13 Top Accelerators in Estonia That Will Help Your Startup Succeed

You don’t have to go to Silicon Valley to build your startup or secure funding from investors.

Estonia is famous for its digital innovation and rapidly growing startup ecosystem. According to The Economist, it holds the world record for the number of startups per citizen — just one of the  many reasons why foreign investors are investing in Estonia.

The Estonian startup ecosystem is very welcoming to foreigners.

You can start a business here, even without speaking Estonian. Most Estonian startups work in English. This makes joining the Estonian Mafia very easy.

What’s more, Estonia has a lot to offer in terms of support for startups, including growing incubators and accelerators.

Before we tell you more about the top startup accelerators and incubators in Estonia, let’s take a look at the benefits of these programs.

Join an incubator or accelerator in Estonia without even speaking the Estonian language.

Why Your Startup Should Join an Incubator or Accelerator?

The development of a startup can be divided into the discovery phase (search for a business model) and the scaling phase (execution of the business model).

Georg Fuerlinger, who worked at Stanford’s startup accelerator, explains that:

“Incubators mainly support new ventures during an earlier discovery/exploration stage with the aim to find a repeatable and scalable business model.

Accelerators, on the other hand, are institutions that “accelerate” the growth of new ventures. The prerequisite to enter an acceleration program is a working prototype and initial traction on the market.”

Having said that, the distinction is often blurred in practice. Nevertheless, joining an incubator or accelerator offers startups many benefits which include:

  • Working with experienced mentors
  • Collaborating with other entrepreneurs working on growing their businesses
  • Having less troubles with raising money
  • Taking advantage of discounts with services providers (lawyers, accountants…)

Dropbox and Airbnb benefited greatly from joining an accelerator program. Both went to Y Combinator, an accelerator in Silicon Valley, and they’re now multi-billion dollar tech businesses.

Free Bonus: Click here to get access to a free PDF that shows you how to incredibly improve your investor pitch (3 things that successful entrepreneurs have in common).

The United States is home to popular accelerator programs like Y Combinator and Techstars. Since their inception in 2005 and 2006, Europe had time to catch up — in particular, Estonia.

Feel like joining a startup program to grow your business?

Here’s the list of the top thirteen incubators and accelerators in Estonia:

Top Incubators & Accelerators in Estonia You Must Check Out

1. BuildIt — Incubating Promising Hardware Startups

Buildit is one of Top 13 incubators & accelerators in Estonia

  • Vertical: Hardware, Creative industries
  • Investment: 3000 EUR to cover living costs during the program for 3% of shares, additional investment available in the follow-on program.
  • Date created: 2014
  • Length of the program: 1 month + a follow-on program for successful teams
  • Number of startups: 26 and up to 10 will be accepted for the next batch 
  • Location: Tartu
  • Website: BuildIt

BuildIt focuses on hardware and the creative industries.

It accepts startups from all over the world. The incubator offers an intense mentoring program, a free co-working space, and access to different prototyping tools. The teams get free and discounted services from BuildIt’s partners, including, but not limited to development tools, design services, legal and accounting service.

Additionally, BuildIt helps the startups with follow-up investments. The incubator is connected to 95+ business angels and 50+ venture capital funds in Europe and the US. These include Accel, Index Ventures, Balderton, Google Ventures, and Wellington.

The application for their fall program is open until 31 July.

2. BioMed Incubator — Tartu Biotechnology Park

BioMed incubator is one of the initiatives of Tartu Biotechnology Park.

  • Vertical: Biotechnology, medicine and veterinary medicine
  • Investment: No capital investment
  • Date created: 2005
  • Length of the program: Depends on the project
  • Number of the startups: More than 40 alumni, 16 currently in the program, 5 in pre-incubation phase
  • Location: Tartu, Tiigi 61b
  • Website: biopark.ee

BioMed Incubator is one of the initiatives of Tartu Biotechnology Park — a privately owned, specialized science park. With almost 15 years experience, it has attracted about 17 M euros of funding for its startups. Business incubation is one of its main activity fields.

Through offering high quality infrastructure services, as well as business development and consultancy services, Tartu Biotechnology Park aims to help startups boost their growth and competitiveness. BioMed incubator doesn’t invest money in the startups they work with — it does however invest up to 5,000 euros in consultations, trainings and room rental on Tartu Biotechnology Park’s premises.

BioMed incubator accepts startups not only from Estonia, but also from neighboring countries. You can apply for acceptance by completing this application form.

Tartu Biotechnology Park and BioMed Incubator collaborate with different organizations, enterprises, universities, incubators, and accelerators from around the world. This fall, BioMed incubator and University of Tartu Idea Lab started a new pre-incubation program, where life science startups can get up to 6 hours of free consultation and trainings from Tartu Biotechnology Park during their stay in IdeaLab program.

