“At 17, I began selling samples that I was able to source for free over the internet. I would search for things that were valuable or in demand and then find companies that would send me free products.”
As COO and co-founder of MyDrink Beverages, Kastis has had his share of stumbling blocks. His first venture into the beverage market was a shipment of ‘Cocaine’, an American based energy drink, which he planned to sell in his native Lithuania. The tongue-in-cheek nature of the product was apparently lost on the Lithuanian border staff, however.
“I got a phone call from customs wanting to know why I was trying to have a container of ‘Cocaine’ delivered to my home. This took some explaining.”
Kastis struggled with the closed nature of the Lithuanian market, finding it resistant to small start-ups and newcomers. Businesses were hesitant to take a chance on a young entrepreneur and an unproven product.
“The difficulty comes with trying to enter the market with a new product. The established companies have a monopoly and are reluctant to see potential competition taking a market share.”
Due to the strength of the existing brands on the continent, market penetration is increasingly difficult for fledgling companies who are trying to offer something new. This, he says, is a fundamental difference between the approach towards start-ups in the UK compared with elsewhere in Europe.
“A lot of people, even in France and Germany, are not as supportive of new products. People are more reluctant to try new things, and that means it takes much longer to establish yourself in the market. Innovations are born here in the UK for the food and beverage industry – people are very open-minded.”
East London and Tech City are embracing innovation and are at the forefront of new ways of maximising the potential of start-ups. Shared working spaces are popping up across EC1 to cater to the surge in individuals who want to minimise their overheads while maximising their exposure to Tech City’s resources and networking opportunities.
“In the UK, when you tell someone you are a start-up company, they see that you are trying to add value, that maybe you will offer them a product or a service in the future that will benefit them”.
MyDrink Beverage develop nutraceutical drinks – a combination of nutritional and pharmaceutical disciplines – for new and emerging businesses in the industry. When asked why he was relocating to Tech City from Lithuania, the original production site, Kastis gestures around him.
“People see the potential of start-ups here. Everyone, from other young entrepreneurs to the heads of international corporations, is happy to sit and talk with you. You aren’t seen as competition or a future risk to market share: people want to help you because they see you as adding value and bringing something new and exciting to the industry. In my opinion, you are more open to innovation in London than anywhere else in Europe.”
Kastis is following in the footsteps of an estimated 15,000 other start-ups who have based themselves around Silicon Roundabout in the last 12 months. The area continues to provide comparatively low cost workspace combined with immediate access to the skill clusters that have gathered in Tech City.
Like many in his position, Kastis has come to Shoreditch Office Space to help him take the next step with securing workspace for himself and his company in Tech City. If you would like to learn more about the services we provide, please drop us a message at [email protected]
With thanks to Kastytis Kemezys (COO and Co-founder of MyDrink Beverages)
Written by Luke Francis, Head of Partnerships at Shoreditch Office Space ([email protected])