Vilnius Startup City Guide

Vilnius Startup City Guide reposted from http://magazine.startus.cc/vilnius-startup-city-guide/

Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, is a business friendly city not only for young entrepreneurs and skilled professionals but is also trusted by such high calibre companies as IBM, Barclays, Western Union, AIG, Nasdaq, Thermo Fisher Scientific and many others. This city, full of young people, ambition, energy, skill, and talent, equipped with Europe’s fastest internet connection and rapidly growing startup ecosystem, is the place to be for any startup.

With several high volume A and B series investments into young startups Vinted, Trafi and YPlan during the latest years, the startups ecosystem is finally maturing in Lithuania. Additionally, one of the largest startup and gamedev centers in the Baltics will be opened in 2016 next to the historic old town of Vilnius. Vilnius Tech Park will fill 8,000 sq.m. with startup offices, co-working spaces, cafeterias, hostel and recreational areas. Come and see for yourself! Having in mind that Vilnius has been named the lowest cost European city break destination by Independent, it should not burn a hole in your pocket.

GPS direction: Vilnius

  • Jacob Laukaitis, co-founder of ChameleonJohn.com: “There are plenty of advantages. For us the best part was that we could hire talented employees for a fraction of the price compared to the big startup hubs. All of our employees speak fluent English, are committed to their work and complete their tasks on time. What’s more, we can afford to rent an office in the fanciest district in Vilnius with a remarkable view. That really helps!”
  • Vytenis Pakėnas (@jobrely), co-founder at JobRely.com: „Human resources make Lithuania outstanding in the Europe. You can find here employees and future co-founders with international experience, ambitions and eager to learn, create, ship. Low living costs, high standards, great connectivity to the Europe. A great place to start B2B start-up and scale;)“
  • Alexey Sheremetyev (@Planner5D), co-founder of planner5d.com: “For us it’s two things. First, Lithuania stands as a place to better reach European and Western markets. Second, everything is at your fingertips here. As they say, you can have 5 meetings per day and participate in all 5 of them easily. Or, in Moscow, you would never think of going to IKEA during a lunch break to do shopping as it took you like 2 hours only to drive one way. Here it’s 20 mins max.”
  • Laura K. Inamedinova (@Plag_Network), biz dev & marketing: “We see Lithuania as a great new rising environment for the startups. There are still not many players here and you can catch the best waves: to reach the biggest local media, to find best employees, to connect with fellow entrepreneurs easily. Plus, the costs here аre much less than anywhere else, but all the Europe is easily approachable.
    Besides, Vilnius is calm and cozy place, which means less distraction from the global information field, and constantly be aware of what’s happens around.”
  • Cristobal Alonso, co-founder of Mobofree.com: “Internet is super-fast. But the main advantage is that in Lithuania – while it may be difficult to find specialists in some very specific areas – you may hire a very loyal, professional, with right work ethics, ambitious and hungry for success team. And the costs here are much less than anywhere else.”
  • Tomas Pagirys (@Pagirys), co-founder of Aciety.com: “Lithuania is perfect for lean startup development, because it’s small and you can quickly reach any of potential customers for idea validation. Lithuania is also rich in software development resources and can be regarded as a hub for the whole Eastern European talent pool.”
  • Alisa Matsanyuk, founder of greengarage.me: “Our business requires expensive equipment along with strong local presense. In order to find a scalable model we’re starting in Vilnius because of small local costs and relevant audience that is very easy to work with. If my ideas find response for the small country of Lithuania, we will spread it all over Europe.”
  • Marius Kalytis (@CGTrader) CGTrader.com Founder: “We didn’t even think to choose any other place to start our 3D and 3D print model platform. Vilnius not only has great IT specialists, but in general Lithuanians tend to be more open minded and skilled in multiple fields, hence the perfect crowd for a start up! Taken into account lowers costs, location and policies, I couldn’t think of a better place to kick start CGTrader.”

