There’s a short application form, a €100 (£84) fee, and with a few clicks of a button you could be a digital resident of a country you’ve never set foot in.
Estonia’s e-residency initiative – offering foreigners the chance to base their business and finances digitally in the tiny Baltic state – is proving as easy as it is popular.
With just 1.3 million citizens Estonia is a small country. Of that number only 650,000 citizens are of working age, a figure expected to plummet in the next decade due to an ageing population and emigration.
And while e-residents are not citizens, the government believes they can contribute to the economy by using Estonian banks and establishing Estonian companies. They are also keen promote the country’s reputation as a digital pioneer.
“Attracting immigrants is just not an option for us. People would rather choose Sweden or Norway,” explained Taavi Kotka, Estonia’s chief information officer and government lead on the project. “Physically, we’re not able to improve our population. So why not do it online?”
With 12,000 digital citizens enrolled there is a lot to do to meet the 10 million target, but Kotka says he would prefer to judge success on business registrations. “We have added 1,000 businesses to the 60,000 that were already here – a 2% increase, which for us is important,” he said.
Becoming a resident
For anyone who has ever tried to get a 24-hour replacement passport or a Russian visa, the process is almost disconcertingly easy.
You fill in a short form, scan your passport and a photo and add a few throwaway lines about why you would like to become an e-resident. The last part is not subject to much scrutiny. “It’s fine to just say you are a fan of the process,” said Kaspar Korjus, managing director of the e-residency programme.
The application is sent off to be reviewed by the Estonian police, mainly for any financial discrepancies. If you have been involved in “dirty business” or money laundering you are likely to be rejected, said Korjus, speaking from the trendy confines of the e-residency showroom in Tallinn.
All being well, three months later you will get an invitation to an Estonian embassy, or a pickup point in Tallinn, for a short interview and to be issued with your ID card.
The post-Panama Papers effect?
The people behind the e-residency programme say they saw an increase in interest after the Panama Papers scandal highlighted the need for greater transparency in offshore business, and after the UK referendum left companies scrambling for options to still be able to trade in euros.
If housing your business in a waterfront city thousands of miles away reminds you of anything, it could be the offshore tax arrangements of the global elite exposed in the Panama Papers leak this year.
The Estonians are keen to stress a major point of difference – that new e-residents will have their financial footprint monitored by the government digitally, not hidden in a warren of complicated legal arrangements.
Korjus believes the fallout from the scandal presents an opportunity for the programme. “Transparency is now a badge of honour and there are countries like India, Indonesia and Thailand where the most important thing as an entrepreneur is to be trusted,” he said.
Registering an Estonian business is also “useful for internet entrepreneurs in emerging markets who don’t have access to an online payment provider”, and for startups from countries such as Ukraine or Belarus, which suffer financial limitations from their governments.
And unlike the offshore arrangement exposed by the Panama leak, you are not exempt from paying taxes in your home country unless the majority of your business is done in Estonia. “If you are in the UK, your taxes should still be paid there … You don’t use our infrastructure, you use theirs. So pay for that,” said Kotka.
The Brexit effect?
Another major news event that organisers claim has given the e-residency programme a boost is the British vote to leave the European Union.
In the uncertainty in the two weeks that followed the vote, applications for residency from the UK grew tenfold, although there are still only 616 people from Britain registered as digital citizens.
“Most of the interest was speculative … businesses assuring their shareholders that they would still be able to pay salaries in euros,” said Korjus, who was unable to put a figure on how much money such businesses would pump into Estonia’s economy.
Korjus estimated that 60% who had registered interest in the programme had done so for business purposes. The rest were just general supporters of the idea.
E-residency is self-funded, with the costs coming from people who register. It originally cost €50 but the team doubled the price in February to fund upgrades to the application process.
The Estonian government supports e-residency as a policy and remains in constant dialogue with Korjus’s team about how to improve conditions for the digital citizens. Allowing them to open bank accounts from outside the country was probably the most significant change yet, Korjus said.
But governments change and Korjus admitted there was a risk that a new administration could cut the apron strings, leaving the new recruits digitally stateless.
“I need to prove we should keep doing this,” he said, adding that he had spent the past few days talking to Estonia’s presidential hopefuls. “But the Estonian public are on board and that’s the first hurdle.”
Source: The Guardian
Some reflections on how to live well around phones.
They are hugely useful of course but in many ways, we buy the advantages our phones give us at a subtly high price we don’t entirely recognize…
Six years after WeWork took the office market by storm with its breakthrough co-working real estate concept, the New York-based startup set its eyes on the next big opportunity for its communal real estate business model: co-living.
WeLive launched early last year with locations in Lower Manhattan and Arlington, Va., and the company has plans to expand to as many as 14 cities in the coming years.
WeLive turns the traditional multifamily rental model on its head. Gone is the long-term lease agreement; Tenants are “members” who can stay month to month, even day to day. Eventually, as the WeLive network expands, members will be able to move freely city to city, as needed, at no additional cost.
