This year was truly exceptional for the Lithuanian start-up ecosystem: just a few weeks ago, Lithuania received great news – we now officially have two unicorns that have attracted millions of investments; meanwhile, Lithuanian businesses increasingly find their way on the lists of the fastest growing companies in Europe, keeping up with the global giants.
Market experts spare no praise for Lithuanian start-ups: we have educated and talented people who are able to turn exceptional ideas into practice, and we know how to adapt flexibly and respond to new opportunities. The record investments, the active creation of jobs and the growing amounts of money flowing to the state budget every year are a sign that Lithuanian start-ups have reached maturity and are able to compete successfully in the global market.
Ideas alone are not enough to attract investment
Viktorija Vaitkevičienė, the head of the venture capital fund CoInvest Capital, notices that today’s world of innovations is changing rapidly, but Lithuanians are going toe-to-toe with global benchmarks in the emerging areas of artificial intelligence, financial technologies, block chains, renewable energy and sustainability.
“We have really talented people in Lithuania. Sometimes we are surprised by what innovative ideas start-ups come to us with,” says Vaitkevičienė. She notes that while every successful business starts with an idea, even the best ideas do not guarantee results. A starting point is essential for young businesses to grow.
Older start-ups that are well established in the market are able to attract foreign venture capital for further development, but for the early-stage start-ups it is much more difficult to get their first investment. Insufficient preparation and contribution of the start-ups themselves in attracting investment is often where it goes wrong.
According to Justinas Pašis, the head of the Lithuanian Business Angel Network (LitBAN), the search for investors is one of the most important steps in attracting investment for business development, but this alone is not enough. A start-up must already have something under its belt that it can show to investors in order to build close cooperation and long-term relationships that are mutually beneficial.
“For many start-ups their main goal, naturally, is attracting investment, but it should not be the end result in itself and should instead be seen as the beginning of a long journey. It takes determination and dedication,” says Pašis. The goal of any investor is financial return, so when choosing a partner, special attention is given not only to the idea itself, but also to other equally important criteria that determine its potential success, such as strategic product development plans, priorities, the team, the latter being the key to a successful implementation of the idea.
In a tense competitive struggle, you need to be able to act boldly, because your competitors never sleep, says Arvydas Bložė, a partner of Practica Capital. Equally as important is being able to effectively communicate the pros of your idea in a limited time, to convince potential investors of your advantages.
“For those who intend to pitch their ideas to investors, I would suggest being prepared as much as possible in advance so that you can be concise, yet clear about your product, service or activity in a limited time. Evaluate the market you are targeting, the competition that operates in it, anticipate future plans and set 1–2 goals and a problem that your start-up helps solve,” advises Bložė.
Startup Fair. Connect 2022 opens up new opportunities
On 26 May, starter-ups and investors will gather at the Startup Fair. Connect 2022, the 10th international and largest start-up ecosystem event in Lithuania. The event, which attracts hundreds of participants from all over the world every year, opens new horizons for professionals and talents in various fields, giving them the opportunity to showcase their strengths and stay up-to-date or establish new contacts.
“It is a great opportunity to combine the needs of investors and start-ups – for some to get investment ideas, for others – to find a financing partner. Although the event usually aims to establish contact between investors and start-ups, practice shows that it can be a breeding ground for new acquaintances and useful synergies among start-ups or investors” says Vaitkevičienė.
Mr. Pašys, the head of the Lithuanian Business Angel Network, who has been participating in the event for many years, says that it is an extraordinary opportunity for start-ups not only to find investors, mentors or colleagues, but to receive much-needed moral support: “The purpose of the event is not only to build contacts, but also to share experiences. After all, you never know what advice or question can help you make strategic decisions or completely change your startup’s approach to a particular market. Finally, it is a great opportunity to celebrate the growing start-up ecosystem.”
After two years of restrictions due to the pandemic, the start-up event organised by the Startup Lithuania division of Innovation Agency Lithuania (formerly Enterprise Lithuania) will be live again this year, and will be crowned by the traditional, long-awaited Pitch Battle, where the most promising start-ups selected before the event will have the opportunity to step on the international stage and pitch their ideas to the entire community. Top start-ups will receive prizes and, of course, the exclusive attention of investors.
“This year’s Startup Fair. Connect 2022 will host over 100 venture capital investors from Lithuania, Scandinavia, other European countries, Taiwan. It is a unique opportunity for start-ups to introduce themselves and draw the attention of international investors. In addition, this year’s prize pool for the Pitch Battle is over 40,000 euros and we have received more than 100 registrations from Lithuania and other countries who intend to compete for the title,” says Roberta Rudokienė, CEO of Startup Lithuania.
Mr. Bložė encourages the participants to make the most of this opportunity and advises those who want productive “face-to-face” meetings to do their research in advance: “Find out which investors will come, their profiles, investment directions, geographical scale, and then arrange meetings with them in advance. Sometimes an investment is not necessary, and advice is enough, for example, on how a particular investor’s company solves their problems.”
Startup Fair. Connect 2022 for start-ups and investors is completely free. Everyone interested in the start-up ecosystem, business, considering or already running a start-up is welcome.
About the event:
Already in its tenth year, the Startup Fair is the largest startup event in the Baltic States; the event is organised by Startup Lithuania, the startup ecosystem facilitator for the Innovation Agency Lithuania (formerly Enterprise Lithuania). The Innovation Agency Lithuania was established on the basis of Enterprise Lithuania and the Lithuanian Business Support Agency and consolidating the functions for the promotion of innovative activities performed by the Agency for Science, Innovation and Technology. The event on 26 May will take place in a hybrid format – guests are invited to participate live at Kablys + Kultūra, and those who are unable to attend will be able to watch the event and participate in B2B meetings remotely. More information about Startup Fair. Connect 2022 and the Pitch Battle is available at: http://www.startupfair.lt.