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 five years, it’s ecosystem has grown from several dozen to 265 companies. The ever-growing list of companies running crucial operations from Lithuania include such international disruptors as SumUp, Revel Systems, Mambu and Revolut.
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 147 licensed fintechs, when it comes to licensed entities (payment institution, electronic money institution and special banking license holders). Second ranking France has 90 licensed entities, Germany – 86, and Netherlands have 84.
The growth in the number of companies is complemented by a growth in revenue and employees. This serves as proof that Lithuania attracts active fintech companies with tangible value and is not considered for licensing only.
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.
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.
Much of Lithuania’s research potential is concentrated in Vilnius. 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 2019, the Lithuanian-made SYLOS laser system, one of the most powerful laser systems in the world, was inaugurated at an international laser research centre in Hungary. In 2021, Lithuania became a founding member of Extreme Light Infrastructure European Research Infrastructure Consortium, a network that opens the door for researchers to gain access to the world’s largest collection of super-powerful lasers.
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 than 80 countries.
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 of 1000 startups (and counting)
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 are invested in nurturing this ecosystem. Lithuania outperforms Nordic countries in the amount of governmental financial support it provides for startups per capita. Startups also receive support from public organisations such as Enterprise Lithuania, Go Vilnius, and the Bank of Lithuania, on visas, business ecosystem, and legal matters.
With over 16 000 professionals already working in Lithuania’s startup sector, and thousands of new IT professionals entering the market each year, the ecosystem offers the ideal mix of relatively low saturation and a growing talent pool.
And it’s these conditions that have allowed the local start-up community to prosper so spectacularly, with the emergence of country’s first unicorns, Vinted in 2019, and Nord Security in 2022.
Vinted and Nord Security 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, and Utrecht. These spots help the start-up operate in 15 markets: Spain, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania, the UK, Italy, Portugal, the USA, and Canada.
- 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 Security, Lithuania’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 recently 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.