Some cool examples of BioMed’s startups are TBD-Biodiscovery and Perfect Cosmetics.

3. ClimateLaunchpad

ClimateLaunchpad is an international incubation program that offers intensive mentoring for idea-stage and very early-stage cleantech startups.

  • Vertical: Cleantech
  • Investment: No capital investment
  • Date created: Established in 2014, launched in Estonia in 2015
  • Length of the program: 3 months
  • Number of Startups: 20 in Estonia, approximately 650 in Europe
  • Location: Bootcamps in different locations
  • Website: climatelaunchpad.org

ClimateLaunchpad is an international incubation program that offers intensive mentoring for idea-stage and very early-stage cleantech startups.

The most ambitious participants of the program get an opportunity to take part in the ClimateLaunchpad European Pitching Competition, win monetary awards, and network with business angels.

The program is currently the largest of its kind in the world. ClimateLaunchpad is active in 30 countries and going global in 2017. The program does not make any investments or take equity — it’s run with the support from sponsors and project funding.

ClimateLaunchpad is unique in that it helps get cleantech ideas off the ground with the help of very experienced experts from specific industries. ClimateLaunchpad is also a community where countries share their best practices, mentors, success stories, and once a year come together to compete in the Grande Finale. In 2016, the European Finals event was held in Estonia. The winner was an Estonian startup, Gleather.

4. Climate-KIC

Climate-KIC Accelerator, a mentoring program for cleantech startups, is Europe's largest public-private innovation partnership focused on climate innovation.

  • Vertical: Cleantech
  • Investment: No capital investment
  • Date created: Founded in 2011, runs in Estonia from 2015
  • Length of the program: 4-5 months in Estonia
  • Number of Startups: 17 in Estonia
  • Location: Bootcamps in different locations
  • Website: climate-kic.org

Climate-KIC Accelerator, a mentoring program for cleantech startups, is Europe’s largest public-private innovation partnership focused on climate innovation. Cleantech startups are often involved with developing heavily science-based hardware but also tackling slower go-to market circles — as such, Climate-KIC Accelerator positions itself uniquely to help them reach investor readiness.

The accelerator is simultaneously running in several European countries with their program varying from country to country. However, it’s usually built up in 3 stages:  1) fundamentals, 2) validation, and 3) scaling and investor readiness.

Climate-KIC Accelerator is a perfect match for teams that are looking for specific mentorship and connections. Last year, two startups out of three (who graduated stage 3 from the accelerator) were able to attract funding.

5. DIGIX Digital Creative Media Incubator

DIGIX Incubator is focused on digital creative media startups.

DIGIX Incubator is focused on digital creative media startups. By digital creative media, they mean all businesses built around screen-based creative content production and distribution: games, e-learning applications, location-based solutions, simulations, animations, VR, AR, etc.

DIGIX is an active member of an international network of like-minded incubators in the Baltic Sea region. That allows DIGIX to offer their incubants study trips and meetings in partner centers based in Finland, Latvia, Sweden, and Germany. Located on the Baltic Film and Media School premises in Tallinn, DIGIX provides the ideal setting for developing, testing and reiterating creative screen-based initiatives with a like-minded international community of young creators.

DIGIX does not invest money or take an equity share in its incubant companies. However, they do facilitate external financing to flow into participating teams, either through international EU-funded network projects, crowdfunding, or direct referrals to investors. The standard incubation period is 6 months, but it can be extended if a clear need to prolong the stay is demonstrated.

6. Elevaator Startup Labs

Elevaator Startup Labs doesn’t see itself as an incubator or accelerator, but as a mentoring entity.

  • Vertical: N/A
  • Investment: Varies
  • Date created: 2015
  • Length of the program: No fixed length
  • Number of Startups: 4
  • Location: Kultuurikatel, Põhja pst 27a, Tallinn
  • Website: elevaator.com

Elevaator Startup Labs doesn’t see itself as an incubator or accelerator, but as a mentoring entity. It was formed by three leading Estonian marketing and media agencies — Age McCann, ADM Interactive and The Division. All together, they represent the largest marketing ecosystem in Estonia with 100+ creative, design, development, media and marketing experts.

Elevaator is looking to invest into 2-4 early-stage projects per year. They mainly invest their branding know-how and agency resources, but sometimes also money to help startup founders polish their ideas and turn them into successful companies. Their investments depend on the needs of a specific startup.

Since Elevaator is not an accelerator, they don’t rely on a fixed period of mentoring. They aim to be a long-term partner for startups by helping founders with building the product, taking it to the market, and raising money.