From a practicality standpoint, co-living makes complete sense for young, single, and highly mobile working professionals. The spaces are well designed, fully furnished, filled with attractive amenities, and come complete with all the niceties of modern living: towels and linens, housekeeping services, HDTVs, premium cable, high-speed WiFi, concierge staff, even free refreshments like tea, coffee, and fruit water. Think apartment complex meets hotel—but with a crucial twist.
The secret sauce, according to WeWork, is the “We” in WeLive: spaces and programs designed to foster a strong sense of community and connection with other members. Each location has a full-time community concierge team, which organizes events like movie nights, cocktail hours, and formal and informal meals in a communal kitchen. The mailroom and laundry room double as bars and event spaces, and amenities like a rooftop deck and a hot tub encourage tenants to meet and mingle.
WeWork has no shortage of competitors in the co-living market space. Common, HubHaus, Krash, Node, Open Door, Pure House, and Roam Co-living are among the dozen or so startups that are aiming to profit from the mainstreaming of the “hacker house,” commune, or boarding house dwelling models. Investors have taken notice, and have pumped millions into these fledgling businesses. (Common, for instance, has raised more than $23 million from multiple investors since its founding in 2015. With this funding, the startup has opened seven developments across four cities: Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.)
While it’s too early to claim any of these budding businesses as a resounding success, the co-living craze is the latest example of the startup world looking to shake up the slow-to-evolve, $228 trillion (yes, trillion! tinyurl.com/REworth) global real estate market. Whether it’s Google, WeWork, or Airbnb—or countless other startups and tech firms—it is clear that investors see colossal dollar signs tied to disrupting the tried-and-true real estate and construction markets.
Will your firm join them?
Wi-fi is the most important amenity of them all. Yet, at many properties that offer it, “free wi-fi” is often buried halfway down the list of amenities below the solar-power heated pool and the state-of-the-art yoga center.
Wi-fi (and “free” wi-fi in particular), however, is not just another item on the checklist; it is the only amenity at the property with which the resident is constantly engaged. The gym gets used one hour a day a few times a week, the Internet gets used all day and all night every day and every night. The wi-fi is, quite literally, a resident’s connection to his or her property.
Now, we’re not here to throw shade at the Internet service vendors these properties use, we’re sure they get enough grief and are doing what they can to cope and improve. We’re here instead to call attention to just how important this amenity really is. To us, it seems like getting wi-fi right is the best chance for a property to impress its residents and keep them happy.
Certainly, today’s students have plenty of complaints about the wi-fi, but more certainly they will expect their property to provide them with wi-fi because that’s what currently happens. Additionally, with so many connected people and devices already in conventional multifamily today, we believe forward-thinking property managers in will embrace the current service issues and work with vendors to make sure they get this amenity right and market the hell out of it.
We know this is probably easier said than done, but wi-fi looks like the best opportunity to get a leg up in the amenity arms race.
Does your property offer free wi-fi? What has been your experience?
We used to love using private lenders to fund our deals. Terms seemed to be more favorable and once a relationship was established we thought getting deals done would get easier.
However, there are a few hidden costs we discovered over time.
- It takes a lot of time to build up and manage a network to really have a reliable source of capital. This is time that can be better spent finding and managing more deals which is where the money is made. How much is your time worth?
- There is no guarantee that your private lenders will fund your next deal. We’ve all had it happen. You get a great deal on contract and all of your private lenders are “tapped out”. Now you’re scrambling around trying to find capital to get the deal done. Talk about a time suck.
- You have to keep robust records for tax purposes and getting all the legal and financial information done properly can really cost you. The additional costs of hiring legal and tax professionals adds up and should be factor into these “lower rates”.
When you add up all these additional costs and time spent you have to ask yourself how much more favorable are the terms your private investors are giving you?
How many deals are you missing because you’re constrained by the amount of capital you have available to you?
It’s our goal to be comparable to private money once you factor in the added value of convenience, capacity and costs. While our rates on the surface might seem slightly higher than private money, we guarantee to fund your good deals, you’ll never have to chase us down for funding and we handled all the legal and tax work for you. Again, how much is your time worth?
We are featured on Echelon.
Emily Labs graduated Expara Accelerator Batch 2, Winter 2016 with the introduction of Minecraftly.
Minecraftly is a Platform-as-a-Service for Minecraft gamers. Using state of the art orchestration system that combines infinite virtual worlds into one under an unified namespace, it provides a good user experience for gamers while solving the massive scalability issues that has existed in online gaming for the past 15 years.
Think of Minecraftly as a spin off from the popular game Minecraft, similar to how Pokemon GO is a spin off from Pokemon.
Since then, we’ve grown a lot and changed our perspective along the way. I want to personally thank Expara Accelerator for the support and I look forward to working with you guys more in the future.