Estonian startups conquering the world

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Estonian startups have not been resting on their laurels – in a short time, three companies have expanded their worldwide operations.

From a taxi-app to building Europe’s largest technology company

Estonian startups have not been resting on their laurels – in a short time, three companies have expanded their worldwide operations.

Taxify, the taxi-hailing startup, announced a strategic partnership with Didi Chuxing, a Beijing-based ride-sharing company, that currently offers mobility services to over 400 million users in more than 400 cities in China. The Chinese giant acquired a minority stake of 13% in Taxify.

This announcement stood out because, so far, Estonian startups have mostly partnered with their US or UK-based counterparts.

Before Didi Chuxing’s investment, Taxify had already expanded to almost 20 countries in Europe, Western Asia and Africa and received USD2.17 million in seed funding. According to Martin Villig, a co-founder of the Tallinn-based enterprise, Taxify had grown so big that the startup “became noticeable on the global radar” and the Chinese company contacted them, rather than vice versa.

Didi Chuxing wasn’t the only potential suitor. “We talked to a dozen or so different investors with some of them in more detail and approximately five of them in depth. Didi stood out for its very strong knowledge about the ride-sharing industry, its ultra-dynamic operation and sound financial conditions. That is how the cooperation was born,” Villig explained.

Villig said Didi Chuxing’s strategy was to finance the best local platform in each region and the expectation for Taxify is to become the market leader in Europe and Africa. “This is a very bold expectation and demands a lot of hard work and wise operation from us. Our ambition is to build Europe’s largest technology company,” Villig stated.

Making robots for Walmart

Then there is Cleveron, a Viljandi-based tech startup, which develops technology for automated parcel delivery and is increasingly gaining credibility in bigger markets. The company is now making its way into the US market with the PackRobot, a 16-foot tall, eight-foot wide tower that can store several items and pop out the item you ordered online in less than a minute.

Starting in late 2016, the world’s biggest supermarket chain, Walmart, introduced the PackRobot in five stores for a testing period to try to make its online ordering process more convenient for customers. Even though the United States tends to be slow to adopt new technology, it has apparently received Cleveron’s product well. Walmart has expanded the number of operating pickup towers to 20, with plans to expand to 100 by the end of 2017, according to Indrek Oolup, the co-founder and account executive of Cleveron.

Based on the company’s success with Walmart and other international retailers, Oolup argued that global expansion is possible from Estonia. “Estonia is the best possible, let’s say, testing ground. I think we are one of the most digitalized nations in the world. This gives us the opportunity to develop things faster, to prove things faster, that this really works in this modern digital society,” he said.

Developing an e-commerce solution for 100 million users

The Tallinn-based multinational strategic change and technology company, Nortal, is already a long-established player – set up by three students in 2000, the company grew into a respectable authority in e-government strategy and solutions, planning and implementing a significant part of Estonia’s digital solutions in e-governance. Now, its global ambitions are more substantial than ever.

In May, the company opened an office in Seattle, WA, after securing a cooperation project with one of the three leading mobile phone operators in the United States. Nortal will develop an e-commerce solution that will be used by almost 100 million users by the still unnamed company.

In Botswana, Nortal is building a new structure for the country’s taxation authority that will replace the existing tax system entirely. In Oman, the firm is creating and implementing a Value Added Tax (VAT) administration solution for the country. Nortal is also helping Dubai’s government become fully digital by 2021.

With over 400 active startups in Estonia, it is just a matter of time when another global conqueror pops up.


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