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Estonia’s top 10 business news from 2022: unicorns 🦄, robots 🤖 & the world’s best tax system

2022 was a year of major foreign investments in Estonia’s IT, logistics and industry, as well as the country’s booming startup sector. These are some of the most popular stories of the year, read by the nearly 2 million readers on the Invest Estonia website.

1. The 🦄 country: Estonia leads Europe in startups, unicorns and investments per capita

Estonia is continuously leading Europe in terms of startups, unicorns and investments per capita. “Estonia once again tops the charts,” stated Atomico’s State of European Tech report 2022, published in December.

Eve Peeterson, the head of Startup Estonia, explained in Life in Estonia magazine that despite Estonia’s relatively small population of approximately 1.3 million people, the country is big on advanced digital capability and creating an entrepreneurial-friendly environment. In fact, Estonia is the country of digital signatures and paperless communication with 99% of government services available from the comfort of your home.

2. No surprise: Estonia still has the world’s best tax system

For the ninth year in a row, Estonia has the best tax code in the OECD, according to the Tax Competitiveness Index 2022, published in autumn 2022. Estonia’s transparent and simple tax system attracts investments with no corporate income tax on reinvested and retained profits, no capital tax, no property transfer taxes.

3. AI in focus: In Estonia, artificial intelligence is essential national infrastructure

In late December, Wired wrote that in countries like Estonia, AI is now essential national infrastructure. As AI continues to develop and evolve, Estonia is leading the way in AI governmental implementation and creating a model for other countries to follow, its government virtual assistant Bürokratt being one of the success models.

Together with three other AI initiatives from Estonia, including the Estonian Investment Agency’s own smart automation program, Bürokratt was listed in UNESCO’s global list of top 100 AI projects solving problems related to the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. As Prime Minister Kaja Kallas put it in an interview for the Life in Estonia Magazine: AI is the next big thing for Estonia.

4. 🤖 taking over: CLEVON 1 started delivering goods to private customers

In summer 2022, the delivery robot CLEVON 1 delivered its first package in the South Estonian city of Viljandi. During the test, the robot was used for up to medium-sized home electronics, the weight of which does not exceed 100 kg – for example, vacuum cleaners, microwave ovens and the like. The robot can travel up to 100 kilometres on a single charge and by the end of 2022, it could already be seen daily in Tallinn‘s Ülemiste City business district.

5. Industry giants investing in Estonia: companies like Marubeni look to Estonia for innovative partners in GreenTech

Having partnered with Estonian-founded Skeleton Technologies in 2021, Japanese trading and investment giant Marubeni stopped for a chat with us at the Latitude59 tech conference to talk about promising Estonian tech. While Marubeni, one of Japan’s largest sōgō shōsha (general trading companies), is sector-agnostic and invests in an extremely broad range of businesses and technologies, they came to Estonia’s Latitude59 with a somewhat narrower focus: finding innovative business models and technologies in greentech, decarbonization, Web3, and blockchain.

According to Omika Takeshi, Business Development Manager at Marubeni, one of the secret ingredients behind smooth cooperation for Marubeni and their Estonian partners is the communication style. “Estonian companies are easy to work with. They are very straightforward and honest. Startups sometimes make themselves look bigger than they are, but that is not the case with Estonian companies. They keep to their commitments and do what they say they will. It’s a good match for Japanese business culture.”

6. Message from the Prime Minister: From cybersecurity to clean energy production, there’s a vision for a better future for Estonia

The cover story of the Life in Estonia Magazine’s autumn issue focused on an extensive interview with Kaja Kallas, the Prime Minister of Estonia. Known as Europe’s new Iron Lady, she laid down the plan to shield the population and business from high energy prices and stressed the importance of European cooperation and integration. From cybersecurity to clean energy production, there’s a vision for a better future for Estonia, Kallas argued.

7. The world’s quickest founding: An Estonian startup was created from scratch in world record breaking 15 minutes at London Tech Week

In June 2022, the Republic of Estonia beat its own record for the time taken to set up a business virtually, demonstrating the ease by which entrepreneurs can benefit from the country’s pioneering e-Residency programme. Try to beat that: the new world record is just 15 minutes and 33 seconds …

8. Combining logistics and AI: Estonian customs clearance startup Eurora opened an R&D centre in Tartu, following a €37M investment round

Eurora, having raised €37M in spring, opened an artificial intelligence and machine learning innovation and research centre in Tartu in autumn 2022. The center helps logistics companies that are struggling with EU trading regulations.

“Processing large volumes of data is a core requirement in international trade,” Marko Lastik, the founder and Group CEO of Eurora, noted. “In order to efficiently automate cross-border e-commerce duties and tax declarations, the implementation of data science and machine learning is needed.”

9. With help from Estonian R&D: Transporeon (Sixfold) became a unicorn

Transporeon, a transport logistics platform operating a part of its R&D in Estonia, becoame a unicorn after the US technology giant Trimble acquired the company in a $1.98B (€1.88B) deal in December 2022. “Estonia is a powerful country. Not only we create unicorns, but Sixfold introduced totally new angle to us as a country and tech ecosystem,” said the President of the Estonian Founders Society, Kaidi Ruusalepp. “Estonia is the country that empowers unicorns. Our tech companies invent, design and create solutions that are valued by global players and more importantly — enable us to create unicorns in other countries. Sixfold is the first to kick off the new segment — empowering unicorns.”

10. Changing education from the perfect location: Mindvalley opened its European headquarters in Estonia

“Tallinn is a perfect location for Mindvalley – it’s right in the heart of a vibrant startup community eager to grow businesses as much as develop personally. The mindset here is something of value for sure,” says Vishen Lakhiani, the founder of Mindvalley. Mindvalley, the world’s top EdTech platform with 20 million followers and a turnover of $100M, is leading the European markets from its gorgeous new headquarters in Tallinn, Estonia since September 2022.

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