So said the former Prime Minister of Lithuania, Aleksandras Abišala, speaking as part of a recent panel discussion on business ties between the two countries. And according to Boaz Inbal, Director of the development centers of WIX in Europe, Lithuania offers “talented and passionate people.”
“For Israeli companies, Lithuania can serve as a gateway to Russia and its neighbours, to Northern Europe and to the rest of the European Union” said former Prime Minister of Lithuania, Aleksandras Abišala.
Dr. Abišala, a member of the board of the Israel-Lithuania Technological Hub, was speaking at a panel discussion on relations between the two countries held at this year’s JUNE TECH convention in Ra’anana, Israel. The panel was chaired by Len Judes, a lawyer and the Chairman of the Israel-Lithuania Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“I haven’t been in politics for more than five years now. My dream for the last 23 years was to be presented not as a former Prime Minister, but as the best advisor,” said Dr Abišala.
“Whilst Lithuanian culture is polite, Lithuanians are hungry for success and we work hard to prove ourselves. In that respect, we are different to England and other countries which have become lazy. We are tightly connected to Northern Europe. In fact, all the banks in Lithuania are owned by Scandinavians, and with them come investments by small and medium-sized IT companies from Scandinavia”, added Dr. Abišala.
A dynamic tech ecosystem
“Because investors in Lithuania prioritise practical research, we operate three major investment centres; one on the coast, Klaipėda, that deals primarily with developments for the nautical field, and two in the major cities of Vilnius and Kaunas. In each of these centres there are spaces for start-ups, greenhouses and more, all as part of the framework the government has designed in order to create a dynamic tech ecosystem”.
Ze’ev Zelig, director of life sciences at the Lithuania-Israel Technological Hub, said of Lithuanians that they are “looking for innovation and want to succeed. Lithuania is positioned between Russia, Scandinavia and the West,” he continued. “Israeli companies wishing to export to these countries are the best potential partners for cooperation with Lithuania. And for specialists who come to Lithuania to work for foreign-owned high-tech companies, the situation is very favourable. The Government treats them as guests and they get a much better package than they would in other European countries. This is a young country and it shows when you enter a Government office – ask for help and you get it.”
“My relationship with Lithuania started by chance,” explained Mr Zelig. “I worked for 25 years in the biotech company Genzyme. I was asked to accompany the Lithuanian economy Minister at the BioMed Conference where he headed a delegation of 20 people. I asked him ‘why don’t you have a conference like this in Lithuania?’ He asked for my assistance, and so I began helping on a voluntary basis. Within two years we had established Life Sciences Baltics, which became much more successful than we anticipated. Following this success, we established the Lithuania-Israel Technological Hub as an association that is part of the Israel-Lithuania Chamber of Commerce”.
Darius Zakaitis, Director of the Sapiegos tech park in Vilnius, invited Israeli companies and investors to the park, which has a specially designed ecosystem that provides all the services startups need in one location.
“In collaboration with Vilnius municipality, we transformed the 19th century buildings of a stately home into a tech hub that can accommodate 800 employees working for startups, greenhouses, accelerators and venture capital funds. As Vilnius is a small, close-knit city, it was easy to bring together all the services these companies need in one place. The Park will open in September, and at present half of the office spaces have been rented.”
“We can offer Israelis excellent conditions and funding, plus inexpensive living costs in comparison to Israel. Wix opened a branch in Vilnius that achieves great success. We are also promoting Vilnius as a great gateway to the Europe Union for talents from Belarus, Ukraine and Russia, attracting them to set up and live in Vilnius. There are already many success stories, with over 10 companies from those countries having established themselves here in the past two years. And Lithuania’s parliament has approved the creation of a start-up Visa which will further encourage this trend.”
According to Idan Mayer, Director of Habanana, a hub for young internet and mobile companies in the municipality of Ra’anana, “the connection between Vilnius and Ra’anana is very innovative. According to conventional wisdom, we in the Town Hall should only care for our city, so what are we doing in Vilnius? The answer is that Ra’anana has an innovative head; we think globally, focusing not just on our city but looking at the rest of the country and the whole world. Everyone thought that we should go to Silicon Valley, but when I got to Vilnius and saw what happens there and learned about the opportunities, I saw that it is an amazing opportunity for Israeli start-ups”.
According to Boaz Inbal, the Director of Wix development centres in Europe, “two and a half years ago we decided to open a Center in Lithuania. Our CEO was invited to a conference and was impressed with the skill levels that people had: he had a feeling we could find good employees here. Today we employ 60 people in Vilnius. We are growing rapidly and have had to split the Vilnius office into two adjacent buildings.”
Inbal explains that “there are many similarities between Israel and Lithuania. We found talented, passionate people. We don’t just give them work and ask for a product, we involve them in developing solutions from scratch and they create products that impact millions of users.”
Read the full article: http://www.pc.co.il
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