Frank and Adcanvas are two examples of startups they’re currently working with.

7. GameFounders – Take Your Video Game Startup to the Next Level

GameFounders is one of Top 13 incubators & accelerators in Estonia.

  • Vertical: Game studios
  • Investment: $25,000 for 9% equity
  • Date created: 2012
  • Length of the program: 3 months
  • Number of startups: 10 startups per batch
  • Location: Tallinn (though the next program will take place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
  • Website: GameFounders

GameFounders is the only accelerator in Estonia built for game lovers with an impressive network of mentors from industry leaders such as Valve, Blizzard, and Google.

To select what GameFounders considers to be the most promising startups, the accelerator looks at the product, team, and vision.

And you can be their next success story:

One of the successes is Tiny Lab Productions that has been awarded with the title of Google Top Developer. GameFounders has helped Bitcake Studio to reach the first million users and has worked with OY Games that won the Audience Choice Award at Casual Connect 2016.

8. Mektory Startup Incubator — Tallinn University of Technology

Mektory is not a classical startup incubator, but rather an innovation and entrepreneurship center.

  • Vertical: Tech, mechatronics, IT, electronics
  • Investment: Provided in some cases
  • Date created: 2013
  • Length of the program: Pre-incubation of 3 months, incubation up to one year
  • Number of the startups: ~20 alumni startups + 8 currently in incubation
  • Location: Raja 15, Tallinn
  • Website: Mektory

Mektory is not a classical startup incubator. It’s an innovation and entrepreneurship center that runs four different programs:

  1.  Entrepreneurship program Bright Minds for younger students (target group is high school students, but there is no age limit) to get acquainted with the startup world
  2.  Pre-incubation program STARTERtech that is aimed mainly at university and vocational school students with tech-related business ideas
  3.  TUT Mektory Startup Competition
  4.  Mektory startup incubation, where the TUT Mektory Startup Competition participants start on developing a sustainable business model and MVP

Mektory is supporting startups mainly by providing mentorship and organizing different workshops. The best teams of TUT Mektory Startup Competition can also win a study trip to Silicon Valley, tickets to European Innovation Academy program, monetary support for developing their business ideas, and other prizes.

The program participants can rent office spaces in Mektory on favorable terms and be part of the community. They get access to in-house opportunities such as using laboratories, participating in seminars, going on thematic trips, weekly pitching to investors and delegations of entrepreneurs, etc.

Mektory also collaborates with Tehnopol startup incubator and Prototron Fund. The aim of their incubation program is to get startups ready for more advanced incubators and accelerators in Estonia and abroad.

9. Startup Wise Guys – B2B Experts Ready to Accelerate Your Startup

Startup Wise Guys is one of Top 13 incubators & accelerators in Estonia

  • Vertical: B2B
  • Investment: €20,000 for 8% shares
  • Date created: 2012
  • Length of the program: 3 months
  • Number of startups: 53 since the beginning and around 10 per batch
  • Location: Tallinn
  • Website: Startup Wise Guys

Since the last 4 batches, Startup Wise Guys focuses on Business to Business (B2B) and Software as a Service (SaaS), making them the leading accelerator in the sector in Europe. Startup Wise Guys is the largest investor in B2B companies in the Baltics with more than 50 startups in its portfolio.

Startup Wise Guys thinks global. More than 60% of their companies are not from Estonia. The founders are from over 30 countries and the network mentors, investors, and partners come from all over the world.

This is why Startup Wise Guys is expanding to other cities in the Baltics with Riga, Latvia, being the first one—starting soon.

A number of their businesses have achieved international recognition.

Investly, which helps medium size companies get paid faster, already got a large seed investment from Speedinvest, an Austrian venture capital firm.

PublishDrive, whose ultimate goal is to increase eBook sales globally, has already been backed by important investors. And its CEO, Kinga Jentetics has been named one of the top 100 female founders in Europe in 2016 by Forbes.

10. Tallinn Business Incubators – Long Commitment for Long-term Goals

Tallinn Business Incubators is one of top incubators in Estonia.

  • Vertical: Architecture, fashion, graphic design, product design, creating and producing audiovisual content
  • Investment: No capital investment is provided
  • Date created: 2006
  • Length of the program: 2-3 years
  • Number of startups: 170 Alumni and 40 currently in the program currently
  • Location: Tallinn
  • Website: Tallinn Business Incubators

Tallinn Business Incubators has one of the biggest portfolios in Estonia. Since 2006, it has incubated more than 170 companies.

While most of the accelerators and incubators take the companies under their roof for a period of 3-6 months, the Tallinn Business Incubators works with them for up to 3 years.

