Presidential elections took place in Slovakia 30 March, where philanthropist and former entrepreneur Andrej Kiska succeeded over Robert Fico with about 60% of all the votes. On late Monday night, news came in that the newly elected president, who is actively involved in social responsibility initiatives such as “Dobry Anjel” (good angel), supporting families with ill children financially, will open the famous Palais Grassalkovich in Bratislava as a coworking space for young entrepreneurs, freelancers and startups.
“Besides the efforts to fight corruption and improve the health sector in Slovakia, we have also seen that sustainable economic growth can only be reached through innovation,” the newly-elected president said in a statement released by the Slovak Presidential Office. One of his goals during his presidency will therefore be to “take Slovak businesses to the next level and support them as well as we can. A first step would be providing them with the space and infrastructure they need to get creative. Plus, as an entrepreneur I know the struggles and challenges a startup faces at the beginning,” he added.
Opening the gates
In Bratislava, there are already several spaces for startups to work and develop their business. Among them are Connect Coworking, The Spot and BrainHouse (visit our Slovak Week for more info). Yet, the infrastructure is still somewhat scarce and often, Slovak startups are tempted to look for offices in Berlin, Prague or Vienna fairly quickly. Kiska seems determined to change this: “It is very important for us to create a thriving environment for young entrepreneurs and innovators in Slovakia. Therefore, we have decided to open the gates of the Presidential residence to startups by the beginning of summer.”
The new office space will make use of 1.500 squared metres of unused area next to the lobby of the palace, offer high speed optical cable internet and a coffee place serving sustainable sourced food. Security shouldn’t be an issue as the new president plans to spend more time traveling across Slovakia solving issues of the people and abroad, and representing the country.
Little else is known about how exactly the selection process will take place but rumour has it that only startups younger than four years will be eligible for application. Also, they will need to pitch their ideas in front of a committee hand-picked by the president himself that will decide if an idea has impact on social issues within Slovakia and the CEE region, as well as if the business concept is sustainable and socially advantageous. The Slovak government will have all interested startups informed about the application process currently lined out through the Twitter hashtag #AprilFools and will be also opening a website for the new coworking venue shortly.
Palais Grassalkovich, soon to become the largest coworking space in CEE, is located right in the heart of Bratislava, not far away from the Technical University. It was constructed in 1760 and for centuries has been the venue for festivities of the aristocracy. As of 1996, it is the official residence of the President of the Slovak Republic. In a few months, it shall also house several dozens of startups, and possibly hundreds of young entrepreneurs.
You can follow the developments here or on Twitter: #AprilFools