Estonia: Intl business accelerator to provide startups with access to capital

  • 2022-04-06
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – An international business accelerator program, CDL-Estonia, is being launched in Estonia to offer research and technology-based startups access to world-class mentors and international capital.

The partners of the program in Estonia are the University of Tartu, Vabamu, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, and entrepreneurs and investors Taavet Hinrikus and Sten Tamkivi.

The new Digital Society stream at the University of Tartu will integrate Creative Destruction Lab's (CDL) worldwide network of mentors, investors and entrepreneurs with Estonia's globally renowned business and technology ecosystem.

CDL delivers an objectives-based, nine-month mentorship program for massively scalable science- and tech-based startups. Since its founding at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto in 2012, the program has now expanded to 11 sites in five different countries. 

CDL-Estonia is the eleventh CDL office worldwide and the third in Europe after Oxford and Paris. The focus of CDL-Estonia is the digital society.

Sten Tamkivi, partner at Taavet+Sten and founding partner of CDL-Estonia, said that as a society, Estonia has considered things like ubiquitous digital signatures and secure, paperless governance a comfortable norm for several decades.

"Being open to the world and giving back is a strong part of our entrepreneurial ethos. Estonian academia, founders and state coming together and actively plugging into the fantastic global CDL network is a natural way how to share our learnings with budding startups from anywhere," Tamkivi added.

Andres Sutt, the Estonian minister of entrepreneurship and IT, said that Estonia's business environment and digital ecosystem are at the forefront of the world, and as a result, Estonia is today a world leader in numbers of unicorn companies per capita.

He said important steps have been taken in Estonia in recent years to bring business and science closer together and to increase cooperation between businesses and universities.

"It's a win-win situation -- universities help give expert knowledge to growing startups and the technology sector offers opportunities for universities, funding or possibility to put research into practice. Therefore, I am very pleased to see that the CDL program has arrived in Estonia in cooperation with the University of Tartu. CDL gives our growing startups access to world-class mentors and their knowledge, as well as to international capital. My goal is to have 25 Estonian unicorns by 2025, and I believe that together with the CDL, we will take a big step closer to achieving that," the minister said.

Karen Jagodin, director of Vabamu, said Vabamu's mission is to promote freedom.

"Economic development and links to the global economy are important ways to help extend the benefits of freedom to more Estonians who want to participate in business," Jagodin said.

One of the University of Tartu's strategic goals is to be an accelerator of the smart economy. The university stokes a spirit of enterprise in its students, and fosters a constructive environment for start-ups and cooperation with businesses.

"Joining CDL is an excellent way to boost this commitment, with its rigorous program and superb network of professionals," said vice rector for research Kristjan Vassil. "CDL's strong network will perfectly complement the research strengths of UT, and the strengths of Estonia's digital governance community."

The head of CDL-Estonia, Andres Kuusik, from the University of Tartu, said CDL-Estonia is launching today with the search for mentors and companies to benefit from the program. Both are being searched both in Estonia and globally, and for both, the screening provided by CDL-Global is very tight. Companies can apply for the program from April to the end of June. In the summer, the screening of the candidates will take place, and in August the final selection will be made.

Business management students will also benefit from the CDL program, as they will be offered the opportunity to participate in mentor meetings and engage in real-world cooperation with the companies participating in the program within the framework of a special course designed for the CDL program.

The program, which will be opened this autumn in cooperation with the University of Tartu, will run from 2022 to 2027, with openings for 25 companies a year. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications will provide 270,000 euros a year towards the program, meaning or a total of more than 1.3 million euros, while the private sector will add the same amount.