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ecosystems

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Business ecosystems

Companies coming to Lithuania will find booming fintech, life sciences, laser physics and ICT ecosystems, as well as one of the fastest-growing and supportive startup scenes in Europe.

A greenhouse for fintech

Lithuania’s trajectory to becoming a top-ranking location for fintech has been swift and stratospheric. In the space of six years, it’s ecosystem has grown from several dozen to 263 companies in 2022.

Creating the perfect environment for this growth has been a priority for both the Bank of Lithuania and the government. Startups and incumbents are able to enjoy such benefits as a regulatory Sandbox and Newcomers Program, both run by the country’s central bank. 

Lithuania ranks 1st in the EU, with a total of 138 licensed fintechs, when it comes to licensed entities (payment institution, electronic money institution and special banking license holders).

Companies licensed in Lithuania have served over 25 million customers in 2022, a significant milestone that demonstrates Lithuania’s position as the EU’s leading Fintech Hub. On the policy side, the National Fintech Guidelines for 2023 – 2028 setting the strategic direction for the sector’s growth for the next 5 years are in their last stages of development.

A focus on life sciences

With the government setting an ambitious target to become a regional trendsetter in Life Sciences by 2030, the conditions are in place for companies in the field to enjoy solid growth. Accelerating faster than almost anywhere else in Europe, the Lithuanian life sciences sector has demonstrated a tremendous growth rate over the last decade. Since 2010, the sector’s revenue has grown 11-fold.  

And the seeds for this sector growth have already begun delivering rich rewards. The life sciences industry is responsible for 2,5% of the country’s GDP, which is about 6 times more than the EU average. But Lithuania is aiming even higher, with an ambitious plan for upping this number to 5% by 2030. Not only that, the country’s life sciences ecosystem already boasts some large international names such as ThermoFisher Scientific and TEVA.

Despite being a country with a population of only 2.9 million, Lithuania has no shortage of talented life sciences professionals. More than 15,000 specialists work in the sector – a number that is growing every year thanks to six universities offering biotech-related study programmes. 

Arguably, Lithuania’s biggest hothouse for life sciences talent is the Life Sciences Centre of Vilnius University. A central feature in the country’s research landscape, the LSC is a 1,500-strong team of budding and experienced scientists alike, including over 1,000 students of all academic levels and more than 140 PhDs.  In 2020, the Life Sciences Centre of Vilnius University became home to the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) Partnership Institute to develop genome editing technologies.

Laser research that's driving solutions in health and science worldwide

Lithuania knows a thing or two about lasers. In fact, its rich and storied history of innovation in the field has seen Lithuanian lasers finding their way into everything from satellites, spacecraft, nuclear waste disposal and cancer research. And the names of companies utilising the technology reads like a who’s who of global innovators: NASA, CERN, IBM, Hitachi, Toyota, Mitsubishi. For more proof of just how established the country’s Lithuania’s laser industry is, you need only look at the fact that it currently holds more than 50 percent of the global scientific ultrashort-pulse market, and 95 of the world’s top 100 universities also currently use Lithuanian lasers and laser systems.

In 2023, Lithuanian laser companies Ekspla and Light Conversion collaborated to unveil SYLOS 3 (Single Cycle Laser), a cutting-edge laser system. Successfully tested and installed at the ELI-ALPS research institute in Szeged, Hungary, SYLOS 3 boasts exceptional specifications, providing 15 TW of peak power at a 1 kHz repetition rate and an 8 fs pulse duration. This innovation significantly enhances the efficiency of experiments, allowing the global scientific community  to collect more data in the same period of time.

Research institutions aside, the Lithuanian laser sector comprises more than 50 enterprises. As most of their products are extremely niche, these companies rarely compete with each other, and in some cases do not have any competitors worldwide at all. Currently, the country exports its lasers and laser-based technology to more

Where IT companies scale, and scale fast

If you have ever used a VPN service, tracked your calories or ordered something from a large ecommerce store, it’s very likely that at least some part of the tech behind it all was developed in Lithuania. Local companies like NFQ, Telesoftas and kilo.health are providing white label solutions from clients from all over the world. At the same time, such international players as Wix.com and Unity rely on local software engineers to help develop products that reach millions of users.

The sector’s key strengths are its pool of highly qualified IT professionals and vast experience providing outsourced software services for foreign companies and public sector institutions.

A land where unicorns graze

Just what is it that has made Lithuania a draw for 1,000 startups, both homegrown and imported? Firstly, the country provides ideal conditions for business financing, and attentive state institutions that have invested in nurturing this ecosystem. Secondly, talents and their ‘can do attitude‘ by finding solutions to challenges.

The ecosystem had a tough time in the past few years: the war in Ukraine imposed by Russia, energy crisis, and fears of a global recession posed significant challenges and tests for the young and very vibrant sector. But the ecosystem demonstrated immense resilience and proved it can cope with crises. In 2022, Lithuanian start-ups attracted EUR 295 million in investments and increased sales revenues by 4% to EUR 2.6 billion.

Today, Lithuania boasts three unicorns: Vinted in 2019, Nord Security in 2022, and Baltic Classifieds Group in 2023.

Is a lot or a little? According to Inga Langaitė, CEO of Unicorns Lithuania, our country’s situation is unique because its unicorns grew on their own, from profits and not investors. This is not a very typical example and leads to a very different approach to business development.

Vinted, Nord Security, and Baltic Classifieds Group are not the only local innovators to embody the country’s strong start-up spirit. There are many other Lithuanian names that are already building a solid profile on the global stage by delivering innovative solutions.

  • Vinted, Lithuania’s first unicorn, valued at more than €3.5 billion, aims at making second-hand clothes the first choice around the world. Vinted’s offices are based in Vilnius, Berlin, Prague, Amsterdam, and Utrecht. These spots help the start-up operate in 21 markets. Today, Vinted has 80+ million members worldwide.
  • Baltic Classifieds Group is the leading online classifieds group in the Baltics, owning and operating fourteen leading vertical and generalist online classifieds portals in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
  • Tesonet is one of the largest Lithuanian start-ups. Not only Tesonet is a proud creator and investor of over 15 various global products and projects, but it has also spun off several equally successful companies, such as Nord Security which became a unicorn in 2022. Tesonet offers solutions in cybersecurity, machine learning, technical support, and other areas.
  • Nord SecurityLithuania’s second unicorn, has raised $100 million from investors at a $1.6 billion valuation. The company is best known for its product NordVPN, one of the most popular VPNs in the world. Nord Security operates in 20 countries globally and is continuing to expand rapidly with over 200 open positions and 50% YoY headcount growth.
  • Trafi, a start-up founded in 2007, is not only offering mobility solutions in 10 countries, with branches in Paris and Berlin but plans on expanding in South America and Asia too. The solutions provided by Trafi are making a positive impact on over 50 million commuters around the world every month. The app promotes the use of the sharing economy, helping locals and travellers find the best way to get around the city. Trafi doesn’t just work with cities, however. The company’s tech is also used by Google, Lyft and Gojek.
  • Kilo Health is one of the leading digital health and wellness companies globally. With more than 4 million paying users worldwide (the majority of them in the United States), strong technology, and a digital marketing platform, Kilo Health provides unparalleled opportunities for entrepreneurial talents and visionaries to build digital health products of the future. The Financial Times has named Kilo Health the second fastest growing tech company in Europe. Much of this growth came last year when the company hired more than 600 people across the globe.

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