Kristine Kornilova: Why Riga might be THE place for early stage startups

Before joining Startup Wise Guys team, I was one of the persons behind TechChill – place and time where startup founders from all across Baltics meet. While Tallinn and Estonia doesn’t require that much of an explanation to tech crowd in Europe, we did get some questions about “why Riga”. Also now, when Startup Wise Guys is recruiting for the next batch. However, every tech related guest I have welcomed to Riga and introduced to the ecosystem and startups have been positively surprised. Why? Maybe the city has been lacking the right PR, but don’t oversee lack of that as lack of potential.

Global perspective? Tech talent? Great price-performance ratio (finnish term for evaluating the bang for the buck, aka low operation costs)? The ingredients for success and the right attitude for early stage startups is here, in the Baltics. As a proud Latvian, let me do some PR for my country & city 🙂

Startups became “a thing” in Riga just 7 years ago, but the ecosystem has developed fast and can offer you plenty of support for your startup in a hands reach. We’re still working towards Latvian Skype, but nevertheless there are a number of successful startups like Infogr.am, TWINO, Sell.fy, Ask.fm, Edurio, Printful and many others. While operating and thinking globally, they still have most of the team in Riga and their experienced founders are actively mentoring and giving back to the community.

Apart from successful founders to learn from, there’s a network of organisations that can foster the startup development, capital becoming more available than ever before and low living and business costs to focus on your startup not survival. Due to high quality of education system, there’s also plenty of bright minds to hire, and geographical location to attract tech talent also from countries further East. Best part about Riga – although the city is rather small, it has surprisingly well connected airport and geographic location puts it in the 4 hour ride to either Tallinn or Vilnius.

Let’s not underestimate the power and necessity of startup support organisations in the ecosystem in the early phase of development – organisers of regular meet-ups, hackathons, road trips to conferences and events happening in neighbouring countries. These, although, small actions are the ones bringing together the individuals from different backgrounds through meaningful actions. Keep up here.

The angel investing in the startups and growth stage capital is still in early days, but more available than ever before. Moreover, there is a recent change in the seed stage capital availability. A new player focusing on seed stage startups Change Ventures has already made first investments in few Baltic startups and are working towards sealing the next deals, and as of this year there will be 3 acceleration funds offering pre-seed and seed money to early stage startups.

One rainy Tuesday afternoon we held a Startup BBQ for the local ecosystem and asked them to share some thoughts, why Riga would be a great place for international early stage startups. See for yourself and get to know them: coworking and community center TechHub Riga, yearly startup founder meeting place TechChill (next up February 22-23), coworking space for creative professionals The Mill, Latvian startup association StartinLV, Latvian startup news portal Labs of Latvia and many others: