The Difference Engine Deadline

The deadline for applications for the next cycle of the Difference Engine will close this weekend.  The programme is due to run between January and March 2011, so get your applications in sharpish.  The simple application form can be found here.

During the last programme, the Geogoer team from LT took part.  For those you are unfamiliar with the programme or want reminded of what it is all about, the following video helps to summarise the 13 week boot-camp.


Evening with The Difference Engine

Next Thursday we invite you to meet The Difference Engine in Vilnius. It is a UK based accelerator program which follows Techstars mentorship-based model and offers fairly good startup opportunities with 20k GBP investment, thirteen weeks of incubation and introductions to 100+ mentors along with the deal. A Lithuanian team – Geogoer – has already stepped out of the forge of this accelerator and will be present in the event to share experience as well. The Difference Engine is bringing along Stewart Townsend, startup master, previously behind Sun Startups Essentials programme, who is also one of the mentors, and Annely Lautre of UK Trade and Investment. The trip this summer is to spread the good word about how open The Difference Engine is and to invite the more startups to participate. Together with the founder, another TDE startup is comming Jonathan Shrago from Tagorize, a Seedcamp 2009 finalist.

The event will take place at the formerly usual place in restaurant Pegasus (Didžioji g. 11, Vilnius, map), at next Thursday (07-15th 18:00). We expect the event to last approximately 2 hours, and the space will be open longer should the networking wage on.

During the event we expect:

  • Presentation from The Difference Engine (followed by short Q&A)
  • Short speeches by key speakers
  • Pitchers from Lithuanian startups to show what Lithuania has
  • Networking session that is likely to include discussion with the guest about accelerators

Everyone is invited (the event is free) and welcomed to contribute. If you feel you could add to speeches / pitchers drop us a line at rokas.tamosiunas@opencoffeeclub.lt

Please register for the event at http://differenceengine-vilnius.eventbrite.com/


Seed Forum: first time in Lithuania

This morning we had a very interesting event in Radisson BLU Astorija in Vilnius. An audience of approximately fifty VC market insiders gathered to welcome Seed Forum, listen to eight pitches form regional startups, and to simply network.

In between one sentence power pitches, and more regular seven minutes-long presentation, we’ve listened to several speeches, delivered by ambassador of Norway, bankers, lawyers, and representatives from Invest in Lithuania and Sunrise valley. The speeches were very brief, but all of them had a similar message: there is attention to Lithuanian startups and considerable momentum to assist them.

As for the pitches, we had a set of very timely well prepared and structured messages.  Surprisingly, most of them didn’t go for a million(s), which we saw a lot lately: most of them were by far more modest, hence kept themselves very realistic. At least two of foreign pitchers have admitted that they will establish presence in Lithuania, which was very delightful to hear, especially as “Portahead” (http://www.portahead.no/) from Norway said they will have their Baltic HQ in Lithuania.

I would single out Catch the eye (http://www.catchtheeye.no/), which had extremely sexy numbers and very positive message, and seem to be defining a new distinct trend(s).

Other pitches included:


Event organising: a step in quality

During last 4 months we were actively engaged in hosting two major events – Startup Weekend Vilnius and World Lithuanian Economic Forum. Both of these events were planned out two months forth and delivered more or less throughout them. So what can we, as organizers, say of the two events? Well, the difference is paramount. After SW there were six pages of notes of what could have done better, or wasn’t there at all, we had round up meeting during which some tones were not the happiest. Well, after last event the mood is way better, there are no major notes, and about the only valid criticism that sticks – lack of plans B – so plans A were ok. Let’s note here that we had a very capable team during SW that individually in more than one occasions stretched out for the team – no offense intended.

So what’s good about WLEF? No major flaws, clear script, smooth execution. We had a large audience with great number of VIPs in it – which took subtle care to handle all their inquiries while ensuring timely delivery of all sorts of small pieces. We had spaces that allowed for networking, conference, backstage meetings and even dinner. We had a very professional sound, and less sophisticated video equipment that took three persons in total to operate smoothly so that the content was fluent and harmonic. But we did it. In all fairness it must be noted that we had no online presence and virtually no interaction whatsoever. A clear path for improvement there.

We hope this will end up as a trend of quality and the next major event we do is going to be of the same level or above. We had a 10-months-long small event’s chain last year that allowed us to perfect some small details of event hosting, and now we’re scaling it up. To share a few ideas what we’d like to have in the next big thing we do is greater engagement with audience, be it Twitter channels or Facebook wall. Ideally we can come up with some sort of reduced forum system that would run smoothly on cells, then have wireless stations set up, and the chat linked with presentation material allowing everyone to get a better focus and enabling to deliver feedback / ask questions at will.

