The Head of Estonian Investment Agency, Kaspar Kork, thanked the United Nations in his speech held at the online awards ceremony, saying that it is a great honor to receive such an award during times as demanding as the COVID-19 crisis.
“Estonian Investment Agency has always aimed to be ahead of time and other investment promotion agencies,” he later added. “We are grateful for this international recognition, it shows that we really are the course setter here. Estonian Investment Agency has been extremely innovative and proactive even during the COVID-19 crisis. We adapted [to the new situation] quickly and were able to offer a very good level of service to investors and potential investors in order to attract the investments here. In 2020, we have landed ca 160M euros investments in Estonia, through which almost 800 high value-adding jobs have been created.”
Switching to online business visits and events
As the COVID-19 crisis started, Investment Agency switched its operations to a fully digital mode in just a matter of few days, implementing solutions such as online business lunches, virtual business visits to Estonia and strengthening the role of service robots in enquiry handling.
Since March, Invest Estonia has been using a specialised web solution to enable potential investors to organise business visits to Estonia without the investing companies’ team members being here physically. “We have created a really flexible solution for providing dedicated information pages for the virtual visits, where we add background information about possible partners in Estonia, the speakers featured in video calls and Estonia’s business environment, that are of great help during the virtual visits,” Marika Goldman, Events and Delegations Project Manager at the Estonian Investment Agency commented in April. “We also provide dedicated live technical support to all the participants via a special support solution, so that the visits would go as planned from the technical side.”
As Invest Estonia’s events were quickly moved online, events such as Online Startup Demo Day featured the strongest of Estonia’s companies in search of investment and attracted tens of thousands of online visitors – most probably several times the capacity offline ones would have facilitated. In case of some events, such as Estonia’s biggest tech conference Latitude59, an online-offline hybrid format was applied in investment attraction, embedding the best qualities that online and offline can offer. For the latter, Invest Estonia received the Content Marketing Award in November 2020.
Digital as a part of the agency’s strategy
Becoming more and more digital – and doing so in a way that benefits Estonia’s investors – has been the agency’s strategy for a few years already, the COVID-19 situation being just a small accelerator for some changes. „The key to Estonia’s quick reaction has been a strategic and in many aspects, research-based, approach towards the use of tech,“ said Andero Kaha, the Digital Services Development Manager at the Estonian Investment Agency. „This is combined with cooperation between different parties, willing to fight side-by-side to keep the country safe and the economy running.“
For example, for a long time already, the Estonian Investment Agency has been doing its best to stay ahead of the game by using and creating different digital marketing tools that, though, working behind the scenes, provide a basis for promoting online activities. “We had a starting-advantige compared to other IPAs, as we started with strategic digital marketing long before the crisis broke out,” said Ave Kütt, responsible for Invest Estonia’s digital marketing. “By the time the crisis started, we had already done our tests and made our mistakes – and we could focus on what is really important.”
Automating to gain an advantage
The United Nations is not the first organization to value the efforts of Invest Estonia in dealing with the COVID-19 situation. For example, this spring, City Nation Place took a look at possible scenarios and solutions for investment promotion agencies after the COVID-19 situation and concluded that Estonia could be seen as an example for digital innovation in FDI, with multiple innovative solutions already working.
Already before the crisis, Invest Estonia created an e-consulting service and automated its enquiry handling process. Potential investors are asked a series of questions and provided with a report that is tailored to their needs. As a result of this, around 85% of enquiries received by Invest Estonia are dealt with automatically – by the enquiry handling robot Eia. This, however, does not mean a lack of human connection in the processes – every business sending us an enquiry is provided with a personal human advisor who will take care of the questions that Eia cannot handle herself, throughout the whole investment process.
In autumn 2020, the United Nations evaluated 180 investment promotion agencies worldwide, preselected 35 of them, shortlisted 10 and finally announced three winners of the Investment Promotion Award.
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