accommodations All major hotels in Tallinn have been newly built or completely renovation in recent years. Despite annual additions to the number of hotels and rooms, it can nonetheless be difficult to find a hotel room on a short notice (particularly over the weekend). For the best selection, we urge visitors to Tallinn and the rest of Estonia to book hotel rooms in advance. For more details, see the Estonian Tourist Board website at

Money Estonia uses Euro and Estonians are keen users of card payment facilities, with most hotels, stores and restaurants accepting Visa, MasterCard, Eurocard, Diner’s Club and American Express. Traveller’s checks can be exchanged in most banks but are less likely to be accepted in shops. Eurocheque is the most widely accepted traveller’s check, but American Express and Thomas Cook are also accepted. Banks can be found scattered around the centre of all major Estonian towns. Most banks in Tallinn are open from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. on weekdays, while some offices are also open on Saturday mornings and offer currency exchange services. Exchange offices can also be found in larger hotels, the airport, harbour, railroad station and major shopping centres. ATMs are conveniently located around town with on-screen instructions in English, Russian and Estonian. WINTER 2015 / 2016




is the biggest holiday of the year as Estonians celebrate Midsummer Eve and the Victory Day in commemoration of the 1919 Battle of Võnnu, and June 24 is St. John’s Day (Midsummer). August 20 is the Day of Restoration of Independence (1991). December 24 (Christmas Eve), December 25 (Christmas Day) and December 26 (Boxing Day) are usually spent at home with families.

Drinks The main drinks in Estonia are beer, wine and vodka. In the 1930s Estonian vodka made it into the Guinness Book of Records as the strongest vodka in the world (96º). Local brands of beer enjoy a very strong market position in Estonia. The two main breweries are Saku and A. Le Coq. Saku is Tallinn-based, and

Telephones and Internet Estonian country code is 372. Dial 00 for outbound international calls. The GSM mobile phone system is available; please check compatibility with your operator. Public Internet access points have been set up all over Estonia. They are located in local libraries and post offices. There are over 100 wireless free Internet zones around the country, many of them in rather unexpected places - beaches, Old Town squares, stadiums, and concert halls.

Emergencies 112 is the emergency number for ambulance, police and fire department. The police can also be reached directly at 110. Emergency numbers can be dialled free of charge. Select pharmacies are open 24-hours-a-day in many major towns. The one in Tallinn is located at 5 Tõnismägi (opposite the Estonian National Library); the one in Tartu is located in the Town Hall building (Town Hall Square).

National Holidays Estonians celebrate January 1 as New Year’s Day, a rather slow and quiet day as people recover from the festivities. Shops open late and banks are closed. February 24, Independence Day, is celebrated with a parade of the Estonian Defence Forces at Vabaduse väljak (Freedom Square). May 1 is a bank holiday, similar to Good Friday and May Day. June 23


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Food Traditional Estonian cuisine consists of simple peasant food, such as cottage cheese, potatoes and bread, all of which are still important components of the local diet. The Estonian dark bread is the main staple missed by Estonians abroad. Typical Estonian dishes do not feature prominently on restaurant menus, and traditional home cooking is more likely to appear at small eateries in remote areas. Modern Estonian cuisine is based on the ageold tradition of locally sourced, pure ingredients, influenced by Scandinavian, German and Russian cuisines. Estonian culinary scene has been on the rise for about a decade now with new gourmet restaurants popping up frequently all across the country. The list of the top 50 Estonian restaurants can be found at

its corporate colour is navy blue while A.Le Coq is brewed in Tartu and its colour is red. There are also many smaller breweries. A full list of Estonian beers is posted at Spirits also include some traditional liqueurs. The famous Vana Tallinn (Old Tallinn) has a 45º alcohol content, and is coincidentally made from 45 ingredients - the recipe is known only to a handful of people. Indeed, the legendary 19th-century kristallkümmel (caraway liqueur) has made its long-awaited comeback. Estonian wines, made from currants or other local berries, are rather sweet. Wine lovers usually prefer imported wine, of which there is an ever-increasing selection at stores and vinoteks. A very popular and refreshing nonalcoholic drink is kali, made of bread, malt, rye or oats flour and yeast; it has a characteristically dark brown colour.