This allows the startups to take the advantage of all the perks of the program during the most crucial steps of growing a business. Those include in-house business coaches, experienced mentors, collaborative marketing schemes, and more.

Tallinn Business Incubators was established to help startups with export potential. To make this goal a reality, startups participating in the program can apply for a grant to reach foreign markets easier.

To take part in the incubator, the criteria for eligibility are strict. You can only apply if your startup is in the second year of operations and has sales revenue of €200,000+ of which 25% is from export.

11. Tartu Centre For Creative Industries

At Tartu Centre For Creative Industries, startups work with consultants and mentors who specialize in the creative industry.

  • Vertical: Creative industry
  • Investment: No capital investment
  • Date created: 2010
  • Length of the program: Pre-incubation program of 3 months, incubation for 2-3 years
  • Number of Startups: 157
  • Location: Kalevi 13, Tartu
  • Website: Tartu Centre For Creative Industries

At Tartu Centre For Creative Industries, startups work with consultants and mentors who specialize in the creative industry.

The interaction and fusion among participating startups helps them to add more value to their products and services. The program also allows individual entrepreneurs to meet like-minded people and find teammates.

Startups that participate in the incubator program can rent rooms at a discount in one of the five buildings that belong to Tartu Centre For Creative Industries.

12. Tehnopol Startup Incubator – Work Next to the Best Tech Talents in Estonia

Tehnopol Startup Incubator in Estonia.

  • Vertical: ICT, Green Tech and Health Tech
  • Investment: up to €10 000 worth of expertize
  • Date created: Tallinn Science Park Tehnopol was created in 2003 but the incubator’s birthday is not known.
  • Length of the program: 1 year
  • Number of startups: 40 annually
  • Location: Tallinn
  • Website: Tehnopol Startup Incubator

Tehnopol Startup Incubator is the largest program in the Baltics, currently working with more than 30 startups.

Thanks to its close location to Tallinn University of Technology and the saturation of talented innovators, Tallinn Science Park Tehnopol is the place to be. That is perhaps the reason Skype, Toggl, and other 200 companies have chosen to build their offices there.

The teams working in the program can count on 50+ business coaches to help them with various challenges the startups face.

They also have access to €450,000 prototyping fund PROTOTRON that has been selected as one of the best initiatives for entrepreneurs in Europe.

Tehnopol Startup Incubator has an impressive track record. It is said that 9 out of 10 startups fail. This is not the case for Tehnopol’s alumni; 7 out of 10 companies that went through the incubation program are still operating. So far, 155 companies have gone through the program and raised the total of €11 M of seed round investments.

Tehnopol Startup Incubator is open to all the Information and Communications Technologies. However, it also works with health and green tech projects.

The Incubator is at the same time the first ever to invite Estonian e-Residents to work on their ideas during such a program.

13. VUNK Labs and Accelerator — Scale Your Ideas with a Telecommunication Leader

VUNK Labs is one of Top 13 accelerators in Estonia.

  • Vertical: Internet of Things, Communication and Connectivity, Mobile Commerce
  • Investment: Equity-free
  • Date created: 2015
  • Length of the program: 3 months
  • Number of startups: 7
  • Location: Tallinn
  • Website: VUNK

VUNK is run by Telia Eesti, one of the largest telecommunication companies in the Baltic states, in partnership with Startup Wise Guys and Garage48.

The program is an opportunity to scale ideas related to the Internet of things, mobile commerce, or communication and connectivity.

Two great things about the accelerator program:

  1.  Working with VUNK Labs grants entrepreneurs invaluable access to Telia’s marketing and sales channels. There’s also the opportunity to be integrated with Telia’s API’s and infrastructure services.
  2.  The startups accepted to the accelerator can secure equity-free funding.

To join the program, you can pitch your idea at one of the idea garages in August and participate in the hackathon in September. Maybe your success story will start with VUNK.

This was the case for Rebelroam, the Internet provider for the transport industry currently granting the internet access to 250 coaches. After taking part in VUNK Labs and receiving a €10000 equity free grant, the startup has grown rapidly, acquiring an impressive client base. Now their products can be found in 37 European countries.

Applying to an Incubator or an Accelerator in Estonia

The popularity of Estonian accelerators and incubators is rising. Over the years, these programs have become more and more selective.

If you decide to apply to an accelerator or incubator, keep in mind that they reject a lot of startups. Read this article about startup accelerators in Finland for some advice on getting accepted into an accelerator program.

Free Bonus: Click here to get access to a free PDF that shows you how to incredibly improve your investor pitch (3 things that successful entrepreneurs have in common).

If you’re a foreigner, you’ll be interested in having a look at the Estonian e-residency that makes the whole process of joining #EstonianMafia easier for you.