BEING A LOCATION INDEPENDENT ENTREPRENEUR

The TechTribe Community hosted a Masterclass on Being a Location Independent Entrepreneur with Estonia’s e-Residency Programme on 17 November 2021.

In this masterclass e-Residency Community Manager Meliisa Palipea-Tasker chatted with two entrepreneurs, Fabrice Amalaman, CEO of PayQin and Jasper Pons, Founder of DroneScan, who are running their businesses through Estonian e-Residency and do so with the freedom of being location independent. They talked about the perks as well as the downfalls of this lifestyle and discussed how to find and get support from a community of like-minded entrepreneurs.

Here are some key points from their conversation:

Meliisa: Jasper, would you like to tell us a little bit about how you found e-Residency and why you chose to run your company through the programme?

Jasper: We build hardware and software for warehouses, that’s what DroneScan does. But we don’t just sell drones anymore, we build things like this (shows device) which is a barcode scanner with the lidar and fit those onto forklifts. We realized a big part of our market is in Europe and we really wanted a way to test the waters in Europe to get a presence there and to have kind of a launching pad in Europe. I stumbled across e-Residency while looking at a website called ThunderBeam, which is a crowdfunding type VC, if I may call it that, and I saw all these companies were based in Estonia. To be honest, no offense to Estonians, I haven’t really heard of. And so, I obviously went to Wikipedia, and I started finding out about Estonia and how easy it is to do business there and that’s how I eventually stumbled upon the e-Residency programme.

Meliisa: Fabrice, would you also like to talk a little bit about our journey with the e-Residency programme?

Fabrice: My journey, I’m originally from Ivory Coast so I was born and grew up in Ivory Coast and moved to France to study at university and started my career in banking at BNP Paribas and during this time I started my own business. We then incorporated the previous company in the UK and started the business, but we got into an introduction programme in Estonia called Startup WiseGuys. So, we got some support and investments from this exploration and basically some contacts with business Angel and VC funds from Estonia and then the Brexit happened, and we had to find a new location for business. Estonia was a perfect fit for us because you can run the company from abroad and do many things online basically then we chose that option. The exploration also helped us a lot.

Meliisa: Fabrice, you travel a lot. You’re based in Talinn but pretty much anytime I write to you are somewhere different. Tell us a little bit about that kind of lifestyle. Doesn’t it make it easier that you can run your company online but then also travel to see your family and what’s that like? 

Fabrice: So basically, I have two departments, one in Ivory Coast in Abidjan and one in Talinn in Estonia. And most of the time I’ve been traveling in-between because we have our customer support and back-office team in Ivory Coast and we have our growth manager and marketing people in Estonia, people in France, we have a designer in Pakistan, and we have some people in Nigeria as well. In the meantime, I have to attend some conferences, meet investors and so on. I’m trying to do all these in a way that sounds possible for a human being.

Meliisa: Jasper could you tell us a little bit what it’s like to run a company through the Estonian system versus maybe how it is in South Africa to open a business what are the kind of differences?

Jasper: Well, it’s difficult to explain how big the gap is in setting up the South African company and the paperwork and departments you have to go through compared to the Estonian one. Once I had my e-Residency, which took about two months I then had to go to Joburg to fetch the actual card and once you’ve got that card it just opens the door to setting up a company. I set up the company in a few days, had a meeting with the accountant online in the first week, set up a bank account too so that the company could trade. I even set up a personal bank account all just really in about two weeks after having that e-Residency card in my hand. It really is just ridiculous that this stuff happens overnight while you’re sleeping the company gets formed. I can’t actually explain how easy it is. I think anybody who’s got any product or service that has got any form of international appeal so not just in your own country, and it’s going to be of interest to any other country then you should set up in Estonia because it just opens the doors into those other regions. It makes your international funds transfers much easier so that company can trade. We have to buy a lot of these parts for our stuff from Europe so up until now, we’ve had to buy this stuff in Europe. Now, everything can get built in Estonia and bought in Estonia and sold into Europe so for us it’s just a huge difference.

