CESA: Breaking Walls And Building Bridges In Central & Eastern Europe

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The finale of the Central European Startup Awards, the award to celebrate Central Europe's startup spirit, will be held in Ljubljana on Dec. 1st. Insiders Jakob Gajsek & Peter Kovacs talk about developments of CE's entrepreneurial scene:

The Central European Startup Awards (CESAwards) is the Central-European region’s biggest no-pitch, no-conference startup festival, and part of the Global Startup Awards network. Its aim is to highlight and showcase the biggest innovators in the Central European startup ecosystem annually.

As we head into the Grand Final of the 3rd edition of Central Europe’s biggest no-pitch, no-conference startup festival, we took the time to reflect on the competition, appreciate joint achievements, and look forward to the future.

Jakob Gajsek is one of the co-founders of ABC Accelerator, and an important community builder for the Slovenian startup ecosystem, as well as a long-term stakeholder within the CESAwards network. He joins us together with Peter Kovacs, co-founder to both CESA, and the Global Startup Awards network to share their thoughts on startups in the region, and what they hope to achieve:

Being key contributors and influencers for the growth of startups in the Central European Startup Hubs, could you please each share your fondest achievement, be it either within your local eco-system or on a regional level.

Jakob: For me, it’s ABC’s successful spreadout to new markets. After initially interconnecting the developed, but scattered Slovenian ecosystem, we have opened offices in Munich and in Silicon Valley in the past few months. Through this, we enable startups from the CEE region to enter key global markets much more easily. And, we’re not stopping here!

Peter: Throughout organizing the Central European Startup Awards for the last 3 years, we managed to find and introduce some of the most exceptional people across the 10 participating counties, just like the guys at ABC-Accelerator 🙂 We also brought Startup Safary to Budapest earlier this year and found a lot of synergies between these 2 initiatives, which highly contributed to our ultimate mission of helping the region become more integrated.

Could you give us a few examples of the recurring challenges faced by startups in the CEE region, and what skills you’d consider most important to any founder looking for success in the global market?

Jakob: The main challenge, still, is access to capital. It has improved, but it still isn’t where it should be. I believe we are well-covered on the skills side, however people need to dare more, and have a stronger vision of what they want to achieve.

Peter: I completely agree with Jakob on this. Coming from a recruiter’s background, I still see some gaps in business and sales skills, and self-confidence when it’s about selling ourselves to the “Western” world.

Finally, we’d like to hear your thoughts reflecting on how the landscape for startups within this region has evolved over the past 3 years, and what you expect to see in the next 3 years to come.

Jakob: In the next years, I am excited to see what happens. I think we are approaching a critical mass, where everything will suddenly start to fall in place and we will see big development. I wouldn’t want to predict exactly what will happen, but I strongly believe it will be very exciting.

Peter: That’s just true! I also see the development and the landscape for startups has definitely changed over the last few years. It’s obvious that there is far less money available to startups locally, and most investors want to see a return on their investment within a short timeframe, so it is more challenging to get funding (which is not necessarily a big problem, at least we don’t contribute to the inflation of the startup bubble :)). And as I mentioned, however it’s getting better and better, we don’t yet have enough self-confidence to travel for investment opportunities.

You’ll be able to meet Peter, Jakob and many more of the startup ecosystem’s biggest think tanks and innovators by joining us on the 1st of December for the CESAwards2016 Grand Finale in Ljubljana, brought to you in partnership with ABC Accelerator. Don’t forget to grab your free – but limited! – ticket & stay tuned on CESA’s Facebook page!



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