7 unicorns founded by Estonians and / or in Estonia have taken the country to Europe’s (and probably the world’s – depending on methodology for counting) top in number of unicorns per capita.
Just last month, we saw the birth of two new Unicorn companies, that are co-founded by Estonians – ID.me and Zego. With fresh new success stories, it led us to create a definition of an Estonian unicorn company going forward. Together with Estonian Founders Society and Invest in Estonia, we came up with the following definition:
Estonian-founded unicorn is a company:
- whose goal is to develop and launch an innovative and repeatable business model with great global growth potential;
- that has a valuation of at least $1B confirmed by a major international news outlet.
And meets at least one of the following conditions:
- at least one of whose founders at the time of founding the startup was an Estonian citizen;
- the company is or has been headquartered in Estonia;
- the company has or has had a significant part of its R&D operations in Estonia.
In total there are 7 unicorns founded by Estonians and/or based in Estonia. ‘’Although, Zego or ID.me don’t have physical offices in Estonia, their co-founders are Estonian, with their roots in our startup community. While considering our small population, it is important to notice our globally successful founders and the impact they have on our startup ecosystem,’’ comments Eve Peeterson, the Head of Startup Estonia.
Co-founder of Bolt and President of the Estonian Founders Society, Martin Villig sees the seven Estonian unicorns as a mark of rapid development of our startup ecosystem and gives credit to the entrepreneurs, employees, the politicians who have shaped the economic space and investors who have taken chances. ‘’Unicorn is a symbolic landmark in the winding journey of building a technology company. In my experience, I can say that the journey is tricky, but the positive examples are inspiring more and more entrepreneurs to think globally and solve important problems,’’ Villig adds.
- Skype.com – founded in 2003, unicorn in 2005.
- Playtech.com -founded in 1999, unicorn in 2007.
- Wise.com – founded in 2010, unicorn in 2015.
- Bolt – founded in 2013, unicorn in 2018.
- Pipedrive.com – founded in 2010, unicorn in 2020.
- Zego.com – founded in 2016, unicorn in 2021.
- ID.me – founded in 2010, unicorn in 2021.
There are 1126 startups currently operating in Estonia according to the Estonian Startup Database. In 2020, startups generated 782M EUR in turnover in Estonia, which is 43% more than the year before. Estonian startups employed 6072 people locally at the end of 2020 and startups paid 97M EUR in employment taxes in 2020, which is 24% than the year before.
Cover photo by: Kristi Sits
Animation by: Invest in Estonia