What startup founders have to consider (disadvantages):

  • Cristobal Alonso, co-founder of Mobofree.com: “High level or bureaucracy/paper stuff on every step – from founding a company to fundraising. Hardly possible to find local professionals with very specific skillsets – for example UX specialists, affiliate marketing managers, biz devs with experience in foreign markets. Market is just too small.  It is difficult to attract foreign professional talents to come to Lithuania at the same time. One more disadvantage – not the most desirable investment location, although it is changing.”
  • Laura K. Inamedinova (@Plag_Network), biz dev & marketing: “Here the market is very small and if you are planning to start a business in Lithuania – it should be „internationally oriented” from the start. So if your business idea requires a lot of networking, new contacts – bigger country would be a better choice.”

Lithuania has a tightly-knit community of startup founders and tech enthusiasts which has already won the likes of the world because of their capacity to collaborate. Guests from abroad are treated both like kings and family members, which has resulted in quite a few Foreign Direct Investments and startups relocating their offices there so far. Looking at the fundamentals of the ecosystem, conditions are great to develop your startup there because of: 1) talent potential and can-do western mentality 2) probably the lowest cost base in Europe and coziness and compactness of the country that has attracted numerous expats to move here from busy metropolises 3) manageable bureaucracy that is still better than elsewhere if you ask locals for help. Some specific talent might be lacking, but if you’re ready to invest in developing skills, you can win forever loyal employees. Bringing this specific talent from abroad is also an option, even after a short stay, expats love it and often end up setting up their families there. To sum up, expect to hear about Lithuania more and more as the first big success stories are soon to come.

Oh, and make sure to visit Lithuania in summer to enjoy the country’s lush green nature with unspoiled lakes and dunes by the seaside that won the title of the 10th best beach in Europe.

First Stop: Discovering Vilnius’ startup community

The best way to start exploring the local startup community prior to your arrival to Vilnius is via the Startup Lithuania webpage which is updated daily. There you can find all the latest news and events, as well as a Lithuanian startup database with major players of the ecosystem.

During his visit in Lithuania, John Ruffolo, Canada’s most powerful business man in 2014, told that in every city he is looking for THE Place – “one stop shop” for local startup ecosystem. It seems that in 2016, if John Ruffolo really meant it, he will have to come back and explore Vilnius Tech Park where startups, accelerators, venture capitalists, government enterprises and other startup enthusiasts will join their forces and resources in order to unleash yet unseen Lithuanian startup potential.

Before Vilnius Tech Park opens its doors, let’s also meet at regular events and meetups suited for every kind of startup enthusiasts:

Where can we find info about upcoming events, meetups and other occasions:

Anyway use Twitter handle #LTstartups to filter more local news.

