Estonian Startups Need Foreign Talent

Sander Nõmmik
Author Sander Nõmmik

According to Startup Compass’s latest report, Estonia is punching above its weight for a country of just 1 million, bringing up the rear behind Latvia and Lithuania in gilding the Baltic countries in silicon, Geektime writes.

Home to technological patriarch Skype and now making headlines thanks to fintech prodigy TransferWise (and its $58 million Series C last year led by Andresseen Horowitz), Estonia is fairly far advanced for the startup world, with somewhere between 500 and 700 startups despite its small population.

Still, it could be doing more. As with other small markets, they need to think abroad quickly. Sixty percent of their customers are foreign. Their top markets are the United States and United Kingdom, but neighboring tech hub Finland also figures into Estonians’ export strategy.

The local ecosystem is worth between $1.2 and $1.45 billion, about a tenth the average in Europe. Founders range younger (32 years) than other European states, but lag slightly behind their European bros in female founders (16% vs. 17% in Europe generally). But 26% of all startup employees are female, besting Europe (22%) and left-coast tech mecca Silicon Valley (21%).

Startup Compass’ most critical recommendation, however, is to import more talent. Fully 24% of tech workers are not native Estonians, but the report posits this just isn’t enough considering the limited human resources Estonia has to offer.

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