Estonia as a future accelerator
The Global Hack, kicked off by Estonians, is the Estonian way to handle the crisis by hacking it.
“There is no doubt that Estonian startup mindset is ready to change the world,” noted Raido Lember, Director of Estonian Investment Agency and the mentor of The Global Hack’s 7 teams – of whom 2 made it to the finals. “We, Estonians are focused on solutions, not problems. And that mindset is an advantage which is worth to invest in now and in the post-corona-crisis future,” Lember added.
The interest of doing business and investing in Estonia has increased in the time of coronavirus spread. “In recent weeks, Estonian companies have been created especially by e-residents living in the main crisis areas in Europe: in Italy, Spain, Germany and France,” Ott Vatter, the manager of e-Residency program told daily newspaper Postimees.
Interest in investing in Estonia has remained high and some of the investment projects in Invest Estonia’s portfolio in the fields of IT and renewable energy have even accelerated. Estonian business environment is very promising for the future of business: Estonia is one of the most digitally-enabled nations in the world, fast and flexible, tech-savvy and well-skilled.
According to Forbes, it all starter on March 12th, when the Minister of Foreign Trade and IT Kaimar Karu made a call to action: “Use this crisis to emerge stronger.”
And a day later, an online hackathon Hack the Crisis took place to help us emerge from the crisis stronger than ever. The speed of action and involvement of public, private and voluntary sector has been impressive. The hackathon’s idea, suggested by Estonian startup community, was implemented immediately. The first online hackathon involved 1,300 people from more than 20 countries.
“Thirty days ago, when we launched our local Hack the Crisis event in Estonia, we honestly didn’t know we were going global,” said event co-founder Kai Isand. “But what we’ve achieved in the past month is simply beyond expectation, it feels almost surreal.”
8 of the first ideas developed, are already in the market or at least having a working protoype. Here are some of them: Suve: an automated chatbot, to give state-approved answers people’s questions related to the crisis. Share Force One: a workforce sharing platform that connects B2B sides for temporary workforce exchange. Vaab: a medical volunteer management database. Zelos: an app that connects people at risk with volunteers via call centre
The Global Hack
According to former President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves, spokesperson for the Global Hack, the hackathon was the largest ever organized. 12,000+ participants from 98 countries came together over a 48hr period to develop practical solutions to tackle COVID-19 head-on.
“The crisis is far from over and the fight is real, but the future is now,” Ilves said. “We can battle the problems of the immediate crisis with solutions that also increase our longer-term resilience. We should consider how we support our changing relationships, a new economy, poor healthcare, and strengthening the arts. We must also develop effective solutions to respond to future pandemics and other crises so we never have to hide again.”
The event’s co-founder Calum Cameron is on a mission to activate a critical part of the humanity. “This crisis has sparked a genuine global movement that nobody owns and everyone can participate in,” he said. ”People shut-in across the world are collaborating with tools from the startup world at massive scale. Tools like rapid experimentation by prototyping ideas. They are finding they can solve the wicked real-world problems normally left to governments. They are discovering they are connected, and their ideas have no borders.”
Solutions for the future
The winner of the Global Hack was SunCrafter, a disinfection station that provides a holistic solution for a hygiene method as a global standard. The second place went to Act On Crisis for a solution that secures emotional support that fits your cultural background. The third place went to Material Mapper for a solution that keeps construction waste out of landfills.
There were participants from different parts of the world. From Estonia, for example, Nosi.ee was one of the The Global Hack’s TOP 10 finalists. Nosi.ee is an online ordering software platform for restaurants that simplifies the entire food ordering and management process for restaurants and helps to support the industry in crisis. Only a week later, more than 60 restaurants in Estonia had already joined the Nosi.ee platform, including the most popular ones.
The co-founder of Nosi.ee emphasized that the high place and recognition achieved at the hack is a clear indication that the solution could also work in foreign markets. “Right now, our focus is on the Estonian market, so that the whole system works well here and that both restaurants and customers are satisfied with the platform and service. Then we will look at how to move outside Estonia and help restaurants in further countries to continue operating,” said co-founder Ivar Jaanus.
The idea of Nosi.ee to use Estonia as test-bed before going global is very common with both Estonian and foreign businesses. A lot of global companies are already used to using Estonia’s progressive tech-ecosystem and its forward-thinking citizens to test new solutions.