Estonian Startup Awards 2021: The Brightest Stars, The Biggest Trends, And The Full Shortlist

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 Ahven.

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 for it.



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 the web.

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 SaltoX).


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.

Source: lift99.co