Slovakia’s Place To Do Business: Bratislava

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Bratislava has a young but very active startup scene. Discover the opportunities and tips to found a business in the heart of Europe!

Bratislava is a city that has a long and proud history which was shared by many cultures, this means there is an impressive range of architecture, languages and cuisine. The Danube river is one of the main assets, separates the city and alongside has beautiful promenades. Bratislava with its great location in the heart of Europe has a lot to offer and brings the best opportunities from culture to business. Although we are not Silicon Valley, we still have a vast potential of local entrepreneurs.

Bratislava, in general, is proud of its dynamic startup ecosystem with many supporters of its growth.  In recent years Slovakia has seen new organizations emerge and late government initiatives oriented towards startups and entrepreneurs.

If you are planning to start your business in Slovakia or if you are just curious about growing the opportunities Slovakia has to offer this guide will make it easier and help you to get around our young but impressive startup scene, show you where you can get support, financing or find coworking place that will fit your needs. Great, right?

Found In Bratislava

The Slovakian startup community has a term that is often used, which is that there are four types of people that always catch the best girl: rich men, sportsmen, army pilots and start-uppers. Since the first three are too physically demanding, Slovak youngsters soon discovered that startups is the way to go. Believe us that Slovak girls are one of the most beautiful in the world. So is there other reason why not to come start your business in Slovakia? Well, sure there are some, but nothing that this guide will not help you figure out or give you contact to someone that will.

The capital of Austria, Vienna, is reachable within less than an hour by car from Bratislava. Slovakia is considered to be in the heart of Europe where a lot of different cultures and nations mixed in the past 1000 years. Slovakia is bordered by Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, and Ukraine.

Advantages Of Starting A Startup In Bratislava:

  • Slovakia does not offer huge quantities, but we have top quality engineers leaving Universities.
  • The great part about Bratislava is that even though the ecosystem is getting more and more competitive, everybody acts more as one family and tries to be supportive of each other.
  • Government shows signs of commitment to support startups.
  • Availability of capital for large number of startups.
  • Also one amazing thing happened here in Slovakia just recently: the Slovakian Government accepted a startup initiative, which includes many advantages not only for Slovaks but also for foreigners that want to start their business in Slovakia. For example startup visa, grants and much more.

What Startup Founders Have To Consider:

  • With its population of around 5 million the Slovakian market is too small to be the final market for startups. It is a great market for testing your idea but you should think bigger with your product.
  • Lack of international experience and schooling among the Slovak ecosystem brings new opportunities and space for improving this area. On the other hand a great advantage would be to have Slovak people in the team as many things can not be found in English.
  • Challenges that come with government grants and all the paper work behind it.
  • In western Europe, there are often many businessmen and a shortage of developers, who would do the actual job. Here in Slovakia, the startup team usually consists of three to four developers, who still believe they do not need a businessman. And they are even somewhat right, as it is still difficult to find a good sales person when you are looking in the rows of graduates. That said, this is only a short-term problem that will definitely transform in a great advantage in the near future.

Like every city, Bratislava has both advantages and disadvantages in taking on a business or a startup. But it definitively has the perfect location and newly accepted startup initiative from the Government, which makes everything that much easier and better so it would be a shame not to try it out here with us!

Meet Bratislava’s Startup Community

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In recent years not only the Slovak startup ecosystem boosted up but also the places where startup enthusiasts meet, hang out and network. An amazing variety of events connected to startups and entrepreneurship occurs on a daily basis so it is sometimes hard to choose which one to attend. Events are usually connected to coworking spaces and incubators such as RubixLab, The Spot, Impact Hub and very event active Connect Coworking.

Most members of the community have already met each other due to awesome startup events here. These are usually more networking than working events, with more beer and borovička (famous alcohol) than presentations or speakers – which is great, as it makes the community more open and approachable. There are many hard working people in Slovakia but it also overlaps with the willingness to party and really cheap alcohol everywhere. In conclusion, Slovak start-uppers enjoy their life and always have stuff to do and network in the community of more than 180 startups around Slovakia.

When it comes to startups, Slovakia, and especially Bratislava, is in its own way special compared to the surrounding countries. There is a lot of work to be done, but with the help of friends we will get through it and are looking forward to the sunny tomorrow.

