by Fredy-Edwin Esse (@fredesse)
The start of the year has been a busy one in the Estonian startup scene where TransferWise has made the biggest headlines with a lot of other positives news coming in as well.
At the end of January, Estonian founded and London-based money transfer startup TransferWise raised $58 million in a Series C round led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz with participation also from previous backers Sir Richard Branson, Peter Thiel's Valar Venture, Index Ventures, IA Ventures and Seedcamp.
At the time TransferWise said it will be using the funds to fuel its global expansion and a few weeks later they came true to their word. The company finally announced a full launch in the U.S. with a brand new office in New York. TransferWise customers are now able to exchange currency from U.S. dollar to any number of its supported nearly 300 currencies.
It is speculated now that with the recent series C round TransferWise has entered the so-called 'Unicorn'club with a rumoured $1 billion-plus valuation. The latest press release seemed to be strategically timed, coming hours before one of its biggest competitors, WorldRemit, announced a $100 million investment round.
In other news Twilio announced on February 18 that they're opening a product development office in Tallinn, creating 50 new jobs in the Estonian capital. It is a big step for the San Francisco based startup, considering they employ around 300 people at the moment. Tallinn will be the company's second office in Europe after London.
Twilio vice president of engineering, Ott Kaukver, said that opening an office in Tallinn is crucial to keep pace with their growing international client base. "This makes it essential to have a development arm in Estonia to satisfy the needs of our clients,"said ex-Skype executive Kaukver who joined Twilio in 2013.
Last week Plumbr, a software performance error tool that automatically detects the root causes of Java performance issues, announced that it has raised $700,000 in funding, adding Jaan Tallinn, one of the founders of Skype and Kazaa, as an investor. Plumbr already had ex-Skype executive Sten Tamkivi onboard, who, with angel investor Matt Arnold and another Estonian startup Fortumo, also participated in the round.
Though the company is relatively small with only 17 employees and a little over 100 customers, those customers are big names like NASA, NATO, Dell, HBO, Experian and EMC. Plumbr is going to use this new round of investments to go international and open a sales office on the east coast of the U.S. Since launching in 2011, Plumbr has attracted a total of $1.8 million of investment.
One of Estonia's brightest young companies at the moment is the taxi booking application Taxify. After being active mainly in the Baltics and Finland, Taxify, with the help of a €1.4 million investment round in December, launched their service in Amsterdam in collaboration with Aemstel Taxi.
Lately there has been some great news about Estonia that should sway foreign entrepreneurs to seriously consider Estonia as a possible hub for their current or future startup. According to the latest economic freedom index published by the Heritage Foundation, a Washington D.C. based think-tank, Estonia has the eighth freest economy in the world and second freest in Europe after Switzerland.
On top of that the Estonian Parliament introduced a new law that eases restrictions for foreigners running a startup and helps companies raise money. The new law allows board members from other countries to participate in board meetings with the help of communication tools. Startups also now have the right to issue convertible bonds to raise money easily and faster. The new law takes effect on July 1st, 2015.