A lot is happening in 1Office this summer. One of the biggest achievements has been the launch of my1Office platform that brings
company formation and all business management services under one roof. In my1Office, everything can be done from one place
and fully online. As 1Office is celebrating its 12th birthday on 12 August, it’s a perfect time to ask some questions from Ragnar
Everest, the CEO of 1Office group and see how 1Office is doing.
What is the story of 1Office? How did you come up with the idea?
My friend came to me 12 years ago with an idea of renting out working spaces and providing virtual office service as nobody was doing anything similar in Estonia at that time. Later, we discovered that there was one competitor on the market, but we knew it could be done better. So, we started our business by renting out working spaces and offering virtual office service. This was kind of like uncharted waters to me, but I decided to take the leap.
The first clients were foreigners who asked if we could also help them with company formation and later with accounting services. That’s how we discovered the actual needs of our customer segment. When we had about 10 clients, we noticed that they were all foreigners, so we decided to focus on the foreign markets where the main clients were non-residents, looking to start a business in Estonia. Our business grew step-by-step by understanding the needs of the customers.
When there was an opportunity to expand to Sweden, we immediately took it because doing international business has always been my dream. At that time, I also had a choice whether to quit my 9-to-5 job and focus on the business or enjoy the benefits of a secure and well-payed job. My inner voice was too strong to ignore it, so I decided to focus on the business and started building up the company.
After Sweden, the next logical step seemed to be to expand our business to Finland. I remember that at some point, I was standing in the middle of the square in Helsinki, introducing our services and communicating with people. 1Office’s greatest advantage is the fact that we have started businesses from scratch in multiple countries so we can advise our clients based on our own experience.
1Office is already celebrating its 12th birthday in August. What were your main goals when you first started business? Did you know 12 years ago where would 1Office be today?
In the beginning, my goal was to start a business and create something of my own, and I’ve always had an ambition of doing international business. I didn’t have any expectations of where I would be in 12 years. I admit that every beginning is a little intimidating, but once you have taken the first scary steps, the fear fades away and is replaced with the mentality of “what’s the worst thing that can happen”.
In the first year, the main goal was to get a loan from the bank to finance our business. Luckily, we did get it, but looking back now, I’m surprised that this happened as we didn’t even have a proper business plan. I guess they just liked our ambition and believed in the business idea.
I think our landlord believed in us too, as I have to admit that in the beginning, we experienced financial difficulties which were amplified by the ongoing financial crisis, so during one period we weren’t even able to pay the rent. We had long discussions with the landlord where we thoroughly introduced our business plans and even got advice from him. Of course, we finally paid off our debt, but there are many people to be grateful for as the beginning was rough.
What motivates you to keep on going?
I’m the type of person who never gives up and has a “go-getter” attitude. Figuratively speaking, if a door closes, I look for a window.
I enjoy being an entrepreneur and consider it as my hobby. Of course, sometimes the stress level can get quite high, indicating that I need to slow down a bit.
How do you relieve stress?
I enjoy different extreme sport activities, such as motocross and freestyle scootering, and sometimes I go to the shooting range.
A couple of years ago, I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro which was one of the most difficult things I’ve done in my life. The hike to the top of the mountain took a week and was very challenging. I have to admit, there were a couple of moments when I was scared for my life. Some of the people from our group didn’t even make it to the top and they had to be taken back due to health problems.
How has Covid-19 outbreak and the consequent lockdowns affected 1Office?
The situation is more difficult as the Covid-19 outbreak has taken its toll on the international business, and I don’t see it getting better before there’s control over the virus. It’s easier for the local markets to adapt compared to the international businesses.
Now is the time to think back on the lessons we’ve had and find ways to swim against the flow to keep our business alive. However, as many others, we also have to apply some austerity measures to protect ourselves.
On the country level, it all depends what are their policies with regards to the virus and the measures they’ve taken to prevent it from spreading. For example, Sweden has been an odd man out when it comes to coronavirus as it never imposed a lockdown in the country. In the current situation, entrepreneurs are not too eager to enter this market, even if there are no restrictions from the government side.
