Smart futures: Tallinn, Estonia leads emerging fintech hubs
The global fintech market is undergoing spectacular growth, particularly in the US and Europe. While global investment fell overall in the first half of the year, driven by a slowdown of Chinese venture capital commitments, the overall value of deals in the US rose by 60% to $12.7bn.
Outside of the US - and the UK, which sees remarkably high investment in fintechs - the drop in APAC investment is driving an explosion of investment in new fintech hubs across the world, in emerging and previously overlooked markets.
Home to about half a million people (a little more than a third of the country’s population) Tallinn is the heart of Estonia’s burgeoning startup scene. Fintech is a huge part of the country’s ongoing economic growth and a mixture of savvy private and public sector collaboration is driving hopes for Tallin to rival London, Tokyo and San Francisco as a hub for fintech in the coming decade.
There’s a fintech startup in Tallinn for every day of the year except Christmas.
Nina Angelovska wrote for Forbes earlier this year that Estonia “is the land of e-everything, a digital nation and a smart society--the digital pride and a role model for all Europe. Citizens can vote online, get a prescription from a doctor online, pay taxes online, sign documents using their smart device and access any public service online.”
According to research done by World Finance, Estonia has one of the highest ratios of startups per capita in Europe, and a significant number of them are geared towards fintech - 29% of new jobs in the country are in the fintech sector.
According to Startup Estonia, in the space of 12 months from the second half of the 2018 to the second half of the 2019, employee numbers in the local startup sector have grown by 44%, from 3,369 to 4,848 workers.
A great deal of this growth is being driven by the country’s e-residency programme. The (sort of) visa allows anyone to start a business in the country and run it remotely, which has attracted significant foreign investment to the country, largely centering on Tallinn. Pope Francis is even an e-resident.
The direct impact of the program is estimated to have been about $15mn, and its second iteration is being hailed as an exemplary digital transformation initiative.
Here are three of the most exciting fintechs that call the city home.
A global funding, investing and research platform for startups and venture capitalists founded in 2013, Funderbeam mines data from various public and private sources, including CrunchBase, to create valuable insights.
Through its Marketplace, Funderbeam allows investors to trade their investments to one another as startup founders pitch for funding. Founded by Kaidi Ruusalepp and Urmas Peiker, Funderbeam’s platform launched in 2016.
Characterised at the “Stripe for identify management,” Veriff was founded in 2015 by 20-year-old CEO Kaarel Kotka. The company seeks to become an identity verification service for companies like Airbnb and Uber.
At the age of only 14, Kotka was looking for a way to buy biodegradable twine for hay bales he needed on his family farm.
Due to being 14, eBay didn’t allow him to sign up for the service. “He quickly photoshopped the picture of his ID to state that he was born 10 years earlier and could order the rope he needed.” Years later, he came across similar verification systems that could be fooled just as easily and began thinking of a way to improve these systems.
Now, Veriff has accumulated more than $11mn in funding to use video verification to capture and verify document data across different registers.
Bondora is a P2P lending platform for unsecured personal loans and automated investing. The platform claims to have 9000+ investors from 37 countries and 100,000 borrowers across three countries.
It’s received more than $7mn in funding so far and claims its users have generated more than $36mn over its 11 year history.
ServiceNow pumps millions into EU service compliance
ServiceNow, the digital workflow company, has announced a multimillion euro investment to help EU customers meet compliance requirements.
The legal, technical and organisational safeguards will help companies to comply with the the Schrems II judgment and European Data Protection Board (EDPB) Recommendations issued in June 2021.
ServiceNow’s investment means all EU-hosted data will be exclusively handled within the EU, and the cloud-hosted digital workflow provider claims its solution will come “without impact on current delivery and service”.
ServiceNow upgrade: free of charge
There will be no cost for current customers to opt in to the data compliance solution, even though ServiceNow is investing an unspecified multimillion euro sum and hiring more than 80 new staff across the bloc.
Mark Cockerill, vice president legal, EMEA and global head of privacy at ServiceNow, said: “With any regulation change, cloud services companies have a choice. They can adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach or get proactive and help customers and partners innovate. At ServiceNow we are on the front foot, continually investing in our customers, allowing them to operate with the highest level of choice and control over their EU data.
ServiceNow upgrade: ‘peace of mind’
“Our new EU-centric service delivery model will give our current customers and partners peace of mind. For customers and partners operating in highly regulated industries, or in the public sector, or those that have yet to make the switch to the cloud, this model gives them certainty and simplicity when selecting the cloud service that best suits their needs.”
Carla Arend, lead analyst, cloud in europe for IDC, said, “The Schrems II ruling has led European organizations to revisit their cloud-related data protection policies and processes when it comes to international data transfers through cloud services.
“Contractual, privacy, and security safeguards and the assurance that data will be kept and handled in the EU help European organizations to comply with European data protection laws while taking advantage of global cloud platforms. Vendors, such as ServiceNow, that invest to support their customers in response to this ruling are providing essential choice to their customers.”