On Friday Nov 21 TechHub Riga hosted its opening event. Latvia’s central startup hub has moved into a new bulding, twice the size of their previous office and able to fit in around 150 people. Among other announcements, Andris Berzins is stepping down as TechHub chairman and letting Ernests Stals take over the lead. Ernests is a logical choice, considered he was at the inception of what is now TechHub Riga as once started as Open Coffee Club and later grew into regular startup evenings. In addition, another member is joining the board of TechHub Riga – Raimonds Kulbergs, who left Big 4 consulting to build Funderful, the startup behind TechHub Riga fundraising campaign.
These are not the only new developments in TechHub Riga. The startup hub also announced its strategic partnership with Latvian national telecommunications giant Lattelecom. From now on, TechHub Riga will have strong intenet connection provided by Lattelecom and all notable TechHub events will be streamed using Lattelecom streaming services. Andris Berzins shared his vision that this coopearation will make TechHub more accessible to people outside of Riga who cannot always make it to their events, including TechChill Baltics conference in February.
TechHub now also plans to provide support for hardware startups. They announced partnerships with Riga Technical University Riga Design Factory and Make Riga hackerspace founded by Rihards Skrubs, CEO of Dimple.
Besides that TechHub Riga is now oficially the Latvian chapter of Silicon Vikings network – a non-profit created to build bridges between Nordic technology startups and Silicon Valley. The official information about Latvian chapter is supposed to appear on Silicon Vikings webpage soon.
In addition to its fundraising campaign that has already gathered over EUR 3000, TechHub announced more in-kind contributuion. In particular, from now on TechHub has regular office hours with experts donating their time to hub’s startups. TechHub mentors include Janis Skutelis (FlyCap), Signe Sneidermane (Repsonsum), Arturs Mednis (Inspired Digital), Andris Rubins (DDB Latvia), Egils Boitmanis (Infinitum8), Ingrida Karina-Berzina (Raidla Lejins & Norcous), Leo Selavo (University of Latvia Faculty of Computing) and the TechHub Riga board members. Any more mentors willing to contribute are welcome to join the team.
TechHub Riga was established 3 years ago and was funded by 26 founding members who paid their yearly membership fee upfront. This has helped get the hub started and cover operational expenses while more startup enthusiasts joined. To date TechHub Riga has helped 27 alumni startups, most of whom are still active. Currently, there are 30+ companies and 100+ people developing their business in TechHub Riga. With neverending demand for joining the hub and with older tenants growing their teams, in 2013 TechHub announced that it would be moving to a new building.
‘It was a challenge to find the right space’ Andris Berzins admits. ‘We had impossible requirements – we wanted a huge open office-type space to keep fostering collaboration, we wanted it in the city centre as most of our members use public transport and we wanted it cheap as we are a non-profit foundation.’
Luckily for TechHub they met Alex Blumentals from Katalyst Growth Partners who was also looking for a space to foster innovation. He was already in negotiations with the owners of the building on Kalku street 12/14, Baltic RE, and invited TechHub to join. Katalyst Growth Partners will occupy the 4th floor, right below TechHub Riga. Baltic RE, a Latvian real estate company with Italian owners has agreed to renovate the building and has signed a 10-year contract with TechHub Riga.
TechHub Riga occupies 5th and 6th floor of the building. 5th floor is an open space type office with desks designed for individual members and small teams, two meeting rooms separated with glass walls and a kitchen. The second floor hosts grown-up startups that still want to be part of the community. Each team has their own glass room that allows some privacy, yet still enables all networking benefits. Uldis Leiterts, the founder of Infogr.am notes that being part of TechHub greatly facilitated finding the right talent for his startup.
As many startups note in TechHub fundraising campaign, the hub has been very valuable to them. We are happy to see TechHub Riga grow and develop and are looking forward to more Lavian startups growing from this powerful community.