New fintech accelerator programme set to offer additional boost for one of emerging Europe’s most dynamic sectors

A new accelerator programme for the region’s fintech start-ups is offering intensive training, mentorship and investment in order to provide an additional boost to what is one of the most dynamic sectors in emerging Europe.

Based in Vilnius, Lithuania, the project has been created by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in partnership with the start-up accelerator Startup Wise Guys (SWG).

Start-ups in the fintech space can apply for the bespoke programme throughout the summer and, if accepted, will begin a five-month intensive training programme in October.

Young firms will also benefit from the advice and mentorship of an international pool of experts as well as attract up to 100,000 euros in investments from SWP, based on the start-up’s maturity level. The programme, which includes both on-site and online modules, is co-financed by TaiwanBusiness – EBRD Technical Cooperation Fund.

Selected start-ups will be included in the EBRD Cohort, a group focused on developing solutions in line with the bank’s goals of competitiveness, inclusivity, good governance, environmental friendliness, resilience, and integration.

The fintech sector has in recent years become a successful area for start-ups in emerging Europe, especially in the Baltics and not least in Lithuania, where a favourable regulatory climate has turned Vilnius into a key fintech hub.

“Lithuania has a very good fintech ecosystem, the Central Bank is very pro-active in the running of a regulatory sandbox which has become quite popular, and Lithuania has also become a popular fintech destination for many e-payment institutions,” says Jacek Kubas, associate director at the EBRD.

This will the be second fintech accelerator programme Startup Wise Guys has run in Lithuania, and its the fourth overall.

“Startup Wise Guys were one of our first thoughts when we were looking at who to partner with,” Mr Kubas adds.

Cristobal Alonso, the CEO of SWG, agrees that Lithuania is the right destination for financial technology related start-ups.

“Lithuania is considered one of top Fintech destinations in Europe and for our target audience, which is relatively early stage (and often non-EU resident) teams, a perfect spot to grow the business,” he tells Emerging Europe.

“There has been a long and consistent effort by the Bank of Lithuania and other financial market players to position Lithuania as a valuable fintech hub, which helps to attract a number of prominent global fintech companies, hire specialists and grow future fintech stars.”

With selected start-ups able to operate in the sandbox and with support and mentorship from both the EBRD and SWG, they will have a significant advantage as they develop and grow.

“For early stage fintech start-ups, having a warm contact with their potential target customers early on is often make-or-break and one of the biggest challenges we see having worked with more than 30 fintech companies over the last two years,” Mr Alonso adds.

Fintech is important to emerging Europe, something about which both the EBRD and SWG agree. Start-ups in this sector are well positioned to bring more people into the financial markets and help the region’s development and transition efforts.

“Fintech has been among top three most invested verticals in Europe and if you zoom in on the Baltic states, then fintech is definitely one of the key start-up verticals here in various aspects, such as employment and related taxes, as well as export products,” Mr Alonso explains.

Successful start-ups in the sector which have already emerged from the region include TransferWise, Tesonet, Mintos, and EstateGuru.

Financial technology start-ups could even have a role in the coming post Covid-19 recovery.

“We have all the aid packages that are coming from states towards the economy or citizens, will there be a way to use financial technology to make those packages even easier and better for individuals and businesses?,” asks Mr Kubas.

“These are the things that we have in mind: how financial technology can help in the economic recovery and actually facilitate the transfer of the money to the real economy,” he says.

“If we zoom in to fintech, the sector has substantially contributed to solving challenges that have arisen as a result of the economy and work moving online,” adds Mr Alonso.

All fintech start-ups from the EBRD regions are welcome to apply.

“This is a fintech cohort and it’s open to fintech in general from all of our countries of operation,” Mr Kubas concludes.

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