Chief Representative | Enterprise Estonia Singapore, E-Residency
Enterprise Estonia Singapore office fosters business relations between Estonia and Singapore, but also Malaysia and Indonesia. The special focus is on trading and export, but as well on investment attraction, start-up financing and e-Residency promotion.
Before setting up the Enterprise Estonia Singapore office in August 2016 Indrek occupied the Director of Estonian Investment Agency position and ran the dynamic team that attracts foreign direct investments to Estonia and supports Estonian exporters abroad. This innovative team also included the Estonian e-Residency programme, e-Estonia Showroom as well as Estonian country EXPO team and 15 offices around the world.
“Named ‘the most advanced digital society in the world’ by Wired, ingenious Estonians are pathfinders, who have built an efficient, secure and transparent ecosystem that saves time and money. E-Residency is a new digital nation for global citizens, powered by the Republic of Estonia. Establish and run your business online“
Thank you all for staying for the second day and the second half of the second day.
So it’s a it’s always a bit of a tiring to go through this – two day sessions. But I think this conference a bit of a different one. Because this is. I go to a lot of conferences. For some particular reasons oh you know
But this is what past year or two it’s been the best one. I’ve gone to you know. Usually the conference they tend to be huge the bigger the better. The more stage is the more streams of you . Going on that the better. But actually this one.
I’d like to really to press the running remote team for doing a great job in actually getting very focused very bang on topic for the people here.
So I’m I would like to add on to the play here a little bit more on the maybe not so evident theme or something which becomes evident in you know in a little while you’ve been running your business remotely. So it’s more the set up thing how you incorporate your company. Where you do it? How you contract your people outside? Who are working remotely?
So this is something. I will address and residence is one of the options that you can use for that. it’s of course not solving all the problems in the world. But in some cases it might be a good tool for you to look into and explore. If it’s the case for your business so if you walked in this floor with the little panel.
Your photos and stuff. So I’m actually the only guy with a suit and a tie there. So I think they search for the picture problem from you. Internet to mark me as the official. I’m I think I’m the only government rep here for the whole bunch of people in the south so this is this is something which doesn’t happen often to me but it’s good to go that you’ve been so welcoming and interested in what we were doing.
Each and the other thing that is of course all other people had 40 minutes. I had an hour to fill in. I was thinking wow what’s that is it because my topic is so important but then I realized that okay probably not. Because I imagined what might have happened in eager and his girlfriend’s morning coffee. They’re saying. Lease the girlfriend was saying that you know.
I have this Estonian guy. We might actually talk about the residency. The Igor are saying yeah good ok let’s give in 10 minutes you know. That’s you can Мknow do that and the least thing you know the Estonians they usually very slow you know they take talk very slowly. Don’t you know let’s do it 30 minutes. But if he’s a guy then it needs extra time. It must at least one hour. I’m yeah so that was my imagination of course. But maybe it happened. I don’t know you can ask Igor later on anyways.
So do you actually understand the residency and the Estonian sort of some quality innovative mindset you need to I try to open up a little bit of the cultural background for Estonians. It’s not that we actually wake up in the morning and start innovating. You know saying okay let’s what should we change in the world today. It’s not like that not at all like. That it’s quite the opposite.
I come from a country where there’s 1.3 million people on a same land plot as Denmark has five and a half and Netherlands has 16 million people. For us actually the we are for centuries been working remotely. It’s not the recent thing you know don’t get. That wrong remote working is not recent. Let’s down inside.
It like five centuries ago. I think is that while yeah the thing is a you have a house you know in the countryside when you can see your neighbor from your house they’re too near what happens so and that’s why we also started using the services because you don’t actually want to see the other Estonian so you have to keep a little bit by the way you know and if you can do it on your device then that’s the ideal solution and if you can send them outside of the country and do it you know we are you know that’s even better.
We are the true remote people. Anyway so. So I’ll try and then talk you through the ear resident see. But before that coming a bit closer to today. I’d like to also share a bit of my experience in remote working.
I’ve been working in trade and investment promotion for past fifteen years. Now for a stone in my own country. But prior to that for British UK trade investment and before that for the Danish trade council.