If you are wondering how a Slovakian entrepreneur looks like, here you go: they are young (79% are 25-34 years old), well educated (with a master’s degree or higher, typically in business or computer science) and predominantly male. And how does a Slovakian startup look like? Typically they cover a wide spectrum of industries, are still in an early stage and they are hiring new team members.

There are many events happenings at coworking spaces around Bratislava. We presume the best way is to like each coworking space on Facebook since it is the best medium for upcoming events. Just to name a few major topics discussed during the events: advertising, sales, business, tech but also many workshops, inspiring talks or networking events where you have the best chance to meet people from your area or potential sponsors, partners or future co-workers. Also we have two major websites that are posting about Bratislava’s startup scene and everything about it (like news, investors or startups themselves) and they are up to date with events here as well. These platforms are Startitup and Startupers.

Regular Events & Meetups:

  • Startup Camp: Since summer of 2010, StartupCamp is the one-stop place for the startup community of Slovakia. At its core there are monthly meet-ups held in Bratislava, Kosice and Prague where founders, coders, designers and investors can meet. StartupCamps are free and open to anyone. Each camp is a networking event at its core but there’s also an official part involving presentations by successful founders, mentors and consultants that have something to say, as well as a round of 4-minutes long startup presentations followed by a grilling round of Q&As from the audience.
  • TEDx Bratislava: The multigenre conference TEDxBratislava is a celebration of creativity, ideas worth spreading, innovation and open-mindness. They give the stage to extraordinary people from Slovakia and other countries, to talk about their ideas, deeds, talents and potential.
  • Hackathon by RubixLab is a fun challenge event on a 6-months basis that will try to solve current problems. It is for software developers, designers, entrepreneurs, students, academics, corporate people and also anybody with the right motivation. News about upcoming hackathons can be found here.

Yearly Or Major Events, Festivals, Conferences:

  • StartUp Awards is the biggest startup event in Slovakia. Startups compete in four categories which are art & design, digital, science and society. Not only the idea is important but also the presenting pitch which gives you only 4 minutes to persuade the jury about the most innovative and overall best startup.
  • Pioneers Bratislava is the smaller brother of the famous Pioneers Festival Vienna. In the Bratislava edition 8 startups are given the opportunity to present their ideas in front of Slovakian and foreign investors in exchange of great contacts and capital.
  • Startup Weekend Bratislava is a 54-hour long marathon which aims to transform your business ideas into ambitious startups with help from successful entrepreneurs. We are part of the largest world-wide community of passionate entrepreneurs with over 1000 past events in more than 500 cities around the world. The idea alone has no value. The team is the most important part. That’s why we gather developers, designers, marketers and business people to drive innovation in Slovakia.
  • Smart Point is a network of institutions supporting innovative entrepreneurship in the Bratislava region. Currently operating three SMART points, which cooperate with each other and undertake joint activities – Connect coworking center, Faculty of Commerce, University of Economics in Bratislava and Bratislava Municipality. They organize workshops, mentoring evenings and last year also a whole day event – Smart Campus – which is the grand finale of the nominees of each country.
  • StartUs Connect: Bratislava is a part of #StartUsConnect mentoring & networkig event series co-organized by StartUs and RubixLab with the aim to connect the Bratislava community with neigbouring communities like Vienna and Budapest. The next event will take place on 19th of June in RubixLab.

Unfortunately, almost all of the websites are only in Slovak, so it is better if you know someone who understands the language to help you with the content.

Office Spaces In Bratislava

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Nowadays it is really hard to choose a coworking space from the variety that Bratislava has to offer. Bratislava propose all kinds of coworking spaces from colorful, modern to more rustic and hipster like ones. Different coworkings offer packages, events,  mentors and much more, so everyone will find something that fits to specific tastes. There is always someone at coworkings who can give you a tour around or offer one free day so you can be sure that you picked the best one for your needs.

