Europe's startup hub - it's not where you think
Lithuana as a startup hub. Who would have thought? However, the country's capital Vilnius is leading the way in developing a climate that helps start-ups not only survive, but thrive.
In recent years, Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, has become a European startup hub thanks to some of the lowest tax rates in the European Union, a startup-friendly local government, and a lack of bureaucracy which means startup founders can register their business in just three days.
The city boasts one of the most educated workforces in Europe, as increasing numbers of Lithuania’s young professionals are returning from studies abroad to be part of Vilnius’ flourishing startup community. Vilnius Municipality is also strengthening the city’s reputation as a European startup hub by combining various national sandbox initiatives with its own open data policies. These measures are aimed at encouraging startup founders to use the available open data alongside the sandboxes to help them develop and scale their product or service ahead of schedule.
Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius believes that Lithuania’s favourable business climate along with the use of open data and sandboxes will continue to foster the city’s entrepreneurial spirit for startups into the future.
“Over the years, Vilnius has earned a reputation as a popular home for local and international startups,” he said. “We have seen that our city is able to provide them with the necessary tools to create and develop, while our policy of open data can help them adjust their product or service if and when it is needed.”
Below are five companies that were originally ‘Made in Vilnius’ and have gone from startup to international success story.
Trafi is one of the biggest ‘Made in Vilnius’ accomplishments, and its success is partly due to working with the city’s smart initiatives in relation to public transport. Since its foundation in 2011, Trafi has gone from being a simple route planning app for public transport users to partnering with internationally-operating corporations such as Volkswagen and Google. Whilst remaining faithful to its original ethos as a public transport route planner, Trafi now allows users to find and rent bicycles, and join ride shares thanks to its integration with Uber, as well as its 'car sharing' function. Trafi's ease-of-use has seen it expand around the globe from Lithuania to Brazil, where it became the official transportation app of the 2016 summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Its global expansion didn't stop at South America, and it rolled out in Taiwan and India shortly afterwards. Earlier in 2019, Trafi penetrated the German market after being introduced in Berlin, where it operates under the name of Jelbi. According to the latest estimates, Trafi has so far attracted US$6.5 million in investments since it was founded.
Created by brothers Saulius and Aidas Dailidė, Pixelmator is dedicated graphic and photo editing software designed exclusively for Mac OS and iOS devices. Since its foundation in 2007, Pixelmator has become a much-loved editing tool amongst Apple users across the globe thanks to its relatively low-cost and simple UX. As a result, it earned the title as “[Adobe] Photoshop for the masses” from MacWorld. Most recently, Pixelmator was also one of the winners of the Apple Design Award at the WWDC19 conference.
Founded in 2008 by Milda Mitkutė and Justas Janauskas, Vinted is an online marketplace that allows users to sell, buy, and swap second-hand clothes. Since it was created, this Vilnius success story is now used by around 12 million customers in more than 10 countries including the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Poland and France, where Vinted was also acknowledged by President Emmanuel Macron. Vinted is estimated to have an unofficial valuation of between USD $100m - $150m with additional offices in Prague, Warsaw, and Berlin. In-line with fulfilling its ethos of making "second-hand first-choice worldwide" it is available for iOS and Android devices as well as desktop.
TransferGo was one of the first fintech startups to emerge from Lithuania in the early 2010s, after its founder, Daumantas Dvilinskas, grew frustrated with the time and cost it takes to make an international bank transaction. TransferGo takes less than a day to transfer funds, and its transactions are completely free. With offices in London, Vilnius, Warsaw, Berlin, and Istanbul TransferGo’s philosophy of ‘transfers made quickly’ has made it popular amongst migrant workers, and it is planning to expand across the Turkish, Indian, Ukrainian, and Russian markets. It has so-far raised USD $17.5m in funding, and also gives users the opportunity to transfer cryptocurrencies. In 2018, TransferGo also won the prize for
‘Fastest Rising Startup of the Year’ at the TechCrunch Europa Awards.
Oberlo is a dropshipping business, which cuts out the intermediary and allows manufacturers to sell directly to e-commerce retailers and customers. It gives users the opportunity to integrate with Shopify, and serves over 30,000 e-commerce business around the world. The platform is a testimonial to the Lithuanian capital’s creative atmosphere for startups. After encountering a number of challenges since launching in 2015, it managed to adapt to them and eventually sell to Shopify for USD $15.4m.
The number of internationally successful Vilnius-made startups has already marked the city as a place where founders can bring their idea and see it thrive. With the arrival of niche companies such as the HumansApp and GetPet, Vilnius’ startup scene is showing no signs of losing its innovative streak in the near future.
Article supplied by Go Vilnius is the official tourism and business development agency of the City of Vilnius. The agency provides visitors, investors, relocating talent, entrepreneurs and businesses with all the essential information they need to know about the Lithuanian capital.