Vienna: A rising startup hub
The Viennese startup ecosystem is a hidden jewel. When I moved to Vienna last February, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the city I now call home is one of the most vivid, diverse and fastly growing scenes in Europe. And as all good treasure hunt stories go – it was by pure coincidence that I discovered it. I grew up in the French speaking part of Switzerland with a cultural melting pot home: a Scottish father and a Lebanese mother. Before I joined Venionaire in April, I was working for a Swiss startup based in Lausanne and got selected to join the CISCO Accelerator Program in Vienna. Back then, I didn’t know much about the city and had barely heard anything about Viennese startups. It didn’t take long until I realized that the startup scene here is booming. Vienna is on the right track to become a major European startup hub for many reasons:
An ideal spot.
A lot of cities claim to be well situated, but little can compete with Vienna. I believe geographical location is one of the fundamental reasons for the Viennese startup scene’s growing success. Vienna is ideally connected to many European cities and capitals. Prague, Budapest, Bratislava are a short drive away and the main European startup hubs Berlin and London are easily accessible with affordable flights in less than two hours. Furthermore, Vienna has an unique mix of Western and Eastern European cultures, making the city the ideal spot to build a company which can easily expand to the whole European continent.
A strong startup ecosystem.
I consider a startup ecosystem to be strong when a city or region can provide startups easy access to the right support (financial, material and knowledge) in every step of building a company. I was astonished how much this definition applies to Austria. Vienna is an ideal city if you wish to learn how to found, grow or run a startup. Dozens of organizations, profit and nonprofit, such as Austrian Startups, AWS or the Technical University offer classes to get the right knowledge to start a company. There is almost not one single working day in Austria without an event or lecture organized for (future) founders. From pitch training to finance or even programming, there is always something useful to learn. And the best part? Most of the events are free, and even no need to register. More and more coworking spaces are also popping up across the town, where startups can work in teams for affordable prices.
Finally, Austria is becoming one of Europe’s hottest spots to get financing. The Dow Jones Venture Capital Report for 1Q 2015 states that Austria rose to fourth position when it comes to Equity Financings into Europe-based Venture capital backed Companies. Austria holds now a 7% share of the total European Equity financing, raising €173 million during 1Q 2015.
Young Startups – Future Hidden Champions.
Over the last couple of months, I was astonished to discover almost every week a “hidden champion” here in Austria – or in other words a company which is hardly known of, but is however leader in its field of expertise. The numbers speak for themselves: 19% of Austrian companies hold a global market share of more than 20% in the field of their core activities. Austria counts an impressive 15.6 hidden champions per 1 million inhabitants, which brings it to the second position in Europe. The reasons for such success are diverse, but according to the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber report, hidden champions share the same traits that can make startups highly successful: outstanding quality products which have proven to be hard to imitate, high vertical integration and strong research and development.
Startup Education starts at the university.
Viennese universities offer a huge pool of talented young people, and the right set of tools to make them develop their entrepreneurship skills. Not surprisingly, over 80% of Austrian startup founders in 2013 come from a University background. During the last couple of months, I have encountered several PHD and master students from the University of Vienna, WU and TU starting their own company next to their studies. Universities and schools here encourage students to start early on their start-up project, with a series of lectures at university inviting successful entrepreneurs to talk about their experience and inspire young graduates to take the jump. The interest and motivation for students to engage with the startup scene has also made many great events become reality, such as Entrepreneurship Avenue Conference, which brings together founders, investors and a wide mix of people from the startup ecosystem together with students.
Vienna, there’s no place I’d rather be.
Finally, a startup scene can only be successful on a long term if it is situated a city or a region where people would love to live and move to. And which better city than Austria’s capital? I personally can’t agree more with the Mercer’s survey results which evaluates the quality of living in 230 cities around the world, ranking Vienna number 1. The unique balance between excellent quality of living combined with affordable prices makes Vienna a city where one can enjoy working in the very best conditions.
There is one last aspect that cannot be measured by numbers or ranking: the people who make the Viennese startup scene feel like a big family. When I arrived in Vienna, I barely knew anyone. A couple of weeks later, it already felt like home. The culture and ambiance in the Austrian startup scene is amazing, one which is focused on support, trust, knowledge sharing, and also having fun. Trust me: once you become part of the Viennese startup scene family, you will not want to leave.