The Complete Brno Startup City Guide

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Prague's little sister Brno is getting serious about encouraging entrepreneurs to found their startups. This Startup City Guide will provide you with all info you'll need:

Brno is the only joke you can live in, they say. But the startup business in this city gets more serious every year. Although there are many jokes about Brno (and Brno’s people love to make fun of their city), nobody makes jokes about its potential. Recently it has transformed from a sleepy metropolis of wine lovers to a pulsing hi-tech hub attracting international IT companies as well as aspiring entrepreneurs. Brno was the first city in the Czech Republic to have its own innovation agency and startup accelerator – and it keeps leading many areas. The number of small technology enterprises is growing much faster than in any other Czech region. People come here with ideas and work to realize them but still have time to enjoy the richness of the region – the wine, the fancy bistros – both set in a picturesque landscape. If you want to set up a new business but still remain a bohemian deep in your heart, Brno is the perfect fit for you!

Taking A Closer Look At Brno

Advantages Of Building A Startup In Brno:

  • It’s one of the highest concentrations of R&D centres for international hi-tech companies (Honeywell, Konica Minolta, AVG, Y Soft, FNZ, Blaumer).
  • Brno is a strategic point on the way to three European capitals: Vienna, Prague and Bratislava.
  • Good startup supporting infrastructure exists consisting of the biggest innovation agency in the Czech Republic (JIC – South Moravian Innovation Centre), and startup oriented co-working centres (Impact Hub Brno, JIC Cowork, Distillary, Cowo etc.).
  • The regional government (both Brno Municipality and South Moravia Region) supports the ecosystem services and financing (South Moravia cooperates with JIC Ventures investing to pre-seed staged startups).
  • Home to many strategic areas open for new business, including: electron microscopy (a third of world’s electron microscopy production is made in Brno) and ICT Security (AVG company started in Brno, headquarters of two other big ICT Security companies (ESET, AVAST) can be reached within two hours).
  • Local universities are producing a great amount of graduates ready to be employed each year.
  • Brno has a warm and helping entrepreneurial ecosystem.

What Founders Should Consider:

  • Airline flights from/to Brno are limited (today, there are direct flights only to London, Munich and Eindhoven).
  • Highways connecting Brno with other cities (Prague, Vienna and Bratislava) are currently being repaired.
  • Lack of contemporary IT specialists (dynamic growth of IT companies in recent months).

Brno is a great place to start a hi-tech business. Because of its success in attracting new businesses, a limited workforce is available but representatives are aware of the disadvantages mentioned above and are actively working to improve them. You can bet that you will hear a lot about Brno and South Moravia in the future!

Discovering Brno’s Startup Community

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The startup community in Brno gathers around two places: JIC and Impact Hub Brno. These two organisations are key to the startup life in this Czech city, where everybody knows everybody. Once you enter the community you will easily get to the person you need.

Info About Upcoming Events, Meetups & Other Occasions:

  • JIC calendar – A calendar of all the events, deadlines for grant applications or other calls for activities potentially important to hi-tech companies. Events on other related subjects are often included.
  • Impact Hub Calendar – A calendar of Impact Hub Brno’s events: some are for members only, some are available to the public. 20+ events per month, mostly focused on IT, education & biz-dev.

Regular Events & Meetups:

  • StartupClub – regular seminars and panel discussions on startup topics, free to attend, Czech language.
  • JIC GRILL – a regular pitching event where projects receive feedback from entrepreneurs and investors, free to attend, Czech language.
  • Impact Hub MashUp – is about heroes who step up onto the pallet of fame. 200-second-long presentations of projects looking for their very own place under the sun. More than a hundred visitors. Deafening applause. After party at the bar.
  • Impact Hub Social Business Breakfast – Breakfast with impact. Regular informal meeting of people actively engaged in social entrepreneurship and innovations.
  • Business Academy – A student activity (Brno University of Technology), seminars and lectures given by entrepreneurs. Czech language only.
  • Lidé z Praxe – A student activity (Mendel University), discussions with entrepreneurs. Czech language only.
  • Inspirativní rána – is a breakfast lecture series for the creative community. Free, monthly events feature a short talk and breakfast.
  • Co-living parties – informal parties in a co-living project of one of the members of Brno’s startup ecosystem.

