Editors note: TRAFI app has been added to the list and TutoTOONS was specified as this year’s winner of Silicon Valley Comes To Baltics.
With many of our readers reacting positively to our startup guide to Riga, we decided to continue the series. Our today’s destinations: Vilnius and Kaunas.
It doesn’t need to be repeated that the Lithuanian startup scene is getting more and more exciting. Instead, let’s get to some practical tips to help you put your boots on the ground.
Infrastructure is accessible and connectivity is cheap, maybe this is one of the factors in Lithuania’s focus on mobile reported by TC Disrupt ’13. Also, since the home market is too small, Lithuanian startups are bound to think about global needs from the start. This is how we have Lithuanian startups focusing on African customers or Asian hosts, for example.
Hottest Lithuanian startups:
Before you land at Vilnius airport and go visit some startups, events and co-working spaces, it helps to know some Lithuanian startups, just to get people talking. Here is a shortlist of Lithuanian companies that created some buzz lately:
Aciety – a B2B marketplace for high-end IT services that won the ‘Hyndai Brilliant Young Entrepreneurs Challenge 2014’ and now works with global clients like Expedia and providers like Adobe and HP.
TRAFI – a public transport app targeting emerging markets that has raised half a million USD seed round last year and is now active in the Baltics, Turkey and Brazil. They used the world cup hype well to promote their application in Brazil and from my personal experience their app in Latvia is very usable. So, besides being an interesting startup conversation topic, TRAFI is helpful for new visitors to navigate Lithuania and will help you find the best route by stop, address or even name of your destination.
Need a spot to work or meet up?
Co-working spaces and other meetup places are on the rise. Here are a few that we deem worth your entry:
Hub Vilnius – despite their predominantly Lithuanian webpage, HUB Vilnius is Lithuania’s oldest co-working space with 200 desks in 7 locations. It also includes an Art Incubator and has also lately expanded to Kaunas.
Rupert – a co-working space on the coast of Neris river, with a focus on art and creativity. According to Rupert, they focus on artists, thinkers, researchers, and other cultural actors. However, various startups join and visit the place to work in peace, away from the buzz of city centre. StartupHighway accelerator collaborates tightly with Rupert and StartupHighway startups work at the space.
ISM Innovators Base – a co-working space on campus of ISM University of Management and Economics. Despite there is not too much space and it is primarily intended for ISM students, it has built rapport as a hub for all kinds of startup events and a meetup place. They also have three support streams depending on startup development level: Design Thinking School, Founders School and Go live!
North Town Technology Park – a centre bringing together startups with a focus on science and innovations. It is close to the city centre and offers office space at a reasonable rate.
Go9 – Great co-working space that has recently relocated to Gedimino pr. 21.
If you’re thinking more of a coffee-shop:
When asking fellow Lithuanians about their favourite spots to work or meet up, many of them still mention coffee shops first. Two most frequently named networks:
Vero Cafe – a cozy coffee shop with many locations, referred by several startupers. The wide network of places makes it a convenient meetup place, easily reachable from most startup sights.
Mailerlite Coffee Shop – Another cool coffee shop is at Mailerlite offices, where they promise free coffee and wifi.
To get the most out of your visit, it makes sense to link it with one of region’s most notable startup events. Here’s a shortlist of just a few that are worth a shot:
LOGIN conference – LOGIN is a vibrant event with speakers, company stands and a lot of networking. It is the largest Baltic ICT event taking place in the largest Baltic exhibition centre LITEXPO. You can see our post about it here and have a glimpse of us visiting it this year here.
Silicon Valley Comes to Baltics – it just took place this weekend. Silicon Valley was first brought to Baltics in 2012 with 1200 people attending the event. In 2013 the number had doubled and last weekend they brought together 3000 startups, investors, technology companies, government and more. The event provides a good speaker lineup, hands-on workshops and a Startup Battle for the winner to go to Silicon Valley, which this year was TutoTOONS.
Startup Weekend – the oldest and most commonly known startup hackathon franchise is present here as well.
AppCamp event – organised by AppCamp, mobile application developer and publisher partnering with TeliaSonera (Omnitel). With 500+ participants AppCamp event claims to be the biggest mobile apps hackathon in the Baltics and Nordics.
Build Stuff – a high quality software development conference taking place in Vilnius on November 19-23. Despite it is not startup-centered, is has received good feedback from startups who had visited it so far.
