Kingdom of Coders in Estonia
The people on helpdesk are talking on their headsets, software gurus are busy encoding in their individual-looking work places and managers are envisioning the future. The premises of the largest provider of Internet services in Estonia, Zone Media, are a real kingdom of encoders.
A gentle spring wind is chasing waves of employees into the largest business centre in Estonia. Although the Smart Business City is located in an excellent position, close to the Tallinn airport and railway station, there is no sign of the traffic jams that plague the centre of town in the Ülemiste campus. In a couple of years, there should even be a tram travelling through the area, taking passengers straight from the Tallinn port to the airport.
We climb up to the eighth floor of the Ludvig Puusepp office tower, where Zone Media’s headquarters are located. It administers more than half of the domains in Estonia.
The reception desk is still unmanned when Zone Media’s Marketing Manager Rauno Kais comes to receive his guests, greeting us in Finnish in an easy-going way. “Estonians think of themselves as a part of the Nordic countries and in the north people speak Finnish,” Kais explains.
Finland is important for Zone Media because a large part of its customers are Finns.
Customer service employees are talking on the phone with no sign of irritation, despite the meeting going on in the same large room. Zone Media’s net turnover is almost three million euros and it currently has 27 employees, the majority of whom are self-educated, because there was no training for the field in 1999, when the company was founded.
“Finding skilful employees is getting harder and harder. We offer them numerous benefits, such as health service, sports support – and, of course, fruit in the break room. A large proportion of our employees are currently studying to acquire more knowledge, now that the Internet and the industry around it are developing so very fast,” says Martti Varik, a computer expert and one of the company founders.
Marketing Manager Kais (on the left) and Chairman Varik are leafing through a large pile of brochures and ground plans. They contain information about the new office building to be built across the road on Lõõtsa 5. “Our current facilities are full. We'll have more space and better air conditioning in the new building,” Kais says.
In the autumn, the company will move to the more spacious premises in Technopolis’s new office tower, sporting a solar energy system.
Coffee and lunch breaks are an excellent time to ask the staff what they think about the business centre. The employees often sit and drink coffee in their own office, although – as Varik proudly says: “There are several restaurants on the campus and stylishly refurbished buildings belonging to the old armoury, with excellent meeting rooms for the area’s companies.”
The Marketing Manager is peering at the scenery and pondering the new markets opening up to the west. “We have a subsidiary in Amsterdam and the market is developing in a very promising way. We considered Finland first, but ended up in the Netherlands.”
Taxation and e-Society attract businesses to Estonia
According to different sources, there are more than 27,000 companies with a Finnish background in Estonia and the number keeps growing fast. Our southern neighbour is interesting due to its lower employee costs and – first and foremost – taxation, which favours high-growth entrepreneurship. In Estonia, companies pay no tax on their profit until it is taken out as income or dividends.
Finnish companies are also attracted there by the shared currency and language skills. The fact that Estonia is an international forerunner in the digitalisation of public services adds to the attractiveness of the its business environment. For example, establishing a business or opening a bank account in Estonia is so simple that it hardly takes more than a push of a button, and you don’t even have to go there in person for things like this. Estonia’s target is to have ten million e-citizens by 2025.