Publically funded programmes like the Austrian WKO’s (Austrian Economic Chambers) “Go Silicon Valley” (see our feature on it here) certainly help European startups make their first steps across the big pond. While the offer of office space at the Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale, a crash course on American business conventions and networking, and opportunities to pitch to VC firms and business angels are nothing to sneeze at, there is room for improvement, as Mario Herger knows.
The native Austrian is a Silicon Valley veteran and is closely connected to the startup scene. “At meetings with fellow Austrians in Silicon Valley we were moaning around – as it’s so typical of Austrians – and talking about how much we could learn from the culture of the Bay Area and that there were so many opportunities. So we decided to do something about it.” Inspired by initiatives like Swissnex, he got together a team of people who shared his view that Austrian and CEE entrepreneurs needed support on their ventures to the Silicon Valley.
One of them is Florian Brody, who has been living and working in the Bay Area for more than 20 years. He is familiar with the problems of startups coming to the US: “Startups who visit on a tourist visa or who participate in a programme like that of the WKO have very limited time to network, meet potential investors and work on their product. First, they have to get settled in, get used to their new environment, the customs – that alone can take a month.”
Kick-off event: the first AIC Innovation Day
To help Austrian and CEE entrepreneurs get a foothold in Silicon Valley, but also to teach them about the local entrepreneurial culture and further exchange between the whole CEE region and the Silicon Valley, Herger and his team of consultants are currently establishing the Austrian Innovation Center Silicon Valley (AICSV). Co-founder Niki Ernst, a Vienna based advertising professional, conceives of the AICSV as a “real life social network for founders.” Operating as a bootstrapped non-profit organisation, the AICSV wants to cooperate and extend the WKO’s “Go Silicon Valley” offer by providing mentoring and fellowship programmes to entrepreneurs and researchers, Ernst says.
Next month, the AICSV will host its kick-off event, the AIC Innovation Day on 8 March in Palo Alto. Covering topics like diversity, innovation, and risk, among others, the event aims to introduce entrepreneurs and academics from Austria and CEE to the culture of Silicon Valley and provide them with the opportunity to network with experienced entrepreneurs. The following two days will include tour visits to companies such as Autodesk and Google.
The AIC Innovation Day will take place throughout the day on 8 March. You can find more information on the time and location of the event here.
The organisers advise interested parties to secure a ticket as soon as possible, as seats are limited: http://www.eventbrite.hk/org/3076324580