Latvia is increasing its presence in tech circles.  The Digital Freedom Festival (DFF) kicks off today to mark a growing tech ecosystem.

150sec spoke with Inga Taurina of DFF to learn more about the event and to garner an insight into what makes Riga a good location for fledgeling businesses.

Riga’s vibrant tech scene

As the biggest city set in the middle of the Baltic states, Riga is ideally located as a financial centre and trade hub – making it a popular centre for startup businesses.  

Inga Taurina of DFF explained that there are several fundamentals that attract startup businesses to the city. Free Wi-Fi can be found “almost anywhere in the city”, whilst Latvia actually ranks 10th in the world for the fastest internet.  

According to Taurina, “the city is a growing centre for fintech, particularly in consumer finance, P2P and crowdfunding”.  Riga is ranked as the third-largest fintech cluster in Europe.

Successful startups are breaking through the tech scene in Latvia as demonstrable proof of the positive business environment.  Taurina cites companies like web-based data visualization and infographics platform Infogram.  In fintech Mintos has emerged and now operates a global P2P marketplace for loans.  

Sonarworks is Riga-based and provides sound calibration software for a more precise listening experience for music creators and listeners.  High potential startup Printify provides another such example of startup talent that is already taking its place. It’s a marketplace which instantly connects online merchants to major print on demand manufacturers worldwide.

“The Latvian Government set the goal to make Latvia become the number one choice for startups in the Baltics”

Inga Taurina, Digital Freedom Festival.

Forward-thinking policy at National level

At a state level, a progressive approach has been taken to nurture startup businesses.  Taurina explained that several years ago, the Latvian government set the goal to turn Latvia into “the number one choice for startups in the Baltics”.

A focus was to create a business environment conducive for the further growth of startups. These reforms included lower taxes and a more simplified taxation system for startups.  

In 2016, Latvia approved a startup law to create a tax regime unmatched anywhere else in Europe.  Its purpose was to promote the formation of startup companies, stimulate research and the use of innovative ideas, products and processes related to economic activity.  The Baltic state has also introduced a startup visa programme.

Latvia’s neighbour, Estonia, has benefited from being nimble in terms of governance. This has lead to a burgeoning tech scene which includes Skype amongst its list of notable tech successes. Equally, Latvia is a relatively small state. It can turn this to its advantage by acting as a sandbox or stepping stone for companies in entering the European market.

Digital Freedom Festival

Technology, startup policy and lifestyle – those are the elements that the DFF will draw together at the tech event at Hanzas Perons in Riga, Latvia on November 14-15.  

The event will gather startup entrepreneurs, industry and business experts, policy-makers, investors and tech sector media.  

Over the course of the two-day conference, 110 speakers from across the globe will share their knowledge on how entrepreneurs, society and politicians can better work together to make use of the benefits of technology.  

Topics will range from artificial intelligence (AI), smart cities & mobility, corporate innovation together with high-level discussions on UN sustainable development goals.  The theme of personal growth and various aspects of and approaches to productivity will also form part of the discourse.  

According to DFF co-founder, Dagnija Lejiņa, “this year we’re once again bringing a world-class experience to Riga so that attendees can get inspired, gain knowledge and establish lasting corporations and business contacts”.  

Overall, the event attempts to make for a forum for innovators, creative thinkers and those that are most likely to emerge as change-makers.