Former head of Skype Tallinn: Vilnius is among Top 10 cities for startups

DELFI / Mindaugas Ažušilis

Sten Tamkivi worked for eight years for Skype, the company which put Estonia on the map. Skype started in an office in Tallinn and spread all over the world. Mr Tamkivi also had to move to other countries. He and his family have lived in London, Singapore, and finally in the USA. As he told the portal DELFI, after he left Skype he decided to use the experience he had gained by establishing a new start-up.

“At work we always had to decide where we should employ new people–whether we should open a new office, attract more people to Tallinn, or move to London. I myself had to move to London. While moving from one place to another, I saw how many problems you encounter getting a visa, becoming familiar with different legal systems, finding rental accommodation, handling school-related matters for children, etc. When I left Skype, I understood that all the experience and skills which I had accumulated could be used,” Mr Tamkivi said.


Following the establishment of the Teleport start-up, he and his team developed software to help start-ups and IT companies choose which cities would be suitable for them to work and live in or develop their activities. In the future, Mr Tamkivi is planning to develop a platform to enable businesses of some other sectors to compare working and living conditions in foreign countries. The app which was launched in March can compare 110 cities. The suitability of a city for the needs of an individual person or group is assessed using 130 different criteria, starting from rental issues, suitability for business development, number of employees and finishing with pollution and quality of education and health care institutions. The cities which would be most suitable, useful and best for carrying out activities are selected according to the criteria the user finds important to him/her.


“When communicating with users, we have noticed that no ‘top’ city lists are relevant. Every individual is different and has their own lists. Everything depends on what you are – whether you are looking for a new job, whether you have a family or health disorders. Based on algorithms, the specific needs of every individual can be taken into consideration and the result will be different for everyone,’ the Estonian said.

The founder of Teleport does not reveal the number of representatives of start-ups who have used the app since March. However, he did acknowledge that Vilnius often emerges as one of the 10 most popular cities in which to establish a business. According to the data of the start-up, the capital of Lithuania is found in 20.3% of users’ lists among the top 10 most suitable cities in which to set up a business. According to the details of Teleport, Vilnius is attractive to new businesses because of its flexible business environment, accommodation opportunities, cost of living, health care system, environmental protection, tax system and Internet access.


When asked how they are planning to earn on their new start-up, the Estonian was quite frank when he said he was trying two alternatives at a time. “First we are trying to offer a service for people who, once they have found a suitable city, can meet the people there who can help them set up and handle all the paperwork. Then, of course, we also get feedback from the cities themselves. Helsinki and Tallinn have already become our partners and their interest is to be better visible on our platform”.

Lithuania and Vilnius are continuously found on the lists of countries and cities attractive and favourable for start-ups. The latest example is a list of the top five European cities where start-ups are established most published in Forbes magazine. Apart from Lithuania, the article also mentioned Eindhoven (Holland), Budapest (Hungary), Tallinn (Estonia), and Lisbon (Portugal). According to the survey carried out by IMD (World Competitiveness Ranking), the situation in Lithuania in terms of start-ups is increasingly improving; Lithuania is the first on the list according to the index of entrepreneurship of people. Israel was the leading country before. According to the index of accessibility of risk capital Lithuania is 11th (previously 24th) in this survey. According to the simplicity of carrying out business, Lithuania takes 17th place, although a year ago it was 32nd. Dovydas Varkulevičius, director of the Entrepreneurship Department of Versli Lietuva (Enterprise Lithuania) says that Lithuania has quite a well-developed eco-system of start-ups. “We have local risk capital funds and accelerators and hackathons and educational events are organised to promote the establishment of new teams. The available platform and strong community feeling make it convenient for both local and foreign innovators to establish start-ups in Lithuania. You can test a product in a small market quickly and receive good advice,” he commented.


According to Mr Varkulevičius, international events have been held for several years. During these events, ties have been established with investors from London, Tel Aviv, Berlin, and Silicon Valley. “Lithuania has fought for its place on the map of start-up ecosystems next to Germany, the UK, and Finland. To look more attractive to foreigners, we should not lose the momentum we have gained and we should make sure that all the measures and projects intended to help the establishment and development of start-ups are continued,” Mr Varkulevičius said. Otherwise, as he put it, lower speed may determine that Lithuania will fall behind its rivals, and the potential to create business generating high returns to the state will remain unused.

Translated by Invest Lithuania

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