10 ways e-⁠residents are adapting their businesses during the crisis

    From the covid pivot to R&D: results from our community survey on the impact of coronavirus

    A few weeks ago, e-⁠Residency surveyed you — our community members — to see how you’re doing right now. Thank you for your overwhelming response. With over 1,500 survey completions and a wealth of information shared, thank you for giving us very personal insights into the challenges you’re facing right now and your hopes for the future.

    We’ve started to go through the valuable data gathered from your survey responses to both gauge the mood of our community and to analyse what you expect from e-⁠Residency. In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing our analysis of the survey results. This blog post is the first in this series.

    This blog post focuses on how COVID-19 is impacting e-residents and how they are adapting their businesses in response. We’ve heard some word-of-mouth examples, like Vicky from Vistalworks tackling the increase in online scams and misinformation created by the crisis, and Georg and Ian from Mansiontech pivoting to new revenue streams to fortify their digital marketing business.

    The survey confirms that the ‘covid pivot’ is more widespread.

    In fact, equal proportions of e-⁠resident business owners who responded are either adapting their businesses or continuing business as usual. Based on the responses of those adapting, we’ve identified ten different ways they are doing so. These range from survival tactics to shutdown, from going virtual to pivoting to new products, markets or clients, and from helping those in need to focusing on self-improvement.

    The survey also confirmed that e-⁠Residency has made it easier to undertake these activities during the crisis as it is ready made for running a borderless business remotely, supporting a lean and agile company setup, and focusing on creating value.

    Who participated?

    1535 people participated in the survey, including 1115 e-⁠residents.

    Just under half of the e-⁠residents surveyed have registered companies in Estonia, and these 516 people are the focus of this article.

    Impacts of COVID-19 on e-⁠resident companies

    A major challenge for entrepreneurs right now is how to plan and strategise amongst huge business uncertainty. Aside from the horrendous health and social implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic consequences of the crisis are also expected to be enormous.

    Already, we have seen a sharp decrease in demand for goods and services by both consumers and businesses, a downturn in trade and manufacturing, and major disruptions to supply chains.

    Through the survey, we were interested to see how our community is being impacted. We therefore asked e-⁠residents with companies to rate on a scale of 1 -10, how seriously they think the pandemic will impact their businesses this year. While a simple measure, the fact that 64% of respondents rated the impact as 7 or higher and almost a quarter (22.5%) responded with the highest score of 10 shows that there is great concern amongst our community.

    E-⁠residents also responded to an open question of how covid-19 is affecting them. Their freeform responses encapsulate a wide range of feelings, the majority of which are negatively associated (e.g. anxiety, anger, loneliness) or neutral (e.g. uncertainty, boredom, lethargy), and a smaller group are more positive (e.g. hope, contemplation, humour, and determination).

    The majority of responses identified several key topics affecting them:

      Some respondents said the crisis has had no effect and a few people said it has even helped their business or find a better work/life balance.

      When asked about the biggest obstacle facing their companies, the vast majority nominated conditions brought about by COVID-19:

      Of those who nominated ‘other’, a handful made specific mention of the difficulties operating in the tourism sector right now. A few others responded that they have had no negative impacts, and rather have had too much demand and not enough time.

      The covid pivot: how e-⁠residents are responding

      In the face of the impacts of COVID-19, businesses across the world are looking for solutions to survive the pandemic by adapting or changing activities, business models, or priorities.

      In the e-⁠Residency team, we’ve even given this a nickname — the ‘covid pivot’.

      We asked e-⁠residents with companies in the survey if they have made changes to their business or discovered new opportunities, as a result of the pandemic. Near equal proportions said either it’s business as usual or they have pivoted their business / discovered new business opportunities.

      We asked those in the latter category to provide more detail about the kinds of changes they have made. After careful review and analysis, we categorised the 237 freeform responses into the below ten categories. While there is some overlap, these are the clearest trends we identified in the information provided to us.

        How has e-⁠Residency helped during the crisis?

        We’ve now offered insights into how skilled e-⁠resident entrepreneurs are tackling the challenges of operating a business right now in order to inspire others to find opportunities amongst the uncertainty.

        But has e-⁠Residency itself helped?

        Of the e-⁠resident company owners surveyed, 61% agreed that e-⁠Residency has made running a company online easier or helped during this crisis. We asked why (or why not) and, while I will leave more detailed analysis of these responses for a later blog post, two strong themes emerged.

        Survey respondents confirmed that e-⁠Residency is ready made for remote work and running a borderless business online. One survey respondent said e-⁠Residency allows “fully digital business management” and another said it is “location independency at its best”.

        It therefore helps entrepreneurs and their companies to be digitally resilient even at a time when borders are closed and international travel shut down, the majority of people are learning to work from home, and lockdowns are in place for all but essential needs. As one respondent put it:

        “Everything is run remotely/online, which gives a lot of flexibility and comfort, especially during the lockdown period.”

        Learn more about starting an Estonian company as an e-resident:

        Another described it as simple as:

        “I can manage my company with just a computer and WIFI.”

        The survey also revealed that by providing access to Estonia’s advanced e-governance services, e-⁠Residency empowers entrepreneurs to run lean and agile businesses, meaning they spend more time creating value and less on admin. E-⁠residents can thus more quickly adapt their business operations, activities and priorities and thus both survive the crisis and have better opportunity to thrive long term. A survey respondent described it in these terms:

        “e-Residency is now one of the few aspects of doing business that is not affected and it is very nice not to have to worry about.”

        The lack of bureaucracy, flexibility in switching business models, simple accounting procedures, and easy and quick processes of digital signature were all cited by respondents as reasons e-⁠Residency and access to e-Estonia has made running their business during the crisis easier.

        Or as one respondent said:

        “Efficient e-life in Estonia”

        We couldn’t have put it better ourselves!

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