Latvian startup highlights: Year 2015

Scroll through 12 last months with the most exciting traction news and events that shaped Latvian startup scene in 2015. 

1. AirDog becomes the best drone of CES 2015, raises biggest seed round to date

In January Latvian AirDog, the extreme sports filming drone whose US$ 1.3 million Kickstarter campaign in July 2014 made it Latvia's biggest Kickstarter project to date, unveiled its latest prototype at world's biggest technology and innovation exhibition 'Consumer Electronics Show 2015' (CES 2015) in Las Vegas on Jan 7-9. As Engadget polls closed, AirDog was announced the winner of best robot/drone title and landed second in 'Best of CES 2015 Awards' overall poll.

AirDog was the only Latvian company present at the massive event with more than 160,000 attendees. National and international media and Twitter went ballistic about the news.

This massive success has helped Airdog raise a $2 million seed round, followed by additional €460,000 from AngelList. First drones are already shipped to beta testers. 

2. Edurio wins TechChill Baltics pitch, raises money from an Australian angel

In February Latvian web-based self-evaluation tool for schools and universities Edurio became the pitch contest winner at Latvian flagship startup conference TechChill Baltics. Edurio won the title in a fierce pitch battle with RingBe, SportID, Furnny and UpSteem

The company proved its concept in Latvia, UK and India, has made strategic partnerships with educators and institutions, and raised €230,000 from Imprimatur Capital and Australian angel Alex Wyatt

3. Labs of Latvia launched, first data on Latvian VC investments revealed

In March Latvian startup community platform Labs of Latvia was launched with a mission to provide information from and about Latvian startup scene to the world. For the first time in Latvian history data about Public Venture Capital Program (PVCP) investments was publicly disclosed and visualized, with help of LVCA. Among other things, the data revealed that every €1 of public VC funding has attracted €5 private co-financing.

See the full report here

4. Rietumu fintech challenge spurs up new fast-growing companies

In April Rietumu fintech challenge revealed their finalists, 4 of them (Mintos, Monea, Swipe, Zen FinTech) were from Lativa and have shown great traction in the next months. Mintos won the competition, and is demonstrating great growth stats, Monea is among 10 most-funded Latvian startups, Swipe was pitching in Dublin Web Summit finals and keeps growing their customer base, Belarussian eComCharge has expanded to Riga. 

Fintech sector in Latvia is so dynamic that Rietumu bank went on to forge an official partnership with Riga's oldest and biggest startup coworking space TechHub Riga, specifically to support fintech startups. 

5. Jasmina's Grase's deconstructed kettle MIITO raises over 5x its goal on Kickstarter

In May Kickstarter backers went crazy over Berlin-based sustainable alternative to the conventional electric kettle Miito, co-founded by Nils Chudy and Latvian designer Jasmina Grase.  Their solution makes sure no water and energy is wasted, not to mention the sleek design and convenient portability. Read more about the product on TechCrunch.

6. Fabula doubles Latvian ebook market, raises €470k to grow

In June Latvian Spotify for books Fabula has doubled Latvian ebook market and raised €470k at €2-million valuation to expand to the Nordics. The first new market was Finland, where Fabula launched in October with 11 publishers. The app is now available for Android, iPhone and iPad and hosts more than 12,000 books in 7 languages.

7. BitFury raises $20 million, becomes world's most funded Bitcoin mining infrastructure provider

In July the Russian-Cyprus VC that recently relocated to Riga iTech Capital participated in BitFury's $20 million round along with The Georgian Co-Investment Fund and DRW Venture Capital, as Coindesk reports.

BitFury is co-founded by Valery Vavilov from Riga. The round brought the company's total attracted investment to $60 million, which makes it double that of rival KnCMiner ($29m) and over half of the total investment in Bitcoin mining infrastructure to date ($116.5m).

Read more on CoinDesk.

8. Startup Roadway  signs up partners from 4 continents

In August, Latvian startup from Liepaja Startup Roadway which lets aspiring young talent travel the world and work in coworking spaces, has signed up partners across 19 countries on 4 continents. Founded this year, the platform already has opportunities from Brazil to Cambodia and from the US to Madeira. 

 9. Latvian president opens the launch of Monea cashless society

In September one of Rietumu fintech challenge finalists, Monea app has launched its cashless society. The service lets any iPhone or Android user send money directly to their phonebook contacts. Four major banks are on board with the initiative - SEB, Swedbank, Citadele and Nordea. The launch event on Sep 10 was opened by the president of Latvia Raimonds Vejonis. Upon launch the app was trending among finance apps in Latvian App Store, was second most downloaded free app as of September 13, according to App Annie, and was later even rivaling WhatsApp for its 1st place in top charts.

#StartupTheSeason proclaims September the official Latvian startup month

The co-working spaces TechHub Riga and The Mill together with business accelerator Eegloo have teamed up for #StartUpTheSeason initiative, proclaiming September to be the official Latvian startup month. Supported by Lattelecom, numerous events in the series aspired to introduce Latvian startup world to the wider public and invite everyone to find out more about Latvia’s tech scene. We hope the new tradition will not remain a one-time initiative and continue for Septembers to come.  

Find out more here.

10. FlyCap invests €600K in manufacturer of AirDog Hanzas Elektronika

In October FlyCap has invested €600,000 in Hanzas Elektronika, the company behind  HansaMatrix. This is the manufacturer of the best drone of CES 2015 AirDog, one of the 3 leading electronics manufacturers in the Nordic and Baltic region. The company has ambitious expansion plans, including the building of a "Science Park" - a coworking space and business accelerator for startups in Latvia. 

This is important news for hardware and electronics startups, for whom collaboration with Hanzas Elektronika is an important milestone once their prototypes reach production stage.

Find out more here.

Clusterpoint moves from a database to a computing engine

In October Clusterpoint database as a service co-founded by a former Google backend engineer announced its 4.0 version .

Essentially, Clusterpoint goes beyond just letting their users store data in the cloud. Now they can also process the data right then and there, and even run computations. This is important because numerous Latvian startups from Zoomcharts to Mailigen use Clusterpoint in their product. The improvement automatically extends the possibilities of all companies that use Clusterpoint.

Find out more here.

11. Silicon Valley Comes to the Baltics in Riga, practical data-driven startup policy discussions and startup awards

November was very dynamic for Latvian startup scene. Silicon Valley Comes to the Baltics took place in Riga. The annual pitch contest was won by Sorry as a Service, an Estonian startup co-founded by Sabine Sipunova from Latvia.

This year the event did not only bringing renowned speakers, foreign investors and ambitious startups, but also provided a dialogue platform for local policy makers. Open discussions behind closed doors within Riga Venture Summit tackled some of the most relevant issues in Baltic startup policy. 

In addition to that, for the first time in history all three Baltic countries' startup stats were put on the same graph. See the main highlights here. Latvian startup funding data is now always available live here.

Just a few days later, another startup lady from Latvia, Ilze Zaharane, was pitching her intelligent therapeutic face motion game for kids CheeksUp at Global Startup Nations Summit in Mexico. Ilze managed to reach the finals, landing among world's 9 most impactful early-stage startups. 

12. Naco Technologies acquired by Schaeffler Group

In December  Latvian science startup Naco Technologies was acquired by Schaeffler Group. The acquisition by German corporate is the first notable exit for Imprimatur CapitalZGI Capital and Proks Capital, stemming from Commercialization Reactor startups. The size of the deal is not disclosed, but it is reported that all investors made positive return.

Find out more here.



Tactile Eyesight wins Global Startup Battle

Latvian book creation platform for visually impaired Tactile Eyesight has won the Global Startup Battle: Great in the making track. In over 60 countries across the world, thousands of startup-minded enthusiasts came together to participate in Global Startup Battle 2015. The final winner was selected based on audience voting online and jury decision.

And what is your brightest Latvian startup moment of 2015? Share with us in comments: