Need an effective solution for customer research? Want to look and feel good? Miss Harry Potter? Slovakia’s Startup Scene has a few aces up its sleave. Our Laura Lennkh had the pleasure to visit Slovakia twice within the last few weeks, both times coming back highly impressed by the talents that the country attracts.
On the 26th of September at the European Commission‘s Innovation Radar Prize held in Bratislava this year, I had the joy to hear pitches from EU funded projects and assess their market readiness as a jury member. As part of the European Commission’s ICT Proposers Day, the event attracted participants from all over Europe. Two things that struck me about this event: the first, that this is really what the EU is best at – selecting and supporting the brightest minds in Europe to foster our development and innovation. The second: we were an all female jury. Ever heard about that at a startup event? Me neither. It isn’t so much about the fact that we were all women, but rather that discussion and finding the winners for each of the prize categories (Excellent Science, Horizon 2020, ICT innovator, Industrial & Enabling Tech and ICT for Society) happened so smoothly. In case you are asking – I highly recommend doing this again!
Slovakia’s Startup Awards
Second time I hopped on a train to Slovakia was a few weeks later in the beginning of November. Slovakia’s Startup Awards (#SASK2016), organized by Neulogy, is Slovakia’s largest Pitch Event with an estimated number of 1000 participants on December 2nd, 2016. In preparation for this event, 23 startups were pre-selected to have the opportunity to partake in a Mentorship Bootcamp over an entire weekend, 4-6th of November. As part of the mentors, I sweated it with them: tweak your pitch here, make sure you get the message out there – not to mention that the entire event (and pitches!) were held in superb English.
Meet three of the 12 finalist startups: At Groupsolver Survey Monkey meets McKinsey style consulting in this Saas solution for customer research. Traction? With quarter over quarter revenue growth of 50% and offices in Slovakia and the USA it answers for itself. Ever heard of Crafting Plastics? Meet your first biodegradable plastic sunglasses. Sounds boring? Milano Fashion Show didn’t think so – look good and feel good about it too.
Do you miss Harry Potter? Maguss will let you perform your own set of magic tricks through its AR game. Before even launching – they managed to reach over 170% of needed funds on Indiegogo in less than 10 days. I look forward to seeing the finals on December 2nd. If you are curious too, you can get discounted tickets here. (promotion code: SASK_Special_Venionaire_k67)
What I saw this weekend is that it’s all there: bright minds, startups with strong traction and a small but highly engaged emerging ecosystem. Pretty much representatives from all of Slovakia’s investment scene – VCs, Accelerators, Angels and some large corporates – took time off to spend the weekend supporting the most promising startups. No further question about dedication. As our long gone empire still spooks about in our Austrian DNA, I personally thought about the following: Slovakia’s capital Bratislava is only 45 minutes away from Vienna (having lived in Mexico City where a commute through the city to get to a meeting can easily take you up to 2 hours – this seems like a breeze). Prague: 4 hours away. Budapest: 2 hours away. With so many talents about in the region – shouldn‘t we start thinking of a Danube Valley?
Inspired by the EU Innovation Radar Prize reminding us that we are all one strong Europe, convinced that our region has a solid economic, cultural and historical connection and a regional competitive advantage, I raise my hand to join forces between our small but strong and ever growing startup ecosystems. No Austrian imperialism – I promise.