Up-and-coming startups? Czech!
It may not be a startup hub like Berlin yet, but Prague hosts an ever-growing community of entrepreneurs that have an increasing presence on the European scene. This week’s Europas awards saw three Czech startups as winners (see our coverage of the awards here), That’s quite an impressive achievement, considering that five CEE companies were awarded altogether.
While Rafaj Nicholas, one of the managers at StartUpYard, recently lamented that only 250 startups evolved from the country every year, this picture is about to change. Perhaps the success at the Europas was only a first step. With accelerators like StartupYard and the soon-to-open Wayra Academy, the newest branch of Telefonica’s incubators, many more are expected to emerge in the near future.
Telefonica, operating under the brand O2, is not, however, the only mobile involved in the startup scene in the Czech Republic. Its rival, Vodafone.cz, the local office of the British telecommunications giant, has been running annual competitions in the search for the next big startup over the last five years. The yearly event, which began under the title “Nápady za miliony 2007” (Ideas for millions 2007), has since been renamed “Nápad roku” (Idea of the year) and this year attracted 156 entries offering the winning team a check for 100.000 Czech koruns (approximately 3.900 euros). The top 3 entries for 2012 were Rozecti.se, Leady, and Videoflot.
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As the winner of last year’s Vodafone.cz competition, Rozecti.se has already begun to make a name for itself in the Czech Republic. Featured as Node5’s “Startup of the Month” for December 2012, Rozecti.se offers a package of speed-reading lessons for those interested in improving their reading capabilities. Three lessons can be sampled for free, but users must then purchase the full package for 53 euro (26 euro for students). According to Michal Zwinger, one of the site’s co-founders, the service has already achieved a subscriber base of several thousand users and offers schools and businesses the option of purchasing packages tailored to their needs.
Leady, runner-up at Nápad roku provides businesses with software, which enables them to monitor commercial visitors to their websites. In recent years, usage of analytics software has become a critical part of managing a business. As companies develop an online presence, they naturally wish to get a sense of who accesses their website so that they might more effectively tailor ads and increase profits. The company lists such firms as T-Mobile, AVG, and GE Money Bank as references, but the service appears to be currently limited to the Czech Republic only.
In third place, Videoflot represents a marketplace for people producing or needing videos. Seemingly geared towards those living in the Czech Republic, Videoflot enables video producers, cameramen, actors, etc. to market their services to prospective clients. Conversely, those in need of said services are able to submit requests for production for music videos, ads, 3D videos, cartoons, and so forth. Though customers are able to complete deals through the site, Videoflot itself does not charge.
Proving that the Czech startup ecosystem is not entirely dominated by web-based companies, Pragulic has been a prominent example of a social enterprise. Founded by Tereza Jurečková in 2012, Pragulic is an initiative that offers guided city tours through Prague conducted by homeless people. It won her the Social Impact Award in June, 2012. While Jurečková laments that “social enterprises still cannot exist as profitable companies in the Czech Republic”, Pragulic has created a bit of a media buzz in the last year.