Over the weekend, the president of Estonia went on a spree of not-so-humble bragging about her tiny country’s 4 unicorns.
Some literalist readers asked for photos of mythical beasts and recommended putting them in a zoo — but, trolls aside, the tiny tech powerhouse does have the world’s most digitized government and a disproportionately strong tech industry for a population of just 1.3m.
From Soviet bloc to e-Estonia
Just 5 years after gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Estonia launched a program called ‘Tiger’s Leap’ to invest in computer and network infrastructure.
By 2000, Estonia made history as the first country to make internet access a human right. Since then, it’s incubated a number of highly successful tech companies under the banner of its ‘e-Estonia’ program.
Eastern Europe’s self-made unicorn pasture
In a country where kids learn to code by the first grade, it was only a matter of time before startups began to sprout.
Estonian-born Skype kicked off a startup boom when Microsoft bought it for $8.5B and its founders reinvested all of their profits in their home country.
Since then, 3 other companies have achieved $1B+ ‘unicorn’ valuations — Playtech (gambling software), Taxify (ride-hailing), and TransferWise (money transfer).
Meanwhile, Estonia continues to invest in itself. The country continues to attract tech investment with e-residencies and protects its national IP with a countrywide municipal blockchain network and a ‘digital embassy’ in Luxembourg that safeguards data from cybercrime.