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Joining forces in the region: the Visegrad startup landscape

Numerous reports have been written about the fantastic results achieved by Estonian or Lithuanian companies in the startup world. However, there is less discussion about how up-and-coming the innovation ecosystem of the Visegrad region is. Czechia, Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia don’t really seem to be on Europe’s innovation atlas. Is this rightfully so? We don’t think so!

„We are significant enough to make an impact”


Design Terminal, Central Europe’s leading innovation agency launched the V4 region’s first startup scholarship program in 2018, with the support of the International Visegrad Fund, and with the help of Czech, Slovak, and Polish professional partners. The project was named the V4 Startup Force Program – indicating that one has to expect a massive amount of power indeed when talking about young entrepreneurs in the area.


As Edit Szilágyiné Bátorfi, former Executive Director of the IVF put it: „The Visegrad region is rich in ideas but less talented in showing it to the world and in making it beneficial for the economy and citizens of the nations.”


With a mission to nurture business talent and develop the regional entrepreneurial as well as the innovation ecosystem, Design Terminal wanted to build bridges between startups and corporations, connecting the two different business environments. “The main goal of the V4 Startup Force is to build a bigger and stronger Visegrad community – says László Jónás, Head of Strategy at Design Terminal. – We want to foster a cohesive community, one that can show the global market: we are significant enough to make an impact." And that begins with thinking locally because you have to grow where you are planted.


Regarding the space industry, 2 Visegrad countries have the opportunity to operate business incubation centers. The European Space Agency asked Hungary and Czechia to run the ESA Business Incubation Centres in the given countries. Design Terminal organizes the programme in Hungary, starting from January 2021. The ESA Business Incubation Centre (BIC) Prague opened in 2016 and is managed by CzechInvest (Business and Investment Development Agency CzechInvest), with support from the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Ministry of Transportation, and the City of Prague.


Just to show you what type of companies you should imagine when talking about the space industry, here are a few, both from Hungary. Space Apps Ltd.’s Beebox Project is a Smart Beehive solution that helps beekeepers make the right decisions based on measurements in the hive, and satellite data from the surrounding vegetation. Aquanauta Center for Exploration aims to study the human factors relevant in space and underwater exploration. They intend to research and develop equipment, protocols, solutions, and technologies integral in these extreme and unusual environments.



THE LANDSCAPE OF THE VISEGRAD STARTUP REGION

After this introduction, we are pretty sure you would want to know much more about the startup ecosystem of the Visegrad region. So in the following sections there is everything you need to know.



SUPPORT ORGANIZATIONS


Hungary

Design Terminal is one of Central Europe’s leading innovation agencies, that builds ‘Innovation Champions’ through corporate partnerships and talent acceleration. They give corporate leaders and startup founders the knowledge and access they need to catalyze innovation across any organization. Their incubation programs are up and running in twelve countries, and since 2014 the organization has worked with more than 1000 startups and several leading corporations.


Hiventures is funding partner of the Hungarian companies. Their venture capital investment programs provide new funding opportunities for early-stage, innovative and traditional SMEs and large enterprises.


Last year Startup Hungary was founded last year to operate as an independent, entrepreneur-led organization and supercharge the startup community, and support the birth and development of more high-growth potential tech companies in Hungary. They provide an annual startup report about the country’s ecosystem.


With more than 30 years of professional background, K&H Bank provides Hungarian startups with the assistance that can make the most of them at the most critical moment. In addition to the free office infrastructure and inspiring environment, the Start it @ K & H incubator offers continuous training, dedicated industry mentors, and an international network of people tailored to the needs of startups, thinking with them.


Besides the capital city there are other opportunities: the main aim of Start it Up Győr is to create an inspiring environment for future generations to build businesses with the right support locally, in the city of Győr. They organize community-building events, provide programs, training, incubation, and go-to-market support for local entrepreneurs, and connect the startup ecosystem in Győr with international hubs.


Czech Republic

Startup Yard is a platform for connecting Central European startups, mentors, investors, and corporates. Since 2011, they have dedicated themselves to helping startup founders move fast. Lighthouse Ventures is an early-stage and acceleration venture capital-focused on technology projects with a global vision. Their mission is to nurture inspiring ideas throughout their critical early stage, financially as well as professionally, with an international team of partners bringing together expertise in entrepreneurship, startup mentoring, mergers, and acquisitions, media and marketing, technology and operations, as well as a strong business network in the Czech Republic and abroad.


Credo Ventures is a venture capital company focused on early-stage investments in Central and Eastern Europe. They partner with outstanding technology founders to realize their global ambitions.


Depo Ventures is a unique investment platform that manages seed investment funds, a network of business angels, and provides M&A advisory services. DEPO team identifies quality startups and simplifies the investment process in order to mitigate the investment risk for both the startups and the investors.


Poland

Space3ac provides an acceleration program for startups, young technology companies, programmers, and scientific teams and help corporations design, create & manage innovation programs. They have experience in connecting startups and corporations with creating maximum value from their cooperation. Their traditional focus is downstream space technologies.


COBIN Angels are the largest professional club of business angels in Poland. Since 2015, COBIN has supported private investors in making investments in young, fast-growing technology companies from Poland and the Central European region. COBIN brings together business owners, board members, and top managers.


MCI Capital is one of Poland’s leading venture capital and private equity companies. MCI does early-stage venture, later-stage venture, and private equity investments in CEE Region, Germany, and Austria, in former Soviet Republics countries, and in Turkey.


Slovakia

Each year Uplift – the leading Slovak startup accelerator – supports dozens of the most innovative and promising startups from the CEE region. They work with founders on growing their business and increasing the value of their company. They offer a 4-month acceleration program, investment for selected startups, workshops, business coaching, office space.


Neulogy Ventures was founded to finance and develop talented entrepreneurs and help their companies succeed in the global market. They know both sides of the early-stage investment world and offer their portfolio companies unique expertise based on their past experience as entrepreneurs, investors, and transaction managers.


Progress Bar is a coworking, community space in Bratislava with meeting rooms, private call rooms, package handling, space for collaborative or focused work. Campus Cowork offers the same, also in Bratislava. Their spaces offer multiple options: be it a flexible hotdesk, your very own fixed desk, or an office.



EVENTS


Hungary

Startup Safari is not a boring ordinary conference, they turn the city into a gigantic two-days startup jamboree. Every April – when our lives are not hit by a global pandemic – people can have a peek into the offices of the most exciting startups and tech companies in Budapest. Breakfasts, office tours, workshops, hackathons, meetups, trainings, and professional lectures will give a taste of the startup ecosystem.


Czech Republic

Startup and World Cup Summit Startup World Cup is a global conference and competition that brings together the top startups, VCs, entrepreneurs, and world-class tech CEOs. Combining two premiere events of the CEE startup scene (the Startup World Cup and the Startup Summit), the Startup World Cup & Summit is a unique event where visitors from across the entire startup spectrum will be able to come together to connect, find inspiration, and be rewarded.


Poland

Wolves Summit is connecting angel investors, VC funds, tech talent, and corporations with the most promising businesses in the CEE region to help ambitious founders scale and foster international economic growth.


Slovakia

TechSummit conference is an open platform, which is focusing on the presentation of actual trends and information from the innovation area of IT with emphasis to the dynamics of large and small business environments, improvement of the public environment, and international know-how exchange.


OpenSlava is a conference for a broader IT community in Slovakia and abroad and one of the largest annual international conferences organized by Accenture in Central Europe.



TALENT


Hungary

Prezi is an interactive cloud-based presentation platform that helps users connect with their audience. It was founded in 2008 and is now headquartered in San Francisco, California. Prezi's latest offering is Prezi Video with which users can record movies that previously required green-box technology or design rework.


Bitrise – launched in 2014 – is a platform for mobile app development, enabling tens of thousands of developers to automate integration, testing, and deployment. They were the first Hungarian team to enter Y-Combinator, one of the world's most renowned startup incubator programs.


