“To become a country of thousand start-ups, Lithuania must become attractive not only to local innovators but also to start-ups from other countries. The most potent ecosystems of innovations in Silicon Valley, Barcelona, London, Berlin or Stockholm have grown considerably because they attracted foreign talents. To strengthen this ecosystem, we have already scheduled to shorten “Startup Visa” procedures for start-ups that have already passed the accelerator selection, and to launch shortly “Startup Employee Visa” that will enable start-ups to employ under accelerated procedure foreign professionals that are necessary for the growth of the particular start-up and that are sometimes not even trained by Lithuanian universities and colleges”, - says Virginijus Sinkevičius, the Minister of Economy and Innovation.
According to Roberta Rudokienė, the Head of the start-up ecosystem development department “Startup Lithuania“ of Enterprise Lithuania, this significant quantitative leap stems from consistent and systematic work with potential foreign start-ups. “All year round together with the partners, we organize meetings, information events in their countries about the ecosystem of Lithuanian start-ups. The growing number of foreigners who are interested in Lithuania as well as of the applications we receive allows drawing conclusions that the measures chosen to attract start-ups are effective”, - says R. Rudokienė.
In the first quarter of 2019, the Startup Visa program received 62 applications from foreign companies wishing to move their business to Lithuania. Compared to the corresponding period a year ago, this figure was twice as low (29 applications). This year, applications came from Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, China and other countries. Economic activities of innovative businesses: financial technologies, green energy, e-commerce.
Out of all applications that were received during the first quarter of this year, the Commission of “Startup Visa” approved the possibilities of 18 foreign companies to develop business in Lithuania, and 45 foreign nationals acquired the right to put into practice these businesses in Lithuania using Startup Visa program.
4 of 18 foreign start-ups whose applications were approved this year have already settled in Lithuania, another 4 companies currently register their activities in our country, and the rest – have not yet started relocation and business registration. Foreign start-ups have 3 months to formalize the opportunities offered by “Startup Visa“. After this time, the procedure should be repeated.
Network of Partners ensures quality and enables optimization of processes
R. Rudokienė notes that in addition to the growing quantitative indicators of the program, the quality of applications submitted by foreign start-ups has improved significantly, and this is one of the main selection criteria.
This positive development was driven by start-up accelerator funds that started their activities this year Startup Wise Guys, 70Venturesm, and by the Baltic Sandbox program that has been operating in Lithuania for some time. The primary purpose of the accelerator funds is to provide start-ups with basic training on how to develop their business and later invest in these companies.
“Accelerator funds operating in Lithuania are actively working not only with the local but also with foreign entrepreneurs by inviting them to take advantage of our country's favorable opportunities to develop business. The accelerators select to participate in their training programs start-ups that can create high added value for Lithuania’s economics and that meet all quality requirements of Startup Visa program, such as innovation, high development potential, and high-tech applicability”, - tells R. Rudokienė.
R. Rudokienė also states that the emerging network of partners allows to optimize processes, for example, to shorten the procedures of Startup Visa program for those start-ups who have passed the accelerator selection.
“A fast track procedure for start-ups already selected to Lithuanian accelerators is currently already under preparation. In this way, foreign innovators will be able to move to Lithuania much faster and develop their business in our country. This option will be already available this year”, - presents new opportunities R. Rudokienė.
The start-ups who have already moved their businesses to Lithuania find settlement as an issue of increasing relevance: starting from the search for accommodation or nursery for the children to the search for working spaces. According to the Head of “Startup Lithuania“, in order for the start-up founder and his/her family to successfully integrate into the country's ecosystem, they are offered individual consultations, and the start-up ecosystem partners effectively help to address relevant legal, tax or other issues.
Startup Visa is a program that is coordinated by the start-up ecosystem development unit “Startup Lithuania“ of the Public Institution Enterprise Lithuania. The main purpose of the program is to attract foreign talents and investment to Lithuania, while at the same time reducing the migration of innovative businesses and individuals. Individuals who have moved their businesses to Lithuania can use all the infrastructure that is available in the country, create innovative products and such that bring added value to the national economy.