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Estonia’s tech ecosystem: faster, more cohesive, and better than Silicon Valley

The country’s uniquely high concentration of skilled professionals is what sets Estonia apart, creating a breeding ground for innovation in HealthTech and beyond, says Certific co-founder Dr Jack Kreindler.

Dr Jack Kreindler is a physician, medical technologist and researcher, and co-founder of British-Estonian tech startup Certific, which aims to create a new normal in digital medicine. Launched in 2021 by Kreindler and two Estonian co-founders, Certific is decentralising healthcare through technology that gives people more power over their own medical care.

“Certific is focusing on something very simple — making everyone a certified, quality self-carer without travel, appointments, and all the things that burden the healthcare system,” says Dr Jack. “COVID showed that we simply don’t have enough healthcare professionals or infrastructure. We need to decentralise it and put power into patients’ hands.”

A match made in heaven

Today, Certific does just that through a testing process that lets anyone take a medically certified test in the comfort of their own home. With their video-recorded testing procedure, Certific verifies the user’s identity, test device, sampling accuracy, and test result.

The decision to tackle certified COVID testing came from three people’s desire to help the economy get back on its feet through the pandemic. Through a mutual connection, Dr Jack had met and promptly befriended Estonia’s Taavet Hinrikus, co-founder of Wise—famed disruptor of the financial services industry. Shortly after the Pandemic began, they were joined by Liis Narusk, another Estonian, whose background in banking and innovation management rounded out the founders’ circle perfectly. “Taavet’s history is getting people to do regulated things for themselves,” Dr Jack says. “I’ve been getting patients to do things for themselves, remotely, for 25 years. Liis has spent her entire career innovating on archaic industries. It was a match made in heaven.”

Making healthcare more scalable

Together, they set out to do something for the planet. “We wanted to get people back to work safely, back to doing things, be it festivals or visiting grandparents,” says Dr Jack. That required offering relief to an overburdened and understaffed medical system. According to Dr Jack, the world of healthcare today is rife with repetitive manual tasks taking up time that could be spent much more productively and efficiently on both sides—the patient and the clinician. “If you can change that, you can make healthcare a heck of a lot more scalable,” he concludes.

And what better place to make something scalable than Estonia, the launchpad for as many as ten unicorn startups (and counting), including Hinrikus’ Wise. Dr Jack is certainly a fan of the innovation-prone environment. “Not just in healthtech, but tech in general, there’s a massive concentration of extremely keen, willing, able professionals in Estonia,” he says. “It’s such a tight network of great people. If you’re missing a skill set, you call up your friend who’s working in the office next door, because everyone knows each other. There are certainly some aspects of economics that make Estonia more favourable than Silicon Valley, but frankly, that’s not the reason to be here. It’s not because it’s cheaper. It’s because it’s faster, more cohesive — and better.”

The perfect testbed for innovation

The country, with its agility and ease of doing business, also acts as a perfect testbed for new technologies. Estonia, after all, is where the world’s first COVID passport was developed—powered by Certific’s certification technology.

While the founding of Certific was triggered by the onset of the pandemic, and much of the research focus has been on COVID testing, the company’s vision for the future of decentralised healthcare has extended much further since the start. “We never built Certific to be just a COVID thing,” Dr Jack says. “We always knew this was a breakthrough of people doing medical things for themselves.”

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