Estonian startups aim to expand in the UK market

Last week, the Estonian Guild, the Estonian Embassy in London, and the Tehnopol Startup Incubator, organised an event in the heart of London where Estonian startups could introduce their ideas to already established companies in the UK and get more insight about the UK market, where to find investment and contacts, and how to get their foot in the door in the global market.

The visiting startups had a chance to talk about their business, introduce their products and services and get feedback from the local Estonians who are already working for UK businesses or have established their own business in the UK. The startups also had the chance to get feedback about their product from the representatives of Startupbootcamp, one of the leading accelerator programmes for startups in Europe.


The event is being organised twice a year and it was fourth time that it was organised. The companies introducing their business models were mostly already operating businesses in the Estonian market. Browserbite, an automatic cross-browser testing company already has some clients all over the world, but would like to expand its business to the UK and the US. Upsteem, a talent management software company, has already left its footprint in the Estonian market working with some of the biggest brands, including the international money transfer service, TransferWise. Another rising star, Deekit, founded by former Skype engineers and managers, is aiming to make remote collaboration more efficient with a real-time whiteboard.

“Relationships and good connections are a key to success in a competitive market, such as the UK. Firstly you’d need to build those relationships with the relevant people here before asking for an investment, a job etc. There are many businesses and people coming to the UK who need help and there are people willing to help, but why should one respond to you? Why specifically that person? How is it relevant? What have you tried that didn’t work? These are the things going through one’s mind when approached by a stranger. Keep it simple and network wisely – quality trumps quantity any time,“ Sander Saar, co-founder of Estonian World, pointed out.

Saar also added that one must be based in the UK to do business and develop relationships with clients and partners in a meaningful way.

Riko Muttik, the managing director of PARIM, suggested the same, “You can’t do business from somewhere else than UK, or at least you must have representatives here who take care of the relationships and sales,” he said.

“The Tehnopol Startup Incubator organises business missions to London twice a year. The goal of the trip is to meet local investors, mentors, partners, customers to validate market, find seed money, test sales and go-to-market strategies and find potential customers,” Triin Mahlakõiv, Startup Community Manager at the Tehnopol Startup Incubator, said.

“For all these customers, the UK is the target market. From there on they expand to the US. Investor and mentor sessions are largely organised in London by Startup Incubator, but startups themselves organise their meet-ups with their own customers, partners and resellers as well,” she added.


According to Mahlakõiv, the success on the local market depends on the startup and its business model. “This time we had strong startups with us in London and the founders had meetings with many interested angels and VCs. In Estonia we continue to work in these meetings, do many follow-ups and take these relations we developed in UK further in order to close deals. We see that Estonian startups have strong businesses and innovative ideas, which makes them successful and people in the UK are usually impressed on the quality of Tehnopol startups we take to UK.”

According to the report published by BT, world business leaders have selected the UK as the second most desirable country in the world for business to expand into – narrowly behind the US.


Cover: London’s Canary Wharf business district at night. Credit: David Pape/Wikimedia Commons.

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