Next Silicon Valleys: Small Estonia has big ideas - BBC
Eestlased Eestis 28 Feb 2014  EWR
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By Nigel Cassidy, Business correspondent, BBC News

Tallinn, the Estonian capital, is a hi-tech haven for start-up companies - pics/2014/02/41564_001.jpg
Tallinn, the Estonian capital, is a hi-tech haven for start-up companies

Estonia may be tiny but in tech terms it's a giant. It has a population of just 1.3 million, yet produces more start-ups per head than any other country in Europe.

In the third instalment of our Next Silicon Valleys series, Nigel Cassidy visits to see how the Baltic nation compares with its Californian counterpart.
Tallinn Tallinn, the Estonian capital, is a hi-tech haven for start-up companies.

Right on the edge of Europe, halfway between Stockholm and St Petersburg, the tech-savvy country that launched Skype a decade ago continues to be a hotbed of entrepreneurs and innovation.

The start-up community in the small nation, dubbed the #EstonianMafia on Twitter, has been gaining visibility globally.

Examples of tech companies to come out of Estonia include Fitsme, a virtual fitting room for online clothing retailers, now in 16 countries, and Creative Mobile - a company creating free-to-play games for mobile platforms.

Playtech, one of the world's biggest providers of online gambling software, was founded in Estonia 15 years ago and is now listed on the London Stock Exchange with a value of around £2bn.
Speedy commuting

Now a bunch of entrepreneurs and engineers working overtime in modest workshops in the capital, Tallinn, are months away from launching products to revolutionise transport - and guitar-playing.
Stigobike Stigobike is an unfolding scooter designed for City commuting

Stigobike - a nifty unfolding scooter, designed for city commuting - is hailed the fastest folding electric scooter in the world.

It weighs just over 15kg (33lb), has a range of 40km (25 miles) for each charge of its onboard lithium battery - and a top speed of 27km/h.

A new design substitutes aluminium for carbon fibre. It has a simple two-step opening and closing mechanism that allows the pint-sized scooter to fold up and stand securely, yet with a footprint no larger than a shoebox.

"It's true we don't have traffic jams or commuting problems here in Tallinn, but our team travel a lot, and the idea was born when we saw the difficulties commuters face in international capitals. And only now has the battery technology became available," says Stigobike chief executive Rando Pikner.

The inventors envisage the bike, which will cost about 1,900 euros (£1,500), being ridden right up to airport check-in desks, railway ticket gates, or around large buildings.

With safety concerns as they are, the main hurdle could be getting EU authorities to approve the design as street-legal - let alone pavement-legal.

It seems unlikely that all the company's dreams will be realised - in Europe at least.
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