The success of the expansion of Estonian companies into international markets depends on how well they are able to attract foreign talent to Estonia, said Sergey Anikin, Head of Technology for Sales at Pipedrive, at the Riga Venture Summit 2020 conference in Latvia.
According to Anikin, technology companies in the Baltic States have a common concern - finding good IT staff. "The growth of the Estonian IT sector is largely dependent on the foreign workforce, because while our schools provide a very high quality education, there are simply too few local young IT professionals for four unicorns and over a thousand startups," said Anikin.
Many of the IT professionals' jobs in tech companies in Estonia are filled today by global recruitment. Almost 40% of Pipedrive's employees in Tallinn and Tartu offices are foreigners, representing 49 nations. In 2019 alone, 52 foreign specialists from 25 countries joined the company. "Global recruitment is the only opportunity for us to grow, because the job needs to be done and it is especially difficult to find specialists with specific skills in Estonia, such as data engineers," said Anikin. "Diversity is also a major competitive advantage and an important prerequisite for successful operations in foreign markets," he added.
Anikin mentioned the advantages of Estonia as a workplace are a strong image of the e-government and a well-developed IT sector, which gives foreign specialists greater freedom to move between companies when needed. "In Pipedrive's experience, a startup visa is one of the most important steps the state has taken to support and promote the IT sector," Anikin said. Since the program started in 2017, Pipedrive has recruited 64 highly paid IT professionals with startup visas. As salaries in startup companies' exceed the national average by nearly 70 percent, high labor taxes limit companies' rapid growth, Anikin said. "To ensure the sustainability of the Estonian IT success story, the state should seriously consider establishing a cap on the social tax, which would encourage the creation of high-paying specialist jobs in Estonia."
One of the main challenges of attracting foreign talent to Estonia, the salary level in Estonia is still lower than in Western Europe and the Nordic countries, even though, as Anikin highlighted, in global terms Pipedrive offers a very generous package of benefits to employees. "We are competing in the labor market with large and attractive IT hubs like Berlin, London and Barcelona, where there is more choice, higher salaries and more activities outside work," Anikin explained.