Even then we were starting to actually so I started in 2004 in the Danish Embassy in Estonia so we started actually trying to collaborate on the on the Baltic level. I was sitting in the team my boss was in Riga so we were trying to figure out how to do best the you know service our clients best way.
That was quite nice so we so then I moved to the British system and I got you know got to be responsible for the for the politic team myself.
I figure that quite quickly that what are the three things you really need to be successful in promote in getting your work done in a situation where you don’t sit with the team you can’t sort of be, there for them, but you sort of have to work together for four same goals.
The first thing really in my view is that in order to be successful you need to set your priorities right. You had to set the goals, the targets what you know and be very clear about it to a team. And what is expected of them. That they know what’s going on.
The second step. I learned. That they have to let go you have to let them go for in a sense that not just you know. Say them this is your goal you make 100 million and then you walk away but in a sense that you don’t micromanage you actually go in and allow them to do that stuff for the for you. Because they are the guys who are there they know the best their markets.
They know what needs to be done so you don’t need to go and micromanage the guys. This is what kills them. So in many cases this is a what goes wrong with the people. Because the managers try to intervene all the time but this actually leads to the third thing.
You have to be there for them so this is also very important. If your remote very quickly comes the alienation feeling. You feel like okay they put me here they paying me some celery they gave me some stuff to do. But so I’m here so nobody’s actually talking to me. I’m I don’t know what I’m supposed to do can I call them or you. What’s happening. Then it can actually turn into sort of negative feelings as well. It’s so I’ve found that I told all this. I’m a team you can always call me, you can email me. Let’s discuss things we had also of course. The weekly meetings and all stuff all sorts of that stuff but the important thing was to be there for them .
That they know if they have a small question big question so they can approach you. This is my sort of take away from remote working later. Of course in the end the stoniest started building the team of trade reps in we had in 15 markets and that was again a similar feeling with the way.
You could actually see that the same principles applying you actually get good results out of it Of course you have to always be you know. You have to be in a good stance with the guys and that actually brings good results.
That’s my own experience now coming to the topic at one point. All these he ad lines started to do group up in the world. Different news outlets magazines blogs saying that what is this place called Estonia.
You know where this guys come from other. You know what are they doing there. It seems to be a lot of producing a lot of good startups. You had we saw yesterday transfer wise. We have per capita the most startups in Europe together with the Israelis I think. But what really hit the world was the fact that IRA’s in see came to being a three and a half years ago.
So why was that so important? This is because sometimes we call the e-residency the Estonian government startup. If you think about your own government can you actually imagine them saying that Donald Trump saying: you have nothing else to do let’s try to set up something cool and see what happens you.
We don’t know yet what it does but you know but you know what happened in Estonia was that we had this a couple of clever guys one of the most the CIO of Estonian government and he went to the prime minister said you know his name was Toby and the Prime Minister’s name was Tobias well you know Tommy.
We in Estonia here with all our you know not liking God ice dominance then we’ve set up all this systems where you can handle things easily and it’s quite efficient and works you know. Prime Minister says you know that’s what it is you know and the other table. I’ve been going out today to the foreign countries out there.
I made some trips so then he said oh and I see that actually people don’t have that in other countries. It’s no normal I mean it’s only normal that you have those things you know. It’s you have you can pay taxes online, you can vote online, you can do everything, you can assign your kid to the school, you can sell your car online no problem. Well it’s everywhere isn’t it and the CIO table is as you know Prime Minister. That’s not the case so then they said ok what if we actually open up the Estonian system to everyone. The eServices of Estonia to every single country in the world Pete in Fiji or Brazil or wherever doesn’t matter, they can become a stone an e citizens residence.
That’s what happened they must have minded a bit and got the team together. We launched a three and a half years ago. This is what happened then and we found out that of course back. Then I mean none of us had actually a good idea. What this is going to happen. You know where it takes us. We didn’t have the technical readiness or you know technical answer for every single question. But we got going like an proper startup and things started to happen we realize.
