“The idea came about in 2014 and we intended it as a further step of our technological development: as a matter of fact, why should we limit our services to our citizens? We are now aiming to be a border-free society and, therefore, we want to allow access to any person who is a virtual resident in our nation”, tells the director of this first-class initiative Kaspar Korjus, who is 30 years old and see visitors with an elegant gray suit, tie and slippers. “It is a fashionable custom in the young Estonian companies. We work for the Government, but at the same time we wish to be cool, that is nice and comfortable”, he jokes.
Every week comes a larger number of e-residents than the number of babies who are born in Estonian hospitals. They have already exceeded 30 000 and, as regards digital services, Estonia aims to be what Swiss is as regards bank services. The digital and transnational identity document, that Estonian State issues at the price of 100 Euro, does not confer neither nationality nor tax residence and not even an entry permit to Estonia or to European Union. It is neither a visa nor a passport. It is only an instrument,that was created to simply manage an international business and without having to still “step on” Estonia. At the moment the applicants come especially from Turkey, Ukraine, from the United Kingdom post Brexit, Japan and South Korea. “For example the South Korean Government is a good ally, because it understands the value of such a programme and allows its citizens to export to European Market and to expand its business. Moreover, Estonia is the exact opposite of a Tax Haven: here everything is transparent, because all operations leave a digital trace”, specifies Korius, who closes his eyes to better concentrate on his answers. In Deloitte’s view, in its first three years of existence, the e-residence provided an income of 14,4 millions of euro to Estonian tax authorities. Facebook has 2000 millions of users in the world and we think of it as normal. But, we do not consider that a nation should have the mentality of an enterprise and aspire to these numbers. If Estonia is able to attract billions of users, the impact on its economy will be massive”.
Wedged between the coast and the old city, Kalamais has been the neighbourhood of Tallin fishermen till the end of the XIX century, when railway connected the capital of Estonia to the close St. Petersburg. Then, it would have turned into an industrial area and, as time passes, this land with wood little houses – where workers lived – and factories would have offered a perfect scene to host the hipster district of the town. Nothing is missing: neither galleries nor graphic design and natural cosmetics shops and not even week-end markets or bars, that serve cool artisanal biers. And not even start-ups.
In 2003 here was born Skype, the company that revolutionized free online calls and that in 2011 was bought by Microsoft for 8.500 millions of dollars. The founders are the Swedish Niklas Zennström and the danish Janus Friis, but the software was developed by Estonian engineers and the company still has in Tallin one of its main offices. Skype is part of the national pride. “As a matter of fact it produced a great change of mentality. After Skype many people felt encouraged to undertake technical careers and launch into entrepreneurship”, tells Ragnar Sass. In 2007 he founded “Dogs and Cats” a special Facebook for dogs and cats. The story of his failure was in the news”. “It was one of the first public failures of an entrepreneur. Later he tried his luck with Pipedrive, a company that commercialises a sale management software for small and middle companies. The second time was a triumph. And now at 42 years old he splits his time between airports and Lift99, a coworking space that he founded in 2016”. “We must create a business landscape and ensure that there are more successful companies. East Europe is very different from Silicon Valley, but we have something in common: a considerable educational system from which come out technical professionals, who are highly expert”. While Sass spends much time talking about the present and the future of Estonian business ecosystem, by his side sleeps his dog Perry. In the background you hear a pounding soundtrack: the construction for the enlargement of this space and the creation of big windows and halls intended to attract this Cosmopolitan community has already begun. All the photogenic halls have been inaugurated honouring world-class persons, (and under this premise Estonian people have already been discarded: they do exercises, they find a soccer player, a film maker, a businessman, a celebrity native of the Baltic country) who have even the smallest relation with the country: for example the British journalist Edward Lucas, who was the first e-resident of Estonia, who one day said: “No dock for yachts is complete, if there are not at least two yachts of Estonia”; Chaikovsky, because the Russian composer had a summer house in Estonia or Rodriguez, the lead singer of the Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man, who in one of his songs he mentions an Estonian archangel. And also for Obama, who confessed “I should have called Estonian people, when we planned our health website” they reserved a small phone station. “Currently I fly to every continent and many times I say directly: “Hallo I come from the country of Skype!”, tells Sass, “I hope that soon we can say we are from the country of Taxify (an local Uber) or of any other company. Estonia is discovering its place in the world”. (THE END)