At the TechCrunch DIsrupt event which took place in Berlin in late October, Enterprise Lithuania presented 17 startup companies from the country, where there is a strong emphasis on mobile devices and services.
L’Atelier: If you had to make a rough sketch of the Lithuanian startup ecosystem, how would it look?
Dovydas Varkulevicius: My sketch would be very simple. The Lithuanian startup ecosystem is very small, but vibrant, very energetic, and basically has been growing very rapidly for a number of years. Even better, it’s an ecosystem that’s linked up with others, i.e. it’s well integrated.
A country’s startups are often a bit like football teams. The French focus on the business model; the Germans on pure ‘technique’. What about Lithuania?
In Lithuania, start-ups concentrate on IT technology. And, given our market, we focus on services – web and mobile services.
Why the focus on mobile?
Lithuanians are very keen on mobile. In fact our mobile penetration rate is very high (Editor’s note: It’s the highest in Europe – around 152% in Lithuania compared with the European average of 132%). The majority of the population owns a smartphone. To give you a better idea, some 92% of Lithuanians carry out their banking transactions online. This is basically because our country enjoys a very dense 3G Internet and mobile infrastructure, which means that we have very fast connectivity. In fact we have the highest penetration rate of fibre-optics in Europe. So there are lots of reasons why Lithuanians are so fond of online channels, and especially of their mobile devices.
Nevertheless, Lithuanian startups are not simply concentrating on the home market…
No. Lithuania is a small country, so of course our startups are looking to develop internationally.
Could you give us the names of some startups which stand out from the crowd?
GetJar is a mobile app store which attracts over 30 million unique users each month. YPlan has also done very well. It’s a ‘going out app’ which informs users about events going on in a city. It’s been very successful in New York and London, for instance. More recently we’ve see Vinted, a social shopping application, which incidentally is also doing very well in France (Editor’s note: Vinted has built a community of over 520,000 Facebook fans).
Like many major corporates, Deutsche Telekom has been involved from an early stage in international startup incubators – here in Berlin plus Tel Aviv and Kracow. And accelerators usually like to run Demo Days outside their country of origin. How about Lithuania?
Well, that’s right, all ecosystems want to get themselves known to other ecosystems. Moreover, a less well-developed ecosystem will seek to interact with one that’s more developed, so as to create a virtuous circle of exchange. So, yes, we’re trying to build bridges. We should be going to Israel soon. Today we’re here in Berlin. We’ve been to the United States and will shortly be going there again, plus the south of France and also London.