e-Residency program celebrated last December its 3rd birthday. As a governmental startup, they are always coming up with new ideas on how to ease the access to e-services for entrepreneurs and digital nomads all around the world. We had a chance to meet Adam Rang, Chief Evangelist of the team, to keep us posted with the latest news and developments.
What are the main results achieved by the e-Residency program in the first semester of 2018?
We like to think of ourselves as a government startup and, like a good startup, e-Residency is growing at an exponential rate. In the first quarter of 2018 we had approximately 7,000 applications for e-Residency and about 700 new companies established by e-residents. Actually, we are on a course this year to have more applications and more companies established through e-Residency than in the entire first 3 years of the program.
What are you doing in order to help e-residents to access the banking services more efficiently?
Banks across Europe are under pressure at the moment to lower their risks and in some cases, this had made it more difficult for non-residents to open a traditional bank account at an Estonian bank. If anyone wants to open a bank account in Estonia we always recommend using an established e-Residency business services provider. These companies have good partnerships with the banks and would tell you in advance if you would be eligible to open an account.
However, e-residents have a wide variety of options beyond traditional banks in Estonia. There are the traditional banks in Estonia, bank services offered by the fintech industry and bank accounts from foreign countries. The key for us is to ensure that there are as many options as possible, so we are trying to improve all these options together. The Estonian government is working with the Estonian banks to figure out how we can provide greater access to banking without raising their risks; we are also working with fintech companies to understand how they can integrate their services with our business environment and e-Residency. That could mean integrating our digital id card log-in or ensuring their services are compatible with our business environment. For example, when you register share capital you have to provide a document in Estonian that is digitally signed. There is a lot of fintech banking companies, but not many of them can provide you with a digitally signed document. That is why we have to constantly talk with these companies about what they need to do to serve e-residents.
What’s happening with the Estcoin?
Estcoin is just an idea. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication is conducting an analysis of future technologies that could benefit Estonia. One of them is the community Estcoin token. The Estcoin token would work within the community platform. The analysis would look at: Would it benefit Estonia? Would it benefit e-residents? Would it actually work? But I have to emphasize that Estcoin is just an idea. It is never going to replace the Euro, it is never going to be a national cryptocurrency, however, it could work within the e-residency community platform. For the community platform itself though, that is no longer just an idea. It is already happening: it is under development right now and it is going to be ready by summer 2018. We are going to launch it in beta mode because we will constantly develop it based on feedback from e-residents. Right now we are talking to e-residents about what kind of features they need in order to learn more how to use e-Residency and to grow their companies.
You have previously mentioned the launch of e-residency community platform. What’s it all about?
What is interesting about e-Estonia is that the technology itself is not necessarily always cutting-edge or the most advanced in the world. The important point is how we use the technology. If we can use the online community network to encourage e-residents to connect and do more business with each other, then I think it is going to have an interesting impact on the growth of the e-Residency population around the world and what kind of value they can get from the program. Within the community platform, we are going to make it very easy to be able to see as wide a range of services available as possible but also to rate them, and leave feedback for other e-residents about what worked for them or what didn’t work. Take banking for example. It would be fantastic to have as many options as possible for banking listed on the platform and e-residents giving their own feedback on their experience. So you might be able to find someone in your own country or in your own industry who has found a particular banking solution which works well for them. You’ll have as much choice as possible. You are not reliant just on Estonian banks, you are not reliant on fintech industry, you can see which option suits you best.