The Lithuanian Startup Ecosystem Year-in-Review: Records, Global Recognition And Startup Awards
Thursday evening, the Wrap Up of 2021 & Startup Awards were held at Talent Garden Vilnius. Not only the record year was reviewed, but also awarded those startups that attracted a record amount of investment and stood out with other indicators that strengthen the country’s economy and image in the world.
At the Wrap Up of 2021 & Startup Awards, Startup Lithuania, the startup ecosystem development unit of Public Institution Enterprise Lithuania and Go Vilnius, the official development agency of the City of Vilnius reviewed the exceptional year and thanked Vilnius’s startups for their contribution to the Lithuanian economy.
Records and global recognition
Karolis Žemaitis, Adviser to the Minister of Economy and Innovation Aušrinė Armonaitė, opened the event with a speech, after which Startup Lithuania presented its annual review of the Lithuanian startup ecosystem for the seventh year in a row.
As Roberta Rudokienė, the head of Startup Lithuania, immediately noticed, even though we do not yet have data for the full year, Q3 2021 results are already showing huge progress since 2020 and are breaking previous records.
The statistics that she presented included encouraging figures: the number of employees at Lithuanian startups increased by 23% over the year, while sales increased 137%, exports – 162%, and taxes collected – 51%.
Lithuania also attracted record investments this year: compared to EUR 43.2 million in 2020, startups raised EUR 423 million in 2021, of which a whopping EUR 250 million belongs to Vinted and over EUR 43 million – to TransferGo.
The number of business angels has also tripled since last year. Speaking of the year’s accomplishments, Ms. Rudokienė also mentioned the establishment of Unicorns LT, an association that unites Lithuanian startups, the opening of the Imaguru Startup Hub in Vilnius, and the fact that 27 startups moved to Lithuania from non-European countries using the Startup Visa Lithuania program. Since this program began, 85 startups have moved to Lithuania, with five of them attracting investments in 2021. This is also a record for this year.
Global recognition of the Lithuanian startup ecosystem is also heartening, with Lithuania in 10th place on the Global Fintech index and in 16th for the StartupBlink Global Ecosystems ranking 2021. Lithuania also jumped 60 positions in the Startup Genome table, and occupies 4th place for Startups per 1M inhabitants on the Dealroom.co and Atomico report.
“Today we definitely have a reason for celebration – to celebrate the year, the records, and the work that you’ve all done,” said Ms. Rudokienė in conclusion.
TransferGo named Startup of the Year
The second part of the event was the third annual startup awards. Participants competed in six categories.
Inga Romanovskienė, the director of Go Vilnius, announced the winner of the first category – Relocation of the Year. This went to video game company Wargaming. In operation since 1998, this company is now considered one of the leaders in the gaming industry, with more than 5,000 employees and 19 offices worldwide. This year, Wargaming opened an office in Vilnius, where it plans to employ several hundred employees over the next few years.
The winner of the second category was presented by Justinas Pašys, Managing Director at LitBAN, the Lithuanian Business Angel Network. This year, the Rising Star award went to Ondato, a fast-growing anti-money laundering and know your customer technology company that provides services to financial institutions.
Elijus Čivilis, General Manager at Invest Lithuania, announced the Best Emerging Tech award. This went to Biomatter Designs, a company that develops artificial intelligence-based technologies to simplify and accelerate the protein engineering process. The solution developed by the startup helps to generate novel enzymes for the efficient and environmentally friendly synthesis of chemical compounds, as well as therapeutic and DNA code editing proteins.
And who was named Ecosystem Hero of the year? Ms. Rudokienė announced the winner. It turned out to be Unicorns LT, an association that was established this year and unites 32 startups. The purpose of the association is to address issues concerning education and attracting talents that are relevant not only to startups, but also to Lithuania as a whole, to support the development of the Lithuanian startup ecosystem, to ensure the sharing of experience, and to represent the sector and improve its image in society.
The Public’s Favourite award is special since everyone was able to pick their favourite by taking part in a public vote that was held a few weeks before the awards ceremony. As revealed by 15min Group CEO Tomas Balžekas, Ondato won the Public’s Favourite award.
And finally, what was probably the most important moment of the evening – the winner of the prestigious Startup of the Year category. The microphone went to the Mayor of Vilnius Remigijus Šimašius to announce the winner.
“Vilnius is a startup itself. It appeared 700 years ago, but I believe that we can all feel its lingering startup spirit – a spirit that is not afraid to err, can start from scratch, and can take care of all the people living here … To be a startup at such an interesting time in a startup city and in a startup country is an honour,” said the mayor before announcing the winner.
And the winner was TransferGo, which aims to ensure faster international money transfers. Over the past year, TransferGo has become one of the fastest-growing money transfer companies, attracting new investment and currently operating in more than 160 countries. TransferGo already has a total of 3.5 million customers and has garnered recognition not only in Lithuania but also in Ukraine, where it received the Cross Border Solution of the Year award for its innovative international money transfer services.
The Startup of the Year was selected from all of the nominees by members of the startups already on display at the Startup Museum – 13 in total. This nomination is meant to honour a company that is highly valued by the startup community.
The annual startup ecosystem event Wrap Up of 2021 & Startup Awards unites two traditional startup ecosystem events: the Wrap Up of The Year organised by Startup Lithuania for seven years already and the Startup Awards organised by Go Vilnius for the third time.