How e-resident entrepreneur Lavinia Iosub built a bridge from Bali to Tallinn
Lavinia Iosub is a Romanian entrepreneur who has worked in Azerbaijan, lives in Bali in Indonesia, and is also an Estonian e-resident. At the time of our interview, she was visiting family in the UK. She’s lived in eight countries on four continents and has worked for banks and NGOs alike. But it was in the world of entrepreneurs, startups, and coworking communities that she found her home.
She’s never looked back.
“Working in the corporate world, it felt to me that everything was about titles,” says Iosub. “People would attend training events to obtain diplomas rather than to improve their lives,” she says. “As I got closer to startups and entrepreneurs, I found a different kind of energy where people are keen on learning new things all the time, and trying to get something out of their day.”
It was through these connections that Iosub got the invitation to join a business partner, Michael Bodekaer, in Bali, where he was busy fostering and instigating a community of entrepreneurs who wanted to leave the drudgery of daily office life behind and try to work in a different way.
Known to all as a tropical resort island, Bali is also nestled in the middle of the Indonesian archipelago, and has been a draw for freelancers, remote workers, and lifestyle entrepreneurs who want to start over, and also serve not only Indonesia’s market of 270 million, but the world. It’s an island of Hindu shrines, high-end hotels, monkey temples, and those ubiquitous scooters. Iosub herself lives in Sanur, a walkable beachside suburb of the capital city Denpasar.
It is in Denpasar, a sprawling market town of 900,000, where Bodekaer and Iosub founded Livit Hub, a coworking space to serve the community Bodekaer had been working to build since the early 2010s. “I would advise people building this kind of space to have a community first,” notes Iosub. “That way you can engage the community before starting to build. It’s always preferable.”
For the physical space, they chose a former clothing factory, a “glorified sweatshop” as Iosub calls it. They stripped the interior down and then rebuilt everything else to fit their desire to build a work and play space that fit Livit’s tagline, “work reinvented.” Her goal was to create a space where people felt comfortable not only working but also relaxing and recharging before a call. The space has a reliable internet connection — which wasn’t so easy to come by in Bali in the past, though that is changing — and a pleasant atmosphere with ergonomic furniture to boot.
“I didn’t want it to look like an office in central London,” remarks Iosub. “There are some nice design elements, like swings, hammocks and a nap and prayer room,” she adds. Iosub was involved at all stages in the design process and says the community helped a lot too.
“A lot of input came from asking community members, which resulted in out-of-the-box ideas.”
The space was inaugurated in 2018 and the community continues to thrive. Interestingly, around two thirds of residents at Livit Hub are Indonesians, as opposed to foreign digital nomads. Iosub says it has been part of the organization’s strategy to invest in Indonesia and Indonesians.
While Bodekaer has moved back to Europe to focus on a different business, Iosub has remained in Bali, where she serves as managing partner of Livit International.
e-Residency and the Remote Skills Academy
One aspect of Iosub’s business strategy has been to offer know-how and business services to startups, small businesses and members of the Livit community. The idea has been to expand vertically by stacking services on top of the space, rather than branching out into new locations. “In this way, Livit Hub is actually a hub, not just a space,” she comments.
“Basically, you get help with lots of things, including administrative, legal, and financial advice,” says Iosub. Internationally, Livit also works with dozens of startups and institutions providing them with training, consultancy and recruitment services, fully remotely.
It’s these services that made having Estonian e-Residency essential for the offering.
Iosub first found out about the program, which allows non-Estonians to apply for electronic residency and obtain the ability to open a business and interact with Estonia’s e-governance and business infrastructure from anywhere in the world, at coworking and digital nomad conferences. She noted that the Estonian e-Residency team also visited Livit in 2019, the year she became an e-resident, traveling to Singapore to pick up her kit. “I found it very straightforward,” she says.
One reason for becoming an e-resident was to access Estonia’s easy-to-use digital services, which were a breeze:
Iosub also uses the Estonian business entity to apply for licenses and hire consultants, human resources, and other specialists remotely, as well as to invoice and service international clients. She notes that she maintains separate Estonian and Indonesian operations.
“It made all the sense to have the remote team under the Estonian set up and to be able to take advantage of all the facilities that the Estonian set-up can bring entrepreneurs,” she says.
E-residents can establish and manage a paperless EU-based company 100% online. Learn how you can create your own location-independent business in Estonia’s secure, trusted, digital environment with minimal cost or bureaucracy.
It was the remote working ability afforded by e-Residency that allowed Livit to weather the pandemic, a tough time for a coworking space, Iosub adds, but now that world is reopening, ever so slightly, she is eager to grow again via an entity called the Remote Skills Academy, where more than 40 trainers from the Livit team and community teach Indonesians to work remotely and build careers, and lives, on their own terms, as she put it.
“We have an academy that teaches Southeast Asians to learn to work remotely,” says Iosub. Remote Skills Academy has recently expanded to Thailand and is moving into more remote areas of Indonesia as well. Hand in hand with those efforts, Iosub is overseeing the expansion of the Estonian operation. “We definitely will be growing that part of the business, as more teams realize they can build global teams and recruit people from anywhere in the world.”