A provider of great engineering talent, Slovakia has spawned a promising number of tech startups in the past years and its innovation ecosystem has gained a lot of traction recently. Bratislava is progressively affirming its place on the CEE scene as a hotbed of entrepreneurship, organising numerous events that bring local and regional communities together, such as the monthly meetups Startupcamps, Startup Weekend and its national Startup Awards.
Fostering a business-friendly environment
According to Dusan Duffek, cofounder of RubixLab, Slovakia offers a favourable environment to both local and foreign entrepreneurs, thanks to the recent developments geared towards startups and entrepreneurs in the country.
“Beside all the capital that’s on the table for startups, there are also a lot of initiatives from public institutions, many are from the government,” Duffek said. “Our President is a strong innovation leader, a role model, who very much supports the startup ecosystem in Slovakia,” he added.
A whole set of initiatives was undertaken by the Slovak government earlier this year, according to the vision carried out by President Andrej Kiska, a former fintech entrepreneur himself. The package includes public grants, startup visas for entrepreneurs from outside the EU, exemption of tax licences for three years for startups, the introduction of the simple joint stock company (JAS), the establishment of an informal platform for business angels as well as a national business centre (NPC).
“Historically, Slovakia has not been among the strongest of economies in the region, but [is] a rapidly developing one. These governmental initiatives bring the potential to advance the country to the forefront of regional developments,” commented László Gulyas, EIT Digital’s ARISE Europe Lead in Central and Eastern Europe.
While Slovakia isn’t short on product developers and IT talent, the country is still lacking marketing and sales forces. With five million people, the Slovak market is too small to be the final market for startups. On the other hand, the limitations implied by this domestic market push entrepreneurs to think globally.
“Slovakia and neighbouring countries such Hungary and Czech Republic, are comparatively small [to Western countries], which means that every startup, no matter where it is exactly in this part of Europe, needs to actually think global from day one,” Duffek said, “so if the infrastructure is set right, it’s more likely to happen.”
EIT Digital seeks to maximise Slovakia’s potential
Since 2010, EIT Digital, one of the Knowledge and Innovation Communities of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). Leveraging its ecosystem of more than 130 top European corporations, universities and research institutes across the EU, EIT Digital has been supporting entrepreneurship in Europe and managing education activities to stimulate disruptive digital innovation. In addition to its annual startup contest Idea Challenge, the organisation is also working at establishing partnerships with innovation centres, such as incubators, accelerators and regional clusters, to create long-term impact and support local growth.
The collaboration programme ARISE Europe is designed to stimulate regional growth in EU countries where EIT Digital’s innovation and education ecosystem is not present. In this perspective, six innovation centres located in Greece, Estonia, Austria, Slovenia, Portugal and Slovakia were selected among 43 applicants across the continent to join the programme. Bratislava-based RubixLab, a business incubator focused on technological startups, is one of three innovation centres located in CEE that have been selected.
“The selection was based on excellence, quality of track record and potential impact in jointly advancing EIT Digital’s mission to advance ICT innovation across Europe,” Gulyas said.
Rubixlab to strengthen the local ecosystem
Duffek explained that being part of EIT Digital will allow RubixLab to extend their network substantially across Europe, thus facilitating access to funding for the Slovak and international startups of its portfolio and supporting the local ecosystem.
“In Europe there is no lack of finance, there is actually a lot of financing available for any stage of startups. What is very limited and needed, [though] is the introduction and connection to big corporations, which is what EIT Digital provides, and what represents the biggest advantage of joining the programme,” Duffek said.
As a partner of the ARISE Europe programme, Rubixlab will be scouting for startups that fit into one of the eight verticals of EIT Digital and select the best candidates suitable for a joint acceleration program with EIT Digital Accelerator. Such joint program will take place from next year on for selected startups, providing them with greater chances to access the European market and to access investors.
“The right conditions are being created for startups to thrive in Slovakia right now, wewill see in two years’ time the benefits and what will be the results,” Duffek concluded.
This story is brought to you in partnership with EIT Digital.