Imagine if anyone, anywhere could start a company and then conduct business globally.
Democratising entrepreneurship wouldn’t just improve the lives of individuals around the world, but also benefit their families, their communities and their countries. It would help unlock global growth and turn new ideas into products and services that can make the world a better place.
However, too many people are currently being held back from their entrepreneurial potential — often just because of their location.
The problem is not a shortage of business ideas or the talent to implement them. The problem is that the financial and bureaucratic barriers are often too high to establish and managed a trusted global company.
I’ve met incredibly talented entrepreneurs in emerging markets like Ukraine who couldn’t sell their products and services online because international payment providers like PayPal wouldn’t work with their companies. I’ve met people inside the EU who want to start freelancing or a small business, but struggle with bureaucracy on a scale that just shouldn’t be required for a company of their size. I’ve met ‘digital nomads’ who need little more than a laptop and WiFi to work while travelling, yet are distracted by constant administrative hurdles in each country they visit.
What they and many others need is the ability to easily establish and manage a company that is trusted globally and has all the tools for conducting business online, such as integrated banking and international payment solutions.
It will need to be registered in one location, but it shouldn’t be dependent on that location as entrepreneurs increasingly want the freedom to move location and work with customers, colleagues and partners across borders.
This solution also needs to be as low-cost and hassle free as possible.
That’s why we launched Estonia’s e-Residency programme just over two years ago to help unleash the world’s entrepreneurial potential.
By providing a transnational digital identity backed by the Estonian government and full access to our public e-services, e-Residency enables anyone to set up an EU-based business and then use our advanced digital infrastructure to manage it from anywhere in the world.
It’s Estonia’s gift to the world and it’s creating a new borderless digital nation for global citizens.
The programme is growing with both e-residents and private partners who are developing new products and services for the community. e-Residency even has a brand new website for you to check out at e-resident.gov.ee.
How our borderless digital nation developed
E-Residency was launched in beta mode, which in startup jargon means that we know not everything is perfect yet, but we’re continually improving it based on the feedback of real ‘customers’ already gaining real value.
When e-Residency began, four visits to Estonia were required to set up a complete business.
Our own values guiding the growth of the programme are inclusion, legitimacy and transparency. That means e-Residency must be for everyone, the companies established by e-residents should be trusted and credible, and we’ll always be open about what’s working and what we’re improving.
It seems incredible now, but e-residents first had to travel to Estonia four times in order to complete this process of becoming an e-resident, registering their business and then opening a business bank account.
We could offer them a location-independent business, but the process of establishing the business was far from location-independent.
Yet they still came.
In fact, more than 20,000 applications for e-Residency have now been received from 138 different countries and e-residents have so far established more than 1,600 new companies by travelling to Estonia. In total, they currently manage more than 3,000 companies through e-Residency.
This is incredibly exciting and has significant implications for the future of entrepreneurship around the world. An increasing number of people now identify as global citizens and choose to live and work location-independent. E-Residency is creating their new digital nation, powered by the Republic of Estonia, where no one is held back because of where they live or choose to travel.
Fortunately, e-residents no longer need to visit Estonia in order to become an e-resident or register a business here. There’s been a lot of hard work right across the Estonian government to make that possible, from the Police and Border Guard Board in Estonia to our Embassies around the world.
However, you did still need to visit Estonia in order to set up a business bank account and that restricts the number of people around the world who can benefit from entrepreneurship through e-Residency. That’s why improving access to banking has been a key focus of ours during the public beta phase of development.
Ironically though, removing the need to travel to Estonia could potentially lead to more e-residents travelling there as many develop connections after becoming an e-resident.
The first option for improving access to banking was to work with traditional banks in Estonia. In support of e-residents, Estonia’s Parliament changed legislation to enable Estonian bank accounts to be opened remotely.
Some people hoped this could lead to instant change, but e-Residency is an entirely new concept so it is understandable that institutions need time to adapt. The good news though is that the first trials are already underway at Estonian banks to test how video calls with e-residents can replace the process of physically walking into a bank branch.
However, we also mentioned there is another option that doesn’t depend on traditional banks. As previously discussed on our e-Residency blog, business banking is going to radically transform in 2017 for almost everyone on Earth because a number of fintech companies have plans to disrupt the banking industry. We want to ensure e-residents can benefit from this change as much as possible.
Many e-residents have already been asking whether they can currently use online banks to run their Estonian companies, but the reality is usually more complicated than it first seems. These are often personal bank accounts that are marketed as business accounts, but don’t fully cater to the needs of e-residents running limited companies based in Estonia.
However, we’ve continued to work on this issue and can now reveal the first complete business banking solution that will be available for e-residents and eliminates their need to travel to Estonia.
How to access borderless business banking as an e-resident
We’re delighted to reveal today that the Finnish fintech company Holvi has chosen to partner with us in expanding their service to our digital nation by launching their e-Residency business account.
They plan to provide e-residents with a fully digital business account combined with a Holvi Business Mastercard and useful tools to grow a business.
Holvi describes themselves as ‘banking for Makers and Doers’ and they already share our vision of helping unleash the world’s entrepreneurial potential through the power of technology. They also share similar values to us when it comes to inclusiveness so we are both committed to ensuring as many people around the world can benefit from entrepreneurship and e-commerce.
Holvi Payment Services Ltd is regulated by the Financial Supervisory Authority of Finland as an Authorised Payment Institution. The current account issued by Holvi is a payment account and the funds held on the account are managed as segregated customer funds. Their account has a EU IBAN that complies with Estonian business regulations and is specially tailored to the needs of Estonian companies run by e-residents.
Crucially, you can apply entirely online from anywhere on Earth.
Pete Boraso of Moonrise was the first e-resident to open a Holvi account
The e-Residency business account from Holvi has already been tested by a small number of e-residents during a private trial and the feedback has been positive. Thank you to everyone who tested it (and kept it secret!) and huge congratulations to Pete Boraso from Italy who runs Moonrise — he made location-independent history as the first e-resident to remotely open an account.
Onboarding of more e-residents from around the world will soon begin. Almost everyone can now apply with the exception of very few countries — most notably the US, but Holvi is working on including US e-residents in future.
We believe this partnership with Holvi significantly enhances the value of e-Residency because the needs of our growing community of e-residents are a perfect match with the services that they provide. As our community of e-residents grows, so too does the entrepreneurial ecosystem around e-Residency.
Now a complete EU business with banking can be established online from anywhere and we believe a new era for location-independent entrepreneurs has begun.
I want to say a huge thank you to all of our existing e-residents, especially those that have already travelled to Estonia.
This new digital nation belongs to all of you and by helping it grow you are empowering more people around the world to benefit from location-independent entrepreneurship. Just recently for example, we launched a new initiative with the UN called eTrade For All, which is already helping aspiring entrepreneurs in the developing world participate in the global growth of e-commerce.
We’re really excited to see what new business will next emerge through e-Residency.