Most Baltic startup founders come from the University of Tartu

The startup accelerator Startup Wise Guys and the EIT Digital innovation community have published the third edition of the Baltic Startup Scene Report. As a new component, the 2019/2020 report focuses on startup founders. It appears that most of the founders in the Baltics have studied at the University of Tartu.

A total of 1,043 founders of startups in the three Baltic countries were interviewed for the report, and 403 of them also responded about their educational experience. In terms of the educational background of founders, the University of Tartu ranks the first, followed by Tallinn University of Technology as the second and Vilnius University in the third place.

“In order to start a successful business, you need to have innovative ideas. Today, these ideas emerge at the intersection of different disciplines. Herein lie the two secrets of the University of Tartu: firstly, we are a true universitas, i.e. an intellectual powerhouse which combines liberal arts, sciences, and medicine; and secondly, we operate in a town that values good ideas. Where a fertile ground has been prepared, for example, for students of history and medicine to exchange ideas, something new is likely to be born,” said Kristel Reim, Head of the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation of the University of Tartu, discussing the university’s position as an educator of startup entrepreneurs. “And of course, we just like horses with horns,” she added.

“2020 has been a non-standard year everywhere, but zooming in on the Baltics, we can also see positive trends. This year has proved that success does not correlate with size and that long-term thinking in terms of digitalisation helps in times of crisis,” said Zane Bojare, Head of Marketing of Startup Wise Guys, commenting on the report and the situation in the startup scene.

Startup founders come from capital cities

The report also included an analysis of the regional background of founders and the higher education programmes they studied. The majority of founders of startups come from the capital cities. While in Estonia 14% of founders and in Lithuania, 13% of founders were from outside of the capital city, Latvia stood out for a particularly high percentage of founders from the capital city – 94% of founders came from Riga. It was pointed out that Estonia and Lithuania have other strong startup centres besides the capital: Tartu and Kaunas.

The disciplines studied by founders showed clear gender preferences: male founders had mostly chosen technical programmes, while women founders studied economics and business administration. The top programme studied by men was computer science and by women, economics.

Land of unicorns

Six startup businesses in the Baltic countries have achieved the status of a unicorn; five of them originate in Estonia. The most recent company to be valued at over one billion dollars was Pipedrive.

In total, there are 7.9 startups per 10,000 inhabitants in Estonia. The corresponding figure in Latvia is 2.5 and in Lithuania, 3.7. The report underlines that the Baltics are an excellent environment for the development of startups: five times more investments are made in startups here than elsewhere in Central Eastern Europe.

Read full version of the report online.


Further information: Aitel Käpp, Head of Marketing and Communication, Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, University of Tartu, 508 6478, aitel.kapp@ut.ee

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