Not only does Tallinn boast the world’s most mature and sophisticated and e-government system, it is also home to an emerging ecosystem of startups aiming to transform key public services.
For almost two decades, Estonia has been at the forefront of public sector digital transformation, implementing a series of breakthrough government technology initiatives: from digital identity in 2002, to i-Voting in 2005, to e-Health in 2008. Its most recent major government innovation was the implementation of a global e-residency system in 2014. Under this initiative, non-Estonian citizens from around the world can register as ‘e-citizens’, allowing them to start Estonian bank accounts or businesses from anywhere in the world. The country currently has over 36,000 e-residents, who have set up more than 3,500 companies since 2014.
With such an impressive track record of centrally-driven innovation, it is hardly surprising that the European Commission’s 2017 eGovernment Benchmark report listed Estonia in the top five nations across almost all categories for assessing digital public service design and delivery.
At the centre of this innovation whirlpool is the nation’s capital Tallinn, a veritable hotbed for ‘constructive-disruptive’ tech. Alumni from the Tallinn startup ecosystem include Skype, Transferwise, and Pipedrive, and in the last year alone, Estonian startups collectively raised over €270m in growth capital.
Estonia’s startup growth has been supported by a small but engaged local VC funding network (notably, Ambient Sound Investments and Karma Ventures), multiple specialist accelerator programmes (including Startup Wise Guys and Buildit), as well as dedicated government investment initiatives. Major government startup support programmes include SmartCap (managing €40m worth of startup assets) and Startup Estonia, which aims to develop Estonia’s ecosystem through training and networking campaigns – this community of mutual support and funding is often referred to as Estonia’s ‘Startup Mafia’. The results of these initiatives have been impressive: 66% of Estonian startup founders expressed satisfaction towards government support for startups (with the global average for this metric recorded at around 25%).
In the GovTech space, we are beginning to see Estonia’s e-government expertise and strong startup ecosystem overlap, with a burgeoning number of startups now providing solutions for the Estonian government and for public services across Europe.
Indeed, this has been a key aim of the city’s digital vision. As Government CIO Siim Sikkut puts it:
‘The Estonian government is a playground: when companies have a cool product idea, they can approach government to test it out in the public sector’.
Top 10 GovTech Startups
Skeleton Technologies has developed an innovative energy storage solution, with applications in transportation, maritime, renewable energy, power grids, and aerospace.
Sympower enables better communication between energy assets and the electricity system, helping to reduce emissions and speed up the transition to a low-carbon future.
Lingvist is an AI & big data-powered language learning app that makes learning a language up to 10x faster by providing personalised content and lessons.
Ridango is a mobile ticketing and real-time passenger information solution for public transport operators.
Cora Health is a mobile health app that allows users to monitor and improve heart health and blood pressure levels, and encourage them to forming heart-healthy habits.
DreamApply is a student admission platform that helps educational institutions manage applications and produce detailed, real-time reports.
Flydog Marine produces customisable and autonomous sea buoys and submersed profiles, which gather marine data for environmental monitoring and flood-risk assessments.
TitanGrid discovers and displays your online presence and information trails and protects you against cyber criminals aiming to abuse your data.
Pere24 is an online marketplace app that connects parents with homecare providers, babysitters, and school tutors.
Veriff develops secure web and mobile identity verification solutions for citizens to access digital public services.
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