Do you think the e-Residency would work for a person wanting to start a company in the creative space? Also, an artist or production company creative agency and wanting to access European markets.
Is there market for honeybush tea or similar in the European market or the Estonian market and is there a space we can do that market research?

Meliisa: I can’t personally tell you. I haven’t done market research and if there is a market for certainty, but we definitely welcome those that join the program and see that they want to expand to the EU market and to see that they could have clients here. Especially those that provide any kind of online services, it is easier for them and if you’re a creative person and you see that you could expand to the EU market then yes definitely e-Residency is for you. Now if you want any kind of business advice then we suggest that you get some business consulting or maybe join some of the local business communities online to get the little bit of research done. And as I said you can become an e-Resident without yet having to form company, do your research and then sign up to have a company. With e-Residency you sign up and it’s a one-time fee of around €100-€120 which is quite low compared to other countries with this kind of system and create a company itself and it is about €190 in the business registry. We do have share capital contribution that you need to have, and this is €2 500. This is basically an investment into your company, and you don’t have to pay this as soon as you have created your company. You can wait as this just has to be paid before you pay out any dividends, so you can pay wages to yourself and don’t have to do this yet, but it is an investment into your company. And this is how easy it is if you compare it to other countries. It’s actually really affordable and so if you’re looking to start something and extend to the EU market, I would suggest that you do it. It’s a really easily accessible way.

Does the community help with business referrals and other forms of business growth like buying products and services from each other?

Meliisa: Yes, so from one e-Resident to another. As I said we have this really large group on Facebook that people reach out to each other and try to find people that can work with. We also have some smaller groups that we work with. In the ways of exposure, if we see any e-Resident has lot of potential or a really cool story we like to share their stories with local media, Estonian media as well as international media. So, we feature them and give them opportunities to grow in that sense to get more attention. We bring the residents with us to different business forums or give them opportunities to meet investors so there’s definitely benefits to being a part of the community. In the ways of investors or connecting together with different residents, as I meet a lot of e-Residents and if I see that one e-Resident was working in a certain field and another is looking maybe into entering that field or has a skill set that could benefit the other e-Resident I connect them together, if they give me permission to do. So, I would say that definitely being a part of the community has lots of benefits.

Do you support start-up non-profits that focus on the space sector?

Meliisa: Yes, we actually have some great examples in our blog or if you want to write directly to me as well, I can give you some more information about examples of e-Residents who have started non-profits. We do have a couple of the residents also in the space sector doing different things. Next week we’re featuring an e-Resident who does social media marketing for the space sector.

 

In terms of getting into the payment or fintech space in the EU are the laws and process is the same for all countries?

Meliisa: Now when we talk about FinTech’s these are international companies which means traditional banks are also private companies here which means that they make their own decisions. But FinTech’s in that sense are a little bit more flexible. Perhaps Fabrice can comment as well.

Fabrice: The thing with FinTech is you can register the company in Estonia because a FinTech is basically a technology company at first. But it depends on which country you want to operate, if you want to operate in Estonia then you do need to have a license for Estonia. But you can passport this license for all EU countries then it’s another process so basically it depends where you want to operate. In our case we have an Estonian entity but we’re operating in Africa, so we don’t need a license in Estonia, but we need to partner with a licensed company in the country where we operate.

Meliisa: And if you’re an e-Resident and want to have an account with a FinTech company as well you can also check out our marketplace of FinTech companies that have worked closely with e-Residents so you can see what kind of services they provide in which countries they also provide their services to.

I’m running a donkey dairy farm in Botswana, and I do niche cosmetics with donkey milk and supplements. We have a presence on Amazon, and I want to explore the European markets in terms of an e-commerce platform but I’m not so sure how to do it. Our products have certificates of origin and we’ve got safety evaluation certification. Everything is in place we just want to explore the European market and we’re not sure how to do it.

Meliisa: We actually have a lot of e-Residents who sell their products through Amazon we even have an e-Resident who has an Amazon seller society. She can advise you on how you can get started as she’s kind of an expert on this topic

Missed this masterclass? Catch up here: