LOGIN Startup Fair

January 30, 2018 Design_PR-research 3 Comments

LOGIN Startup Fair I’m meeting Rimante in the morning at Tech Park Vilnius, Lithuania; surprisingly modern buildings located in the houses of a former hospital. Rimante looks quite busy and greets me with a friendly smile. We head to the coffee machine downstairs to proceed with the interview questions.

Olga: Hello Rimante, I must say there's quite a busy atmosphere around your office. May I ask what your role is in Startups Lithuania?

 

Rimante: Hello, yes sure, I am the head of the Startups Lithuania. I am the one who is developing the strategies, as well as long-term and short-term plans for the team. We are a team of four, so it’s not a big team yet. As there is interest from the new government to focus more on startups, naturally we will be getting more attention and more tasks to complete, and maybe some things to deliver. Currently it’s also a very tense moment in our work, because we’ve just launched the “Startup Visa” procedure. From the 1st of January we have been developing the website. Also we are working on two things: first of all, we work on evaluating the applications which we receive, and the second thing is that we are participating in a roadshow. We are travelling to different countries to present “Startup Visa” as well as our other activities. And it takes a lot of time because we need to organize each event, to find local partners, and to find startups which will come and attend the event. And it’s only one of our fields of activities. At the same time we are also organizing the biggest startup event in Lithuania – LOGIN Startup Fair, as well as drafting the startup law of Lithuania...and many other things.

Olga: What does the “startup visa” mean?

Rimante: It is a simplified immigration procedure. It’s a fast way for startups to move to Lithuania if they want or to open a startup in Lithuania. It’s quite an easy procedure - you need to go online to “startupvisalithuania.com”, fill in the application form, give us some information about yourself, your team and the product that you are developing. After we screen the application. We have a special committee which evaluates applications. If you receive “yes” from our side, then you just need to go through the immigration office and submit the necessary papers. We give you the legal background to enter the country. It’s very important because you need to get this legal proof that you are eligible to enter the country.

Olga: It would probably be useful for the startups that are based outside of the EU.

Rimante: Yes, exactly.

Olga: Which countries do you think are interested the most in “Startup Visa”?

Rimante: We can see from the statistics that the biggest interest is coming from Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. We also have some Far East countries such as India, as well as the US and Turkey. Our main target is the Eastern European part, because culturally they are more similar to us and, they don’t feel a very big cultural shock. And actually we see a lot of interest in it ourselves.

Olga: I can imagine. I’ve been to Kiev and Minsk, and these places are booming in terms of Tech Startups.

Rimante: Indeed, we just came back from Minsk. We had 12 startups that came to pitch as we presented a “Startup Visa”. During our trip to Belarus, we also conducted the local pitch battles for selecting the best startups to come to the LOGIN Startup Fair. We selected three out of 12. We have already done this in Saint Petersburg, where we had 14 startups. We are doing the same in Tel Aviv, and in two weeks time we will do it in Kiev. During our meetings we are pitching two things: the LOGIN Startup Fair, where we do the pitch competition, and then we are talking about “Startup Visa” and the Lithuanian startup ecosystem. We had around 50 people in Minsk yesterday at our event, which is impressive, considering the fact that it was our first event ever in Belarus.

Olga: Startups Lithuania's website already has a few startups registered. Are all of them Lithuanian-based or Eastern European-based?

Rimante: One of our goals is to collect data about startups and the local startup ecosystem. We have the picture of Lithuanian startups. The database which is seen online is about the local startup ecosystem. I mean, it’s either Lithuanian startups or startups that opened their offices in Lithuania. You might probably see that there is Taxify, for example, which is originally Estonian, but it is also included in our list as long as they have their office here in Vilnius. We consider it to be an integral part of our startup ecosystem and we include them in our database.

Olga: Is developing “startup visa” the main focus for you at the moment?

Rimante: We have just launched it and it’s naturally a priority because we have to create a lot of exposure, to give people the understanding of how it works. Personally, it’s not my priority as the head of the organization. It’s just one of them.

Olga: What is your main priority?

Rimante: Currently my priority is the development of startup policies. We research how, for example, startups are being described in different countries. We are developing our own definition of a startup and I believe this will be the background of the startup law. The startup law will be the basis for any other startup policies. We want to become a startup-friendly country. Our government can develop new policies. So this is priority number one. We are working with the Ministry of Economics and with the Ministry of Finance trying to find the best way to help startups and how to make Lithuania competitive in the global market.

Olga: I believe you have a good chance. From what I know about Eastern Europe, we are still at the beginning of developing a startup-friendly environment. There are some startups based in Bulgaria, Romania, Czech Republic, Poland, Estonia and Latvia. But still not so many companies that help startups.

Rimante: Actually there is such an organization in Estonia, “Startup Estonia”. In Latvia there is no governmental institution for that, but they have a startup association. We have also been helping to establish a Lithuania Startup Association. I have to stress here that “Startup Lithuania” is a governmental organization.

Olga: What opportunities do you give to startups?

Rimante: Most of the startups have three main challenges: access to capital (money), access to talent (people), and access to the market. We do help in all three areas. Access to capital is the most important at the beginning. We are trying to create a positive environment for business entities. This is why we work with the government in order to bring startups to Lithuania, and to encourage people to open their own startups. We also match startups with investors. We have a wide network of investors ourselves and we help startups to reach them. We write to investors from around the world, select the best startups from the region and match them. When it comes to access to talent, we work on the political level a lot in order to transform the formal and non-formal education of Lithuania and to introduce new programs starting from kindergarten to universities, taking in all the levels of education. We want children to learn coding, electronics and mechanics - the things which are important in the 21st century. We want teenagers to learn entrepreneurship, and we want students to learn professions that are competitive in the 21st century. The second part is that-when it comes to non-formal education in our region, people are usually very good at engineering, but have very poor skills in entrepreneurship and business development. This is what we want to develop in Lithuania - to establishing non-formal programs like startup schools and startup academies, pre-accelerators where we would invite mentors from abroad to teach local startup ecosystems, to train them and help them to gain some significant knowledge in the field. When it comes to access to the markets, everything we do is to make the life of startups easy; to make taxation and legal issues and other procedures run smoothly. I‘ve already mentioned that we are trying to develop the startup law, so after that we may contribute to either tax incentives or some kind of different treatment for startup companies in Lithuania.

Olga: Do you have a message that you would like to share with your audience?

Rimante: The message is if you want to start your business (startup) in Lithuania, we can help you. We work on the political level. We also work with startups individually. We can consult them and help them with business development, match them with mentors and investors, with all the relevant people. We organize events and meetings where you can come and get familiar with the startup ecosystem. If you have an idea, but you don’t have a team, you should also come to us and we will help you to find that team! So we cover all the parts and all the areas of the development of the startup community and of the startup ecosystem. The only thing is that we are highly understaffed. We have four people and we are trying to do everything, so sometimes we are too busy to respond on time.

Olga: Maybe, you are also looking for someone to join your team?

Rimante: Yes, we are looking for interns. It is sad that we can’t hire yet although we can offer experience in this fast growing and modern environment.

Are you a Startup and would like to be interviewed? Then contact us via hello@pr-research.eu.
Interviewer Olga Canneberges, Vilnius 2017.


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