A Growing Ecosystem in Latvia
27 Nov 2013

Following the National Independence Day on Monday, November 18, Latvia kicked off Global Entrepreneurship Week with a successful #InnovationRiga conference at the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga. The conference brought together policy makers, practitioners, entrepreneurs, academics, students and other innovation stakeholders to discuss the innovation system in Latvia and developments in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The event was opened by Baltic International Centre for Economic Policy Studies in collaboration with TeliaSonera Institute who presented the latest Baltic research on entrepreneurial ecosystem, Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2013. Further on, experts from Latvia, Sweden, Finland, US, Denmark, France and other countries shared views on topics ranging from launching high tech and life science start-ups, essential skills for entrepreneurs, interactive entrepreneurship education models, to financing for seed and early stage firms. Hot topics included the role of government in promoting innovation and entrepreneurship, particularly in the area of finance. A new OECD report showed that government support of seed and early stage finance has increased significantly over the past 5 years, in part due to financing gaps which widened during the financial crisis. Support has included grants, loans and guarantee schemes, tax incentives and equity funds. Latvia, soon to join the OECD, has also been active in supporting financing for young firms, particularly through equity funds vehicles. A recent report from SSE Riga reviewed the experiences from several generations of Latvian funding programs. It was noted that government can play an important catalytic role in angel and VC markets but the key is to provide incentives for private investors, both individual and institutional, to come into the market. Crowdfunding was also discussed by Robert Mitchell from Crowdfund Capital Advisors in light of the new JOBs Act in the U.S. which will allow equity crowdfunding. The financing discussions highlighted the need to look at the full policy mix, not just the supply side. Often financing is not the main issue, but rather the lack of quality entrepreneurial teams. It is also important for policy makers to put the appropriate framework conditions in place to remove barriers to the creation and growth of young firms. In summary, Latvia has made good progress in developing its entrepreneurial ecosystem with many lessons learned along the way. The country is posed to make further steps towards developing into a knowledge-based economy with a new generation of innovation system measures being implemented and the entrepreneurial spirit growing. Congratulations to Latvia for a successful Global Entrepreneurship Week! Guest post by Karen Wilson