Co-working Spaces In Bratislava:

  • RubixLab – Tech startup incubator based in Central Europe with global ambitions. Up to 18 months they provide: seed funding up to €150.000, office space, world class mentors, and business support.
  • Impact HUB Bratislava  – Is an international platform (formerly known as The Hub) supporting innovative ideas, honest solutions and quality education. They’ll help you start up your idea and start a business in various sectors. They will help startups and established projects with the expansion into foreign markets, thanks to their active network worldwide and non-profit organizations to sustainably manage and develop their activities.
  • The SPOT – The Spot is an initiative of the zealots for startups in Slovakia. They have created a space in which they can meet all creative and innovative people with entrepreneurial spirit. They can also work together to help each other and take it, helping their business to constantly move forward.
  • BrainHouse – is a group of young hard-working people. They offer a pleasant environment, experience and support, help with the idea, motivation and also a lot of fun. In exchange they require you to work really hard on your dream (really work, not just want it), you have to be an aspiring genius and also an eternally dissatisfied optimist.
  • Connect Coworking – Creative space with industrial style where ideas get a completely different dimension. Space for your work, meeting with clients or chill out zone. You’ll find it all there. Motivational lectures, practical workshops, inspiring meetings. Easy access to the right information, which is essential for success. Become a member and use the connect service for your daily work. Printer, meeting rooms or bar are available for you every day.
  • HUB Bratislava – HUB Bratislava’s aim is to be a place where your business is doing well and will create the conditions for business growth. They provide background and support you no matter the size of your ambition. Their portfolio of clients is ranging from new market entrants, startup projects, individual entrepreneurs, short-term projects, business travelers, language schools, small and medium-sized companies to those hustling representative rooms for negotiations.
  • Clusterhaus – Is the startup enrichment center and the largest technology hub in Slovakia. Clusterhaus is active in Bratislava, but also in the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria and Hungary. It absorbs 122 startups on 10,6k square meters. As a benefit you have parking space for cars and bikes, shower, football, a lake and 2 pools nearby, library, meeting rooms, lounge room, kitchen, power coffee and international companies as well.

Financing Opportunities In Bratislava

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Incubators:

  • RubixLab offers seed founding up to 150.000 EUR, innovative working space in an English working environment, talent recruitment and supproting services (HR, Legal, and BD), access to advisors as well as to VCs for further potential founding.  RubixLab vision is to become the most sought after business incubator in Central & Eastern Europe until 2019. Thanks to the strategic location that Bratislava has we want to bridge eastern opportunities with the western startup ecosystem and bring them into the international market.
  • INQB (University Technological Incubator) – the workplace of the Slovakian Technical University in Bratislava, which helps emerging entrepreneurs in the early stages of company development. It focuses on the promotion of technical / technology-oriented innovative ideas. Its aim is to tie science, research and innovation practice. You can get discounted rental of office space and a number of additional services, such as various programs, events, consulting services and so on.

Accelerators:

  • Booster by The Spot has celebrated its first year of a unique project. 6 business ideas have undergone a 4-month acceleration program and presented themselves in front of various investors on a very special day. These startups now have all the prerequisites to successfully enter the market.
  • Flemio – Flemio is a startup & business accelerator focused mainly on IT startup ideas. Flemio can deliver high-end outcomes, its team and partners have many years’ of experience in international corporate business.
  • CEED Tech is a consortium of five startup accelerators, operating in Central and Eastern Europe. Since 2011, they have launched 94 technology companies, and helped to raise over 10mln Euro in seed and venture capital.
  • LAUNCHER is a startup studio focused on seed and early stage investments and startups in Central Europe. They build startups and turn them into real companies. They also invest in fast growing companies with international ambitions, skilled people and a scalable & sustainable business concept. To experienced people who have already proven some degree of competence and skills they offer an opportunity to run an independent project or join an existing one.

Grants & Subventions:

  • Startups will soon get a boost from state – the startup initiative from Slovak Governent is an awesome thing and happened quite recently. This article explains it all but unfortunately it is only in Slovak only, but here you can find the link to a shorter article, which is in English.

Crowd Investing Platforms:

  • In Slovakia we still do not have any crowfunding platform which would specialize only in this market. Slovaks mainly use  the Czech platform Startovac or worldwide known platforms,  such as Kickstarter or IndieGoGo.

