Estonian start-up mafia

by Anastasiia Linnas on March 11, 2015, no comments

Startups in Estonia


When my friends from Life as an investment asked to write about three hottest start-ups in Estonia I found myself quite puzzled, as not 3 but 33 of them came into my mind at once (my Mac actually froze after opening their home pages).

During the last 10 years Estonia has managed to build a strong ecosystem for start-ups. The most significant role here probably was played by Skype. Today, the most successful start-ups in Estonia are f/o/unded by the so called “Skype mafia”.

So, I did my best to come up with a list of three that IMHO, fit into the Life as an Investment philosophy.


I would like to start with TransferWise – one of the most well-known start-ups that originated from Estonia. TransferWise is an often guest of TechCrunch news and due to its revealing PR – in all other news sites as well (I don’t know about you, but it surely is all over my Facebook).


Meet Kristo Käärmann and Taavet Hinrikus,  the two people who declared war on banks and their sneaky, little hidden fees, for international money transfers. In fact, they managed to get Sir Richard Branson on board for this battle.

The idea here is simple and brilliant. It’s common knowledge that international transfers have high fees because of “secret” exchange rates, while local bank transfers are either free of charge….or very low in comparison. The question is: how can we pay cheaper, local rates for international transfers?

Answer: Peer-to-Peer money transfer!

TrW 02

All characters appearing in this example are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

 Take Jan for example, who wants to send 1000 Euros to his girlfriend Jane as a birthday gift—and Nicole, who wants to transfer $1000 to her son Nick for expenses related to his education. If both Nicole and Jan transfer wisely, they will pay only 0.5% each for their transactions because no “international” transfer will be made.


So, the next time you transfer—transfer wise! (See a list of supported countries and currencies here)


Jobbatical is a start-up that appeals to me personally. It was co-founded by an amazing woman named Karoli Hindriks whom I had the pleasure to meet in person and discuss the concept of her company:

“Short-term jobs with life-changing experiences.”


A new work & travel experience

It’s a great concept! You can travel the world and explore new countries and cultures while working (and not spend your savings). It’s a Win-Win situation, as companies have the opportunity to engage top talents from around the world for their projects.

Jobbatical is currently in beta, so everyone has the opportunity to use it for free!


Regarding countries, traveling and languages—have you ever tried to learn a new language? And in the end, you only learn how to “read and translate?”

Lingvist has an innovative approach to learning languages; it fast-forwards you to intermediate level in only 200 hours.

How? By way of adaptive language learning, big data analysis and artificial intelligence, this program offers a personalised framework for learning the most commonly used expressions!


A wise way to invest your time

It’s a free service, however, for the time being, French is the only language available. Spanish, Japanese, Italian, German, Swedish and Russian are still a work-in-progress.

“Dear Lingvist, where have you been 15 years ago, when I was forcing myself to learn French back in school? Totally failed btw.”

If you try out any of these services, it would be GREAT to get your feedback and opinions (right in the comments)!


If you’re not tired of Estonian start-ups yet, here’s a few more:

Fleep  is brought to you by ex-Skypers to improve collaboration and communication. This service is mostly used by start-ups and dynamic companies (Watch a quick intro here).

Teleport  (again, ex-Skypers) supports start-ups by offering information and comparisons of the best countries and cities to work in. With Teleport, you can easily relocate wherever you like! (Still in beta and focusing on Bay Area for now).

And coming soon….

Aidenapp  is a smart “pocket therapist” that helps you overcome symptoms of depression. If being depressed is something you’ve planned for this year – subscribe now to get notified when Aidenapp is launched.

All of the start-ups are constantly raising additional funds, so … where would you invest?


Originally published in and for Life as an investment project.



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