“KTU Startup Space” in Kaunas encourages to create and share
Photo: Eglė Gendrėnaitė.
For the past six years, “KTU Startup Space”, a startup incubator in Kaunas, has earned an absolute right to brag: successful developers who have spread their wings with the help of this incubator earn hundreds of thousands and create hundreds of jobs. However, according to Donatas Smailys, the head of the incubator, it is equally important to create an open, positive and united community of startups, in which sharing experience, knowledge and encouragement is of immense value.
Nearly ten years ago, in the beginning of a startup culture in Lithuania, the idea of creating a centre for startup entrepreneurship in the university environment arose. This is how “KTU Startup Space”, a startup incubator founded by Kaunas University of Technology was established in 2012. The university provided facilities, infrastructure, assistance and access to the university’s knowledge base.
The incubator, appealing to enthusiasts with startup ideas, offers a wide range of services, ranging from consulting and facilities to assistance in investment-seeking.
“However, the most important mission of the startup incubator and the greatest value is the bringing together and fostering of the startup community,” says Donatas Smailys, head of “KTU Startup Space”.
Photo: Jonas Klemanas.
“Currently, “KTU Startup Space” employs four regular employees: besides me, responsible for the whole network and process fluency, business development and incubator partnerships and growth, three more employees are involved in organizing, co-ordinating and communicating with the startups,” the head of the incubator comments their activities. “We are currently working with a dozen startups, and this number is constantly changing. I am especially pleased to have dedicated people in our community who devote a lot of their time to this work. This is our strength – a strong community of those who have been working in this area for several years and who provide a huge amount of useful information and necessary help for the new startup teams. By developing a culture of startups, we show a good example that we need to share our experiences and compete only on the quality level and ideas. The competition based on lies, grudge, and sabotage is a short-term and inefficient tactic. We aim for long-term things that start with trust and business communication”.
Kaunas is a city of game developers
When asked to name several of the most successful or popular startup projects in the incubator, Donatas smiles: it’s not so easy to distinguish one or several because they are all special and interesting in one way or another.
“It’s always worthy to mention game developers: among our graduates there are those who currently are one of the largest and most earning companies in Lithuania. On the other hand, this is not surprising: Kaunas deserves to be called the capital of Lithuanian game developers. “SneakyBox”, “Tiny Lab Productions”, and “TutoTOONS” are just some of the names of game developers based in Kaunas but well-known around the world. There are also the new developers, such as the “Droidinex” team, currently working with us. Kaunas is also a home of a part of the Game Developers Association, who organized the “Game Jam” – an event where games are being developed at the same time,” says D. Smailys.
While incubators are dominated by IT-oriented projects – mostly applications and game programming – the KTU community has noticeably emerging areas of health, hardware development, and growing interest in food technology.
Measurable economic benefit is created
According to data of 2016, the total turnover of all “KTU Startup Space” graduates (over 50 companies) was about 3 million euros, net profit was about 800 thousand euros, and over 250 jobs were created in total. And while not all 50 companies have a stable income, successes and accomplishments aremeasured not only by earnings: it is an invaluable experience that will create or already creates added value in other activities.
From the financial perspective, IT companies have been most successful, the majority of which are programming some or other solutions. According to D. Smailys, this shows that Kaunas has a strong core of programmers.
Photo: Eglė Gendrėnaitė.
“In my opinion, the KTU Faculty of Informatics is one of the strongest institutions that raises valuable and well- paid employees for the digital market. Not by coincidence our community of startups works so closely with this and other faculties. We encourage the teams coming to us to use the strengths of the KTU science fields. Private programmers’ schools, such as NFQ Academy, “Code Academy”, “Devbridge Group Sourcery Academy”, “Turing Society”, etc., also successfully develop the potential of Kaunas programmers. Nevertheless, there is still a shortage of software developers not only in Kaunas but also throughout Lithuania – this is a great opportunity for future programmers: to study, work and earn a lot.”
Equally important is the fact that the city of Kaunas invests in startup communities and, thus, strengthens them.
“The Small and Medium-sized Business Program has become Kaunas Startup Program, therefore, our community has received significant support. For the past two years, the city of Kaunas offered 100,000 euros to support startups. I am glad to be a part of this. I think that the current and growing attention of Kaunas city to the startups, the possibilities and the desire to support them, distinguishes our city in the context of the whole Lithuania and could become a good example for other cities,” says Smailys.