Kaspar Korjus was just learning to read when the World Wide Web gave wheels to the internet. And it sparked a deep appreciation in him for just how transformative a project could be. “It made the world small enough to build global solutions from day one,” says Korjus.
Before he turned 30, Korjus would take the lead in building one such solution for his native Estonia: an e-Residency program that provided a capstone to an e-government revolution. After the former Soviet state gained independence in 1991, its leaders set out with an audacious plan. The tiny nation would carve out an outsized place in the global economy by creating a digital-centric government.
Today, almost all public services in Estonia can be accessed online, and anyone in the world can apply for e-Residency, which provides them with a government-issued digital identity as well as services such as registering an EU-based company. Since the e-Residency program launch, nearly 70,000 people have become e-residents, and more than 10,000 e-businesses have been established.
Korjus considers e-Residency and thereby “transforming Estonia into a borderless nation” to be his greatest professional challenge—and greatest achievement. “We had to listen to the concerns of each stakeholder to build trusting, long-term relationships,” he says.
Last year, Korjus left the e-Residency program and co-founded Pactum AI, a startup that aims to use AI to help businesses, including retail heavy hitter Walmart, negotiate and fine-tune their vendor contracts.
His mantra? Only do the projects that inspire you. Then you’ll inspire others. That priority, he says, will be even more central as the global pandemic creates new habits.
“Be ready to deliver everything without physical meetings,” he says. Such changes give a big advantage to digital-centric millennials and Gen Zers. “The new world is already being led by the young,” says Korjus.
Rules of Engagement
Building out Estonia’s e-Residency program left Kaspar Korjus with three guidelines for leading digital transformation:
Be brave—don’t wait for others’ approval.
Include the community and the client in the process.
Transformation is a long-term game—be mentally ready for that.