Latvia, the center of the three Baltic states has a lot to offer budding entrepreneurs. Here are just some of the many reasons Latvia is an ideal place to grow your startup:.
Not only is Latvia ranked as the country with the 10th fastest internet, free wifi can be found almost everywhere in the city center or Riga, the capital city. The largest telecommunications company of Latvia, Lattelecom, has ensured an average of 3 free wifi connection spots per square-kilometer.
Accessibility of talent
The IT industry is an attractive industry to go into, as it offers the highest salary compared to other industries. This guarantees that there are many people going into it, and that there's a steady supply of developers. That being said, the average salary for a PHP developer is 1,155 eur per month (or 13,860/year), compared to 4,900eur per month (55,000 EUR/yearly) in Sweden for an entry level developer, and $90,000 USD in the USA.
Not only are Latvian IT employees cheaper to hire, they also tend to be well-versed in English, meaning that your ideas and instruction, and general communication, will be heard accurately.
Access to the European Union
As a member of the European Union since 2004, Latvia reaps all of the benefits of being an EU state, including being part of the Eurozone. Some of these benefits include; free passage of goods and of self across borders, cell phone tariffs are not subject to roaming tariffs within the EU, access to EU-funded structural investors, and more.
This makes Latvia a great place to get started with the EU - not only are living expenses considerably lower (see the next point), but inhabitants of Latvia ar multilingual, often speaking three languages by default, Latvian, Russian and English, and often more. Access to the EU market, the talent, the structural funds, are one strong reason to start in Latvia.
Living expenses are lower
Many startups from outside of the EU see the Baltic states as a gateway to the European market. Not only is it a great springboard, but you also get the EU benefits for a Latvian price.
Living expenses on the whole are cheaper than elsewhere in Europe. For example, the average price for a one bedroom apartment in Rigas is between 165-300eur/month. Meanwhile, almost all of the capitals of Europe are more expensive in terms of rental.
Well-connected to the world
An often overlooked element of Latvia is its connectedness to the world. The Riga International Airport is the largest air transportation hub in the Baltics. In 2016, the airport handled over 5.4 million passengers, while the Tallinn International Airport, for example, was just short of 1 million passengers. Riga has direct flights to New York, Dubai, and soon, Canada.
Not only is the airport well-connected, the international bus transit is comfortable, affordable, frequent, and companies such as LuxExpress and Ecolines will take you to destinations such as Tallinn, Vilnius, Moscow, Warsaw, St. Petersburg, Helsinki and more.
The robust infrastructure and connectivity around the world means that international visitors such as mentors, investors, or even foreign startup employees, are more frequent, can travel to Latvia cheaper than its neighbouring countries, can get where they need to with fewer transfers, and generally have an easier time moving around.
Added bonus: Many big-name performers come to Riga to have their Baltic show. In the summer of 2017 Riga is exclusively hosting the Foo Fighters and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, each season bringing its own collection of performances.
Public transportation is cheap & reliable
One of the benefits of being a small country with a compact capital city is that it makes getting around fast, easy and cheap. Public transit in the country as a whole is refined, meaning that you can get pretty much anywhere you need to without a car, without waiting for an unreasonable amount of time. A public transit ticket in Riga is 1.15eur, buses, trams and streetcars are new, clean, comfortable and functional.
Accelerators want to give you money
The state has defined startups as an economic priority, and as a result many new initiatives are taking place. One of the immediate benefits is that 15 million euros have been given to accelerators to develop startups. The only catch? You have to be registered in Latvia.
Startups enjoy tax reductions and co-financing for R&D
Thanks to the recently Parliament-approved startup law, startups will enjoy a special startup-friendly tax regime. This includes flat tax for startups, a tax rebate under the “fixed payment aid program” for individuals and legal startup entities, as well as tax rebates for startups bringing in foreign employees, under the aid program for attracting highly qualified employees.
Other financial aid included in the startup law is a co-financing model for R&D, meaning that the state will lend a hand in paying for the critical elements that add value or emphasize growth of your startup.
The “Startup Visa” fast-tracks, simplifies and alleviates immigration
It's no secret that immigration tends to be a headache, especially if you're coming from outside of the EU. The state acknowledges that, and that's why the government has taken steps to make immigration more accessible to third-party countries.
Here are some features of the startup visa program:
- Receive a residence permit for 3 years (in comparison to a student residence permit, which is issued only for 1 year at a time)
- Students in Latvia with a student residence permit are allowed to work part-time (up to 20hr per week) at startups
- Startup visa applications are processed within 5 business days
The bottom line is that the country wants you here and will do what it takes to make it happen. How many countries can you say are vying for your presence?