New feature for remote business management
That there’s a real demand with the guys like you the real demand for managing a business in a way. That you want to live your life you don’t want to live. I mean most of the countries in the world most of the government’s today. They act still like not twentieth century but 19th century expecting you to live in a country or you know be born in a country and live in the very same country and do your business of course there and if you’re lucky you can export little to the neighboring country.
But this is not the case anymore nobody does that people move around they want to they to live in Bali. They want to they want to do work for all the cool companies that are here but they you know maybe next day they want to go to Brazil and live there why not. But I think what the what the nowadays the in residency office is same solutions as well there in the last century for multinationals.
So you can run a company can do it however you like. You can hire wherever you want people. So it gives you the flexibility to live the life you want. So that’s essentially what it is the original scene so a little about this small place. We come from its only 1.3 million people so actually joking aside that the key reason for building these systems for us was
The fact that we needed to keep the people working in a productive and you know the doing the good things not hassling with the papers from one batch to another. That’s where we started to build the eServices and to save time for your family or whatever you want to actually do. Not to we close our town always you know not all button you know 99% of the service points for you know whatever you needed to do to hand in some tax returns or whatever.
So actually you can get it the convenience and the you know fast pace of doing things and this became a norm. So yeah we are a part of European Union also NATO and the Schengen area so what it is in a more detail. It’s actually the cornerstone of the whole thing is the ID card.
This gives you the actually the access to all the systems let’s see even some countries nowadays who don’t have the personal identification code I think Japan is just rolling out something called my number which they looked at the Estonian example for that and this is a this is what but many countries have the ID card.
But they don’t have the similarly good systems and the reason being that. We made it compulsory so we said everybody who comes to pick up a passport must get an ID card. That’s what happened and that cave actually the key for every person to access the systems and then what happened is slowly but not very slowly but gradually every service was online. So you could actually choose ok I want to file in an application for something.
If I do it online its processed quickly and it’s free. If I want to do it through the service point. It takes. I don’t know three months and it costs me 25 euro. That was like a soft push to get people to move the into the digital services and very quickly they found out that this is so convenient.
Nobody ever wanted to do it again online. Since I think it’s a sort of a small country thing when you’re from a small country you realize that actually you can’t cope with you know being isolated in our own.
We are very open to trading business all sorts of free movement of labour capital whatever in Europe. I think we were in 2004 when we joined the EU we were the only country that had to reduce its sort of openness in with accession all the rest I had to open up more.
That was the case as I mentioned the cornerstone the ID card and this is the e residency card. I’m now coming to the residency this is something which many people have heard about. But I’d like to really use this opportunity to give a bit of a walk through: what it’s? for how to get it? who it can be useful? It’s basically in residency is an individual thing.
It’s not a business thing but you can open up a business with it so basically what happens is that. It gives you the freedom to live the life. Because most of us somehow need to make the money in the living. We probably need an either sort of some sort of income.
If you want to move around then usually there’s a lot of people who use that for business purposes so in reality the what it gives you is the freedom to engage in entrepreneurship. Do it remotely location independently however you want to want. This is issued by the Estonian government. It’s a fully government thing. It’s not a private initiative as such and this gives you the backing. I if you apply for the court then the Estonian government does the background checks on you.
This is not that they don’t trust it but it’s for the sake that some people are not as cool as we are here. They check on the Interpol they check on the anti-terrorism things. All the pundits Irizarry happy good people right and also one of the there was a little bit of talk about transparency earlier. So in Estonia all the information about the companies is trans is publicly available. If I want to see who’s behind some company I can always see that I can see the turnovers revenues all about the annual accounts.
I can pull out of the database and see what who’s doing what so it’s really transparent in that sense. Today we have around you know it that number is growing all that time. As I said it’s a sort of a startup. So the three years we count to forty thousand plus people. But we’re hitting the sort of hockey stick glue apart and getting them more and more traction every day
This forty thousand people come from all over the world really literally from every single country in the world. Of course mostly the biggest number is from Finland which is because of the geographic and cultural and business proximity. But also second and third are Russia Ukraine where there’s a bit of a complicated business environment. They use it for easier handling of the business and of course the main reason why people get the residency is the business purpose.
