There are four types of people who always have the best girls: sportsmen, rich men, army pilots, and startupists – a term we often use in the Slovak community. And since we only have something like four fighters, being rich is not that straightforward, and doing sports is way too physically demanding, our youngsters soon discovered that being a startupist is the way to go.
In Slovakia, they are usually university graduates, with neither experience from real life, nor much money or power – a clear parallel with hipsters. Yet, while their background may almost be the same, there’s one difference – startupists are trying to do something, like to save the world, or similar. And so, we go back to the beginning: There are many beautiful girls in the hipster community. Therefore, the intersection of these two, especially in such a small country, is resulting in something like an overlap. This is a big advantage for the hipsters getting a chance of finally doing a useful thing, but not that much for the startupists, who have discovered the beauty of sitting in a café and drinking a cider, all day long.
The other specificity of the Slovak startup community would be its perimeter. There are about 173 startup people all over Slovakia. Everyone has met most of the others thanks to the awesome startup events here. These are usually more networking than working events, with more beer and borovička than presentations or speakers – which is great, as it makes the community more open and approachable. It often happens that one day you are drinking with the startupists (or hipsters), and the next day you wake up on a keyboard coding the backbone for a new startup. This could be the outcome of our history; we always had well-educated and smart people here, but the fun factor was often omitted in the past 50 years. Today, when you come to our coworking spaces, or Startup Weekend (there will be another one in Kosice on 21 March), you would meet a group of people who understand they should work, but overlay it with a quantum of cheap alcohol and fun.
Another specific element of the Slovak startup market is its composition. In Western Europe, there are often many businessmen but a shortage of developers, who would do the actual job. Here in Slovakia, the startup team usually consists of three or four developers, who still believe they do not need a businessman. And they are even somewhat right, as it is still difficult to find a good sales person when you are looking in the rows of graduates. Our schools are not yet ready to produce businessmen, but are very good in educating technology experts. That said, this is only a short-term problem that will definitely transform in a great advantage in the near future.
The Slovak startup community seems like an emerging giant of tech advancements in Europe. Or, it could be, soon. It is also true, though, that some of the best brains and muscles of our economy are leaving. To London, Berlin, or to Palo Alto. This is logical, as the environment there is much more mature, funding is much more available, and the opportunities are exploding when compared to our local “market”. Fortunately, our people tend to remember where they come from. So, after some partial success and opening the doors to the western markets, they tend to come back and share their lessons with our 173 startupists, which of course helps us a lot.
In a nutshell, when it comes to startups, Slovakia, and especially Bratislava, is in its own way special compared to the surrounding countries. There is lot of work to be done, but with the help of our hipster friends we will somehow get through it and are looking forward tothe sunny tomorrows.
Photo credit: Facebook, Juraj Danko
Juraj Danko is a business diplomacy manager, an idea maker, and pragmatist. He’s currently working with meteorology and information systems. He’s also a co-organiser of Startup Weekend Bratislava.