With the booming Batic startup scene being mentioned more and more frequently, some of you may want to actually put the boots on the ground and come for a visit. With that in mind, we have compiled a shortlist of your possible destinations and events all about and around the local startup culture. Let’s start with Riga.
Hottest startups in Riga:
As a shortlist of topics to discuss with local startup folks, here are a few Latvian startups that have recently made the headlines.
AirDog – a fully autonomous personal drone filming action sports enthusiasts. The most funded Latvian Kickstarter project to date. We have covered the startup here and reflected on their Kickstarter campaign here.
Infogr.am – a famous data visualisation tool that is believed to have put Latvia on world’s startup map. Infgr.am is also the largest IT startup investment in Latvia to date. They are now expanding to San Francisco and are hiring new team members, e.g. their new Finnish COO.
Draugiem Group – Latvia’s largest IT group, developed out of Latvian social network Draugiem.lv (English version Frype.com) – one of the few national social networks that still maintain their dominance over Facebook in their home market. However, the founders are realistic about their future and seek growth opportunities outside of social networking realm. As a result, Draugiem Group has emerged – an incubator now hosting ten more Draugiem team member ideas.
Ask.fm – world’s largest online social Q&A platform where users receive anonymous questions and constitute their feed by answering them. Despite its 180 million members in 150 countries and 40 million mobile app downloads, the site also has a baggage of bad publicity in the media due to several teenage suicides conducted because of cyberbullying on the platform. Ask.fm was recently bought by Ask.com and created a lot of fuss around these news.
Places for tech startups:
Here is a shortlist of startup hubs in Riga focused on tech companies.
TechHub Riga – the most known and established tech community in Latvia. Located in Riga and founded by four entrepreneurs and angel investors TechHub is Riga’s oldest co-working space and meeting spot. TechHub organises frequent events, meetups and gatherings for tech community.
The Mill – a designer and developer coworking and meetup space in the heart of Riga. Founded by a few other TechHub startups less than a year ago, when TechHub was running out of space. Now TechHub has moved to a new building, while The Mill thrives, managed by Hungry Lab. The space will host a free Startup Sauna warm up event on September 18.
Eegloo business lab – a private business development lab that acts as a technical co-founder for its startups. Eegloo founders have 10 years experience in product development. Their skilled developer team takes away the product technology risk in exchange for an equity stake. They also organise meetups and support startup events.
Startup Latvia Space – A recently established co-working space that opened this year by the co-founders of Commercialisation Reactor (see below). They are also the guys behind Latvia’s first Startup Weekend this January. Startup Latvia Space belongs to StartupLatvia.eu that aims to develop a one-stop-shop for Latvian startup activities.
Places for life science startups:
There are also a couple communities for life science startups.
Accelerace Life (former Enixus Baltics) – local team experienced in life science startup commercialisation has partnered up with a Danish accelerator for life sciences. They are active in projects and helping science-intensive businesses.
Commercialisation Reactor – an accelerator-like initiative aimed at helping founders find technology and helping inventors commercialise their technology. They organise events across Russia, CIS, Latvia and Canada.
Need a spot to work?
If you are in Riga and are looking for a place to work, you may visit one of the co-working spaces mentioned above. Besides getting good infrastructure, you will also meet like-minded people. However, if you are thinking more coffee-shop, here are a few places that are cosy, have wifi, sockets and will not mind you staying longer. Surely, it would be a good style to tip accordingly, as anywhere else.
Birojnica – probably the most functional coffee-shoppish venue in town for getting your work done. Birojnica is an interesting mix of cafe, office and meetup space in the very city centre. Open Mon-Fri 9.00-20.00. They have many flexible pricing options. My personal favourite is their €6 all-day offer that includes internet, wireless phone charging, tea, coffee, water, printing up to 10 pages and opportunity to use LETA portal, their books and press. Additionally, you receive 10% off their cafeteria products. Their website is in Latvian, however, easily translatable in Google. The staff speak English and the place is cozy and functional.
Coffee Inn – a coffee shop network born in Lithuania with a cozy interior, free wifi and sockets. There are quite a few of them in the centre and their staff is very friendly and supports coffee shop culture. Their website for Riga is in Latvian but if you scroll down you can find a map of their coffee shops with details. The two in the old town are quite close to the new TechHub Riga office.
Apsara Tea Houses – if you are used to coding from the pillows of your bed, this may be a perfect place for you. Located in the very heart of Riga, they offer a wide selection of tea, have a great view from their windows and give you a choice between a table and a soft bed-like space with cushions and a blanket. You may stay as long as you wish and use the free wifi, however, make sure to take your portable charging device, as there are no electrical sockets.
Piens – if you feel like having a proper meal while working, Piens is a good option for you. It is somewhat beyond the city centre and closer to creative quartals and IT company offices. At night they transform into a club, while during daytime it is a pleasant vintage-styled cafe where you can conveniently work and have meetings. Just a few steps away from Eegloo and AirDog office.
Garage48 hackathon – one weekend hackathon founded in Estonia and typically taking place in Latvia twice a year – in spring and fall. So far six events have taken place – 4 in Riga, 1 in Ventspils and 1 in Valmiera. Garage48 has also happened in Russia, Africa, Palestine and is coming to Oman in September. The event in Riga this fall will focus on gaming.
Tech Chill Baltics conference in February – annual conference in Riga organised by TechHub and gathering a great lineup of speakers, interesting startup pitches, and locally brewed beer. You can see us covering it previously here and here.
#InnovationRiga conference in November – the opening event of Global Entrepreneurship Week in Latvia usually inviting great international speakers and ending with a top-notch reception. Last year they brought together all Latvian VCs to discuss the situation in the market, a bunch of cool startups to share their experience and some great speakers from the US, Switzerland, France, Nordics and Baltics.
Startup Weekend Riga – A franchise of the well-known American Startup Weekend happening all around the world. So far there has only been one event in Riga in January 2014, but they promise more. Startup Weekend Riga is organised by Startup Latvia.
Additionally, there are regular accelerator events such as Mini Seedcamp Riga (the last took place on Feb 12) and Startup Sauna Riga Warmup (next on Sept 18).
LGA = government enterprise distributing funds to publicly co-funded VCs, knows whom to refer you to
Magnus (Cesis incubator) + each incubator, space, event has a personal network of investors, so go out talk to them
Getting outside Riga
If you are up to travel beyond Riga and want to add some startup touch to your sightseeing, here are a few options:
Regional business incubators:
Ventspils High Technology Park (VHTP) – visit the Latvia’s cleanest city and explore high tech scene there. VHTP is home to many tech companies and frequent events. Besides, there is a pretty cool demo centre to check out there. When I last visited VHTP I met a dane who had just moved his business to Ventspils after seeing the technology park.
Jelgava business incubator – a regional incubator less than an hour drive from Riga. Ran by Agris Kipurs, the co-founder of AirDog. Don’t mind the Latvian-only webpage, the people working there speak English and are great.
Valmiera Business incubator – another regional incubator close to Estonian border. Valmiera incubator was the first home of Fastr, that now offers its original fast-reading app as well as Fastr books ebook reader that essentially is Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited for Latvia and UK. Valmiera incubator has a partly English website, active management team and officially focuses on IT startups.
Cesis Business incubator Magnus – a regional business incubator between Riga and Valmiera. It takes about 80 min to get there. This incubator is known for companies like PentaClass global audio hardware for classrooms that we covered here and 360͒ visual tour solution Giraffe Visualisation. Again, never mind the Latvian webpage, their mentors are worth getting in touch with.
Have anything to add to this story? Share your favourite places and events in comments:
Old town riga image by shutterstock
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.