Yearly Or Major Events, Festivals, Conferences:

  • JIC Open Day – an annual event where JIC opens its doors to the public with a day-long program and networking opportunities.
  • JIC STARCUBE Show – an annual show for the professional public (investors, entrepreneurs, startupers) where the finalists of JIC STARCUBE accelerator present themselves.
  • StartupWeekend Brno – an annual event / hackathon organized by a local co-working place.

Get Into One Of Brno’s Co-working Spaces

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Brno has few places to rent a chair but the true community atmosphere can be found especially in the two of them – Impact Hub Brno and JIC Cowork. These two offer, not only a place to share, but a regular program for startupers and entrepreneurs with other services more than just a printer or a cleaning lady. If you are a freelancer, Impact Hub Brno is highly recommended. If you have an innovative idea, connect with hi-tech companies around JIC.

Co-working Spaces In Brno:

  • Impact Hub Brno – part of the Impact Hub global network with more than 13.000 members in the world, is a workspace for meetings, innovation, entrepreneurship development and events with a major focus on social entrepreneurship. They build a strong and big community in Brno. Situated in the centre, a 5 minute walk to the Main Railway and Bus station. Offering a wide range of memberships – from 10 hours/month to unlimited or even office rental. Try the day-pass to experience Hub Spirit on your own.
  • JIC Cowork – A co-working space mostly for clients of JIC programs and services, but young talented students and freelancers can also apply. It’s situated near the Brno University of Technology and hi-tech companies such as Red Hat, Y Soft or Zebra.
  • Cowo – Few rooms in the heart of Brno with an amazing view from a window but with no parking space available.
  • The Distillery: Social Reactor – A place rebuilt out of an old distillery focused on creative business.
  • Coworking Mitrovski – Few rooms above a restaurant with a view to large garden villa of Mitrovski.
  • Melvil Space – A co-working space created by an independent Brno based publisher. In the very heart of centre, no parking.
  • KoPlac – A co-working space placed in a big office house, in the centre of Brno. Parking available 🙂

Where To Get Your Startup Funded In Brno

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Incubators:

  • JIC (South Moravian Innovation Centre) is a public agency that supports people in creating and developing companies which change the world. Every year its services are used by more than one hundred companies, from aspiring entrepreneurs with innovative ideas to rapidly growing startups and established technology firms. Startup companies that have gone through JIC programs have created more than 1,400 new jobs and hundreds more in follow-on services. Over the 13 years of its existence, the JIC has initiated almost 360 instances of cooperation between researchers and companies. Through these and other activities, the JIC helps to improve the competitiveness of South Moravia, making it one of the most innovative regions in Europe.
  • Impact Hub Brno – Throughout the year, Impact Hub regularly holds long-term acceleration programs which guides your journey including obtaining priceless feedback or connections to investors. Most of the acceleration programs are focused on social business (Impact First, Social Impact Award, Vodafone Foundation Laboratory), among others (Impact Hub 100-Day challenge).
  • BIC (Brno Innovation Centre) – An agency supporting companies in cooperation with research institutions.
  • Science – Technical Park Brno-Jih – An incubator run by Research Institute for Building Materials.

Accelerators:

  • JIC STARCUBE is the longest running Czech accelerator. Since 2010 more than 72 startups participated. Teams experience three months loaded with knowledge, workshops, meetings with mentors and connecting to global technology companies. They gain benefits and financial support for testing and prototyping, legal and tax services, marketing, travel reimbursement and accommodation. Successful companies which have gone through the accelerator include, for example, GINA, Reservio and currently one of the fastest growing startups, Kiwi (formerly Skypicker).

Angel Investors:

Apart from those hailing from Brno and its neighborhood, it is not uncommon to run into investors from the rest of the Czech Republic, such as Ondřej Tomek, Jaroslav Trojan, Michael Rostock-Poplar, Martin Kasa and others. Just make sure you attend the right events.

Venture Capital Investors:

  • Y Soft Ventures: Y Soft Ventures is the venture capital arm of Y Soft Corporation. Based on a “Genuinely Smart Money” approach, the group looks to invest in innovative startups whose promising products or services combine software and hardware to deliver solutions with far-reaching potential. In addition to funding, Y Soft Ventures is able to use its resources in manufacturing, global distribution, marketing and logistics to increase the speed of success.
  • JIC Ventures: JIC Ventures is a subsidiary of JIC (South Moravian Innovation Centre), which provides venture capital financing to companies in JIC programs. It leverages JIC’s knowledge of the businesses and people behind them, so that it can invest into startups in the very early development stages.

Although these are the investors based in Brno, it does not mean you need to restrict yourself to them – the Czech ecosystem is not that large and Prague, where most of the others VCs are based, is not that far away. The key players in Prague are Credo Ventures, the oldest Czech early stage VC fund, J&T Ventures, an early stage fund affiliated with J&T Bank, Springtide Ventures, a pre-seed and seed fund backed by KKCG financial group, MITON, investing into consumer internet businesses, and Rockaway Capital with a focus on e-business.

Lately, a number of other funds have also emerged – for example Metatron, Incomming Ventures, Spread Capital or Inven Capital. Larger investment funds are members of the Czech Venture Capital Association, but these are primarily later-stage investors. In addition to all these private resources, the Czech government plans to launch the National Innovation Fund, but the details of this activity are yet to be revealed.

Crowd Investing Platforms:

  • HitHit.com: HitHit is the largest Czech reward-based crowdfunding platform, which is open to not only startups with creative innovative products, but artists as well. It may be a great stepping stone to global crowdfunding campaigns, allowing you to test the local waters first.
  • Startovac.cz: Startovac is a reward-based crowdfunding platform mainly for artists, even though it offers space to entrepreneurial activities as well.
  • Fundlift.cz: Fundlift is the first Czech equity- and debt-based crowdfunding platform, through which a company can issue mini-bonds or investment certificates, which will convert into equity. Any business can showcase itself here, as well as anyone can back it financially.

Other Opportunities:

  • FabLab Brno: Make – Share – Learn. These are the values that drives Fabrication Laboratory. Access to the knowledge, computer controlled machines like CNC router, 3D printers, electronics, laser cutter, vinyl cutter, strong community background and ecosystem of South Moravian innovation centre.
  • Base 48: Community-operated physical place, where people can meet and work on their projects. Subjects of the hackerspace are mainly in electronics, ICT and robotics. Membership is 400 CZK monthly. You can find it at Capkova 48, Brno-Veveri.
  • Hobbylab: Shared place for handy-made ideas. It is a craft workshop which came alive through crowd-funding. It is equipped with a lot of different saws, lathe, drills, and hand tools.
  • Industra: About 200 volunteers over time have helped to change an unused space in the middle of Brno to a brownfield with more than 1100 square meters full of content. There are ateliers, a gallery, coworking space, a coffee shop and lot more.

Ready For Starting Up In Brno?

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Do you want to read further information about the business potential of the South Moravia region? Check out this survival kit to South Moravia.

Do you want to live in Brno like a local? Look at the Guide to Brno, prepared by freelance journalist Michal Kašpárek and Use-it map to find the best bistros and pubs in Brno.

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Thanks to the contributors of this guide: Lukáš Konečný, Miloš Sochor, Zbyšek Podhrázský and Tomas Mejzlik

The guides are like startup communities – they constantly 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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