2015 is well under way and the CEE startup scene has already hit the ground running. But what is it racing towards? Here are the top trends of the year and "startups to watch out for".
We were curious where the scene is heading, who is likely to shine and who is on the way out, so we asked regional experts for their opinion. Here’s what they had to say.
Trend 1: Internet of Things
Photo credit: LineMetric (www.iotcup.at)
We can expect a growing number of startups that specialise in the Internet of Things, says Igor Semenov, Venture Partner at TA Venture. He mentions Inteclinic, Petcube, Seedlabs, Teddy The Guardian as examples. Semenov is not the only one with high expectations for IoT CEE startups however. Slovenian investor Peter Ribarič tells us to keep an eye on Cubesensors and Bellabeat. Clearly, connected devices are here to stay, and 2015 is their year to shine.
Trend 2: Old-school hardware
Romanian investor Adrian Gheara believes that 2015 will bring a shift towards old-school hardware as well. “Technology has evolved, and we can build very powerful devices that are extremely small and very cheap. We can place the power of a laptop inside a chip smaller than a credit card for a price of only 30 dollars. With such big computing power, at such a low price, the entry barrier for hardware startups is lower than ever,” he explains. This accessibility also allows entrepreneurs to iterate fast prototyping ideas with 3D printing and cost-effective small beta productions. We will also see new forms of financing emerge as crowdfunding allows builders to fund and offer a first batch of products to early adopters.
Trend 3: 3D printing
Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1AsY29L
This year, things are finally getting interesting for 3D printing and this technology is taking the world by storm with applications that go beyond rapid prototyping. Will the future be 3D printed? Well, we wouldn’t go that far, but we do expect 3D printing startups to make a splash in 2015. Zortax is one name you should watch out for, says Igor Semenov.
But what about the CEE startup environment itself? Worry not! We have news on this front as well.
Trend 4: CEE startups on the rise and slump
Neulogy Ventures investment manager Jaro Luptak expects to see many more startups coming out of Slovakia and the CEE. “In the past two or three years, the number of accelerators and seed funds sprang up in the region. As a result, many more startups received seed funding and thus we will see many more Series A funding rounds in this region, but also many more spectacular failures and quiet deaths,” he warns. Luptak believes that CEE startups need to learn to accept failure as part of the business.
Trend 5: Stronger startup ecosystems
For a startup ecosystem to prosper, it is not enough to have solid support initiatives for young companies. The startups themselves must know how to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them and how to drive progress forward. Luckily, Silicon Gardens managing director Peter Ribarič believes that in 2015 we will see startups opening up towards their environment and forging numerous collaboration relationships with different professionals. As the need for coworking and coworking spaces emerges, CEE startups are expected to take an active part in shaping the startup environment.
Trend 6: Big Corporates team up with startups
Jaro Luptak observes that there is finally a shift towards corporate players getting involved with startup businesses. However, this involvement goes beyond financial capital and takes the form of serious commercial cooperation. “Big international brands based in the region and local companies will be giving startups, especially the most disruptive or mature ones, more attention as potential business partners and acquisition targets,” he says.
Igor Semenov’s top 5 startups
Photo credit: TA Venture
- Prezi: Having received 57M dollars in fresh funding last year, Prezi will have to prove in 2015 that it is able to compete with PowerPoint on the global market.
- Estimote builds not only beacons as hardware, but their own platform for beacon management. Estimote has built a massive network of developers during last years and in 2015 they will probably start working with the consumer market.
- SocialBakers: After a 26M dollars round and two strategic acquisitions in 2014, SocialBakers has gained over 2,500 clients across 100 countries and now tracks over 8M social profiles. Their mission is to become the industry standard for the way social marketing is measured, so we will see over the year how close they can get to reaching this goal.
- Intelclinic is an intelligent sleep mask which will finally ship in 2015. We’re eager to see how the market responds to this creative product.
- Petcube, the remote wireless pet camera, started shipping end of 2014 and received interest from US press at the CES in Las Vegas. They plan to launch their active marketing strategy in 2015 to conquer the US market.
Jaro Luptak’s top 5 startups
Photo credit: Neulogy Ventures
- Piano Media acquired its biggest US competitor last year and became the number one provider of paywall solutions in the world. It will be interesting to watch this CEE startup go through the post-merger restructuring and enter new markets in Asia and Latin America.
- GADrilling should be coming out with their first commercial product this year and it will be interesting to watch its impact on the Oil & Gas industry.
- Staffino was the absolute winner of StartupAwards.SK in Bratislava last year and now has considerable traction on their home turf as well as interest abroad. The coming year should reveal whether they will be able to replicate their model internationally.
- Sli.do became a standard at tech events. Luptak is looking forward to seeing them become an even more established tool and, of course, also fighting off all the competitors.
- CropTek received significant financial backing to complete their grand visions. We are looking forward to seeing these talented ex-researchers revolutionise the way we grow food in urban areas.
Adrian Gheara’s top 5 startups
Photo credit: Adrian Gheara
- TinTag’s product is a rechargeable tracking device. They raised money in 2014 in a very successful crowdfunding campaign, shipped the first beta products, and plan to go in production in 2015, with a very cool and useful device.
- AxoSuits builds affordable medical exoskeletons for paralyzed patients and people with walking disabilities. They raised an angel round in 2013, a seed round in 2014, and plan to fully certify the product in 2015.
- VectorWatch makes a smart watch with an impressive battery life. The company was founded by experienced entrepreneur Andrei Pitis and received a large investment from Radu Georgescu, one of the most successful Romanian entrepreneurs. These two names alone should put this startup on the radar for 2015.
- Avandor is a big data consumer profiling platform, a SaaS for advertising agencies. It was founded by a seasoned entrepreneur, with 15 years experience in digital marketing, and it addresses a real industry problem.
- Green Horse Games is an online gaming startup, that received significant investments and grows very fast. Their latest and most successful game is ligaultras.com
Robert Hegedüs’s top 5 startups
Photo credit: Robert Hegedüs
- Axosuits (again). They have a promising product, an ambitious team and a real target area. They are competing with other tech products on the market (e.g. US firms put a lot of research in this market) and it will be interesting to see how they progress.
- Comodule is an Estonian startup which develops integrated hardware and software solutions for e-bikes to monitor battery, location etc. The e-bike market is a fragmented and growing market and will continue to be so in 2015.
- Cloud Your Car also fits into the fleet management trend. They developed a system for monitoring and managing cars. Their service includes a small, easy to use hardware device that can be attached to cars and track the routes and drivers of your fleet.
- Trackduck is working on a visual collaboration tool for design and developers – from first sketch to website. Services that allow people to work together on certain projects in real time will remain important and get even more popular in the next year.
- Hashtagcharity.org is a Fiedler Capital project. The service allows IT professionals to leverage and volunteer their tech skills to help nonprofits reduce their IT costs. By reducing IT costs, nonprofits can use those savings on their actual missions.