The culture of business startups – new technology companies – is currently all the rage in the world and Lithuania is trying to keep up. Even though the country is yet to found its Google, Skype, or eBay, Lithuanian businesspeople have already earned a reputation in IT with companies like GetJar, Eskimi, Pixelmator, or Campalyst, Gediminas Gasiulis wrote in 15min.lt.
It is a proof, they claim, that Lithuanians, too, are skilled and able enough to create world-class IT businesses.
There are no bad ideas
Dovydas Varkulevičius, Entrepreneurship Department director at non-profit organization Enterprise Lithuania, agrees that Lithuania has a wealth of young, active, and ambitious talents who might be wanting in one area only – business experience. “There are no bad ideas. Business goes wrong only due to bad execution, lack of skills or experience. It is worth noting what highly successful businesspeople like Vladas Lašas or Ilja Laurs say: In Lithuania, we often put too much emphasis on idea and too little on execution.”
Small market is an advantage
Lithuania’s major edge is that it has a small yet rather technologically-savvy local market. It allows to check – quite quickly and at optimal costs – if a business idea can work.
In Lithuania, we often put too much emphasis on idea and too little on execution.
It is easier to secure financial support in a smaller community – to contact and find understanding with local investors. Also, Lithuania has an excellent internet and mobile network infrastructure.
Granted, the country is already feeling a shortage of experienced IT specialists and there are no specialists in some particular and narrow areas. “However, [Lithuanian] professionals from Ireland, Spain, and other European countries are already coming back to Lithuania, since there’s less competition here and easier to start your own business,” Varkulevičius notes.
There are also a number of initiatives that assist so-called startup entrepreneurs to develop their ideas. One of them is business accelerator StartupHighway. Its programmes receive hundreds of applications. Less than four percent of those are invited to take part.
The selected teams receive three months of intensive training – they meet with mentors, get help in preparing a product, are trained how to talk to investors. They continue to get assistance even after the three months, though less intense.
“The range of ideas is very broad. Sometimes these are very “raw” ideas, we try to see if this is really something that hasn’t been done yet. At other times, we help with million-litas projects. Sure, if that’s the case, we usually contact particular mentors in our network,” says Rokas Tamošiūnas of StartupHighway.
USA is not for everyone
He suggests that startup entrepreneurs seek advice and look for inspiration, but be cautious about dreamy success stories. And those who have already packed for the United States should consider first if it is really of any use.
“I suggest considering a Silicon Valley accelerator only when your target market is in the US. It’s important to realize how expensive a pleasure that is – the entire team must get US visas (for more than three months), have enough resources to finance the trip and living expenses, they might have to transfer intellectual property to a US-registered company,” Tamošiūnas says.
Now is the time
Antanas Zabulis, president of mobile service provider Omnitel, says:
“Ten years ago, an idea was developed in Lithuania, ‘Window to the Future’, aimed at exploiting new opportunities that came across. I think that we’re already witnessing the emergence of ‘Window to the Future 2′. It has probably to do with an emerging environment for young people to discover themselves, with smart technologies, fast development of communication networks, there is also more talk about it, plenty of role models – similar businesses, apps, various business accelerators, etc. The time is ripe and young enthusiasts go for serious results.”
Concreteness is the key
Mindaugas Pranskevičius, CEO of Baltnetos komunikacijos, says:
“Dedication to new project is probably the main strength of startup companies. If their idea is viable, well-developed and actually implementable, they won’t have any trouble to find funding. But it is crucial to envisage a concrete plan how to execute the idea, what obstacles might come up and how to overcome them. If they know well what the money is going to be used for, it will be easier to raise it. The best way for that is to use startup accelerators and support funds.”