The DeepTech sector is one of the tougher startup sectors to work in – it requires a lot of knowledge, and a lot of time. That’s why it’s important that universities are active in innovation – like the “Smart materials, Photonics, Technologies and Engineering Ecosystem” project, lead by Riga Technical university. The goal of the project is to establish a collaborative research ecosystem to promote the development of RIS3 photonics, smart materials, related technologies, and engineering systems based on scientific discoveries and research commercialization in Latvia.
Similar advancement is the recent Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Latvian Ministry of Economics and the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance (ECH2A) for the development of a semiconductor industry in Latvia. It aims to support the growth of this sector and attract new investment to the region, ultimately boosting Latvia's economy and contributing to the development of a more independent European semiconductor industry.
Developments like these, along with achievements like a Latvian team reaching the top five in the ActInSpace 2022 hackathon, the continued success of Commercialization Reactor (next Ignition Event being on March 31 / April 1) as well as Deep Tech Atelier event (next of which takes place during April 20-21) – shows that Latvia has the capacity and the intention of being a DeepTech powerhouse, even if it will take time.
An excellent example of the slow burn of DeepTech startups is Birgermind – creators of a non-invasive Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) that enables fully paralyzed patients to communicate independently. The project began around 15 years ago during the university studies of Birgermind founder Juris Klonovs, and has been quietly maturing since then – with 5 employees currently, partially working on side projects to bring in funds for the startup. In early 2022 Birgermind won first place at EIT Jumpstarter and towards the end of the year, they finally started getting more visibility – most recently, through publications in Labs of Latvia and the magazine IR.
It can often feel like the startup ecosystem of Latvia is existing in the shadow of Lithuania and especially Estonia. That’s why it’s great to hear that there are solutions that we can provide them. Tallinn and Tartu have united for the development of a ticket application combining different mobility services – and the app will be developed by the Latvian start-up mobility.delivered, mobile payment provider Mobilly and geographic information systems Jāņa Sēta. The budget for the project is €120 000. Half of the budget will be covered by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the other half will be provided by the cities of Tallinn and Tartu.
The fact that we are good at Mobility-related solutions also shows in the momentum of the recently begun City to Sea accelerator (organized by VEFRESH, Riga Technical University, Riga City Council and Investment and Development Agency of Latvia), which aims to promote the development of innovative and sustainable solutions in two thematic areas - mobility and water innovations. The current batch of the accelerator consists of a total of 15 teams.
And City to Sea is not the only one – the ATOM Mobility startup recently had their Atom Mobility Hub accelerator program wrap up. Despite the international competition, the second place was claimed by Latvian startup Swap City – working to introduce a two-seater electric vehicle-sharing platform to the streets of Riga.
ATOM Mobility, being among the largest Latvian Mobility startups with more than 1 million EUR Turnover in 2021 and 8 employees located in Latvia (and more abroad), is continuously growing the number of customers (currently more than 100 operators worldwide) as well as new functionality and products – public and corporate vehicle sharing, digital rental systems for car rentals, taxi and ride-hailing platforms. All of which can be integrated into a single app that allows small operators to compete with uber and bolt.
Their work is especially well timed as it’s becoming evident that huge VC-funded micro-mobility operators are not profitable, and not long-term sustainable from a business perspective. Their costs are too big while the profit margins in shared mobility are very slim. What ATOM Mobility believes to be working is local entrepreneurs running tight-knit operations with small on-ground teams, instead of multinational brands.
While the FoodTech sector is not seeing a lot of massive events, it’s been bustling recently with many new innovative food ideas. Additionally, a number of startups have successfully expanded around Europe, most notably – FiveReasons (subscription-based instant smoothies made with freeze-drying technology) and Fermentful (fermented dairy-free drinks that benefit mental and physical well-being).
Five Reasons, recently featured in Forbes Baltics, with a team of 4 and recipes developed in University of Latvia (with support of Investment and Development Agency of Latvia innovation voucher) only entered the market a couple of months ago, with the focus initially being on expanding through German-speaking countries, but right recently the business has expanded really well to the UK and Ireland. Their capacity during January 2023 was 4500 subscribers per month.
Female-founded (and still moving forward as 2 workers) Fermentful joined the Foodtech Lab accelerator programme and was selected as one of the 5 out of 140 companies from 20 countries to expand into the Poland market through its biggest retail chain Žabka with a total of over 9000 stores across Poland. The deal includes consumer testing and commercial piloting of the product, the possibility of full-scale implementation, and even the possibility of cash investment by the Żabka Group.
This publication is prepared by Latvian Startup Association Startin.LV and supported by the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia.