How to launch an Estonian startup from the Canadian mountains

By Sharedtrip

My love story with Estonia started with a personal love story. While studying in the USA I met a girl who couldn’t stop talking about this remote, beautiful, small and peaceful country with a very difficult language and a very advanced government IT system. So I had no other choice than visit this fairy tale country and see it myself.

There is a story about the Tartu ghost — a mysterious being that stoles your heart and keeps it in Tartu, but I think that Estonia is full of those ghosts. You never know where you would meet one — on the full of berries Valgesoo marshes, near a dreamy lighthouse on Saaremaa, or running through old streets of Tartu.

This could be pretty much the story — yet another person liked yet another country.

If not for the e-Residency.

Apparently, Estonians are very fond of everything that starts with an ‘e’ letter, that’s why when they decided to expand their digital services to the world they had to name it e-Residency :)

In a nutshell, e-Residency is government-issued digital ID powered by the Republic of Estonia that allows you to start and run a European company from anywhere in the world.

I first heard about the new Estonian “government startup” a month before the official launch in October 2014 and started closely following its progress afterwards. As the service was expanding both in features and in the availability for residents of different countries I finally decided to apply myself.

At that time in November 2016 I just moved to Vancouver, Canada, to work at Microsoft and an idea of having a completely digital identity, that wouldn’t tie me physically to a certain country and place was very appealing to me. I applied to become an e-resident just out of curiosity, as a fan of Estonia and a technology early adopter (that year the program just passed 10.000 e-residents mark). Just a month later my e-Residency was granted, the card was sent to Canada and a bit later I received it from the hands of the Consul of Estonia in Canada.

That year I connected not only to the digital e-Estonian nation, but also found a great Estonian community in Vancouver. I took a short Estonian language course there — see oli väga naljakas. ;) Seeing such a small country being that open to the world was quite inspiring and I was determined to put my e-Residency at work.

Later in 2017 I took a short vacation trip to Estonia to run Tartu City Marathon (42.2 km) there, where, by the way, I set my personal best record of 3 hours and 3 minutes. Yes, you heard it right, I flew all the way from Canada to Estonia just for one week vacation.

But that trip also turned into a life-changing for me. My friend and the future co-founder pitched me the idea of Sharedtrip — to help people around the world explore more and do things they haven’t done before through group activities. Hands were shaken, fireworks launched, designs sketched and the first lines of code committed.

But you’re not a real company until incorporated a legal entity. And where should you register one when both of the founders live 5000 miles apart? At that time I was a temporary resident in Canada and my co-founder a temporary resident in Estonia and both of those could have changed in the future. We decided to combine my digital residency with co-founder’s physical one and incorporate our company in Estonia — Sharedtrip OÜ was registered in Tartu — how cool is that?

Registering the company in Estonia over the Internet and signing all the documents using the digital ID cards took only half an hour (32 minutes, to be precise). This is probably less than one would spend standing in the queue for registering a company in most of other countries, and here everything was digital, remote and completely secure. In our case we had a physical address in Estonia and as a one of the founders was living there, getting a bank account was easier for us than for a complete digital residents. The mailing address though could be obtained through one of the service providers, and physical presence for banking could be solved with fintech companies.

E-residency gave me an access to the world’s most advanced digital government and allowed me to run business from anywhere on the planet.

The ease of use, the security and the rate with which new features are added to the e-Residency program makes it one of the most exciting government tech innovations.

I remember this happy feeling when Startup Estonia featured Sharedtrip as a Startup of the Week and called us #EstonianMafia. Estonian tech community is very vibrant and very well known across the globe with new startups launching at fascinating rate!

Now I want to experience this community in real life — to be in Estonia among Estonian founders as a co-founder of an Estonian startup. Sharedtrip has applied to both demo and pitch track at Latitude 59 — the leading startup and tech conference in Europe. If it happens that we get chosen, I’d like to be there to support my co-founder and enjoy the first conference as an entrepreneur (doesn’t happen every day!).

It would be great to meet there other founders that are e-residents and hear their stories of how this program helped them. And I’m personally long overdue on my trip to Estonia as I am running out of kama and I am quite an addict.

My story is not the standard success story of an e-resident getting a huge growth in business by moving her company to Europe, but rather a story of one (yet!) small startup, Sharedtrip, finding a perfect fit in services from another one — e-Estonia. After living in Russia, United States and Canada, we cannot imagine a better service that could allow us to bring our first startup to live that fast. Thus, were are happy to recommend it to other startups. Some of our friends already followed our example, applied for e-Residency and used it to expand presence of their already successful businesses to the European market.

If you are still deciding on applying for the Estonian e-Residency I strongly encourage you to do so — as my story shows, you never know when you’ll need one :) To know more about the program visit the website or follow e-Residency Medium blog.

And what is your e-Residency story?