Discovering Tallinn through Latitude59 and meet e-Residence startups from all over the world. Including Türkiye.

You have those moments that it all comes together. Visiting Latitude59 was high on my list and advising startups to consider the e-Residence program from Estonia I did already for years. So it all came together indeed as we started the collaboration with the e-Residency Program and suddenly we were off to Tallinn, Estonia, to visit Latitude59 with 3 startups from Türkiye. I was very excited to discover more about the program that is running totally online in the digital world, meaning worldwide, not just a cool expression, but the globe we all live on. The world is my village thanks to the digital revolution is a fact, not everywhere but definitely growing. Our action plan was simple, we go with 2 startups that are part of the e-Residence program already and we organise a pitch competition for the 3rd participant. Not in Istanbul or Ankara but in Urla Coworking, Izmir. We had a great winner, imageRAD,and I must say I was impressed to join with 3 startups with a positive EBİTA, Rimuut, 361 and imageRAD.

A conference like Latitude59 is important for 2 reasons in my opinion. Listening to inspiring people on and off stage and extending your network. In order to do so, you need to be extrovert, hungry and have English as a good practised language. My experience is that Turkish startups prefer to listen in the back but happily, we had startups with us that were hunters. A conference is as good as you do effort, it is not an amusement park that tries to entertain you. And we were not alone there, we met with more enthusiasts from Türkiye, coming as an individual like Ulaş Can Ergüney from Kolay IK or groups like DEIK. On stage we had Arzu Altınay, founder of Walks in Europe, discussing E-residency and being an actual resident in Estonia giving insides from a human and business perspective. I even bumped into Ersin Pamuksüzer and Bora Sahinoğlu, so suddenly I saw a nice representation of the Turkish startup scene with a big interest in Estonia and the e-Residence program next to the conference.

Apart from the great weather, the wonderful looking city and amazing food we actually started with attending the press conference by the e-Residency Program team with a panel discussion. This was held in Latitude59 place, an old Russian factory and although not looking new, I can imagine that it can never be destroyed seen the concrete and steel used. But great location for sure. We were there to support Esen Bulut, co-founder Rimuut. She works with her team in Istanbul but her legal entity is in Estonia through the e-Residency program. Arnaud Castaignet, Head of Public Relations, Republic of Estonia’s e-Residency program was leading the panel. All panel members were already in the program so it was nice to see happy people on stage and answering all questions in a positive mood. The e-Residency program gives you the possibility to start your company in Europe and thus you have access to the largest economy in the world with a GDP per head of €25 000 for its 500 million consumers. Apart from the fact that everything is online and no need to go to Estonia, I heard mainly that the process is easy, fast and transparent. In that way, it also makes clear that a system that is aiming at citizens for citizens, even when digital, should have these features as a minimum. In that way an example for all the administrations that see citizens rather as a nuisance and not as a customer where the customer also pays for creating that administration. It reminds me of the old style companies before CRM and decent after sales. You bought the product so now leave me alone. That attitude kills companies today.

I only heard about the vibrant startup ecosystem in Estonia but this time I could finally see, visit and talk in person. Visiting Lift99, the most vibrant coworking I have ever seen was a great experience. Knowing that Skype started here and that Skype’s first employee, Taavet Hinrikus, went on to found TransferWise, today with a valuation of 3.5billion dollars. Estonia has today a handful of unicorns with 1.3 million habitants. It has the 3rd highest amount of startups per capita worldwide and in 2017 it brought in more VC funding per capita than hubs like Germany, France and Spain. I was already a fan but reality check makes Estonia simply a wow country. No wonder that you see so many smiling faces. I remember when we drove to the hotel with Esen how enthusiast she was with the choices she made. At the end of the trip, I clearly understood. Startups need to make a lot of choices at the start so it is good to inform yourself and make smart choices.

Yes, there was also a pitch competition of course. At the last day, Neşen visited all the startups at the expo space. I met her when she was talking to Zelos, a platform to organise volunteers. She was very enthusiast and we discussed a collaboration for CoderDojo Turkiye. She wished them a lot of success for the competition. Big was my surprise to see Zelos suddenly on stage with a cheque of 225.000 Euro. EstBAN is a very active player as Angel Investor Network. Talk the talk and walk the walk, 500.000 Euros for 2 early stage startups. Boum. These are local investors by the way. Another example of being an example.

There is definitely more to discover but I started with discovering Esen, Emre (he is sooo knowledgeable)and Haluk representing great Turkish startups ready to conquer the world. As that should be the attitude of a startup, otherwise you become a local entrepreneur, just as good, but my heart is with the startups and Türkiye has a huge potential so let’s open that can.

Patrick Bosteels, Stage-Co and Stagecoworking Co-Founder

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Stage-Co, Urla Coworking, Now Sprint! Accelerator and Creative Academie co-founder, Facilitator, Accelerator Program Manager and Mentor