Angel Investors:

  • 42angels is a platform, which gathers experienced Czech and Slovak entrepreneurs with a passion for start-ups, providing angel/seed stage financing with added value. The page will show you Slovak angel investors like Anton Zajac or Michal Truban.
  • You should for sure check out the Slovakian business angel network, which will also give you an idea which events you can join to meet investors.
  • Kenneth Ryan is a managing partner of KPMG in Slovakia and he lifted KPMG up to help local entrepreneurs. Kenneth also writes a lot on mentorships and created a startup Studio, which “in itself is an internal innovation within KPMG in Slovakia. We embraced the idea of a long term investment into startup founders. We refined our product offerings for the needs of startups and aligned our fee structure to startups’ commercial success. Each startup’s needs are unique so we aim at making the support we provide completely tailor-made.”

Venture Capital Investors:

  • Neulogy Ventures is the first Slovakia-based management company to run fully regulated seed and venture capital funds structured along the highest industry standards. Neulogy Ventures build on their thorough knowledge of the local tech scene, deep and wide network of mentors and advisors from Vienna to Silicon Valley, and years of realizing equity investment transactions as both investors and entrepreneurs.
  • Speed Invest not only invests capital in world-class talent, but also provides the entrepreneurial know-how, and operational experience that is rare outside of a place like Silicon Valley, but is so essential to building great companies.
  • Credo Ventures invests in companies that have high-growth potential and international ambitions. They are entrepreneurs at heart, and have experienced both the rewards and shortcomings associated with entrepreneurship. Their experiences provide a foundation for entrepreneurs that could be used to benefit by partnering with Credo Ventures.
  • Limerock Advisory is a corporate finance and financial advisory services firm. Five partners of the firm provide more than 50 years of combined track record in the areas of business consulting, corporate and investment banking, M&A and private equity. Their goal is to facilitate capital flows for clients and to provide specialised financial expertise related to their business and corporate finance transactions. Limerock Fund Manager focuses on attractive small and medium enterprises and provides growth and expansion capital with no buyout element. They seek companies that want to develop further their successful businesses but we also target new projects in their start-up phase.
  • ADV Europe is in the portfolio of JK Europe investment group. JK Europe through its companies invest in projects in various innovative and high growth potential areas.
  • Crowdberry is an innovative way of direct investment of private capital. Crowdberry represents equity-based crowd funding platform portal, whose essential nature is to link groups of qualified investors, namely known and organized in the investor club, with dynamic business ideas. The purpose of the capital increase pre-selected companies exchanged for ownership. They say: “we connect capital with ideas. It is private banking in the world of startups.”
  • Fund of Innovation and Technology – their mission is to provide a risk capital and support entrepreneurial initiative and thus develop entrepreneurship, employment and the economy towards innovative economy. It was created in response to arising demand for risk capital to support entrepreneurs with ideas and is the result of collaboration Slovak Business Agency (SBA) with investors.
  • G4 Investment club is a private club of individuals – investors looking for space for further investments. Investment club realizes its investments primarily through entering into equity, mezzanine finance, and project finance loans. Indicative amount allocated to investments for 2013 is 13mln €, with individual investment on the order of 100.000 Euros to 2mln Euros.

Get More Advice In Bratislava

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  • Slovak Business Agency wants to be the first choice for Slovak enterprises for starting and development of their business, it is also the oldest specialized non-profit organization for the support of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Their mission is to provide support for SMEs at the national, regional and local level. Secondly, they offer complex support of SMEs in compliance with the Small Business Act’s (SBA) principles. Lastly, they aim to improve the competitiveness of SMEs within the single EU market as well as in the non- EU markets.
  • Startup Sharks is Slovak Business Agency’s new initiative and has three stages startup pool, startup sea and startup ocean. Each stage aims to help startups with differents problems from the support in the beginning up to the last stage where they offer internship at successful firm abroad.

Ready for Bratislava?

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Last updated: July 29th, 2016

The guides are like startup communities – they contstantly change and grow. Make sure to check for updates and if you have something to add to one of them or want to publish one for your city, get in touch right away! And don’t forget to enrich the startup ecosystem by creating your company profile at StartUs!

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