The NGO, known as Startup Leaders Club, has now been renamed to Estonian Founders’ Society to support its goal of increasing the cohesiveness of the past, present, and future of Estonian society.
According to Martin Villig, the president of the Estonian Founders’ Society, the new name aims to move past the foreign words associated with the organization’s identity in Estonia. Back in 2009, when the club was formed, the main goal was to create a supportive environment where founders could share experiences. “Estonian Startup Leaders Club used to be merely a codename that eventually became a brand. What started with a couple of founders has grown into an association with over a hundred members. The focus is now on creating proposals for officials, the parliament, and the government. Our activity is driven by the will to move Estonia forward with a healthy ecosystem for the whole IT sector,” Villig explains.
Villig believes that entrepreneurial Estonian people laid the foundation for Estonia’s success story. While the form of making business has changed, the idea has remained the same. “In the 19th century, turning your household into a large agricultural farm was a kind of entrepreneurship, and the farmer symbolizing the entrepreneur. Like farmers made proposals for the state to maximize the positive outcomes of their businesses, we as startup leaders do as well. When it comes to the essence of entrepreneurship, much hasn’t changed. Simply the business sectors have diversified, and the IT sector’s influence on the Estonian economy has increased over time,” Villig points out.
According to Statistics Estonia, in the first quarter of 2020, agriculture, forestry, and fishing accounted for 156,1 MEUR of the Estonian GDP, with 18 600 people working in those fields. As reported by Startup Estonia, startups contributed 196,5 MEUR to the Estonian economy during the same period, with 6 300 people employed in the sector. “If the trend continues, the impact our technology companies have on our economy will eventually increase. It is in the state’s best interest to support entrepreneurship and people who want to establish their businesses in Estonia,” Villig says, “and besides, it is noteworthy how much higher added value an employee in the tech industry has/gives for the economy.”
The Estonian Founders’ Society includes over a hundred founders, who, amongst others, have founded international technology companies such as Bolt, Funderbeam, Jobbatical, Lingvist, Monese, Pipedrive, Skype, Starship, Toggl, Topia, TransferWise, Veriff.
As of the first quarter of 2020, 1019, startups are operating in Estonia, whose sales revenue totaled in 196,5 MEUR and paid 25,4 MEUR in payroll taxes. Over the last four years, Estonian startups have attracted more than one billion euros worth of foreign investment, and the sector itself has grown by 30% annually over the past five years.