Jevgeni Kabanov, founding member of one of Estonia’s most successful start-ups ZeroTurnaround was elected as the best businessman of 2015. ZeroTurnaround was founded in January 2007 and currently hires 170 people in the offices in Tallinn, Tartu, Boston and Prague. All the products are created in Estonia, and Kabanov notes that Estonia has the world’s best level of technical institutes, developers and designers. At the same time sales is done in US and Prague. The main products of ZeroTurnaround simplify the work of programmers by giving instant feedback to developers and reducing the need to spend time on testing constantly. Kabanov believes that Estonia can grow its economy only in the field of top technology, as we do not have enough human capital to be competitive in the fields of old economy. ZeroTurnaround has gathered 13.5 million euros of venture capital, being 5th in the top of Estonian start-ups. (Postimees, page 10, February 3, 2016)


President Toomas Hendrik Ilves spoke to European Parliament members about Europe’s decreasing competitiveness and productivity in a rapidly changing, interconnected digital world and about the immediate necessity to make progress in developing common digital market. Ilves is one of the authors of the World Bank’s report “Digital Dividends”. One of the main conclusions of the report can be summarized in one sentence: if Europe does not start to have more serious attitude towards technological development and won’t move towards a digital common market, economic development along with innovative people would soon move to USA and later also to India. The speech of Ilves was well received and interrupted with applauds several times. Digital topic is generally important to Estonia and we now have three delegates of this topic in Europe: Andrus Ansip in European Commission, Kaja Kallas in European Parliament and now also President Ilves. It is likely that Estonia would focus on the messages about digital development also during its EU presidency.
Full text (digital challenges are addressed in the second half of the speech):  https://president.ee/en/official-duties/speeches/11972-address-of-president-toomas-hendrik-ilves-at-the-european-parliament-february-2-2016/index.html (Eesti Päevaleht, page 4, February 3, 2016)


US think tank Heritage Foundation published its economic freedom index, where Estonia fell from 8th to 9th position, but improved its score by 0.4 points. Five countries are considered to have full economic freedom: Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland and Austria. Estonia belongs to the next best group of “mostly free” economies, being the third country in Europe after Switzerland and Ireland. Japan is 22nd, Canada 6th, UK 10th, US 11th, Germany 17th, France 75th and Italy 86th. Russia is 153rd, belonging to “mostly unfree” category along with mostly African countries.
Full listing: http://www.heritage.org/index/ranking
Overview of Estonia’s score: http://www.heritage.org/index/country/estonia
(Äripäev, page 7, February 3, 2016)


According to Eurostat Estonia was the most energy-independent EU country in 2014. On average the energy dependence of EU countries was 53.4%, which means that a bit more than half of the consumed energy needs to be imported. The most energy-independent country, Estonia, only needed to import 8.9%, followed by Denmark (12.8%) and Romania (17%). (Postimees, page 10, February 5, 2016)


One of core figures in former Hansapank Indrek Neivelt, IT–guru Linnar Viik and number of other founders and investors launched a new financial service called Pocopay yesterday in Estonia, Netherlands and Spain. The founders plan to develop the service to international bank. Currently people are able to open an account and get a debit card with which to make electronic payments and withdraw cash. Indrek Neivelt believes that the major feature that makes Pocopay stand out from competitors is the user experience. Pocopay is currently registered as financial institution legally, although in reality it is a banking service. The only difference is that Pocopay does not issue loans. (Postimees, page 11, February 5, 2016)


European Commission predicts moderate economic growth for Estonia and Europe, with risks from growing problems in world economy. Economic growth of 2015 most probably remains about 0.9%, growth to 2.1% is predicted in 2016 and 2.3% in 2017 in Estonia. The growth prediction for EU average is 1.9% and 2.0%, and euro-zone average 1.7% and 1.9% for 2016 and 2017, respectively. (Eesti Päevaleht, page 10, February 5, 2016)


Europe will start recognizing Estonian digital signature. The new regulation of European Commission, eIDAS (electronic identification and trust services) regulation, which will enter to force starting from July 1, introduces a list of digital signature standards that European state agencies need to recognize and includes the bdoc format, which is used by Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia. The regulation means that Estonian citizens can request a right to submit digitally signed documents in EU state institutions, while Estonian agencies must be capable to accept and process other digital signature formats, which are used in different EU countries. (Postimees, page8-9, February 8,2016)


According to Statistics Estonia, Estonian total export was 11.6 milliard euros and total import 13.1 milliard euros in 2015. Trade volumes have decreased for the past three years, decrease in 2015 was 4% for export and 5% for import, which is the largest among these years. Link to full overview: http://www.stat.ee/277520. (Postimees, page 11, February 10, 2016)


Estonian based and largely Estonian owned start-up company Goliath Wind that develops wind generators plans to enter Indian market. The company was founded by a German entrepreneur Lars Mach and has developed innovative wind turbine technology, which enables to decrease the price of wind energy by about 20%. The company hopes to sell 40-60 turbines to the Indian market per year. (Äripäev, page 12-13, February 10, 2016)


According to Estonian milk farmers, their situation has not improved within the past months and they are forced to sell milk below production price. Purchase price of milk has not changed within the past months and remains at record low level of 22-23 cents per kg. (Postimees, page 11, February 12, 2016)


