Estonia might not be the first country that comes to mind when you think of tech-hotspots, but Tallinn, the Baltic nation’s capital city, was recently included in Inc.’s list of five global cities of the future.
It was the first nation to issue ‘e-residencies’, which grant foreigners the same digital rights as people born in Estonia. The idea behind this is to attract people to the city so that its thriving start-up scene can continue to develop.
It’s not just startups which have decided to move to Tallinn - Skype’s also based there. A decade since its move, Skype has clearly had a major impact on the city’s startups. Through the tech-focused venture capital firm, Atomico, Skype’s founders have invested in a number of companies, with Jawbone and Last.fm, just two names on their books. These companies are now collectively referred to as ‘the Skype Mafia’.
However, it’s Fleep, a platform which merges emails and messages, which is arguably Estonia’s most talked about startup. In an interview on Inc., Asko Oja, Fleep’s co-founder, stated that;
‘We are combining email communication, inter-team chat, information sharing (wiki), and task management all in one tool. So if you have small business you can use one tool instead of any number of tools you would otherwise need to’
At its core, Fleep’s main advantage is that it allows separate conversations to be centralized. Conversation histories are automatically saved to the cloud, and new contacts can be added to conversations with relative ease. Basically, the platform collates all your messages into one feed, making it much easier to stay abreast of everything that’s going on around you.
Fleep isn’t alone. Stewart Butterfield, the co-founder of Flickr, has a new site called Slack, which has recently been trying to acquire capital at a valuation of $2 billion. Used specifically for work-communication, Slack is based out of California and is Fleep’s main rival.
Jaan Tallinn, once a leading engineer at Skype, feels that Fleep has the upper-hand however, even though he’s an investor in Slack. He states;’Fleep's key differentiator is the email interoperability’. ‘Its long-term success depends more on how well it will fare against email services, rather than against other IM clients’.
So far, Fleep has 25,000 users, most of which are concentrated in five countries; the UK, USA, Russia, Estonia and Australia. Fleep’s business model has yet to be fully moulded, with the company’s senior management team still experimenting with new ways to create revenue. It now offers a premium service which they hope will bring in extra funds.
Although Fleep’s rise is interesting in itself, it’s the emergence of the ‘Skype Mafia’ - companies which have either been formed or invested in by former Skype employees - which catches the eye. The fact that this group of companies have been able to elevate Tallinn to an innovation leader shows how important one company can be to an entire city.