To set up again location independent business so that’s around now even over 6,000 companies with the residents involvement. So what are the problems we can then solve that. I said there’s a different categories of people who might spend from it. I believe many of you also in a sort of a freelance situation where there’s where you have a sort of people.
You work for in different parts of the world. It’s difficult to receive the payments the financial services are not very good for you and all sorts of issues. Some people might have depending on whether from and what they do also coming to the situations where it’s very.
If you have a company already it might be very costly to administrate it which is not the case in the with the residency. So what you can do with the residents as a freelancer? You can set up a trusted company Amy you which. May be you know as a rule people don’t think about it But if you are from say I don’t know even from Indonesia saying that okay I’m this guy from Indonesia. I’m very trust worthy believe me. If you go with that story to Germany signal don’t really think so you know. If you have an EU entity then things are you know. The Germans say oh good well we believe you so you can disguise yourself to be a EU company. Actually also in some cases it’s very difficult to if you’re in e-commerce. For example it’s very difficult to accept payments in for example in Ukraine. You can’t accept Europe payments people in e-commerce.
It’s this is the market that you serve and they have this huge problem. There’s a lot of Ukrainians who actually set up companies in Estonia they get in residency they set up the company and then they are good to collect the payments in Estonia and then later on distribute the profits or whatever they want to do with it.
One of the clear benefits as well that we like to keep things simple in Estonia our tax system. Our tax system is very straightforward flat. If you make some profit and you want to invest in a you keep it in the company then I don’t you know the taxman doesn’t take a slice all the time so only. If you take it to private consumption then we tax it to 20% again.
I’m sure there’s a lot of to ES in here in this room as well so again. The same problems that you’re moving around you know. If you set up if you’re living in Bali you set up in Indonesian company you want to go somewhere else you have to pull it set it up again in Thailand. Then you set it up there it’s already very complicated very costly. All that you don’t understand the rules and all that.
So then you go to I don’t know to UK and you try to set it up there. It’s all very cumbersome and costly but with the Estonian company you can set it up online. You don’t have to ever actually visit the stone you can administrate it online. This is actually gives you the freedom to move around as you wish.
I think the local regulations are always a bit of a hassle for not a bit. But the big hassle actually for many people in these situations so they. In this case it’s actually you do it once you understand how it works. Then you’re good to go for as long as you wish. Then again as I said that as well if you’re if you’re in within EU. Then usually you don’t have that problem but in many countries still the business environment is quite complicated. It’s difficult to even if you from that country to open it to run it to manage it.
So but having again a company in Estonia would like let you access the EU market of course and run it location independently and as well receive payments. If you’re in for example in e-commerce business so this is actually one of the things. I think which could be a case for a situation what situations where we which we discussed yesterday and today as well.
Most of the companies who go remote they use there as we heard mostly. They use contracting for their employees. This could actually be a easy solution to for the employer as well as the employee to get the irritancy set up the companies in Estonia. You’re very easy you can easily interact with each other. So actually this isn’t one of the case studies but I’ll actually like to skip that one and give the word to Andy here who’s a neat resident from Latvia.
I didn’t tell him earlier about come to the stage and share your story why did you actually become an e resident and set up the business the way you did alright. So actually I’m from a neighboring country Latvia down at the bottom and I’m a remote location independent businessman. So the reason I applied for IRA’s in C was.
It just gave me the what it gave me the option to do all the paperwork with the old e contractors. We have remotely so if you compare that for example with Latvia my home country. We had to pile up papers for each contractor to pay out right so we needed to prove them but these are legitimate transactions with Estonian system.
It just gave us a fairer easier approach right so the goal is to still pay taxes be transparent and make maybe you could. Also mention what’s your business what you do. So we are very content writing marketplace that connects clients and writers meaning. That we have a lot of transactions with countries like the States and countries within the EU. As well so we first of all we receive a lot of payments meaning that.