I think we should stop here. You can find many more events in Lithuanian weekly StartupDigest, especially smaller meetups centered around particular communities and groups of interest – Php, Java, Ruby etc.
Startup Lithuania – the central one-stop-shop platform for all info for and about Lithuanian startup scene. Startup Lithuania gathers news, organises and promotes events, workshops and competitions, serves as a marketplace for startups and as the first information source for media and investors. They also have a neat table of players in Lithuanian startup ecosystem. Startup Lithuania brand is owned by Enterprise Lithuania, which is a government entity fostering business and exports of Lithuanian companies.
StartupHighway – a startup accelerator led by Rokas Tamosiunas with background in IT, startup community building and venture capital. They have so far accelerated 13 startups and are now preparing for 1-2 best teams to go to Silicon Valley. They are still always open and looking for bright ideas, though.
Startup.lt – a support programme ran by professionals from Practica Capital and accepting ambitious startups close to investment readiness in order to help them make the final move. A dedicated support team and possibility for up to 700,000 LTL (200,000 EUR) investment.
Practica Capital – most active fund established under JEREMIE programme and investing EU funds along with private capital in a range of EUR 3000 – EUR 3 million. They also run Startup.lt support programme. Practica Capital has 25 investments in their portfolio so far.
Nextury Ventures – a fund founded by Ilja Laurs after his successful exit of GetJar. They had announced their intention to invest in around 20 Lithuanian startups and have so far admitted 5 to their portfolio.
Business Angels Fund (Verslo Angelu Fondas) – a fund co-investing with business angels on equal basis, funded by European Investment Fund. According to their portfolio, Business Angels fund has so far invested in 22 companies within a range of EUR 50,000-400,000 per enterprise.
StartupHigway – the accelerator programme has so far invested in 13 accepted portfolio companies. They invest at a fixed rate of 7.5% of equity for up to EUR 14,000 seed investment (EUR 2,000 to the idea and EUR 3,000 for each founder, up to 4). Additionally, admitted startups have the option to receive up to EUR 30,000 in convertible notes from Practica Capital.
Lithuania also has successful examples of startup crowdfunding, despite the fact that Kickstarter isn’t available in the country and despite there are no national-focused crowdfunding platforms. For example, B2B high-end marketplace for IT services Aciety was successfully started by raising EUR 58,000 from 45 crowd investors through a campaign on their own webpage and using personal connections to spread the word.
Future startup infrastructure projects:
Vilnius Tech Park – A notable infrastructure development project where government, startups, investors and industry companies demonstrate successful collaboration. Invest Lithuania, Practica Capital, Vinted and Teo are the primary spearheads behind Vilnius Tech park. The park will be developed on the basis of StartupHighway. According to Delfi.lt, the official agreement is to be signed next week. Vilnius city municipality will be responsible for managing the Park, the rent for the entire complex will be symbolic LTL 8000 (EUR 2300) and all income will go towards maintaining and improving the park.
Sunrise Valley – a public company formed by Vilnius University, Vilnius Gediminas Technical University, Vilnius city municipality and industry players – Alna group (IT) and Lithuanian laser association. They use EU funding to develop Lithuanian startup and high-tech business ecosystem. They also develop infrastructure projects not exclusively focused on startups.
Startups in Kaunas:
While Vilnius certainly is the centre of startup life in Lithuania and most events, investors and startups cluster in the capital, Kaunas is not to be overlooked. Quite a few startups have successfully developed from Kaunas (Bliu Bliu, CoPictures, Aciety and Searchnode just to name a few).
So if you are in Vilnius and take about 1h train ride, you can see even more of Lithuanian startup scene. Kaunas University of Technology is an important actor with their Startup Space – academic youth business incubator that connects university’s IT, engineering and other bright students to catalyse idea sharing and implementation.
Hotspots in Kaunas:
KTU Startup Space (Kaunas) – a hotspot for startups nurtured by Kaunas University of Technology. Similarly to ISM, it is primarily focused on their students, but welcomes other startup players, too.
HUB Kaunas – Lithuania’s oldest co-working space that has recently expanded to Kaunas from Vilnius.
Know more places in Vilnius or Kaunas for your fellow startup travellers? Let us know in comments!
Marija Odineca is passionate about Baltic startup scene, visiting interesting Baltic startups and gathering their stories. She also coordinates the Global Entrepreneurship Week in Latvia.