Lithuania has become a fintech-friendly destination. In 2017 alone, the Baltic country of 2.8 million people attracted 35 new firms. According to the Lithuania Fintech Report 2017, a total of 117 fintech companies operate in the country and the overall number of startups grew by nearly 43 per cent compared to 2016.
“We were looking for a perfect HQ location in the EU,” says Prajit Nanu, co-founder and CEO at InstaReM, a Singapore-based startup that came to the country in 2017. “In Lithuania, we found a fintech-friendly and fast regulator, as well as excellent international-grade talent. With all this, Lithuania is hands-down the best European base for cutting-edge fintechs.”
Some 96 per cent of all fintechs in the country see Europe as their target market. What sets Lithuania apart from other potential investment destinations inside the EU is a significantly narrower timeframe required to get licensed.
“The fintech market is very dynamic, and the players are aggressive, so being the first to implement an idea is an invaluable asset,” says Mantas Katinas, managing director at Invest Lithuania. “Lithuania can offer startups from non-EU countries access to the European market faster than other EU members.”
There are also a hassle-free regulations and a flexible banking infrastructure. Fintech operations are regulated by the Bank of Lithuania. CENTROlink – the Bank’s payment system – levels the field for non-bank institutions, offering them the same terms for payments as banks and credit unions. CENTROlink allows companies like Revolut, Contis Group and InstaReM, among many others, not only to reach 34 SEPA countries with ease, but also to issue IBAN accounts without any middle-men involved.
The Baltic country is also at the forefront of the blockchain revolution. It already hosts Europe’s first international Blockchain Centre, connected to counterparts in Shanghai and Melbourne. In addition to that, within the next twelve months Lithuania is expected to offer a first-of-its-kind blockchain sandbox platform. The service codenamed LBChain will be one of the factors, increasing the number of blockchain startups in the country.
According to the report, nearly 2000 people are already employed by the sector, but the country offers a growing pool of IT talent. According to the Statistics Department, there are around 31,500 IT specialists and another 8800 are expected to enter the labour market.
“After my first visit to Vilnius I just felt that this city is a small version of Silicon Valley,” says Jared Isaacman, CEO of point-of-sale payment solutions company Harbortouch. “The city, its infrastructure, the prevalence of technology made an impression on me.”