We submitted the 2016 annual report to the Commercial Register some time ago. It's a good moment to analyze on what has been achieved and to look into the future. Our company was registered in 2009, but started actual operations five years ago, in 2012.
The idea of offering global entrepreneurs Estonia as one jurisdiction for growing businesses seemed more than attractive. By that time Estonia's legal and economic environment were quite advanced, and had a number of advantages over other jurisdictions: tax environment (zero income tax on reinvested profits), fast-growing e-services, economic freedom, Eurozone, low corruption, etc. At that time Estonia was ranked very high or high in different rankings that measure the attractiveness of the economic environment: 33rd in the competitiveness ranking, 19th in the Forbes list of worlds’ most business-friendly countries, etc.
We looked at what corporate service pros are offering global entrepreneurs elsewhere in the world and decided to start offering it also in Estonia. The first thing that we did was to design a webpage where potential customers can set up a company on the web. We were inspired by companies that provide a similar possibility in the UK. We completed the website, and started to wait for the first customer. I think we waited quite a long time. And the very first customer who would be willing to enter his or her sensitive personal data in the web-based form including the credit card number never came. We realized that something had to be changed. But what?
Let's analyze the situation. We looked at what the customers were asking us: where is Estonia, whether Estonia is the EU member state, whether the currency in Estonia is the Euro, whether they would have to pay taxes in Estonia at all, etc. etc. It became clear to us that no-one in the wide world knew much about Estonia, not to mention that it could be a nice place to establish your business.
We prepared a new website and started to introduce Estonia to the world. Our entire focus was on what is Estonia, and why this is a great place for business. Slowly, things started to change. People's awareness of Estonia began to slowly rise, and with it, the confidence in Estonia's good business environment.
Then came 2014 when the government launched the e-residency program on December 1. And from that moment we were no longer alone. The Estonian state was doing the hard work of raising awareness about Estonia and our life became pretty easy. In 2015, we no longer had to explain to the majority of our customers of what is Estonia or where it is located. We were contacted by entrepreneurs who were informed and knew what they wanted. Our role was to advise them in details and to assist them realizing these goals in Estonia: we incorporated a company for them, advised them in this process, and later provided to them accounting and all other services that they needed.
Today, the Estonian state has almost for three years sent a very powerful message to the world: Estonia is the only country on our planet that enabling all those interested to obtain a digital identity so that they can use all of Estonia's digital infrastructure and the opportunities that it offers.
Today, there are more than 21 thousand e-residents and this number is growing day by day. And, again, the content of enquiries made to our company has changed. The person who contacts us today is, as a rule, already an e-resident who knows very well what is Estonia and where it is located.
Estonia has become a country where starting a business and the daily management of the business over the Internet has become a reality. The incorporation of companies and their management has become similar to buying books at Amazon. The entrepreneur sits in front of a computer, drinks coffee, clicks some keys and there it is. No need to drive anywhere.
Yes, there is no need to travel to Estonia. The world has changed again, our customers have changed. It's time also for us to change, and to meet customers' expectations. Our customers want to be able to incorporate a new company and manage it via the Internet. We have therefore decided to digitize as much of our business processes as possible and to put all activities that can be digitalized technically and that in digital form are supported by the regulatory environment to the web.
We realize that, as a rule, the customer prefers to be counselled via telecommunication devices, without having to physically visit Estonia. We have everything ready to offer it to them. In connection with this, our group now has two companies. E-Advisors advises our clients via Internet and telecommunications channels and Witismann Corporate Services develops and manages digital systems for setting up companies and their subsequent management.
Our new fully automated order system that will be launched in September 2017 is the first step in this direction. I promise that soon there will be more. And for e-residents’ life will be even easier, faster and cheaper.