To give a small insight on what’s coming, well – it’s summer time. So we are likely to have one or two small events here in Vilnius themed with some international events. There is an idea of hosting training towards the end of August. Maybe some small events after that. Autumn is likely to see some partnership projects: we’ve took a part in JCIs CYEA, maybe more partnerships will come out of that way, or a totally new partner will step up. Ideally there will be one more large event before end of the year, during which we’ll be able to apply much of what we learned so far.  Keep an eye on us if you’re interested.


World Lithuanian Economic Forum

Last week we’ve finally reached the conference day of WLEF. For half a day over 150 people gathered in central London to listen, talk, and network Lithuania. As the conference third part was focused on Lithuanian startups, over two dozens of VCs turned up at the event. While the rest of the audience was comprised of Lithuanian and foreign high profile businessmen, a large delegation from Lithuania itself, and a margin of various other guests. This is an attempt to give you a fair impression of what happened during that half of a day.

The conference was kicked off by a speech delivered by Lithuania’s PM Andrius Kubilius, right after greeting speeches. PM gave a snapshot of Lithuania’s fiscal consolidation, key advantages and pulled that joke about basketball victory and Eurovision being the next hard targets of the government, while everything else being easy. It was followed by quite thoroughly seconding speech by a representative from IBM. Next on the panel for a moment it looked that “Strategic Staffing Solutions” and “Barclays” outright loves Lithuania from what they’ve said, but the impression was later effectively downed by a question from the audience about whether Barclays retail banking will come to Lithuania – the answers was: not any time soon. Minister of economics, who joined the panel to answer questions admitted it was his job to engage Lithuanian’s abroad and those about to leave, but failed to give a good reason why national problem of emigration will be reversed.

The second panel was more dynamic, providing more than one interesting thought on how to nurture entrepreneurship ecosystem. While minister of economics said startups where a priority, Bill Morrow from Angels Den said healthy startups should spring where it is tough, meaning no direct influx from the government. It was furthered by Henrik Albertsen from Nordic Venture Partners as he said he would not invest into a startup who has received public money. On the other note from the panel two successful Lithuanian companies spoke about their experience that painted a picture of business being a lone warrior in the field of Lithuania. During the question sessions minister of economics said he would go green tech should he return to business after his present duties. An indication for us all.

Last session was comprised of seven Lithuanian startup pitches. Quality of the presentations for once (during the second panel it was voiced that all Europeans, especially from northern part are terrible at pitching) was quite good, some of the pitchers really demonstrating great skill, and the content of all of them was considerable. We at Open Coffee Club believe that all seven were good business opportunities for VCs. This can be backed by number of very positive responses from VCs collected after the conference. One more note worth mentioning, is that aside traditional IT startups from Lithuania, we had greeen-tech, bio-tech, an even nano-tech pitching at the event.

To sum it up it was intense half of a day, with great number of messages to be heard and outstanding networking opportunity. Hopefully Lithuania lit up lighter on the minds of quite a few in London, as well as gave good chance for Lithuanian and foreign companies to meet up and hopefully bridge some lasting partnerships. So let’s collect the fruits of this event and brace for the one next year.


Startup Bootcamp application

Heads up everyone! We have only a week remaining until Startup Bootcamp deadline! To skirt the issue here is what they offer the TOP 20 teams:

• DKK 25.000 per team member (12 500 LTL, 3 600+ EUR / head)
• Free 3 months Startupbootcamp program
• Free top-notch mentoring from 50+ mentors
• Free space at incubator
• Use fan base to crowd-source support & sales
• Present to 100+ investors on Investor Day

All-in-all in the deal sounds good. To further it, StartupBootcamp has recently became region partner for TechStars. Rainmaking – people behind the event have been to Lithuania earlier in the year, and they’ve said they really liked what we had to offer. So nothing to do but offer. As a result of earlier visit Rainmaking staged a single half-year prize at World Lithuanian economic forum that has just concluded.

In private talks Rainmaking further stresses their empathy towards our startups, so we believe Lithuanian teams have a very real chance to make it to top 20. Apply here.

If you need any help while applying please go ahead and contact us.


Recent foreign investments

Recently we’ve seen several highlighted events, that all involve foreign investment looking to make / or even making establishments in Lithuania.

In addition to previously announced IBM’s intent to set up a joint-research center, another company – Western Union – a global player in the financial services and communications industry – announced its decision to set up their forth worldwide transactions service center. That, together with earlier established and expanding Barclay’s service center will definitely toughen Lithuania’s infrastructure to service large companies and meet high-end needs.

To further add to the rising perspective, Frost&Sullivan recently announced exploring possibilities to come to Lithuania following a brief, but very productive visit by a team of their representatives. The message comes amid recently performed expansion of Frost&Sullivan into Poland – Lithuania’s big neighbor to the southwest – which is a further indication of Lithuania’s attractiveness to contribute to any company aiming to get a foothold in the region or to expand its global infrastructure.