Regular events and meetups

  • LTVR – Lithuanian Virtual Reality – fast-growing community of VR enthusiasts, developers and creators. Spreads the word about awesomeness of VR to people in Vilnius. Also organises VR trainings with help of Unity and Unreal creators.
  • GDG Vilnius – 1st Google Developer Groups Chapter in Baltics. Mostly works to make Android mobile developers and Cardboard Virtual Reality creators happier. Group’s scope includes not only Android, Cardboard or other Google technologies, but startups, geeks, VR and other cool tech. For news and meetups follow them on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.
  • Startup Lithuania seminars – Monthly events designed to build and strengthen the startup community in Lithuania. Startup Lithuania organizes practical and useful events where participants can get specific and applicable knowledge and various speakers from well-known startups and VC funds share their experience, success stories and give advice.
  • Life Sciences Business Lab – is the cycle of the events where lithuanian life sciences community is meeting regularly to discuss the relevant questions and actual problems and solve them, as well as meet each other and create teams and develop new ideas.
  • Gamedev Meetups are events for game development enthusiasts who want to share their knowledge and experience in presentations or simply chat with fellow game developers about their endeavours. These meetings are often attended by more than 100 people, which makes them one of the biggest regular local meetups. And the meetups are growing up to full fledged regional trade shows and conventions, like the GameOn event, which is expecting about 3000 people this year. Supported by GameInsight.
  • Silicon Vikings Vilnius – a recently launched initiative that gathers founders and tech enthusiasts every second month for a discussion on topics that are not yet conventional in Lithuania or relevant for later stage startups. These topics come fresh from Silicon Valley, brought by first-hand practitioners. The overall aim of the initiative is to help the Lithuanian founders to better understand and draw knowledge from Silicon Valley, in order to get there easier and faster, if needed. Oh, and it has to be fun.
  • BarCamp Vilnius – part of international network of user-generated conferences successfully integrated in the Vilnius startup ecosystem, where members informally meet and discuss the hottest topics in a startup scene, not forgetting to have our tasty Lithuanian beer or two. Hosted by Startup Lithuania.
  • Open Coffee Club are monthly morning startup meetups for founders and investors. The format of the event implies 2-3 speakers and encourages Q&A discussion. Usually these events are organised in a coffee place or a host company that supplies breakfast snacks and hot drinks. The meetups gather around 50 people and are a great way to catch up on the most painful touch points of startups and exchange knowledge.
  • HUB Camps – free monthly ideation and inspiration event for young entrepreneurs and social innovators organised by Hub Vilnius on the last Friday each month in the hall of Swedbank.

Yearly or major events, festivals, conferences, hackathons:

  • LOGIN Startup Fair – large scale event for startups community in Lithuania, which contains several activities: conference, startup pitch challenge, startup fair, masterclasses and individual meetings between startups and investors. It is an event where the entire Lithuanian startup ecosystem can be found in one place.
  • AppCamp is the biggest hackathon in the Baltics focused on mobile apps, attracting around 500 participants annually.
  • Open Data Fest – annual open data hackathon by Startup Lithuania.
  • Startup Lithuania Roadshow – Startup Lithuania brings the most promising Lithuanian startups on the road to meet investors all over the world. While participating in Roadshow 2013 and 2014,  4 startups got investment from foreign VCs.
  • Life Sciences Baltics –  The biggest international forumin the Baltic region for world-class biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical devices experts from all around the world with a big focus on life sciences startups. There is a Startup Programme,  moderated by Harvard University faculty and the Life Sciences industry experts from Boston, USA, that is finalized with the startup pitch challenge.
  • LT Game Jam is an annual event with deep traditions. The second Game Jam in the world was here, in Lithuania, in 2002. LT Game Jam 2015, which took place during the Global Game Jam, was by far the largest Game Jam and the largest hackathon in Lithuania, with more than 500 people attending the event within three different locations in Lithuania (Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipėda). The Lithuanian Game Developers Association (www.lzka.lt/en/) is successfully attracting more and more professionals, as well as wannabe game developers, so the event should keep growing in the future.
  • Build Stuff –  Begun in 2012 this now annual conference hosted in Vilnius, Lithuania brings the best of the developer world to the Baltic’s. The overall theme is building stuff, we have a heavy focus on lessons from trenches from the people that were there. This year we’ll play host to more than 60 speakers holding 6 tracks of sessions per day, as well as panel discussions and open spaces

Second Stop: Park at a coworking space

Coworking in Lithuania started in 2010 with the opening of the first space – Hub Vilnius. However since 2014 Hub Vilnius is only focusing on events, communication and marketing of 4 open office spaces in Vilnius: Startup Highway Coworking, North Town Tech Park, Sunrise Valley Tech Park and NGO Bee Hive coworking.

