Skype has put the Estonian startup ecosystem on the map. Its founders – dubbed the Skype Mafia – have become active angel investors in the community, created angel groups, and gone on to found other companies. What made Skype’s success possible was a friendly national government that invested heavily in the nation’s digital infrastructure. The government has also been active on the investment side as well; the Estonian Development Fund maintains an investment arm, SmartCap, that manages early stage venture capital funds. Successful founders have gone on to become angel investors in the community, however this is not enough for the amount of startups that require angel funding, especially when compared to places such as the UK and Sweden. While Tallinn itself has plenty of technical talent, sales and marketing talent are hard to come by. At only 1.3 million people, the Estonian market is tiny, which means that startups scale with global ambitions in mind.
These businesses offer industry expertise and are a source of startup talent and potential customers. They help fuel the local startup community.
Up and coming startup
Up and coming startup
Up and coming startup
Up and coming startup
In addition to being the cofounder of the fastest growing taxi app in Eastern Europe, Martin is also the cofounder of Garage48. The organization's co-working space, the largest in Estonia, also hosts numerous hackathons and events. He is an evangelist for the Baltic and Estonian startup communities.
Linnar is a leading technologist who also served as co-founder for Pocopay. He is a visiting lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the University of Tartu, and has served as an advisor to the Estonian Prime Minister on ICT, innovation, R&D and civic society issues.
Heidi is the Managing Director for the Estonian Business Angels Network. She has served as a board member of the Estonian Development Fund's venture arm SmartCap, and has been involved in Estonian venture capital since 2008.
As head of Startup Estonia, a government-backed accelerator, Mari is responsible for all partnerships and a project to carry out the creation of two new early stage accelerator funds in Estonia. Previously, she was sectoral manager for Enterprise Estonia, established to promote business and regional policy in Estonia.
One of the original Skype developers, Priit founded Ambient Sound Investments to hold a minority stake in Skype. Previously, he had an integral role in the development of file sharing website Kazaa, and he continues to work at Skype as a core library developer.
Calum leads the charge at Startup Wise Guys. For nearly 20 years he has been connecting and translating between techies, businesses, and their customers as an architect, engineer and PM. He has consulted to conglomerates and scaled startups in the digital media, energy and financials sectors across the hemispheres.
Riivo Anton founded a management consulting business, CIVITTA, that focused on attracting R&D funding for Estonian companies. It now has 120 employees in 5 countries, and is the largest independent consulting company in the region.
Harry is the cofounder of Frank, a digital media agency that helps businesses launch cross-channel online advertising campaigns. Additionally, he is a board member at Elevaator Startup Labs, an organization that co-founds companies with bright entrepreneurs.
Peeter is the CEO and Managing Partner of BaltCap, a position he has held since 2005. He has worked in investment banking and private equity since 1994, and his past positions include being the founder and managing director of Talinvest, board member of the Baltic Post-Privatization Fund, and chairman of the supervisory board of the Tallinn Stock Exchange.
Kristjan is a Founding Partner at Karma Ventues. Previously, he was investment manager at Ambient Sound Investments, a finance specialist for SLProductions and LHV Corporate Finance. He is an mentor for the Seedcamp and Startup Wise Guys accelerators.
The national government creates The Tiger Leap Foundation, an organization tasked with increasing the quality of Estonia’s education system through use of information and communication technology. The organization’s early focus was on providing schools with the physical infrastructure and hardware necessary to utilize tech.1996
Enterprise Estonia promotes business and regional policy in Estonia and is one of the largest institutions within the national support system for entrepreneurship by providing financial assistance, counseling, cooperation opportunities, and training for entrepreneurs, research institutions, the public and non-profit sectors.2000
eBay acquires Skype for $2.6 billion. This creates boon for the ecosystem and led to the "Skype Mafia" - validation for the ecosystem, the creation of over 40 startups, and an increased flow of venture capital.September, 2005
Founded by a former Skype employee, Transferwise has raised $116 million in venture funding.October, 2007
Latitude59 is the flagship Estonian tech event. It has since grown into the largest regional tech event, attracting over 1500 attendees from all over the world.May, 2008
Garage48 is an early stage startup accelerator that provides hackathons to build new web and mobile services/prototypes in just 48 hours. Garage48 started in Estonia and now does events in over 10 countries in Eastern Europe and Africa.2010
Startup Wise Guys runs an intensive accelerator program that provides €30,000 in seed funding to help startups accelerate their business from idea to execution by giving them the chance to learn from experienced entrepreneurs from around the globe.February, 2012
EstBAN is an umbrella organization for business angels and business angel groups seeking investment opportunities in Estonia and the surrounding region with an aim to grow the quantity and quality of local seed stage investments.2012
Startup Estonia is a governmental initiative aimed at developing the Estonian startup ecosystem, educating startup founders and angel investors, and eliminating regulative issues and barriers that complicate the process of operating a startup, investing, or raising funding in Estonia.2014
Karma Ventures (karma.vc) is an early-stage venture capital firm, specialized in late seed and A round investments in promising tech startups. All three founding partners are former Skype engineers.February, 2016