Estonia – the gateway to Europe
“If you look at Estonia, look at Europe, then you can see the scale: together with the rest of the EU and the UK, we make half a billion people,” Minister Andres Sutt told at his reception in honor of the opening of Expo 2020 Estonian Pavilion in Dubai encouraging companies to use Estonia as a bridgehead to enter Europe.
Entering Europe through Estonia has been made easy for foreign businesses. It takes only 3 hours to start a company in Estonia fully online and from almost anywhere in the world. 98% of companies are established online in Estonia, and its e-Residency program offers the freedom to easily start and run location-independent businesses online.
Ahmad Belhoul, UAE’s Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and SME’s, noted in his speech at the UAE-Estonia Business Forum held on September 13, 2022 in Dubai, that the UAE and Estonia have a lot of commonalities such as sharing the digital vision: “Our countries do believe that digital economy is the way forward.”
Estonia – the unicorn factory
As Estonia has the most unicorns per capita in Europe, and the UAE has produced the top unicorns of the region, Belhoul highlighted that both, Estonia and the UAE, are the leading hubs for startups in their area.
Estonians have adapted an attitude to think globally from day one. And that is what makes Estonian startups unique and successful in the world. Estonia has 7 unicorns founded by Estonians or in Estonia: Skype in 2005, Playtech in 2007, Wise in 2015, Bolt in 2018, Pipedrive in 2020, Zego and ID.me in 2021. According to investor and entrepreneur Kristjan Lepik, during the last 10 years, startup investments in Estonia have increased 100 times.
Estonia’s startup sector continues to grow rapidly. According to the Estonian Founders Society, by 2030, 30% of Estonian GDP will come from tech sector export.
The bluEST pavilion at Expo 2020
Digital, smart and sustainable are the three topic keywords of the Estonia’s Pavilion that was opened by Minister Sutt on September 12, 2021. Estonia’s Pavilion is the bluEST building of the Expo 2020, located in the heart of the Expo area, presenting the story of the digital nation through the real-life stories of 40+ Estonian companies.
The “e” in the front of our house has many meanings: it stands for Estonia, Europe, euro, entrepreneurship, and environment, Minister Sutt noted.
“We look as well for the opportunity for entrepreneurs and business people to visit the Estonian Pavilion, understand the value proposition and reach Estonia as a gateway to Europe,” Ahmad Belhoul said.
“We have to benefit from Estonia’s achievement and learn from it,” Omar Shehadeh, Chief International Participant Officer at Expo 2020 Dubai stated. “We’re not competing, we’re complimenting and cooperating – and that’s the spirit of Expo,” Shehadeh added.
“The UAE has done a tremendous effort to prepare the World Exhibition Expo 2020 in Dubai. Estonia is ready to present many great initiatives, services and products in its Pavilion,” said Marek Helm, General Manager of Nortal, the IT company that is one of the main architects of building Estonian e-society. Nortal is a world-class strategic consulting, software engineering, data and design development company, aimed to create meaningful impact for its customers and shape the future together. “We have been constantly working with several governments in GCC region and worldwide in uplifting them and bridging the gap between world-class innovative solutions to resolve complex problems,” Helm added.
“Admirals team is eagerly awaiting the Expo 2020 kick off. We are convinced that Dubai will bring a multitude of opportunities and new partnerships for the future,” said Denis Yakovlev, MENA Regional Manager at Admirals, an Estonian investment firm presented at Estonia’s Pavilion.
“For us, Expo 2020 is a gateway to the Arabian market,” said Urmas Hiie, CEO of ETS Nord, the Estonian company that presents its innovative kitchen ventilation solutions at Estonia’s Pavillion restaurant Taste Estonia. “In addition to the image of the digital state, the restaurant Taste Estonia also brings out our Nordic food culture and raw materials from pure nature,” hopes Hiie.
The establishing of the Estonia-UAE Business Council
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the Federal Chamber of Commerce of UAE and Enterprise Estonia stipulates that the joint Business Council will be established to take a big step forward in growing mutually beneficial trade and business opportunities between the UAE and Estonia.
Estonian companies accompanying Minister Sutt took the opportunities to start or continue building business relations with the UAE.
“As the UAE is producing superfast cars and Estonia is producing innovative self-driving vehicles, it offers possibilities to connect the strengths of the two countries,” noted Taavi Rõivas, Chairman at Auve Tech and former Prime Minister of Estonia after meeting with WMotors, the leading car manufacturer of the UAE.
“We have agreed to jointly embark on the mission of making the first International Arabian Gulf Security Conference a global success story together with the The American University in the Emirates,” said Lehari Kaustel, co-founder at Global Virtual Solutions, Estonian company that has developed a novel solution for organising virtual and hybrid events that are highly demanded in the pandemic situation.
Joonas Vänto, Invest Estonia’s Deputy Director of Global Business Development and a member of the Estonian business delegation to the UAE, said: “In Estonia, you don’t have to have a luxury car, a yacht or millions in the bank to be respected. You must have a unicorn, or at least a startup which will grow to an internationally successful company. And that is what drives us here. As Estonians are the masters of building tech unicorns, it makes Estonia attractive place to invest in.”
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