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Could one Lithuanian resident have the idea for the next Skype? According to a recent poll, conducted  by The Baltic Times and sponsored by the bank SEB, a total of 54 per cent of Lithuanians would like to establish a new company. Forty-nine per cent of Latvians and 31 per cent of Estonians have similar ambitions.

However, the same poll revealed that in the last two years, 17 per cent in Estonia actually established a new company, 13 per cent in Latvia, and only six per cent in Lithuania.

Lithuanians are not without a lack of business ideas, however. Only 22 per cent of Lithuanians cited that not having an idea was a barrier to setting up a new business. Twenty-four per cent of Latvians and 40 per cent of Estonians named this as a problem.

With so much interest and so many ideas, it is a wonder that there are not more small and medium enterprises emerging in the Baltic States. One indication may be that only 30 per cent of Lithuanians and 29 per cent of Latvians think it would be easy, compared to 45 per cent of Estonians.

Skype, the internet calling service, was established in 2003 and is arguably one of the biggest innovations to emerge from the Baltics in recent years. With support from the Estonian government in its early days, the company now accounts for 12 per cent of international calls worldwide. Even after being bought by Microsoft in 2011, 44 per cent of employees are still based in the Estonian capital, Tallinn.

Being part of the European Union, Baltic residents are eligible for support and research funding programmes, as well as reduced fees when setting up a new business. Small to medium enterprises are key to driving local innovation and competition, with niches in the market being key to increased export and greater economic growth. Stronger demand in foreign markets was recently reported as a key to Latvia’s own growth for 2013.

Every third Lithuanian speaks one or more foreign languages, making business possible in English, Russian, Polish, and German. When exporting abroad, consider translation and language services an opportunity, not a barrier. Maybe your great idea will be the next big Baltic innovation.

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