SHM2019: Case Study Riga (Sponsored)

To put comparative research into perspective, it is worthwhile to look in more detail at one case and connect the various insights. We have collaborated with Magnetic Latvia Startup to take a deeper look into the startup ecosystem of Riga, the 2nd largest city in Northern Europe and a buzzing hub which gets more visible on the international scene.

Riga might not be among the top ranked startup hubs yet, but many signals are pointing upwards: while Riga has been knocking on the door of the Top 50 most popular founder hubs in 2018 and 2019, it is already one of the top 20 hubs in the field of Tech & Hardware startups, where it ranks 18th. Europe-wide 4% of all founders of this industry mention Riga as a place where they could imagine launching their startup. We see a similarly strong position in the SaaS & Enterprise Software (3%, rank 20th) and Consumer & Platforms (2%, rank 24th) fields.

RatingsAvg. Top 25Riga
Funding Availability58%38%
Business Regulation53%69%
Talent Availability57%56%
Industry Connections61%19%
Startup Ecosystem66%69%
Value for Money53%75%

Tech-savvy founders attracted by Latvia's favorable startup policies

Business founders have identified business-friendly regulations as Riga’s strong suit: 69% rate it as high or very high. This beats for Paris and Berlin which only get endorsed for this feature by 49% and 61% respectively. Another robust point is the perception of value-for-money that Riga provides (75% endorsement). On the other side, Riga is not perceived as having strong Industry Connections (19%) and too much Funding Availability (38%).

Latvia has produced some remarkable Fintech success stories like Mintos and Twino and in the marketing industry the well-known infographic toolkit Infogram, which was acquired in 2017 by Prezi. The government of Latvia is now doubling down on their advantage of business-friendly regulations and recently launched a series of startup support programs, including the startup law – special low-tax deal for early stage startups, and startup visa – 3-year residence permit for non-EU startup founders which is already bringing home the first results. Marine Digital is a great example: It is a startup offering automatization tools for the sea port logistics industry which has relocated to Latvia and in a matter of just a few months launched first pilots with the Latvian Marine industry.

Riga is home to Europe's 3rd most international Accelerator

Riga is home to several tech conferences and accelerators that bring international connections to the local startup scene. In fact, it is probably little known that Startup Wise Guys, being an Estonian company, runs a large part of their accelerator batches in Riga. Startup Wise Guys is one of the leading European accelerators. We have recently reported it is the 3rd most international accelerator in Europe and also recommended by roughly 5% of the Heatmap survey participants in 2019 (Rank 11th). Of 78 startups participating in their programs since 2017, 38 have been coming to Riga (49%) and 30 of these were of international origin (79%).

As for conferences, TechChill ranks as the 21 most international conference in Europe with 39% foreign followers on Facebook. The conference is a popular kick-off for many international influencers but it also serves as a non-profit promoting startups and helping them grow through the whole year, as well as educating students about tech and why it’s worth joining the startup industry by giving away 80 tickets to young enthusiasts. There’s also a strong resonance on female entrepreneurship and VR topics, which dominated the twitter conversation around TechChill 2019, as our analysis shows.

Digital Freedom Festival in November is celebrating technology also beyond startups and has – more than any other conference in Europe – put an emphasis on female entrepreneurship, which dominated the twitter discourse around the conference in the beginning of 2019. Next to this topic, DFF has created a conversation mainly on CleanTech and Sustainability topics this year.

Deep Tech Atelier Riga is a recent addition to the Latvian startup event scene. Since its launch in 2018, it has evolved as a holistic platform which connects science-based startups with opportunities and supports the commercialization of the scientific breakthroughs.

Taken these findings together, Riga emerges as a fast growing startup community, which is driven by strong players in the accelerator and conference sector and supported by favorable government policies. In the context of the Baltic startup scene, Riga is starting to establish its position and it is no surprise that many “Baltic success stories”, on a second look, actually stem from Latvia and, specifically, Riga.