When the startup boom just started, startups were viewed with mistrust. Now, although they still have plenty of opponents, the ever increasing stream of startup success stories means they can no longer be ignored. Including by big corporations. This year’s Riga Venture Summit featured success stories from several countries to demonstrate that startups and big companies can do business together successfully. For example, newly-forged partnership between the Latvian startup 'Anatomy Next' and the technology giant 'Microsoft', and the experience of a business from a neighbouring country, a venture capital fund founded by Lietuvos Energija.
The Riga Venture Summit 2018 is an annual discussion forum organised by the Latvian Startup Association Startin.lv and its partners. The goal of the forum is to attract startup ecosystem representatives from different countries to highlight the attributes that make the Baltic States mutually competitive in the global battle for investments and talent. The subject of this year’s forum was collaboration between startups and corporations. Among those participating in the forum’s presentations and panel discussion were representatives of corporations and startup ecosystem from the USA, Germany, Spain, Israel, Lithuania and Estonia.
During the event, everyone present agreed that partnerships between startups and corporations are vitally important to both sides. For corporations, they represent an opportunity to think outside the box and do so faster, as well as to find innovative solutions to their problems. On the other hand, startups not only need contacts and feedback regarding potential demand within an industry for the product or service they have developed, but also investment. However, there a couple of important conditions - both sides must understand and appreciate why such partnerships are necessary, and crucially, they must be genuinely committed to their success. This particularly applies to corporations, which are sometimes merely interested in achieving some good PR. This is something that startups would be well-advised to understand early on, in order to maintain their focus on their goal.
Some of the successful partnerships showcased during the Riga Venture Summit:
Lietuvos Energija is a state-owned Lithuanian energy company that has established its own venture capital foundation. Managed by Contrarian Ventures, a total of EUR 5 million has been invested in the fund. "It is a tool of speeding up various processes within the company itself. We are trying to catch up with other European businesses that have been operating in this way for some years now," explains Lietuvos Energija spokesman Andrius Juozapaitis.
In Latvia, Europe’s biggest B2B accelerator Startup Wise Guys (SWG) has just embarked on a partnership with Swedbank in creating the country’s first fintech accelerator. This is not SWG’s first experience of doing business with other corporations. The Riga Venture Summit was attended by Lone Jensen, Lead of the 'Jump' innovation programme jointly launched by the Danish telecommunications company 'Telia' and SWG. As Jensen explains, "This is a good opportunity to introduce a dynamic startup culture within a corporation in order to foster its ability to create innovations. Moreover, we offer companies the chance to have teams of their employees taking part in our jointly organised hackathons. Thus, they also have the opportunity to enter the accelerator programme."
Also present to tell their story were industry representatives from Israel. Just recently, and with considerable success, they have created a platform where corporations and startups can meet. "We do everything inversely," says co-founder of The Floor Gil Devora. "We work with the world’s biggest banks which come to us to solve their problems. We seek solutions all over the world. When we find a startup, we are working with him and getting ready to work with a bank together. Only then we do allow it to present its solution to the bank. This is not easy, but over the past two years, we have been involved in investments in four businesses and the exit of another." The platform will soon have another vertical in the form of insurance technologies.
Latvia has a success story of its own in the form of the collaboration between a corporation and a startup. It began in the US, when the co-founder and CEO of 'Anatomy Next' Sandis Kondrāts found a receptive audience at 'Microsoft'. During the panel discussion that took place during the 'Riga Venture Summit', 'Microsoft Latvia' spokesman Toms Žunna and Sandis Kondrāts talked about both sides’ experience of their collaboration. Summing up the benefits to both parties, Sandis Kondrāts says: "Together, we’ll open new doors and get profit from doing so."
More information about the speakers and event programme is available at: www.rvsummit.co.
The Riga Venture Summit 2018 was organised by the Latvian Startup Association Startin.lv in collaboration with Invest in Bavaria and Sorainen. Regional partners: Startup Estonia and Startup Lithuania. Supporters: TechChill Conference, Latvian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, Latvian Business Angel Network, Israeli Embassy, Europe’s Business Festival for Innovation and Digitalization CEBIT and the US Embassy.