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Lithuanian Start-Up Ecosystem is Warming Up: More and More Students Are Willing to Join Start-Uppers
The three Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — who were the first to declare independence and officially secede from the USSR more than 25 years ago, are in the avant-garde of the post-Soviet republics in terms of technology entrepreneurship and government support of innovation, technology news website The Next Web states.
According to the data from the local venture capital association LT VCA, there are 422 start-ups in the country, employing over 2,400 people. In ten years from 2006 to 2015, Lithuanian start-ups had raised a total of €165.3 million, compared to €103.3 million in Latvia and €280.6 million in Estonia.
Lithuania has recently approved an official start-up visa program, which will allow founders from outside the EU to easily open business in the country.
“We are happy to be the bridge between startups from Central and Eastern Europe and investors from around the world,” Rimantė Ribačiauskaitė, head of the government-backed Startup Lithuania project.
Among Lithuania’s first tech startups was GetJar, an independent mobile app store founded in 2004 and sold to Sungy Mobile in 2014. Its founder, Kaunas University of Technologo (KTU) graduate Ilja Laurs, has since founded Nextury Ventures, which he called the only fund in Lithuania that “has purely private sources of funding, and no links to European assets or money whatsoever.”
According to him, the Lithuanian start-up ecosystem is making a ton of progress and one of the ways to measure it is to ask university students, how many of them see themselves as start-up founders.
“Five years ago, 99 percent would say they just wanted to work for either the government or a big business, and few would even understand what a start-up is. But now I think that about half of the students would say that they really want to build a start-up”, says Laurs.
Donatas Smailys, Head of KTU start-up incubator Startup Space says that Lithuanian start-ups are becoming equal players in the innovation market: “We read about our young companies in global media and that’s the best indicator of our visibility”.
Earlier this year, three start-up companies founded in KTU’s Startup Space were named among the most ambitious Lithuanian start-ups by Forbes.
“The word start-up has replaced the word innovation across the world”, says Smailys.
According to him, the fact that our start-ups are becoming globally visible informs the world about the possibilities of Lithuanian market and about the existing beneficial infrastructure for innovation.
“The start-ups are aimed at global markets, they are raising foreign investment and learning from best practices, which is crucial for the national economy and promotes our country on the international level. More than 90 per cent of the investment into Lithuanian start-ups is from foreign investors”, says Smailys.
According to the Head of KTU’s Startup Space, start-up culture not only stimulates innovation, but also requires the adequate attention from the state institutions for creating the start-up ecosystem boosting instruments.
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