World Economy

Virtual Residents From 143 Countries Create 3,000 Companies in Estonia

Virtual Residents From 143 Countries Create 3,000 Companies in Estonia Virtual Residents From 143 Countries Create 3,000 Companies in Estonia

Estonia is expected to get a 100-to-one-euro return on investment for its e-residency program, which lets anybody start a business from afar. It is even planning to launch ‘estcoins’, its own cryptocurrency.

Becoming a ‘digital resident’ of Estonia, Michael M. Richardson says, was “as easy as getting a fishing license in Minnesota”—upload a passport photo online, pay €100 at a registration office and wait approximately two weeks for the completion of a background check, DW reported.

The 58-year-old American entrepreneur joined Estonia’s e-residency program to help him get the company off the ground in Europe he had been contemplating for years. In January of 2015, immediately after he picked up his e-residency card, Richardson launched E-Drive Retro, a startup that turns old-timers into electric vehicles. It now has offices in Tallinn, Helsinki and Miami.

“I was able to begin operations seamlessly, despite the fact that I was living on Wall Street at the time and only spending a few days per month in Tallinn,” Richardson, who currently resides in Helsinki, told DW.

The Republic of Estonia is the first country in the world to offer government-issued digital residency to non-resident citizens. Since its inception three years ago, almost 30,000 virtual residents from 143 countries have created close to 3,000 companies and paid €2.8 million in labor taxes.

And according to a cost benefit analysis published by Deloitte this month, they have so far brought €14.4 million ($17 million) back to Estonia in net financial proceeds and indirect socio-economic net benefits, a number the consulting and financial services firm predicts will rise to €1.84 billion ($2.17 billion) by 2025. This represents a return of €100 euros for every €1 invested in the program.

Kaspar Korjus, e-residency’s managing director, called the program “one of the most important governmental experiments of the 21st century.”

“These very positive results validate our initial vision, which we hope is now shared by more people,” Korjus told DW in an email. “It is totally unique that one nation decides to open its borders digitally to anybody in the world.”

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