Ustream was founded to provide a live interactive broadcast platform that enables viewing and broadcast content. Its clientele and partners included Cisco, Sony, Discovery Communications, Georgetown University, and Samsung. IBM acquired Ustream in 2016. According to press reports, they gave about $130 million for the Hungarian-developed startup. Balabit’s integrated PAM solution protects organizations in real-time: it helps organizations prevent, detect, and respond to cyberattacks involving privileged accounts, including both insider threats and external attacks using hijacked credentials. Founded in 2000, they were working for companies like Orange, AirFrance, Facebook, or NASA. The biggest startup success story of 2018 was that Balabit was bought by one of the company’s business partners, One Identity.


Czech Republic

Twisto, a BNPL (Buy Now Pay Later) company based in Prague has just secured €16m in new funding, aimed at expanding its services across eastern Europe; an area the company says shows significant promise for BNPL growth. Twisto is currently active in both Poland and the Czech Republic and plans to expand to Romania. Founded in 2013, 1.6m customers have used the app so far which allows them to defer payments on goods purchased online. (source)


Spaceti is the technology for digitising buildings based on the principles of indoor location. Their mission is to radically redefine how people digitally interact with buildings, increase well-being, and collaboration of employees, while simultaneously providing effective building management too. They have received a second investment of around €3.5 million from Reflex Capital and Fast Forward, as well as from new investors Lighthouse Ventures and Kamil Vacek. (source)


Founded in 2015, IP Fabric develops network infrastructure visibility and analytics solution to help enterprise network and security teams with network assurance and automation across multi-domain heterogeneous environments. They have secured €3.5 million in a Series A funding round led by Senovo and Presto Ventures.


Poland

Brainly is a Polish education tech company based in Kraków, with headquarters in NYC. It provides a peer-to-peer learning platform for students, parents, and teachers to ask and answer homework questions. The platform has elements of gamification in the form of motivational points and ranks. As of November 2020, Brainly reported having 350 million monthly users making it the world's most popular education app. In January 2018, they announced to had acquired the video education start-up, Bask, to bring video technology to the Brainly platform.


Infermedica – founded in 2012 – makes it easier to pre-diagnose, triage, and direct patients to appropriate medical services. They have announced recently a partnership with Microsoft. Infermedica will specifically be working with the Microsoft Healthcare Service Bot, which empowers healthcare organizations to build and deploy AI-powered virtual healthcare assistants at scale.


Slovakia

InoBat is an R&D and battery production company with the long-term the objective of serving the European market with new energy solutions. Bratislava-based R&D and battery production company has secured €10 million in a round led by IPM Group, an asset manager focused on infrastructure tech, CEZ Group, Wildcat Discovery Technologies, and other investors. The Slovakian startup also received €5 million in government funding last year. (source)


The Hilbi communication platform is tailored to the needs of physicians and their patients. Hilbi is a tailor-made communication platform for doctors’ and their patients’ needs. The platform is the foundation of systematic changes in the contemporary healthcare management system. They have received €5 Million in Investments recently.



GOVERNMENT SUPPORT


Hungary

In 2014 the Hungarian Government delegated tasks related to public funding of research and development and innovation primarily to the National Office for Research, Development and Innovation, thus ensuring the supervision of research, development, and innovation based on unified legal practice.


Czech Republic

CzechInvest plays a key role in the area of supporting business and investments in its comprehensive form. The agency’s unique combination of regional, central and international operations ensures the integrity of services and the ability to connect global trends with regional conditions in the Czech Republic. Established in 1992, CzechInvest is a state contributory organisation subordinate to the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic.


Poland

The Polish Agency for Enterprise Development (PARP) is involved in the implementation of national and international programmes financed from the EU structural funds, state budget and multiannual programmes of the European Commission. As a key authority responsible for creating a business-friendly environment in Poland, PARP contributes to the creation and effective implementation of the state policy related to enterprise, innovation, and staff adaptability. Pursuant to the principle “Think Small First”, in all its activities the Agency puts a particular emphasis on the needs of the SME sector.


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