Estonian economy is in stagnation - according to Statistics Estonia, Estonian GDP grew by 0.7% in the 4th quarter of 2015 in a yearly comparison. Chief economist of Swedbank Tõnu Mertsina commented that economic growth was hindered mostly by the decrease of export, which resulted mainly from the influence of Russia, which could not be compensated by increased export volumes to several other European countries. Swedbank predicts 2.3% of economic growth for 2016, expecting improving economic situation for several large trade partners. (Äripäev, page 8, February 12, 2016)


According to Statistikaamet report, 21.6% of Estonian population lived in relative poverty and 6.3% in absolute poverty in 2014. Threshold for absolute (relative) poverty is monthly equivalent net income of less than 203 (394) euros. The amount of population that experiences relative poverty decreased by 0.5 percentage points and of absolute poverty by 1.7 percentage points in comparison to 2013. The difference in income between the poorest 20% and richest 20% of the population was 6.2 times. (Postimees, page 12, February 17, 2016)


Estonia has hundreds of IT start-up companies that are rarely created by people, who do not have previous background in IT. There are several large donor-companies at Estonia's IT-landscape that serve as major breeding ground for newcomers. There are three generations of donors according to Siim Puskai - founding member of Stagnation Lab that grow out from Nortal. The first generation is represented by MicroLink, Abobase and Datel, which were mostly based on self-learners. The second generation got its expertise mostly from state IT and first generation, represented by Nortal, Helmes and Icefire. The freshest - third generation - originates from well-known local IT service providers like Nortal, Helmes, Tieto or other. Nortal alone was a starting point for successful companies like ZeroTurnaround, Iglu, UEC and ByteTrain. Skype deserves to be highlighted as a donor, initiating a large number of start-up teams. Another large donor is former Hansapank, current Swedbank, from where numerous trained specialists emerged to later establish such successful companies like Icefire or Codeborne.  (Eesti Päevaleht, page 16-17, March 1, 2016)


Estonian start-up company Jobbatical that aims to create job exchange environment for short-term projects in IT-field all over the world received 1.9 million dollar investment.  The investment was made jointly by one of the world's most prestigious venture capital companies Union Square Ventures, Europe's leading venture capitalist Saul Klein's Local Globe and Estonian-based SmartCap. Jobbatical database already includes 30 000 people. Founding members Karoli Hindriks, Ronald Hindriks and Allan Mäeots plan to use the investment to develop Jobbatical's product and user experience. (Postimees, page 10, March 3, 2016)


Producer of super-capacitors Skeleton Technologies will receive 2 million euros of support from EU scientific funding program Horizon 2020. The goal of the project is to develop cost-efficient technologies for producing patented carbon-material called Skeleton C that is very efficient for building energy capacitors and gives a large part of company’s competitive advantage. Long-term goal is to reach production capacity that enables mass production in order to enter wide consumer markets, like car industry. (Äripäev, page 15, March 3, 2016)


Georgia plans to take over a taxation system for the companies, which is similar to Estonia, omitting corporate income tax from re-invested profit.  Ambassador of Georgia Tea Akhvlediani commented that the goal of Georgia is to liberalize taxation policy, support entrepreneurship and attract investments. The plan is worked out in collaboration of Estonian tax experts according to the Ministry of Finance. (Äripäev, page 10, March 10, 2016)


Freight transportation robot of Starship Technologies that was created by Skype founders Ahti Heinla and Jaanus Frees has competed 1000 miles of test-rides that have taken place in Estonia, UK, Germany, US and other place in Europe.  (Eesti Päevaleht, page 6, March 11, 2016)


According to Statistics Estonia, Estonian GDP grew by 1.1% in 2015, which is the smallest growth within past 6 years, after the economic recession in 2009. Low growth rate was mostly caused by logistics, construction and industry sectors. The main reason is low external demand due to global factors and Russian market. Economic growth was mostly supported by agriculture, retail sales, ICT sector and R&D activities. (Äripäev, page 9, March 11, 2016)


The number of tourists increased by 6% in January in yearly comparison. It was the first month in 1.5 years, when the number of Russian tourists did not decrease, but remained at the same level. There were 2% more Finnish tourists and 20% more Latvian tourists. The number of tourists from Asian countries also continues in growing trend. The number of domestic tourists increased by 7%. Statistics Estonia report in English: http://www.stat.ee/277472 . (Äripäev, page 10, March 14, 2016)


Ministry of Economy announced that 2.34 million euros will be invested in the application of the next version 6 of X-Road. The goal of the investment is to ensure safe internet-based data exchange and create prerequisites for decreasing the necessity of adding digital stamps and digital signatures. 1.91 million euros would be covered by European Regional Development Fund and 0.34 million euros from the state’s budget. The main feature of the X-Road version 6 is improving cross-border services and digital communication. Finland has already adopted the version 6 X-Road. As one example this would enable automating the collaboration between Finnish and Estonian tax offices. (Äripäev, page 9, March 15, 2016)


Estonian Ambassadors help entrepreneurs reach foreign markets. Foreign Ministry plans to decrease the amount of Embassies – which ones, would be decided after an analysis. One of the most important roles of Estonian embassies is supporting Estonian entrepreneurs in finding contacts. Estonian companies are contacting foreign embassies with increasing frequency – the number of inquiries grew by 40% comparing 2014 and 2015. The amount of entrepreneurship and business-diplomacy related events doubled during this period, reaching more than 1000 events in 2015. (Eesti Päevaleht, page 24, March 29, 2016)