On 1 July, the ROCKIT Center for Financial Technologies (FinTech) and Sustainable Innovation celebrates its second birthday. After successfully operating for two years, the Center enters its third year with greater drive and even more plans. Growing the start-up community, building long-term relationships, and attention to sustainability continues to be the cornerstone of ROCKIT’s activities.
Recent years brought ROCKIT new works and ideas, while the FinTech sector grew rapidly in Lithuania. According to the data of ROCKIT Fintech Map 2021, there are currently 230 FinTech companies in Lithuania, employing 4000 people. International members of ROCKIT community, including such well-known startups as Flywire and Argyle, have attracted €130 million in investments since the start of the pandemic.
“The maturity and dynamism, demonstrated in difficult conditions, have brought results. This was confirmed by the study ‘Fintech Landscape 2021’, carried out by the investment development agency Invest Lithuania. This study highlights the diverse development of our sector. Income and cooperation between many companies grew, and 28% of start-ups said that they had introduced new products, services, and innovative solutions because of the pandemic. This shows that start-ups have not only managed to cope with the challenges but also took advantage of the opportunities that have emerged. ROCKIT is pleased to have contributed to their activities,” says Šarūnė Smalakytė, CEO of ROCKIT.
Sector strengthened by returning companies
Companies that have returned to Lithuania due to Brexit can also contribute to the development of FinTech in Lithuania. One of these is a member of ROCKIT, the ArcaPay platform, established in the United Kingdom by Lithuanians. The company says they decided to return to Lithuania after considering the increased development opportunities and the favorable business environment.
“Lithuania has been our second home ever since we founded ArcaPay, so moving here, to one of the leaders of FinTech in Europe, was a natural step, opening up new opportunities for us and our customers. Having received a license from the Bank of Lithuania, we hope to further strengthen our position in Lithuania and enter the Latvian, Polish, and Scandinavian markets,” says Marius Bausys, founder of ArcaPay.
Ms Smalakytė says that returning and newly-arriving businesses are happy to find a strong community in ROCKIT and appreciate its active outlook and presented opportunities to meet experienced mentors, speakers, and experts.
Sustainability as a basis for activities
During its two years of operation, the ROCKIT Center for Financial Technologies and Sustainable Innovation has not only worked with the financial sector and innovations, but also focused a lot on sustainable innovations empowerement. Business representatives, start-ups and investors themselves notice that this is quite a new topic in Lithuania, but more and more companies are looking for ways to follow sustainability standards and integrate them into long-term operational goals.
ROCKIT, together with Katalista Ventures, successfully implemented the first sustainability accelerator in Lithuania – ROCKIT Impact. It was designed to grow start-ups that create attractive and sustainable B2B (business-to-business) solutions. As many as 200 start-ups from all over the world applied to the four-month programme. Five pilot projects were selected and implemented, showcasing cooperation between start-ups and large companies – Swedbank, Telia, Linas Agro, Elektrrum Lietuva and Telesoftas.
“The benefits of the accelerator surpassed our expectations. There is huge potential in business partnerships, so we are very happy that the accelerator will likely be organised in the future as well. ROCKIT also contributed to other Swedbank partnerships – pilot projects with Challenger, Earthbanc and Finpass. This creates huge added value for the business community and the bank’s clients,” says Jekaterina Bitus, Head of Startup Partnerships at Swedbank.
ROCKIT also supports sustainable initiatives and programmes such as Women Go Tech, Impact Meetups, and Futurepreneurs. In May of this year, the Center implemented the project “Sustainability Week”, during which organisations, start-ups, business consultants, and all those interested in sustainable innovation delved deeper into their importance and the need to create a more sustainable environment and business, the business models and processes of large organisations. Participants shared their experiences and discussed future cities, innovations, and the principles of sustainable life.
Consolidation in the international FinTech community
This year, ROCKIT invited many speakers, mentors, and sustainability experts as well as FinTech experts from abroad to cooperate remotely, taking advantage of the opportunities opened up by the pandemic. This way, the Center has expanded the opportunities for start-ups, FinTech, and other organisations to gain experience from larger and more diverse ecosystems that bring new knowledge.
According to Ms Smalakytė, these links are particularly important to ROCKIT.
“Experience from different countries has always been important and invaluable for us, as there are greater opportunities for friendship, knowledge, and interesting partnerships. Constantly improving in the area of FinTech, Lithuania is seamlessly joining the ranks of leaders in this field around the world. This could only be achieved thanks to the mobilisation of the entire sector and smooth cooperation with Invest Lithuania, the Bank of Lithuania, the Ministry of Finance, and other organisations. The results achieved bring us great joy,” says Ms Smalakytė.
According to her, the Center’s two years of operation could be called years of partnerships and cooperation. One of the functions of the Center is creating a close link between companies, so the transactions that helped start-ups grow were particularly important. One example is the merger between two members of ROCKIT – SumUp and Paysolut. It is considered the second largest transaction of such size in Lithuania.
“The best birthday gift for us is the achievements of our members and the consistent development of the start-up ecosystem. To celebrate them even more colorfully, we too have gifts to offer. Soon the walls of the newly reborn former Lukiškės prison will be decorated with Artur Širin’s drawing of a whale. With it, we aim to leave our mark in the increasingly beautiful city of Vilnius and to remind ourselves and others about sustainability and innovations, which will remain the drive for ROCKIT’s activities in the future”, says Ms Smalakytė.