If one were to describe the Slovenian startup ecosystem in just a few words, those would probably be young, driven, and intimate.
With a population of barely 2 million, Slovenia is one of the highly taxed nations in the world and the entrepreneurial sector of the Adriatic country is young and small. Nevertheless, Slovenia has managed to produce quite a few global success stories in the areas of high-tech products and services, and a handful seem to be enough. These accomplished entrepreneurs themselves fuel the momentum that defines the Slovenian startup community.
Who is there to support the startup scene?
A recurring theme that permeates the fabric of the Slovenian startup ecosystem is the involvement of the ventures themselves in supporting entrepreneurial development. Here, successful startups are not just key players; they are the main drivers of forward movement.
The informal entrepreneur association Silicon Gardens brings together over 200 members in a network characterised by “small, efficient, highly cultivated patches of technology entrepreneurship.” The centre for entrepreneurship innovation CEED “strives for a world where entrepreneurs have the tools and support they need to spur innovation, create jobs, and build thriving economies” while the Tovarna podjemov business incubator of the University of Maribor supports the corporate involvement of students, researchers, and professors. These efforts are complemented by the startup accelerator programme Hekovnik.
The telecom, internet, media and entertainment industries are propelled by idea accelerator ITIME, which provides an eight-month mentorship programme for young entrepreneurs. Young talents can also take advantage of the Start:up Slovenia, go:global Slovenia and TSstartup initiatives, which arrange mentorships and give entrepreneurs many opportunities to get together and showcase their talents. Within a 20-minute drive from Ljubljana, the Rajvozni center provides a stimulating business environment for information and communication technology startups, as does the Technology park Ljubljana.
As local investors are not in high numbers in Slovenia, many Slovenian startups are bootstrapping. Among the success stories that made it on their own is utFit.7 with Talking Tom, for example. However, to compete internationally, startups need cash and exposure to global startup initiatives has given the Slovenian entrepreneur community just the support it needed. Ventures like Zemanta and Oust.me have gotten financing from European seed investor Seedcamp, while others have taken part in global accelarator programmes as the Y Combinator, 500 Startups and Wayra.
As the Slovenian startup scene is catching fire, the events that bring together budding entrepreneurs are also getting increasingly numerous and exciting. Perhaps the most prominent of those is the PODIM conference, held in Maribor, which brings together all key stakeholders in Slovenian technology enterprises, for two days of intense courses. Read our report on PODIM here.
IT lovers in Slovenia have many events to look forward to this year. Later this month, the Webmaster Picnic will gather IT enthusiasts around a lake to bond and share ideas while participating in various sport games. Yet, this is not the only event online professionals can look forward to! Diggit, a two-day conference held in June, will unite young enthusiasts to review digital trends, best practices, and online news.
The Slovenian startup community also gets together in some international events that occasionally come to town, like BarCamp Ljubljana in 2011. There have also been TEDx events in Ljubljana, Maribor and Bled.
As entrepreneur networks grow, it is becoming more and more important for the players to get together, share ideas, and network. The multimedia centre Kibla from Maribor hosts a presentation of new technologies every Tuesday, while every second week startups share their story in the Tuesday Startup musli. The Slovenia Coworking Initiative, the Start:up geek house (in Maribor and Ljubljana) and coworking space Kiberpipa aim to build a local coworking community, and give entrepreneurs a place to exercise their creative energy.
What are some big names in the Slovenian startup scene?
One of the main players currently on the Slovenian scene is Celtra with their tool that enables users to create “rich media advertising” across platforms and mobile devices. Over 30.000 ads have been built using AdCreator, and they are run in more than 30 countries. (For more information on the company, go here). In January, Celtra secured a 4-million-dollar investment led by Softbank Capital. The company saw exponential growth in 2012, and it currently has over 200 clients and partners.
Zeppelin is a tool that connects to different business applications, and collects relevant information in one place, so that executives and managers can access it and make sense of it quickly and easily. No more multiple log-ins and waiting for Monday meetings!
Slovenia has an increasing number of technology innovators that have global impact and Zemanta is one of the success stories that paved the way, gaining seed financing back in 2007 and inspiring other startups to aim high. The service that Zemanta offers helps bloggers gain more readers and enrich their posts by adding pictures.
Cubesensors is there to give you some insight into your indoor environment. When and why do people start to feel drowsy during a meeting, and what impact does temperature have on the quality of your sleep are only few of the questions that the Cubesensors team is concerned with.
Slovenian Spirit Club Flaviar, a subscription commerce startup, made its European debut last year with a very appealing offer: you can become a member and discover new liquor products through sample tasting packs sent to your home. Five flavours to enjoy with friends, for only 39.5 dollars per month (including shipping costs).
A player on the Slovenian startup scene to keep an eye out for is Toshl. According to the founders of Three Coins, an Austrian financial literacy startup Toshl offer “the best app to manage personal finances”. With over $250,000,000 of expenses tracked, the venture is quickly gaining traction.
Alongside the success stories, however, a once rising star of the scene recently announced its shutting down. Vox.io closed down last month, after founder Tomaz Stolfa left the company in early February. The communication startup that wanted to give Skype a run for their money had an outstanding start, being awarded seed financing in 2011 and gaining over 1 million users by 2012. What happened then? Some speculate it was an ownership structure issue, others say vox.io just grew too fast. Regardless of the reason, we hope that other great Slovenian initiatives will be motivated to take its place.
Where does Slovenia go from here?
With most Slovenian startups still in seed stage, it’s hard to say what the future holds. However, with the momentum the community is gaining, Slovenian startups have the potential of making a real splash on the global market.
Read more on the Slovenian startup scene:
From exhaust systems to Y Combinator: meet Slovenia’s startup scene
Cool Slovenian brands, part 1: Technology startups making it big
Thanks to Urška Renier for providing us with insights into the Slovenian startup scene!