Taking The Gloves Off: Austria’s Plan To Become Europe’s Startup Hub #1

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The times of Austria being a minor European startup hub are over. A vast number of organizations and initiatives have emerged to make the country the #1 address for international businesses.

Since we last took a look at the emerging startup ecosystem of Austria, a lot has happened. Austria is no longer lagging behind advanced hubs such as Berlin or London; the country – and that includes the government – has taken measures to make the Alpine country Europe’s startup hub #1. A few weeks ago we reported on Federal Chancellor Kern’s ambition to take care of entrepreneurial progress himself and now it has become clear, that the state not only becomes more attractive for local but also European and international founders.

In fact, attracting entrepreneurs from foreign countries to build their companies in Austria has become one of the key factors that contribute to becoming Europe’s startup hub #1. The following are just a few, but very representative, examples of how it’s done:

#1 185mln Euro Startup Package

The first step toward raising awareness for local and European startups in Austria was to acknowledge their impact on the economy and decreasing the number of obstacles founders face in the process of building their ventures. In 2016 the government got closer to giving entrepreneurs and young companies the attention they deserve by introducing an 185mln Euro “Startup Package“. The package contains measures like a digital one-stop-shop for incorporating a company, a 24h quick-check for grant applications, and support for non-wage labor costs, which are not exclusively, but foremost, a great opportunity for young, international companies.

#2 Startup Visa

Also part of the Startup Package, the Startup Visa took on a new form in early 2017. While EU-based entrepreneurs don’t have to overcome many challenges when founding in Austria, non-EU citizens will have a harder time – until July 2017. The government agreed on a new visa, that will ease the pain. From July 1st members of third countries will be eligible for a two-year visa including residence & work permit for self-employed actions, with the possibility to extend for another three years.

#3 Free Governmental Support

One of the major initiatives foreign entrepreneurs can rely on is ABA – Invest in Austria. The governmental organization offers various services that are free of charge. From funding to giving tips on how to expand your business to Austria, personal consulting, and tailor-made services, the organization will make sure you can make use of all possibilities available to “grow your profits sky-high”.

The Austrian Business Agency is the first point of contact for foreign companies looking to dive into the Austrian market. ABA achieves this by putting a focus on establishing all necessary contacts in Austria, consulting on identifying suitable sites, and providing information relevant to your company (e.g. unit labor and infrastructure costs, tax issues or the performance of specific economic sectors in the country).

#4 CEE’s Biggest Startup Ecosystem

One location to rule them all: In February the launch of a new center for Central Eastern European startups was announced, weXelerate. As the name suggests the organization is an accelerator – with an ambitious goal. Opening in late summer of 2017, weXelerate aims to make Vienna the innovation hub of CEE. Expecting 10.000 (!) international applications in the scope of IoT, FinTech & media for their first batch, 100 of them will make it and be supported on their journey to become market-ready.

The 100 accepted startups will not be the only ones working in the 8000 sqm Design Tower, it will also be home to corporates, incubators, VCs, and investors among others. The best part? The entire first floor will be open for freelancers & startups to use as a coworking space 24/7.

#5 BotsHub Vienna & Industry-Specific Startup Clusters

Making its mark on the international startup map may now be more realistic than ever before. “There are lots of people in Vienna it seems, who are very interested in chatbots and doing – actually doing – something right now”, says Toby Bradshaw (Microsoft). And he’s right. Vienna is home to Europe’s first bot accelerator, ELEVATE, it is the place where Mica, the hipster chatbot which reached 100.000 users recently, was created, and where the initiative BotsVienna was launched.

Chatbots are not the only industry Austria plans on leading in. Chancellor Kern introduced a set of startup clusters to be established by 2018: automotive, environment & energy technology, microelectronics, railway technology, mechatronics, and bioecology.

While Austria may not be Europe’s startup hub #1 yet, the country and its community have taken measures to improve and develop its international standing to become an attractive destination for European and international founders. Especially free initiatives like ABA contribute to the ecosystem and prove to be a valuable incentive that fosters innovation and hence the economy.



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Photo credit: Kiefer. via VisualHunt / CC BY-SA