Tartu Ski Marathon, dating back to 1960 and one of the biggest ski marathons in the world, brings thousands of enthusiastic skiers to the picturesque landscape of South Estonia. But just what is it that attracts all these men and women onto the snow, driving themselves until they are sweating and tired? Their motivation varies hugely in fact. First, the competition itself – the desire to win and to improve one’s results from year to year, is a reason. Second, good company – this is a wonderful chance to enjoy a social event with relatives or best friends,and perhaps to be slightly admired by others.

Entertainment The entertainment scene in Estonia is vibrant year-round, providing visitors and locals alike with a long list to choose from. Concerts, festivals, theatre and parties – Estonia has it all. Opera and ballet theatres in Tallinn and Tartu offer world class plays for affordable prices starting as low as 10 euros. For more information on the concert schedule see; the programme for the national opera is posted at Tickets can be bought at the box offices or via ticket agencies located in all larger supermarkets, or via Internet www., and Even the most sceptical museum-goer is bound to find something intriguing in Estonia’s large selection of museums, which feature everything from history, art, photography to toys, chocolate, musical instruments, even wax figures and many other topics. Most museums are closed on Tuesdays and many on Mondays as well. It is advisable to have cash on hand as many museums do not accept credit cards. Tallinn is also bustling well into the night with booming and blooming club scene. Clubs are usually open and packed with energised vibes from Thursday to Sunday, with Friday and Saturday drawing the liveliest of crowds. In addition to local and resident DJs, clubs frequently present guest performers from London, the US and other club hubs. For those looking for a more mellow night on the town, Tallinn’s street are brimming with bars and pubs, many of which offer live music even on weekdays. Rather take in a movie? Films in cinemas are shown in the original language with subtitles.

Third, pure joy of life – a great opportunity to practise a healthy lifestyle, feeling happy because of fresh air and the surrounding natural beauty. Whilst over the last two decades the marathon has often been won by foreign professional skiers, the enthusiasm of Estonians in participating is continuing to grow. Although Tartu Ski Marathon takes place about 200km from the Estonian capital Tallinn, it is easy to access for those coming abroad. There are direct flights from Helsinki, Finland, to Tartu. As another option, buses from Tallinn Bus Station can take you and your equipment directly to Tartu. After some warm-up exercises you can leave your belongings in the truck and start skiing. Right after the finish you’ll be able to retrieve your bag, participation medal and report of your electronically measured results. As a result of all this the number of foreign participants from Sweden, UK, Germany etc. is growing constantly. There are not many events in the world where it is possible to share the sporting activities and accompanying emotions with the Prime Minister of the country! Marathon is held annually in South Estonia. The key details are as follows: • Almost 10 000 participants. • Most popular annual sports event in Estonia since 1960. • Date of next Ski Marathon: Sunday, February 21, 2016. • Distances: a) 63km from Otepää to Elva, or b) 31km from Arula to Elva, • Part of the Worldloppet and Estoloppet marathon series.

Shops Quality handicrafts, designer goods and food are available at supermarkets and smaller boutiques in all larger towns. Typical opening times of supermarkets in Tallinn are from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. Department stores close a few hours earlier on Sundays and, in smaller towns, may be closed on Sundays. Smaller food shops may have shorter opening hours. Some 24-hour shops can be found as well. Other shops usually open at 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m.; they often close early on Saturdays and are closed on Sundays. Most shops accept credit cards, with the exception of smaller stores and stores in rural areas. Alcohol is sold from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Souvenirs Souvenir and shopping preferences vary hugely but there are certain souvenir gifts that have gladdened many a heart. Estonian handicraft comes in many forms. There are woollen sweaters and mittens with local ethnic patterns, linen sheets and tablecloths, crocheted shawls and veils, colourful woven rugs, handmade jewellery and glassware, baskets, and an array of wooden spoons and butter knives made from juniper. Fine and applied art for show and purchase is on display at art galleries around the country, featuring graphics, glass, ceramics, hand-painted silk scarves and leatherwork. Various herbal teas from wild plants are available at pharmacies. Local honey – pure or flavoured, e.g. ginger, is another delicious treat. In rural areas, you may find hand-milled flour. And those who keep coming back swear by the Estonian black rye bread. To bring home local spirits, popular choices include Vana Tallinn or kristallkümmel liqueur or local beer. And there is no place better than Estonia to buy Estonian music.

