Picture this. You’re sitting in a co-working space in downtown Bangkok, Face-timing a client back in Germany and your business is listed in Estonia. Yes, Estonia. The Baltic nation is the first in the world to offer companies e-Residency, the programme which allows non-residents to set up a company in the country.
Tallinn-based startup LeapIN is helping foreign entrepreneurs do just that and CEO, Erik Mell tells us exactly how.
Erik, Estonia has emerged as a super-smart economy in recent years? How did LeapIN get in the game?
Well, I came from a technology and software development background myself. Back in 2010, I ventured out as an entrepreneur and built a small consultancy company providing services to larger companies here in Estonia. It was in this role, acting as freelancer, that I really began to understand the plight of freelancers who have to take care of their own business while also looking after the administration. It was also around this time that e-residency emerged here in Estonia and I felt it was worth offering a solution worldwide.
So what was that solution? Tell us just what exactly you offer at LeapIN
So, there are many people out there working for large corporations who are thinking of becoming an entrepreneur, but are scared of taking that main step into entrepreneurship. We help to make that first step much easier. We essentially offer a complete platform of services to help to start and run a client’s micro-business in Estonia. We set up their business entity and required bank account. We take care of their accounting, tax and various compliance issues in Estonia. We know how simple freelancers’ needs are so we’ve put together a turnkey solution to make the process just as simple.
So what has the reaction been? Are many companies taking the leap into LeapIN and Estonia?
Right now we have clients from 48 countries across the globe, and counting. To give a few examples, we have a Brazilian entrepreneur who sells software to Asia and an Italian software architect who lives in Spain, but needs a home-base for his business. On the whole, our clients are a mix of professions but they’re typically single entrepreneurs who have an IT background. They tend to be more open to accept innovative ways and tools of getting things done!
Estonia has really nailed this E-residency niche, what puts you ahead of the competition?
Yes, Estonia is a pioneer. There are other countries who are thinking of doing the same and are trying to execute it but in order to succeed you need to have both the mindset and the ecosystem of the country ready. As far as I’m concerned, no country in the world is advanced as Estonia right now. That’s not to say down the line what LeapIN can also provide similar services in the likes of the Netherlands, Singapore or the UK. But the question is how far will these countries advance to be able to provide what Estonia does domestically and also to citizens worldwide.
What are the main advantages of using LeapIN?
Well, first and foremost, you’re able to manage a company remotely, that’s the primary advantage. And then you’ve add-ons. For example it’s cheaper to run a business here than, we’ll say countries like Luxembourg. Taxation are also plays a factor but Estonia doesn’t want to become a new Panama in that sense and we believe that taxes should belong in a country where the value is generated. So I guess we see ourselves more of an admin haven than a tax haven.
So when can we see this admin haven and LeapIN product in full effect?
We’re almost there. The largest hurdle we’ve had was that, traditionally, you needed to be in Estonia in person to set up a bank account in the country. The law to overcome that inconvenience has recently passed so now it’s just down to the banks here and LeapIN to implement this solution. I anticipate that it will be as soon as Q4 of this year when Estonian banks will be able to remotely accept customers and then it’s Go.
Finally, Erik. What message would you send to anybody considering to use LeapIN’s service and securing an e-Residency in Estonia?
I think it’s important to stress that digital nomads who are thinking about becoming entrepreneurs, or micro-business owners don’t have to feel alone. We see ourselves as a safe harbour for freelancers and are there to help them through their company’s whole lifecycle. That’s our message. It might be hard for people to understand that if they’re an Irish man, living in Germany, why would they need a company in Estonia. But that thinking needs to change.
An e-Residency set-up fee for a company in Estonia is €190 with running costs from €60 to €100. For more info on making it happen, visit leapin.eu