Tallinn / Riga / Vilnius

talllinnA rapid tour through the Baltic States, with presentations in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, to promote an upcoming UKTI competition supporting creative / tech businesses in considering UK expansion.

The events were replicated in each city, an incubator / accelerator venue with an audience of 20-odd young, mostly male, highly driven, tech start-ups (in discussion a mix of 50% totally silent and 50% utterly direct (in perfect English)).

Interestingly whilst the subject matter varied between ideas, the businesses were almost entirely focused on the management of data and information, with a strong emphasis on coding and platforms rather than content and UX.

In Tallinn in particular it is clear that a strategic Government focus on e-democracy, e-health and open data, matched to ubiquitous wifi connectivity, is generating a cohort of digital support services – and a wide awareness of a tech enabled future (you can buy AirBaltic flights with bitcoins).

But always ask a taxi driver an economic question to get some insight. They cite a major outflow of skilled young people over recent years generating problems – for example a shortage of doctors. This in some ways explained the companies impatience with some of the presented material – they had already researched the market so didn’t want context, more the practical details of establishment in the UK. The business models presented were international from the outset, requiring a rapid export strategy to achieve scale – to paraphrase a conversation, you can build e-commerce platforms or bitcoin retail payment exchanges but you need to quickly move them to a market with high volume online transactions.

And lastly a continuing observation reinforced by Tallinn and Riga – both with fabulous old towns – historic port cities look different and feel different. The flow of ideas and influences is visible in the architecture but also felt in an attitude.

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