Estonian Startup Awards 2021 gala took place on January 21, 2022. Over 300 startuppers and impact makers of the sector gathered at Vaba Lava to officially wrap up 2021 and celebrate the biggest wins of the year. Most noteworthily, 8 award trophies found a new home - scroll down to see the FULL SHORTLISTS and WINNERS of Estonian Startup Awards 2021.
If you missed the show, you can
watch it here. Big
thanks to our fantastic duo of hosts - Triin Kask and Reigo
The Brightest Stars and Biggest Wins of 2021
2021 was the year of Bolt, no surprise. Bolt
has revealed a new round every 5 months or so, bringing the
total valuation close to €8B. Markus Villig
well deserves the spot of The Founder of the Year and the title
of Revenue Hacker as well, for Bolt’s massive growth in all
directions while launching 2 new services, and doubling the
number of their employees, drivers and customers.
But who comes after Bolt? Single.Earth with
their fierce founder, Merit Valdsalu was
nominated in 3 categories, grabbing the win among the
Stereotype Crushers, and landing 2nd for Fintech, as well as
for The Founder of the Year. It’s a surprise and awe-inspiring
achievement that a relative newcomer has gained the deepest
respect of the founder community so quickly (considering the
final vote was cast by 218 fellow founders).
Third, it’s clear that The Startup Sector of the
Year was very much on point! Most of the Fintech
nominees such as Lightyear, 3commas, and Grünfin are all over
the shortlist, being impressive on all fronts.
Lightyear arrived with the Biggest Bang in
2021 by growing from just an idea to raising €10M across 2
rounds, and already landing in the UK market with their app
and a team of 19 superstars. Mic drop.
3Commas didn’t grab any 1st spots this
year, but was shortlisted in 4(!) categories along with the
CEO, Yuriy Sorokin - that might be a record! 3Commas has
been one of the biggest success stories of Estonian Startup
Visa, demonstrating that Estonia is a great place to build
a global startup. Yuriy’s efforts are bringing in hundreds
of thousands of euros in tax for our country with a local
team and headquarters. 3Commas grew 10x in 2021 in revenue
and they raised a €33M series B round.
Grünfin made it to TOP3 in 2 categories,
and was nominated among the Stereotype Crushers with their
50% female team and a core mission of sustainability.
Finally, massive respect to Timmu Tõke - after
8 years and countless pivots since the initial launch of
Wolf3D, he has made a powerful comeback with Ready
Player Me. They just closed the A-round of €13M. Timmu
is the embodiment of the best qualities of all great founders -
persistence and not giving up no matter what!
The Biggest Trends of 2021
2021 was another record-breaking year in fundraising - in 2019
Estonian startups raised €250M, in 2020 they raised €450M, and
in 2021 the total came to €950M! And a little
prediction - we’re going to beat last year’s results
before the 1st quarter of 2022 is over. After
Bolt’s record round, €600M is already “in the
bank”. Another 10+ investment deals are ready to be announced
or closed soon - these will add an additional €300M to the lot,
already in Q1! Baffling? Yes.
Regardless of Covid limiting the mobility of people, never
before has Estonia seen this many foreign VC’s physically
flying in. They were actively having meetings and making deals
on a weekly basis.
Close to 100 deals were made
in 2021, which brought the average deal size to €11M.
In 2021, Single.Earth closed one the biggest
Seed Rounds in the history of Estonian startups - .9M. From
recent history only
WhatIfI comes to mind with their Seed
Round of €10M. Our new generation is popping to the market with
super solid launches and Estonia is gaining global recognition
FINTECH AND WEB3
Fintechs are nothing new in Estonia. The decacorn Wise employs
over 1000 people locally and pays €14M in taxes alone each
year. But we see the next generation grabbing the sector by a
storm with ideas and solutions that keep on impressing and
redefining the norm.
We predict that the next unicorn will come from this
direction, possibly already in the first quarter of
2022. In the next 3-4 years, another 2-3 unicorns are likely to
rise from Estonian fintech.
Let’s take a moment to consider Veriff,
the serial winner of Estonian Startup Awards.
In 2019, Kaarel Kotkas was titled The Founder of the Year; in
2020, Veriff won the special category of the year, SaaS (and
was nominated for The Revenue Hack); for 2021, Veriff wins the
Startup Sector of the Year once again, this time in Fintech.
These guys just keep on scaling.
The powerful world of crypto is not just about mining
currencies. Crypto-technological solutions are now giving birth
to a new generation of startups that are solving a wide range
of real-world problems. We’re only starting to grasp how
Web3 technologies could redefine our everyday
activities, such as financial transactions, or democratizing
Let’s take Single.Earth,
NFTPort (Sentinel), 3Commas
or Ready Player Me as examples. The team
behind LIFT99 has also pivoted in this direction (check out
COMMUNITY GIVES BACK
The Wise Wallet of the Year, Sten Tamkivi is a
part of the most influential investment duo in Estonia.
Taavet+Sten makes 100+ deals a year, more than
half of which goes straight into funding startups. We are
seeing the rise of small but powerful investor groups,
consisting of experienced CEO’s and founders.
First, their funds keep on serving the next generation of
startups, locally - Wise’s, Bolt’s and Pipedrive’s money has
reached the investment market with an unstoppable flow,
as we predicted last year. Second, they’re
presenting serious competition to traditional ways of raising
rounds through big investment funds.
With the entire top 3 of The Giving Back Powerhouse
being former skypers (Martin Villig, Ahti Heinla, Riina
Einberg), the Skype legacy just keeps on giving back -
but only because of the people who tirelessly keep on believing
in our next generation.
And finally, there are more subtle patterns of giving back that
are emerging. We have loud and proud founders among us who are
breaking the classical founder stereotype -
academics, fresh parents, high schoolers, immensely experienced
specialists who are not ready yet to retire, or have decided to
jump into startupping without any previous experience! Our
startup community is maturing and still manages to keep on
surprising, this year’s rich shortlist is proof of that.
Thank you to all the 218 Estonian founders for contributed
in the voting round and to the 311 people from the community
who set up nominees. Without further ado, here are the winners
and nominees of Estonian Startup Awards 2021.