Sampling the Vilnius start-up ecosystem

Start-ups based outside the EU now have an opportunity to sample life in Vilnius, one of emerging Europe’s most vibrant start-up ecosystems.

Lithuania has launched a programme targeting foreign start-ups who want to experience the booming start-up ecosystem of its capital Vilnius, home to Vinted and Nord Security – two of the country’s unicorns.

The programme, dubbed Startupcation grants fast-lane access to the country’s relevant business networks and hubs and provides an entry point to the European market with more than 700 million customers open to new technologies.

“We have launched the programme to allow non-EU start-ups to experience our spurting ecosystem first-hand and show them the abundant potential of relocating their business,” says Roberta Rudokienė, head of Startup Lithuania.

“During a one-week visit, they will meet successful start-up founders, get to know key business networks and hubs, and learn about soft-landing programmes and governmental support. Our mentors will guide the participants each step of the way and explain the benefits of Lithuania’s position as the gateway to the EU with great work-life balance.”

Lithuania has an abundance of active local investors and a robust and friendly start-up community of more than a thousand start-ups, growing intensely and expanding into new markets.

This year’s Startup Genome report placed Lithuania amongst 60 emerging start-up ecosystems, and Startup Blink ranks its start-up ecosystem as high as 17th in the world. In Emerging Europe’s latest Business-Friendly City index, Vilnius ranks sixth among more than 100 cities in the emerging Europe region.

Last year, Lithuanian start-ups attracted a record amount of investment — over 428 million euros.

The country’s first unicorn, Vinted, tripled its valuation and the creators of the Nord VPN service – Nord Security – became its second unicorn.

Lithuania’s start-ups are now valued at more than 7.1 billion euros, with the turnover and export of start-ups having grown by more than 30 per cent in 2021 compared with the previous year. 

Scale fast and live slow

Eimantas Sabaliauskas, co-founder of Nord Security, says that he has grown his business in Vilnius by making use of the local start-up community and supportive founders.

“In Vilnius, you are always within walking distance of everything you might need, and start-ups can easily exchange their ideas and experiences with industry veterans, which is simply invaluable to any business,” he says.

“You can work and live in the heart of a vibrant multicultural city and still be just a few minutes away from beautiful nature. Couple this with welcoming approaches from local municipalities and the Lithuanian government, and you find yourself in an environment fit for your start-up to scale and strive for success. It’s noteworthy that investors put their trust in the region and feel secure investing here. “

He reveals that even though Nord Security is a global company with offices worldwide, its HQ remains in Lithuania, with no plans to move.

“We are thrilled to see the growth of the Lithuanian start-up ecosystem, and we are proud to be a part of it,” adds Sabaliauskas.

A market that inspires global ambition and resilience

Inga Langaitė, CEO of the start-up association Unicorns Lithuania, explains how Lithuania pushes start-ups to scale fast and dream big.

“Lithuania is inherently a small market; therefore, ambitious start-ups rarely consider the country their main market and develop their business to meet global demands right from the start. Start-ups in Lithuania are not spoiled by an abundance of venture capital and sizeable investments – they work hard, build their businesses on their own and enter global markets tempered and well bootstrapped,” Langaitė says.

She stresses the strength of a tight-knit start-up community in Vilnius, “the community met the new unicorn with a wave of excitement, and the whole start-up ecosystem celebrated the achievement together. As start-ups don’t compete within the Lithuanian market, they form a supportive and welcoming community that wants to grow and prosper together and help new start-ups land on their feet.”

Applications for the programme can be made until September 4.

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