Nevertheless, people are still continuing their business activities despite the Covid-19, and we have business as long as there are entrepreneurs.
Recently 1Office came out with a new my1Office platform which is a big step forward for foreign entrepreneurs. Where did the idea for my1Office come from?
I got the idea about three years ago because I wanted to offer entrepreneurs a so-called super environment where they could manage their businesses remotely.
Europe has a very fragmented system because each country has its own jurisdiction and different bureaucracy levels. In most countries, e-services are not that common which means more hassle and paperwork for entrepreneurs. So, even if the company’s formation process has been made easy for the locals, it’s a mission impossible for foreigners. That is the reason why we wanted to offer entrepreneurs a pan-European business environment where everything could be done from one place and from the distance. Our main goal with my1Office is to help businesses easily expand in Europe.
In my1Office, you only have to fill in one online form to start a company. Your company will be in an environment that takes care of the basic business needs, meaning that there’s no need to study laws or worry about accounting. To sum it up, my1Office is a powerful administrative environment for businesses.
How long did it take to develop my1Office from beginning to end?
We started developing my1Office platform about one year ago. The process has been quite fast considering the available resources. Our advantage has been a thorough knowledge and a lot of experience in our field of business.
What are my1Office’s benefits for the customers?
Illustratively speaking, the services are brought from the Stone Age to the present because everything is now in one environment where clients have a good overview of the company and can easily manage their businesses. The user experience is more consistent as there is no need to communicate separately with a secretary, an accountant, or anybody else because all the data is in my1Office. Being an entrepreneur is very easy if you use all the possibilities available for your business in my1Office.
What were the main obstacles that had to be conquered during the process of developing my1Office?
Our development manager would probably say it was the speed of generating ideas. We had constantly new ideas of what else should be added to my1Office. Therefore, at some point, we had to create a waiting list of activities that will be added to my1Office in the second and third phases.
Other than that, we have had some technical difficulties, or the third parties haven’t delivered the way we have hoped. As mentioned, all the functions are not yet fully available in my1Office, but we are planning to launch them in next phases to enhance the user experience even more. There is definitely something to look forward to, for example, soon we plan to add a translation function, legal contract templates, and a mobile app.
When our competitor recently came out with a similar platform, I was happy to see that we had found a different angle on how to approach things. My1Office is not just a platform, but our main goal is to help entrepreneurs by offering them real services. This confirmed to me that we’re on the right path.
Overall, I’m really happy that we have brought the idea of my1Office alive, and I’m already looking forward to hearing our customers’ feedback.
What are the next plans for 1Office now that my1Office platform has been launched?
We will continue developing my1Office as there is still a lot to come in the second and third phases. We have our own vision of what my1Office should look like and what it should contain. And along with that, 1Office will also continue to grow and expand.
Is 1Office planning to expand to some new locations in the future?
My1Office is an important milestone for our customers as well as for 1Office because it creates valuable preconditions to grow internationally.
We are planning to expand our business to the European countries where the technology is highly advanced, such as the countries that have announced their e-Residency programs, for example, the Netherlands, Portugal, and others.
What is the direction of e-Residency and the companies that offer business services for e-residents?
Recent times have been a bit concerning. The coronavirus has negatively affected businesses, and it seems that the government hasn’t always handled the e-Residency program the best. Since this project has a tremendous impact on the country, the government should constantly try to develop it. I hope the e-Residency program will receive more attention in the future.
I think that in the near future, the competitors will not come out with similar platforms to my1Office as the popularity of e-Residency has been decreasing. My1Office platform, on the other, is not only for e-residents but a pan-European platform that offers business services in multiple countries.
Thank you for Ragnar Everest for sharing his memories and thoughts about 1Office.
We are happy that this year we can celebrate 1Office’s birthday with the launch of my1Office. It has many useful services that will help entrepreneurs manage their businesses from the distance. Of course, we plan to improve the user experience further by adding new services to the platform soon. Register your free account in my1Office here.