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Making noise for Estonia at the 2017 Nordic Business Forum

Estonia will be represented at the Nordic Business Forum this week.
Estonia will be represented at the Nordic Business Forum this week. Source: (Rene Suurkaev/ERR)

The departure hall of Tallinn's D terminal is crammed. 960 Estonian delegates are traveling to Helsinki on Monday morning, headed for the 2017 Nordic Business Forum, a conference that has over recent years become the biggest of its kind in the region.

Speakers include Richard Branson, Will Smith, and of course the type that hops from event to event and sells a lot of self-help books in the process. Delegates will hear about Responsibility, Leadership, and Purpose — though chances are that most of them are attending the conference to find potential future business partners: to network.

Mobilizing delegates to advertise e-Estonia

Also on the boat is Adam Rang of Estonia's e-residency program. Rang is handing out "Enter e-Estonia" badges to the delegates, hoping to get all 960 of them on message. The badges come with a little leaflet to remind everybody of the perks of e-residency: open and run a business in the EU, independently from where you're located.

The program has been successful, attracting thousands of e-residents, though they're still struggling with a few misconceptions, Rang explains. Becoming an e-resident and opening a business based on this unique status doesn't override any of the existing rules for brick-and-mortar businesses, which is why most of the people who joined the program for its commercial benefits are in the online services sector, or freelancers or sole entrepreneurs who need a legal base in the EU.

At the Nordic Business Forum, the program is present with a booth. The easiest one to find, without a doubt: they'll have a large cloud hanging overhead, meant to symbolize Estonia's cloud-based society.

Contacts, new business — and inspiration

Apart from the representatives of Estonia's omnipresent start-up scene, dozens of established companies are sending delegates. Their reasons for going range from the need to network and find business partners to interest in the speakers.

As Helen Lillep of Proekspert explains, they are attending the conference for the speakers. One of Estonia's most successful software developing companies, Proekspert develops digital products and design solutions for clients ranging from Danfoss and Telia to fintech companies and banks.

Five years ago, Proekspert decided to completely change their corporate culture. They got rid of the existing hierarchy and instead invested in a bossless culture. According to Lillep, this also changes how the business finds its directions. Where in a traditional company a manager or director simply decides where everybody is headed and sets the aims, a bossless company needs to approach the issue differently.

This is why Lillep and her colleagues are attending the conference for its speakers. They are hoping to get new ideas that will take them a step further in the process of defining Proekspert's purpose in its extremely fast-paced business.

As the ferry is getting closer to Helsinki, delegates attack the breakfast buffet one last time and hurry to get their coats and business cases together. Faces appear and disappear in short succession, CEOs, members of parliament, government advisors, one of last year's presidential candidates is hovering about in the stairwell. In twenty minutes, they will scramble for a line of buses to take them to Helsinki's Messukeskus, where they will binge on even more coffee and fruit juice and launch into two days of networking and chatting.

Over the next 36 hours, ERR News will look for Estonia's best and brightest attending the conference — stay tuned.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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