23rd May 2017

Tallinn - Europe's entrepreneurial technology hub

Lawyers generally have great bottoms – as my grandmother (mother of one S J Berwin) used to say.

But sometimes we have to get off those, and explore the world. For Berwins Digital, we started by taking our digital offering from Harrogate and expanding our footprint to Leeds – as Leeds, and its enormous strength in digital, seemed to bestir from a level of secrecy.  In April we were thrilled, again, to be closely involved in Leeds Digital Festival, where 114 events took place in one extraordinary week. 

Now, it’s Estonia – Estonia?  For those attune to emerging forces – yes, Estonia.  And we’re basing ourselves in its picturesque, but dynamic capital of Tallinn. When Estonia ceased to be a part of the Soviet Union, after initial struggles it started again, and it put digital to the fore – in government and in commerce. 

A vibrant entrepreneurial hub

When Skype emerged out of Estonia, and was bought by Microsoft, the funds released and reinvested in Estonia spawned a culture of start-up businesses, not a few of which have been successful and are forging pioneering paths in the world.

Our stay in Tallinn began with a visit to leading technology lawyers Hedman, who like Berwins with Berwin Digital, brand their tech sector as Hedman Lift. Clearly, we have a similar passion, even expressed in a similar way. We’ve had great support - how often will you hear such plaudits? – from the Department of International Trade (DIT) team at the British Embassy in Tallinn (as well as assistance with funding, via EU funds; we recognise the irony …). So we paid a visit there, and learnt more about the tech ecosystem not just in Estonia, but in the Baltic States generally.  DIT want to bring business to the UK – so do we.

And our last visit of the day was to the achingly cool LIFT99 venue – a start-up mecca, housed in an old industrial building which will be the venue for our discussion about Brexit and the opportunities for business in the north of England.  Chris Sier, the government FinTech envoy for the Northern Powerhouse, will be joining us for a great evening.

Estonia is buzzing; we’re here, being part of it, bringing the best of legal tech expertise from Yorkshire to this small, exciting Baltic state. 

In becoming a beacon of how a digital society can work, Estonia has grasped arguably the greatest benefit technology can bring – rationalising processes to allow entrepreneurs to push boundaries, explore new solutions and establish an innovative, vibrant businesses culture.  

Estonia has its beautiful medieval buildings, and an extraordinarily rich Hanseatic heritage. The cruise ships disgorge tourists onto the cobbled streets of Old Tallinn.  However, outside the ancient walls, Estonia is showing how an agile small country, making a fresh start, can create a fresh future and make a global impact. 

Paul Berwin is a leading technology and digital law specialist. During May 2017, he is spearheading Berwins' trade mission to Estonia.

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