Coworking spaces in Vilnius

  • SHX-coworking space – is located in the classy premises of the art incubator Rupert near the river in the secluded suburb of Vilnius. It’s a space for your work, meetings, chill out & BBQ. There are several game dev companies and Russian startups there as well on a permanent basis.
  • Vilnius Tech Park – the upcoming hub for startups and other businesses engaged in the ICT industry in Lithuania. The goal is to put under one roof the whole ecosystem of tech startups and venture capital. Everything what you might wish for in your startup life will be there – hopefully starting in late 2016.
  • ISM Innobase – the main space for all startup events in Vilnius, conveniently provided free of charge by the largest private university in Lithuania plus a small coworking space for selected startups.
  • HUB Vilnius – the first coworking space in Vilnius, currently offering 4 locations in town managed by other operators.
  • Green Garage – is the newest makerspace stuffed with the most expensive equipment that you can use to build your prototype fast and easy. The space hosts events and looks into becoming the regional standard for makerspaces.

Third Stop: Tank your finances

The breakthrough in venture capital in Lithuania has happened several years ago once the first preseed/seed fund – Practica Capital – was launched using EU structural funds.

Non-financial investors/accelerators:

  • Startup.lt is an accelerator by Practica Capital venture fund. We are facilitating growth for early stage startups in terms of funding, shaping and advise. 90% of our graduates gets seed funding from Practica Capital.
  • StartupHighway – the first accelerator in Lithuania operating since 2011. It has been purely designed to provide individually tailored support for the most promising founders and teams.
  • Blue Lime Labs – pairs founders with missing members, expertise and funding.
  • Producters builds your products in exchange of equity. Being a partner of NYU Incubators and having close relationships in NY and SV Producers can help open some doors as well.

If you need venture capital, go to the following funds:

  • Practica Capital is a venture capital firm established in 2011 offering a full range of venture capital financing in Lithuania: pre-seed, seed, startup, expansion and growth financing. Practica Capital has 20 mEUR to invest and already provided funding to over 30 startups. Ticket size is up to EUR 200k in the Seed fund and EUR 2m in the Venture Fund.
  • BaltCap – seed and later stages investor.
  • LitCap – seed and later stages investor.
  • Imi.vc venture fund. This is the fund behind Game Insight, Plag**, Planner 5D and other Russian startups that relocated to Lithuania. The fund is open to high cost high risk endeavors.
  • Nextury Ventures – boutique venture capital company founded by the first Lithuanian startup star Ilja Laurs of Get Jar in partnership with Mindaugas Glodas, ICT business executive. Nextury Ventures invests in early stage startups and new fast growth and high potential value ideas.

Incubators are located within publicly funded tech parks and art incubators in Vilnius: Sunrise Valley Tech Park, North Town Tech Park, Visoriai Tech Park, Rupert, Uzupis art incubator etc.

Fourth Stop: Seek further advice

Invest Lithuania (@Invest_LT ) is your one stop shop to:

  • INFORM on business costs, labour, tax & legal settings and other business areas,
  • FACILITATE the setup and launch,
  • SUPPORT by assisting in one-off problems such as working permits and advocating for more business friendly laws.

Invest Lithuania is a government agency, dedicated to attracting foreign direct investment in Lithuania, therefore, all of the services are completely free of charge. Shout out to their Technology Investment advisors Vytautas or Paulius to find out more!

Startup division of Civitta, a leading management consulting company in the Baltics that also focuses on startups and entrepreneurship support. Civitta is great when you need to start from somewhere – either you are new in town and need to establish your operations in Lithuania and surrounding countries fast, or you are new to business and need help with the first steps. The company often implements projects that provide startups and entrepreneurs with free of charge help. For later stage startups, it provides the full range of professional consulting services from A to Z – from financing attraction to market sizing to strategy to implementation support and interim management. First consultation is free, so get hold of Danielius or Jone to find out how they can help you.

Compiled and updated by Mindaugas Danys (founder of the Hub Vilnius Coworking, urban gardener and social innovator, http://lt.linkedin.com/in/danys, #hubvilnius), Edmundas Balcikonis (founder of TrackDuck, #edmundas4), etc. on Aug 07, 2015

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