Latvia is an exciting startup country. Here is why:
We have united more than 200 startups in our database, with new companies joining every week. Latvian startup scene is relatively young with only a few exits (inbox.lv, Ask.fm, CoBook). Several companies are growing into bigger fishes raising 7-digit rounds (Infogr.am, AirDog, Clusterpoint) or reinvesting revenue (PentaClass, Experiential Simulations). Some are even buying other startups.
A growing number of fresh investment targets is sprouting here across wide range of tech.
Another growing source of dealflow in Latvia is academic research. Growing cooperation with research base of Riga Stradins University, Riga Technical University and Latvian University is set to produce more stories like Conelum and Koatum.
Looking for more Latvian startups? Check them out here.
First Latvian co-working space was TechHub Riga, established in 2011 as the first foreign base of TechHub London, now present in 7 locations. Before joining TechHub network, TechHub Riga was part of Open Coffee Club - a meetup community gathering a bunch of Latvian startup enthusiasts to talk about startups.
Since then TechHub Riga has grown, expanded and can now fit up to 150 people. Meanwhile, more co-working spaces are emerging: Mill Riga, Startup Latvia Space, Innovation Cafe, a space for 1000 creative minds Riga Powerhouse and even Latvia’s first open hardware workshop Make Riga started by founders of Dimple Android buttons.
Universities are making a move, too. LU business incubator and RISEBA Technological service centre are helping student businesses, RTU design factory and FabLab are fostering interdisciplinary learning and projects, with the latter opening a mini Fablab in LU.
LU and RTU have also co-founded a Green technology incubator supporting a wide range of early stage green startup ideas. SSE Riga Entrepreneurship Support Centre is supporting student businesses and running events such as Garage48 hackathon in Riga and Global Entrepreneurship Week in Latvia.
Looking for more Latvian startup communities? Check them out here.
Last information released by Latvian Venture Capital Association (LVCA) states that since 2007 public venture capital funds have invested € 34,6 million in Latvia, out of which €18,2 million were private investments on fund level. This activity has unlocked additional €56,6 funding from banks, equity investors, company founders and grants. LVCA has stated that by 2020 there will be € 200 million available to Latvian companies via various financial instruments, including public VC funds.
Latvian business angel network was established in spring 2014 and unites more than 40 business angels, which is the largest number for Latvia to date. They host monthly pitch sessions and have so far invested in 6 deals, including one international syndicate.
Looking for Latvian investors to syndicate? You can find them here.
Latvian startup events cover all startup development stages. From hackathons to international conferences - everyone can pick something to join.
The first Latvian hackathon was 48h Garage48 Riga that took place in 2011 and was sold out 1 month in advance.The event is still around, taking place several times a year. So far Garage48 has ran 6 events 3 Latvian cities (Riga, Valmiera, Ventspils), including thematic hackathons like Riga GameDev & Gamification and Riga Open Data & Public Services.
Worldwide weekend hackathon franchise Startup Weekend was brought to Latvia by Startup Latvia. The first event took place in Riga in January 2014. In November 2014 there was another event in Liepaja, followed by a second Riga edition in May 2015.
Latvia has quite a few startup groups on Meetup.com organizing regular meetups. Most of them are coordinated by Riga High Tech University (RHTU) and co-hosted with thematic organizers. The full list of RHTU meetups is available here.
The coolest and most content-driven conference in the region TechChill Baltics takes place every year in chilly February. The event is organized by TechHub Riga and brings together more than 350 startup founders, investors, community enablers, journalists and startup enthusiasts. You can get a taste of previous #TechChill events at their Facebook page.
Every second week of November Latvia celebrates Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) along with another 156 countries around the world. GEW official host in Latvia is Stockholm School of Economics in Riga, co-ordinated by Entrepreneurship Support Centre (ESC). Flagship event of GEW Latvia is #InnovationRiga conference organized by ESC and TechHub Riga since 2012. Most recent addition to GEW Latvia is Women’s Entrepreneurship Day celebrated by global WED network since 2014.
There is more
Thanks to government programme to support startups operated by ALTUM, density of startup events went up quite a bit in 2014. The programme grants support to startup events with 3 years of prior experience and covers up to 50% of event budget.
Looking for more startup events in Latvia? Check out our calendar here.
Links to Silicon Valley, UK, Russia:
Latvian Business Association in California (LABACA) is founded by Rihards Gailums to develop Latvian-American tech business relationships.
United Kingdom Trade and Investment (UKTI) is a UK government initiative worldwide aiming to help UK startups expand globally, while helping other countries’ startups set up their business in the UK. UKTI Baltics offers dedicated, professional, personalised assistance to help you locate and expand your business in the UK.
Commercialization Reactor has been bringing in a lot of Russian and CIS science talent and IP to form startup teams with locals in Latvia. Companies like Snowision, Naco Technologies and other remarkable science startups in industries from 3D printing to Oil&Gas are born here.
Rubylight is a private VC fund focusing on social B2C products. The founder Vitaly Rubstein was leading the IT company Forticom. When Forticom was sold to Mail.ru group, Vitaly exited and started Rubylight. Rubylight was one of co-investors in Ask.fm, succesfully exited to Ask.com in 2014.
iTechCapital - Russian-Cyprus VC fund that recently invested in BitFury, joining a $20 million deal that brought the company’s total funding to $60 million, which constitutes over a half of total worldwide investment in bitcoin mining infrastructure to date. By the way, BitFury is also co-founded by an entrepreneur from Riga, Valery Vavilov.
Fast WiFi, cheap 3G:
Latvia is among world’s top 10 countries in terms of Internet speed as of May 2015. Lattelecom has a wide coverage of free WiFi hotspots in Riga, naming it Europe’s capital of free WiFi. In 2014 Riga had 930 free WiFi access points, which is both the most free public WiFi spots per km² (3) and least people per WiFi spot (754) among European capitals.
Even when you cannot connect to one off the 930 free WiFi spots, 3G is ridiculously cheap - unlimited data plan by LMT, which has the widest coverage, costs just €9.99 a month.
IT and science workforce
Another bonus is that besides Latvian, people typically speak both English and Russian, which means your Latvian office can serve as a good connecting node between your English-speaking sales team and Russian/Belarussian development team.
Exceptional online activity
Despite what they may often say, Latvians love to show pride for their country, especially when it comes to online votes. Two recent examples of their active and efficient online unity are AirDog winning the best of CES 2015 and Riga landing on Monopoly’s 80th anniversary edition. On a fun side, Latvians have united to gather million reasons why Latvia is the best country in the world and laugh about it together here