My name is Alex Pospekhov, I am the founder of the “Mission space” start-up. I moved to Luxembourg in 2021 after winning a start-up competition.
We won the Fit 4 Start competition in May, received our invitations, and around November I was already here. In addition to my main work with my start-up, I also help other businesses to relocate to Europe.
A bit of background info. In 2017, I was the first person to receive a start-up visa in Latvia. Since that moment, I have helped more than 250 businesses relocate. I have been doing this for 3 years now.
Before moving it’s important to answer this question: “What are my goals and objectives here?”. The task of “moving somewhere” is not an end goal unto itself, it’s just a stage of a larger process. When you approach it at least with thoughts like “I want my children to live in such and such country” or “I want to get an EU passport» — that’s something you can start to work with.
It takes place twice a year. The Luxembourg government is picking tech start-ups to essentially make them its own. These projects can be at completely different stages of development and readiness. Each start-up that reaches the finals receives 150 000 euros. There’s no specific field Luxembourg favors: the projects chosen are always different.
At one time, space-related projects were in great demand. Then the last year’s set of finalists was dedicated to HPC (high-performance computing — editor’s note). This year, it’s innovative technologies and Big Data. There will be some other direction chosen for the next set, no doubt.
To get into the competition, you need to prepare a pitch and answer questions about your business that the organizers will ask. That’s it. You will only need other documents much later — if your start-up is selected.
Yes, we won this competition. Out of 650 applications, 5 were selected, and we were one of them. It must be said, though, that the conditions there are quite tough.
Luxembourg is a fairly wealthy country that can afford to give out 150 000 euros to start-ups under certain conditions. Acting as a venture investor, the Grand Duchy hopes that at least a few projects will shoot to the stars.
Out of 10 start-ups, 8 die, 2 develop steadily and 1 of those 2 becomes successful and makes a tenfold or even a hundredfold profit.
There is also a unique program working here that allows a company to get a million or two (I don’t remember the exact amount) to spend exclusively for marketing. That’s the area investors usually don’t give money for at all. Basically, you are given a budget for advertising yourself, attracting customers, and so on.
In general, such an approach to business and start-ups in Luxembourg was not born in a second. The Grand Duchy is currently doing what Latvia did a few years ago.
Right now Luxembourg is trying to transform itself from a “boring bankers’ country” into a state filled with active techno-entrepreneurs.
But don’t get too excited. There are still numerous difficulties in making your start-up successful here. And a grant’s a grant: it’s difficult to get, takes a long time, and doesn’t always happen on time.
Fit 4 Start is a state competition where a very small percentage of contestants is selected. On average, 600-700 applications are submitted, and from 5 to 20 projects are selected. Simply put, you need to be prepared for tough competition.
When we participated in the competition, out of 650 submitted applications, 4 space-related companies won, including our team.
We deal with infrastructure, satellites and software for measuring solar radiation. In fact, we are studying space weather, the understanding of which contributes to the industrial space exploration.
Basically, solar flares happen all the time. In space, they affect satellites, space stations, and astronauts. But their consequences are also being felt on Earth.
For example, in the middle of the 19th century a solar flare caused telegraph cables to burn. And you don’t even have to look that far back for an example. This spring SpaceX launched Starlink satellites into orbit — and lost $100 million worth of satellites, because it lacked the necessary solar flare data.
Why am I talking about this in such detail? To clearly explain that the profile of a start-up must be practically applicable and in-demand at the time.
We’ve presented our idea at the competition loud and clear and conveyed two important thoughts:
To get to the finals you need to be well-liked by the jury. The preferred theme is different every year. The jury has an internal scoring system and certain milestones that must be achieved based on the plan that you’ve agreed upon with the jury.
In addition to the grant itself, our team received:
It’s important to keep in mind that the state gives a start-up 50 000 euros as the first aid tranche. You can get 80 000 more, if after this tranche your project attracts and spends another 50 000 of funds.
In total support ranges from 130 to 150 thousand euros, but only on condition that you invest your own money into the project too.
Contrary to popular beliefs, Luxembourg has a great tax system. I personally call the Grand Duchy a country for those who “get it”.
You need to take your time, understand the system and do some counting. Externally, the tax system looks scary. But once you take in the details, it all becomes clear, convenient and pleasant.
Since we’ve talked about problems with taxes and grants — those most often arise due to the fact that it’s very difficult for the state officials to explain something to the populace. They have real communication problems. It’s not without a reason that the use of complex and compound sentences in oral and written speech was forbidden for New Zealand officials. Speak in simpler terms!
In reality, start-ups just need to find out if they can get support in achieving certain goals. And to do this, you just need to communicate with officials, which is extremely simple to do.
I’m not kidding when I say that you can arrange a meeting with the Minister of Economy on Twitter.
He generally likes to visit all business-related events. You can meet him there, complain about some problems, offer an idea or share an opinion. It seems to me, this helps him be actually aware of what’s happening in the country, and to make more balanced and rational decisions.
Luxembourg is a truly unique place. A country and a state with an expat mindset. The entire apparatus clearly understands the needs of business and how to run from point A to point B in the most efficient way.
The low unemployment rate combined with the presence of a huge number of open vacancies in various companies means one thing — a great simplification of the migration process for any specialist who wants to work here.
Of course, there are difficulties in the form of a mandatory first-priority search for labor within the EU. Any company is obliged to look for personnel in “its labor market”, and only when there’s no result does the company get permission to attract employees from third countries. But it’s all solvable.
When you are in a tech company, you understand that people and talent are the main expenditure. I mean attracting really high-profile specialists, of course.
So for companies like ours and others like it, the problem of finding employees is not particularly acute. And in general, the situation in the labor market is not frightening to us at all.
As a person who has changed more than one country, I can say that the main problem with relocation is always excessive optimism. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about a business or a specific person.
When I talk to a company and take a look at their business plan, I often say: «Guys, look what needs to be done now. We need to divide all income by 3, and multiply expenses by 4. Then we’ll be looking at a somewhat realistic plan». And every time sadness overcomes them, because, well, how could that be? What can I say, life is like that.
When you move, you do everything wrong: from choosing an apartment to choosing a mobile operator. And don’t even start me on choosing a school for your kid…
Having lived somewhere for 20-30 years, you simply do not think about how some processes can be different in another city or another country. Sometimes they’re so different that they take much more time and resources to complete.
Two tips that will help you save a lot of money, time and effort:
I’ll start with the pros:
As for the cons:
You can read more about the peculiarities of doing business in Luxembourg, benefits and support programs, paying taxes and other important topics in our relocation guide: