Austria’s Federal Chancellor Christian Kern Makes Startups His Personal Mission

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Austria's Federal Chancellor Christian Kern joined the 43rd edition of AustrianStartups Stammtisch yesterday. Here's what he had to say to Austria's & Europe's entrepreneurial community:

AustrianStartups Stammtisch #43 was a very special one. Not only was it held on a Wednesday instead of the traditional Tuesday, it also hosted Chancellor Christian Kern, who showed support for Austria’s startup scene from the beginning of his term in office.

Sektor5, one of Vienna‘s finest coworking spaces, was packed with enthusiastic investors, founders, and supporters of the entrepreneurial community. Host Daniel Cronin started out talking about the local scene as a whole, pointing out how, within just 4 years (since the initiation of AustrianStartups), its members multiplied and investments grew from just a few hundred thousand  Euros per year to over 170mln within just one month (Feb 2017).

Christian Kern took the stage, explaining where his drive for the startup community comes from – his background as chairman of the Austrian Federal Railway (ÖBB), handling transport & logistic matters on a daily basis. With remarking how he cut the number of ÖBB’s executive staff members in half, Kern drew a parallel to the importances of lean methods for both, startups and larger enterprises.

Turning Austria Into Europe’s #1 Startup Hub – A Utopian Dream?

Though the numbers of foundings are going up in Austria, they have not reached their peak yet. To support and foster this development further the state has to think in an entrepreneurial way, creating the structures and framework to enable successful startups in the first place.

In addition to these new structures “the entrepreneurial spirit needs to reach potential investors as well”, Kern remarked. Follow-up investments are especially hard to get in Austria, leading many startups to leave the country, seeking other opportunities. During his talk, Kern presented the prospect of a 300mln Euros fund, dedicated especially to follow-up investments, aiming to hold disruptive companies in Austria.

Despite the Chancellor’s understanding of the startup community’s challenges and various actions like the Startup Package, already implemented, more suggestions are still being discussed, proving real politics are an issue of its own.

Calling For Action & Solidarity

One of the bigger initiatives Kern launched recently was his Plan A for Austria, a task book for the government, defining eight areas to be tackled within the next 18 months. Six pages of this plan are dedicated exclusively to startups, with others touching the economy as a whole.

Plan A calls for five startup clusters to be established in Austria (e.g. automotive, environment & energy technology, microelectronics, railway technology, mechatronics or bioecology) by integrating research & innovation. A first step towards the promotion of science has been made by raising research premium from 12% to 14%; Kern expects further results by the turn of the half-year.

And while the Chancellor admitted the long inaction of politics in regards to this matter is disconcerting, he also highlighted the duties of the community itself, urging Austrian and European startups to show solidarity supporting the scene from within.

In case you missed the event & check out the Q&A with Christian Kern (in German):


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