Christian Thaler-Wolski: “Lithuania has 3 years to catch up with startup ecosystems in London or Berlin”
2014 July 28
“A few of the 15 Lithuanian startups I have mentored have a really good prospect of raising funding from international investors,” – says Christian Thaler-Wolski, investor and mentor. Last week he came to Vilnius from Germany to teach Lithuanian startups what topics should be covered when talking to investors and how to prepare your best 1 on 1 pitch. Christian had an intense time with 15 startups who were selected for the training of Startup Lithuania Roadshow 2014. Earlier this year Christian described Lithuanian startups as hungry and resourceful founders with entrepreneurship in their DNA looking to leave a footprint. After this visit to Lithuania he has even more words to say about local ecosystem.
- What changes do you see in Lithuanian startup ecosystem since your first visit to Vilnius this April?
- Improvement cycles take longer. However, those improvement cycles come fast here and the country is catching up fast now. You have a strong ecosystem, foreign investors are coming to visit, you have local initiatives like Enterprise Lithuania, Startup Lithuania, you have local accelerators like Startup Highway, and you have local VC’s like Practica Capital, which didn’t exist a few years ago. They do the local funding and it encourages local founders to establish new startups so the whole cycle is much faster than in other countries where it took more years to develop startup ecosystems.
- Can you compare Lithuania and Vilnius to other countries in terms of conditions for establishing startups?
- In terms of stage I could compare Lithuania to other Baltic countries. Estonia is a bit more ahead of the curve. The reason for this is that they have more successful larger startups that have been established but Lithuania is catching up fast. Lithuania’s and Latvia’s startup ecosystem is similar in terms of number of angel investors, seed funds etc. But the Baltics as a whole are ahead of the curve of even some of the larger countries in Eastern Europe. For example, Poland has its own ecosystem which is very closely knit whereas Lithuania and the Baltics are more outward looking. Although it’s going to be a long way catching up with London or Berlin, but that’s fine, it’s in the nature – small country, limited resources. But you’re building your own ecosystem and that’s important.
- Is Lithuania now like Berlin or London 10 or 20 years ago?
- Maybe you could say that, but it will fall short in anyways. You don’t have 20 years to catch up. You have to do this in 3 years. You have a lot of ingredients in place – technology talent, great universities, founders who have international working experience and you have local seed investors who put money in new startups.
- What is your advice to Lithuanian startups?
- Always aim high and have a big story. Learn from big startups. Travel abroad, speak to these entrepreneurs, come back and build your company from here.
For the record: Startup Lithuania Roadshow is your bridge to the most startup friendly ecosystems in the world. The bridge is being build by Enterprise Lithuania and Startup Lithuania for the second year in a row.