What surprises and challenges can relocation bring to your startup?

Last year, one of the Baltic Sandbox portfolio startups — Oval Global, decided to expand its service from Russia to Europe, specifically Lithuania. Oval Global is an everyday insurance platform with automated insurance products and services to let people feel predictability.

More inspiringly, the startup’s founders started their relocation journey during the pandemic. Although their trip from Moscow to Vilnius is definitely worth being captured in a short book, Oval Global’s founder is ready to share this journey with others to show that everything is possible. Even relocating your business during a pandemic.

Read the full interview with Ilya Kosolapov, CEO of Oval Global, to know more about the surprises and challenges of the relocation processes in Europe. Acknowledge tips and tricks for startups, guessing whether to relocate or wait for the pandemic to pass by. And indeed find out how relocation opportunities can boost your business growth.

Let’s start with the motives. What pushed you to start thinking about relocation?

We always had a goal to develop business in Europe as one of our main targets. Although, the European continent includes many countries and multiple markets. It still was a question mark which country is the best fit for us, regarding the business perspective.

We got a feeling that Baltic countries could perfectly suit our business as a link between Russia and traditional Europe. Business development in Europe is quite tricky without physical relocation to the markets you want to operate in. That’s why our next step was to decide the exact country from the Baltics we wish to relocate to.

What made your team choose the exact market?

The first thing — we decided to choose our target markets regarding the reliable partners we could find. In our case, we met our partner, which we trusted and consulted with every relocation-related question. And I don’t lie: relocating your startup can be a hell of a ride. That’s why the right people can help to smooth this process.

We found our partner in Lithuania, which happened by accident. In April 2020, I saw a Facebook post of Max Postnikov, the Board Member at Baltic Sandbox. He was looking for new startups to participate in one of their events. Everything escalated from me reaching Max via Facebook to becoming the Baltic Sandbox portfolio company and making our first relocation trip to Vilnius in October 2020. After researching this market, we saw Lithuania as a country where Oval Global would fit perfectly from a business perspective.

Simply speaking, all three Baltic countries are a kind of bridge between Russia and Europe. Although our project still has Russian roots, we plan to “grow” the European ones. The relocation process to Lithuania is one of the first steps to accomplish this goal.

The exciting part: describe the benefit of going to a new market

We are still in the relocation process at the moment. Yet, from what we can see, relocation brings multiple benefits. In our case:

  • Unique opportunities. There are so many of them! New ideas for your product, business development, international experience, you name it.
  • Network expansion. Our partners helped us start several negotiations to improve our relocation processes and gain a more comprehensive investor network in Europe.
  • New markets. Once you start relocation processes, it becomes easier to build up a proper strategy to expand your business in discovered markets. We already have plans for DACH and Latin American regions.
  • Additional revenues. It goes without saying that relocation boosts your current incomes.
  • Business growth. Relocation helps to increase the value of the project for existing and new investors.

Surprises and challenges. What was the most unexpected when relocating?

Pandemic created the main unexpectedness and challenges. I genuinely think our story of the journey from Russia to Vilnius is worth being captured in a book. Maybe one day in the future?

First of all, the existing quarantine made it challenging to leave the country in general. We also had just a short period to do all the paperwork in Lithuania since we had to stay in isolation for almost two weeks.

Our trip started with the flight from Moscow to Kaliningrad. After waiting for several hours at the Russian migration department, the authority answers that we don’t have any legitimate reasons to leave Russia. Just imagine how our faces looked when we heard this, but there wasn’t much time, and we needed to think about plan B. Some hours later, we came up with another reason to leave Russia, and the migration authority approved it. We finally reached Lithuania and went straight to Trakai to isolate for ten days. Eventually, we managed to do all the necessary paperwork and overcame all obstacles.

Looking at our relocation story and very first trip to Lithuania, the legal part went way smoother and quicker than the whole journey to Vilnius. Of course, after relocation comes taxes, living expenses, distance from local origin. The aforementioned “challenges” are included in the relocation process anyhow.

I believe our story can inspire other startups who are questioning whether to wait for the end of the pandemic and then start relocation processes or not. If the long trip abroad is one of the most challenging parts of the relocation, you don’t need to wait anymore. Look up the right partners, do your market research, and start planning the trip to the new country. The relocation benefits for you and your business are worth it. With this being said, we have already planned another trip to Vilnius, and we can’t wait for it.

Share some golden tips for startups that plan to relocate

The first thing would indeed be finding the right partners. We mentioned it before, but it’s essential to mark the value of finding people experienced in that market. I’m sure it can be 50% reference, 50% luck. Partners also advise you a lot on strategic and legal processes. Without saying, it’s supposed to be people whom you can trust and rely on 100%.

Another important point would be communication with other startups. Find your industry startups, which either succeeded or failed in relocating to the same market. You will get great advice from people who have already been through similar processes. Talking with other startup founders can save your time. It also helps to rethink if you made the right decision by choosing the country for the relocation.

Our next step is the relocation itself, but stay tuned. We have much great news coming!

Thank you for the interview, Ilya!

Interviewer: Kristina Kirkliauskaite, the Communication Manager at Baltic Sandbox.

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Baltic Sandbox

Baltic Sandbox is a Vilnius-based startup accelerator primarily focused on growing FinTech, SaaS, and Deep Tech startups.