We need to give a is an easy tool or common appearance for the clients. So imagine someone lands on a your sales page right and then if you compare this for example with Hong Kong which we also considered there’s not that many. I’m not sure about right now but at the time they didn’t have any companies at the level of stripe or Braintree and even PayPal was there by us.
I think super expensive right the Commission they took was really high. So imagine you do all this great stuff with marketing you build up your landing pages and then someone lands there and it’s committed to pay you and then they hit a payment solution. That looks like they’re from its from 2000 and obviously the conversion rate. There you go right that’s what happens all the time right and then the trust Falls and that’s it and bad but hits your conversion rate.
So being pragmatic that was one of the important things for us being able to provide a consistent expected process for the visitors and perspective buyers. So what was that payments payouts to our partners and yeah the whole ease of doing business. It’s as easy as your infant banking or anyone can then ask Andy what’s his experience of running a real being a neat resident and running a company for Estonia. So that’s a first-hand experience which is always much better than me talking about cupcakes sure. Well thanks guys if you have any questions about this come see me after that.
Let’s quickly go through how’s the process for becoming Annie resident so basically you go online to a resident of date you filed our application there you pay a state fee 400 euros and the as I said earlier they will be wrong they will run a background check on you and you indicate.
There where you want to collect the collect the card. So we have the card collection can be done in certain embassies around the world in this part of the world in Southeast Asia. I’m the only government refers to any government.
So well but the good news is that well I think they put me on a most densely populated island in the world. As a punishment for you know to send me out. have my neighbors like very close to me. So I think that might be the situation at the moment only that the only in Beijing.
But in you can pick up the card also in Singapore. So the concert from Beijing comes to Singapore every quarter for two days. So this is a bit of a compromise it’s a little bit but then you have to time your coming. So when he’s there but at least it’s something. So we can issue in Singapore as well right. So next thing you want might want to do is to set up. The company which can be done again remotely you don’t have to go to Estonia. But again you go to the website you to the you register your company you make the necessary share capital payment and basically.
We also suggest you to choose a business service provider. So the because it’s they will help you navigate the Estonian system as well which is fairly simple. But still you need somebody to do that in Estonian case we. If you set up IRA’s as a real resident to set up a company it’s a proper company.
It there’s no difference with any like myself setting up something Ennis. it’s the same not different same so then of course we don’t actually in many countries you require the company director or a complete secretary stuff like that which somebody having some bit of the shares in a Estonia in a company.
But in Estonia we don’t have that you can only be that you can be as a foreigner. You can be the shareholder. But you only need a contact point where they can send you the interaction. So the business service provider content is there and you can do anything you like with it even by property or whatever. So it’s all I quite you know quite free and available and of course always it you know.
If you set up a company the next question is what about the banking is a bit of an issue at the moment because the banking rules have been coming much more stringent over the past few years with all the anti-money laundering issue the Terrorism the international regulators forcing rules on the banks. So at the moment the story with the Sonja is that the traditional commercial banks you still need to go there to the branch to set it up and they will do the KYC face to face recognitions although. All the stuff they need to do there.
But the good news is that you can also set up a online banking either TransferWise. Also in residency partners with a company called Holvey. If you go to hall become their website that’s even a special button they’re saying if your interests and click end and they will run you through quite easily again. This is only for business banking and not personal right. Of course company administration then is fairly easy if you set up an online bank you don’t have ever visit there.
I think that was also one of the reasons we opened it up because we didn’t want the people come to us – not very close to us. So we said they let them do it from where they are but of course while joking aside. I think Estonia is a very good place to visit as well it’s actually quite beautiful .
I’m sure you will love it as of course nine of the year it’s a gray and dark and muddy because the bed is you know something like we had today but with a plus one degree. So anyways this is the website which will lead you to all the resources that you need to actually have about residential and they have tutorial videos .How to set up a company. What you need to do. What you need to keep in mind. It will also lead you to the doing business websites where you can see about different sector information and all that you need to know.
So it’s quite useful information there so you first I suggest you to run through this and of course when you have questions I can always answer them. We also have customer support which is answering the questions frequently asked questions and so on. Also I hope you’ve proved slider submitted some of the questions so I can also answer them at the moment if you have.