Closer to the business deals performed: Fermentas (profile on present VCs – Summit partners) – a biotech company often named when outlining innovative companies in Lithuania – has announced it is entering a process of being acquired by Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., a world leading innovations company, for a preliminary amount of $260 million. It is both exciting to see a Lithuanian company to grow up to such a deal, as well as to speculate what next company will be forwarded by the beneficiaries of this deal.

Lastly, swoodoo.com – a Lithuanian plane tickets online purchasing portal – has announced it is being acquired by leading U.S. flight search engine – Kayak. The official news report does not indicate the value of the deal, but the news (quoted) says the “both the management and the investors are very happy with the financial terms”.

All these messages combined offer us a reassuring feeling about a healthy investment environment and market potential to deliver fast growing, innovation grounded companies. We expect to meet some these companies in the event on the 22nd of June in London, as well as take a look at those to make the highlights next, or even to find your next best deal.


Win half year with Rainmaking

Today, Rainmaking has agreed to hold an additional award at World Lithuanian Economic Forum startup contest.

So one company planning an expansion in either Denmark or UK can now apply to win this booster and cut on their OPEX for the first half of year, as well as use the vast network Rainmaking can offer them, not to mention enjoy direct access to the RainAngels themselves.

Should the winner use this option anytime between right after the WLEF event and late this year, the project is likely to find itself located adjacent to this year’s Startup Bootcmap winners. Who will enjoy a similar treat, but twice as short – 3 months of office.

So whether you are just an idea that needs all the help it can get, or you are market hardened company that needs only a new location – there is now one more reason to apply to WLEF.


World Lithuanian Economic Forum

Recently after a success with Startup weekend, OCC has made partnership with Lithuanian business confederation to lend them a hand in holding contest at World Lithuanian Economic Forum. We are very excited and proud to be a part of this event that had such a positive outcome last year.

The message for companies out there is:
If you are looking for strategic partners abroad, or outright VC, you submit your application, get a set of top consultants to enable go further, enjoy a highlight during the event and go home with great new connections, and possibly even contracts.

This is a bit from themselves:

The follow up to last year;s successful event, ‘High tech innovation & investment: local to global,’ will be attended by representatives from world-class companies such as IBM Corporate Technology & Intellectual Property, Strategic Staffing Solutions and Barclays Global Retail Banking Technology. Recently, during the Lithuanian Prime Minister’s visit to the USA, IBM signed a letter of intent for setting up a joint research centre in Lithuania.

This event provides an unprecedented chance for Lithuanian businessmen to network with venture capitalists. VCs such as Nordic Ventures Partners, Qualcomm Ventures, Angels Den and others have already confirmed their participation.

“The ability to attract investments is key for economic stimulus, upon which long term growth and labor expansions are based. The path for it is already paved. I believe it will soon turn into a highway” – said Andrius Kubilius, Prime Minister of Lithuania and the host of the event.

“The priority is on high value producing industries. Hence the conference will focus on IT&T, bio, pharmaceutical, and green technologies. It is in our plans to attract between 5 to 10 key foreign investors in these industries this year” said the minister of economics Dainius Kreivys, who is also set to appear in the event.

Valdas Sutkus, the president of the organisation behind the event – ICC Lithuania – expects to attract the attention of Lithuanian businessmen and economists from around the world to the Lithuanian market. “This year, we aim to show examples that Lithuanian business is able to, and must go global” he says. Among the attendees are success stories such as Ilja Laurs of GetJar Networks, NetFrequency, the company behind swoodoo.com, the makers of MagicDraw, LessLoss.com and many more.

All companies matching this profile are welcome to attend and help to bridge successful cooperation. Those yet to become tomorrow’s success stories should apply to get all the assistance they need by applying to plef.lt/en/contest-en/ – a contest held in partnership with Open Coffee Club Vilnius and Sunrisevalley.


The Startup Digest is now in Lithuania!

The simple and acclaimed Startup Digest that sprung out of Silicon Valley, got featured on TechCrunch, and grew to 15 000 subscribers has reached Lithuania!

So, what is The Startup Digest?

Basically, it’s a weekly digest of the best startup events happening in Lithuania, emailed to you every Monday. It’s the fastest and easiest way to know what’s happening in the tech/web/startup community. Check it here: http://www.thestartupdigest.com .

How can I subscribe?

If you want to receive the digest, sign up at thestartupdigest.com or send “yes” to indre.milukaite@opencoffeeclub.lt .

I organise/know lots of events, can they be featured in The Startup Digest?

YES! Email the links or additional info to indre.milukaite@opencoffeeclub.lt .

Spread the word – please share on Facebook/Twitter or forward to anyone who’d be interested! This is really a community thing…