Estonia’s Leading Ladies: Pioneering Women in Entrepreneurship

In the Spotlight: Some Enterprising Women Entrepreneurs from Estonia

#EstonianEntrepreneurs #InnovationNation #EmpoweredWomen

Estonia, a small but mighty Baltic nation, has captured the world’s attention with its remarkable entrepreneurial spirit. As per the State of European Tech 2022 report, it boasts the highest number of startups per capita, with a staggering 1,090 startups for every 1 million inhabitants. Moreover, Estonia proudly holds the distinction of having more unicorns, those illustrious startups valued at a billion dollars or more, per capita than any other nation on the planet.

Since its hard-won independence in 1991, Estonia has steadfastly championed entrepreneurship – as the key to forging the world’s most digitally advanced state. This devotion to innovation has evolved a thriving startup scene, underpinned by a forward-thinking ecosystem that elevates the brightest ideas and empowers aspiring entrepreneurs.

Estonia’s success as an entrepreneurial hotspot can be attributed to many factors. Supportive policies, encompassing straightforward business registration processes and tax incentives tailored to startups – lay a solid foundation. The nation’s global outlook fosters a culture of internationalization, with businesses eagerly exploring foreign markets.

The strengths of Estonia’s entrepreneurial ecosystem extend to its cutting-edge digital infrastructure, renowned for widespread internet access and government services accessible online. This digital prowess provides a conducive environment for startups and entrepreneurs to flourish.

Estonia’s people, boasting high literacy rates and a strong focus on STEM education, form a skilled talent pool vital for entrepreneurship and innovation. They are further empowered by a dynamic startup community, enriched by numerous events, hubs, and incubators that promote collaboration and networking.

As Estonia’s entrepreneurial landscape thrives, women entrepreneurs are playing an increasingly vital role in shaping its future.

Here are some enterprising women who are breaking barriers, shattering glass ceilings, and contributing to the nation’s reputation as a hotbed of innovation.

> Karoli Hindriks, Founder,

Karoli Hindriks, Founder, has been named as one of the most influential women in the European startup and VC space, a number of times. In 2020 she was chosen by the EU Council as one of the 8 most inspiring women in Europe. Besides, she is a serial entrepreneur and a TED Speaker, having founded many companies, amongst them Jobbatical – HR company facilitating employee relocations. 

> Merit Valdsalu, CEO, Co-Founder & Maarika Truu, Head of Sales & Partnerships – Single.Earth

Merit Valdsalu is a very experienced entrepreneur, having co-founded companies such as StandByMate (a startup aiming to improve the maritime employment market), digital marketing agency Kardemon and most recently – Single.Earth – a GreenTech company that uses natural sciences and block chain technology to mitigate climate change and biodiversity loss.

Maarika Truu is currently a Head of Sales & Partnerships at Single.Earth. She has also significantly contributed to the development of Estonian start up scene as a Head of Startup Estonia and also as a board member, mentor & organizer of hackathons at Garage48, amongst others. 

> Marili Merendi, Principal, Karma Ventures

Marili Merendi is an active member of the Estonian VC scene, holding a position of principal at Karma Ventures, a VC fund investing in European early-stage deep tech software startups. Significantly, she facilitated the closure of more than 15 deals here. 

> Kristel Kruustuk, Founder, Testlio

Kristel Kruustuk is yet another successful Estonian entrepreneur, having founded Testlio – an originator of networked testing, that helps ensure world-class customer experiences to clients all around the globe. And, the firm’s offices are located in Austin, TX, and Tallinn, Estonia with an additional network of freelance expert testers and quality engineers in 150+ countries.

> Jana Budkovskaja, CEO, Prototron Fund

Jana Budkovskaja is an entrepreneur totally dedicated to the world of start-ups. She has worked in the public and educational sector and is now (amongst many other functions) – a partner at The Better Fund (dedicated to diversity-led tech start-ups) & also a CEO of Prototron, an early stage tech-start-up fund and an accelerator with equity free funding that turns science and tech ideas into businesses.

> Elise Sass- Co-Founder, Salto X

Elise Sass is a highly experienced Estonian start-upper, backed by many years of experience. She founded Social Fox Media (media company), and worked as an advisor and mentor at Garage46 and was a CEE Startup Lead at Microsoft. It was later that she co-founded – Salto Network (a platform to connect start-ups with experts from different industries) LIFT99 (building a skill-sharing software for start-up founders) and Salto X (tokenizing future success for distributed companies to share with their remote teams). 


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