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Open 20 November 2015 – 8 January 2016 every day 10:00 - 19:00 Hot Christmas drinks until 23:00 Christmas program: on Fridays 17:00-19:00 and Saturdays and Sundays 12:00-14:00

Tallinn Christmas Market An Christmas market is held in Tallinn’s Town Hall Square, right in the shadow of the ancient Town Hall and with a touch of fairy tales - where anything is possible! The heart of the action is the most important Christmas tree in Estonia, surrounded by Christmas cabins/stands. A veritable Christmas land is decorated with trees, Christmas decorations and lights by the trade Shishi. Sellers offer a broad range of handicrafts not found in regular shops. Guests can chat directly to masters and buy Christmas decorations and other handicrafts as original gifts for filling the sack of Santa Claus. Local caterers are offering traditional Estonian Christmas cuisine, from black pudding and sauerkraut, to ginger breads and body- and soul-warming Christmas drinks. There will be live music on the market stage and the chance to meet Santa Claus himself! Activities for children include a mini zoo with rabbits, goats, lambs, ponies and geese, a slide, and of course Santa’s House replete with its post office.


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Crime Although common sense is advisable in all destinations, Estonia gives no particular reason to be excessively worried. Do not walk the unlit and abandoned areas alone at night. Do not leave bags or items of value in the car, as not to tempt car thieves or robbers. Pickpockets may operate at crowded tourist destinations in Tallinn, so make sure your wallet and documents are stored safely.

Language The Estonian language is the only official language of Estonia and spoken by about a million people worldwide. Many people are fluent in English, particularly the younger urban generation. Knowledge of foreign languages is naturally a must for hotel staff and numerous other professions in the service sector. A great number of people also speak Finnish due to Finland’s close proximity and the great number of Finnish tourists. German is less widely spoken and Russian language is spoken mainly by the older generation. Estonians do not expect short-term visitors to master the local language. Still, local people are thrilled and pleased to hear a foreigner say “Tere!” (Hi!) or “Aitäh (Thank you) in Estonian.

Estonians are typical Nordic people – they are reserved, not too talkative and speak rather monotonously, with very little intonation. All this may give one the impression of coldness bordering on rudeness. But rest assured, this is not the case, and the speaker may actually be extremely well-meaning, even excited. There are several well-known Estonian sayings, such as “Think first, then speak”, “Weigh everything carefully nine times before making a move”, and “Talking is silver, silence is gold”. It is, therefore, no wonder that the people are not very good at small talk, do not waste too much time on grand introductions, and usually come straight to the point. This is why Estonians’ English may sometimes sound shockingly direct. There is, however, often a subtle irony involved in Estonians’ utterances - delivered with a serious face and just the slightest twinkle of the eye. Estonians are relatively individualistic. There is a saying that five Estonians mean six parties. Even though people agree on the final objective, they insist on reaching it in their own ways. Estonians also value their privacy. In the old days, it was said that the neighbour’s house was close enough if you could see the smoke from the chimney. Modern, tight-packed urbanites flock to remote countryside on the weekends to enjoy more space and privacy. Even though guests at birthday parties and concerts are rather quiet and subdued in the onset, they warm up eventually and turn into a direct opposite of their day-character, as you are likely to see in Tallinn’s clubs.


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Life in Estonia. Winter 2015  

Technology Meets Finance

Life in Estonia. Winter 2015  

Technology Meets Finance