Europe’s first international Blockchain Centre launched its operations in Vilnius – the capital of Lithuania – on 27th January, 2018. The launch attracted entrepreneurs, investors, key decision-makers and experts from around the world. It is the first facility of its kind on the continent. The global network of Blockchain Centres includes Melbourne, Shanghai, and now, Vilnius. It is a not-for-profit knowledge-hub, co-working space and incubator for blockchain technology companies.
“The USA is a natural gateway to the continent for European investors. Lithuania is positioning itself as a gateway to Europe for American partners looking for opportunities in blockchain driven technologies. Here in Lithuania we are pulling out the stops to bring the world’s top blockchain talent, ideas, investors, and regulators together to create value for both private and public sectors,” says Paulius Kunčinas, Chairman Board of Blockchain Centre Vilnius. “As part of this effort, Blockchain Centre Vilnius is already in touch with the USA start-up community, and potential adopters of blockchain technology.”
The official launch ceremony included a series of signings of cooperation agreements by Blockchain Centre Vilnius and numerous partner organisations, including PriceWaterhouseCooper, British 20|30 & Pillar Project, Singapore based NEM.io Foundation, Canadian GCAC, Malaysian PUNDI X LABS, Australian Coinstop and Lithuanian Lympo.io among others. The Minister of Economy of Lithuania, Virginijus Sinkevičius, witnessed the signings.
“Experts from the world´s Intellectual centres predict diverse scenarios in cryptocurrency development; however blockchain is not just about cryptocurrency. Blockchain technology is already being adopted by many businesses and public administration sectors. The potential is enormous, therefore, Lithuania must become an important link in the global blockchain industry. I am pleased to be able to put the first block in place today”, V. Sinkevičius said at the ceremony.
The launch event featured high-level debates on the future of blockchain technology. Discussions included representatives from the European Commission, the European Central Bank, the Lithuanian Government, world-renowned companies including; NASDAQ, NEM, Pillar Project, Qadre, and other enterprises that are already applying blockchain technology.
“Lithuania is an amazing place to invest and a great place for innovative businesses,” said Antanas Guoga, Member of the European Parliament, founder of Blockchain Centre Vilnius, and a serial entrepreneur. “Today Lithuania can offer a globally represented blockchain hub and enabling regulatory environment. It goes along the overall positive attitude of the European Union institutions, which are ready to embrace the technology”.
Global blockchain network
The centre is part of a global network of co-working spaces that are being developed to serve as knowledge-hubs for the blockchain industry. Drawing on the experiences of the Melbourne location – which brands itself as a community of more than 2,000 blockchain technology entrepreneurs, experts, mentors and investors – the new facility’s founders say they hope to benefit from Lithuania’s favourable climate for digital businesses.
Melbourne-based Martin Davidson, Global Director and CEO of Blockchain Centre Melbourne, said Lithuania was a natural fit to its growing international network. “Lithuania is the latest region in the world to be warming up to the concept and application of blockchain technology. It was selected by the Australian and Asian blockchain communities as the network’s first location in Europe due to its political and economic stability, relationship with the European Union, as well as favourable business and regulatory environments.”
Stable jurisdiction and commitment to innovations
Lithuania is one of the best in the EU for superfast licensing, and strong institutional support. At the heart of these developments, The Central Bank of Lithuania is taking a positive and proactive approach with regards to new fintech companies offering fast and efficient licensing, as well as a one year sandbox environment. The Central Bank created the regulatory and technical sandbox platform-service codenamed LBChain, which will allow domestic and foreign companies to develop and test blockchain-based solutions. It also initiated a “start-up visa” that makes it easier to attract and retain top talent from non-EU countries.
E-signatures are widely utilized and accepted, and onboarding can even take place remotely via online video calls. Lithuania is already number one in Europe in fibre-optic penetration, and boasts one of the world’s fastest internet networks which makes doing business online efficient and convenient. Lithuania’s regulators look positively towards emerging technologies and are open to giving progressive tech companies direct access to the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA).