Slovenian startup ecosystem has developed fast in the last six years. While the first fast growing startups were created in mid-2000s, the ecosystem has really taken off after the economic crisis hit Slovenia after 2008 and in particular after 2011. According to the 2016 Startup Ecosystem Report (available at http://silicongardens.si/ecosystem2016/), this has resulted in significant increase in the funding raised by the startups, leading to 100 million € capital raise in both 2015 and 2016 (a number already exceeded in 2017). Since 2005, 258 startups raised over $350M in over 400 transactions.
Many startups are also bootstrapping – financing their development from their revenues – and can thus finance their development without capital raising. Additionally, Slovenian startups are among the most active in the world in certain specific areas, with the most prominent example being crypto-currencies and ICO’s. Many such startups are operating in Slovenia and their results will only become apparent in the next years. Some estimations hint that as many as a third of the funding might be stealth funding.
In 2016, more than 70% of the funding came from VC funds – mostly foreign ones. More than 10% came from different crowdfunding initiatives, especially Kickstarter where Slovenian projects are among the most successful (per capita) in the world. However, government and accelerator funding is the most important according to the number of supported startups, showing their importance in the early stages of the startup development. Only 5% of the capital invested is coming from Slovenian investors, however, showing that the capital market remain under-developed even in Slovenia – probably the most developed country in the whole region.
KEY STARTUP ECOSYSTEM STAKEHOLDERS DESCRIPTION
INCUBATORS, ACCELERATORS, EARLY PROGRAMS
ABC Accelerator is the largest private accelerator in the country. It has accelerated more than 80 startups since 2014, many of them foreign. They have established offices in San Jose (USA) and Munich (Germany) as well as in Kiev (Ukraine). It also has a small seed VC Fund. It is closely connected with the regional ecosystem and is a member of the Global Accelerator Network (GAN.co).
Tovarna Podjemov – the focal institution of the Startup Slovenia initiative, Tovarna Podjemov is implementing incubation programs in Maribor for more than 10 years. It is formally connected with the University of Maribor and has been widely acclaimed as one of the best incubation programs in Slovenia.
Hekovnik – startup school with the longest track record in the country. Lately it has focused mostly into corporate entrepreneurship and data-science services to startups and corporations. However, it still closely cooperates with the whole ecosystem.
Ljubljana University Incubator – is implementing the incubation program for startups originating from University of Ljubljana and is formally part of the University. It is implementing the incubation activities for its tenants.
CorpoHub – a new, corporate innovation focused private program, targeting mostly large corporations and organizing hackathons, incubation programs for corporations and innovation-idea competition.
Katapult – a private venture accelerator in Zasavje region, targeting hardware projects and aiming to create jobs in this high-unemployment region of Slovenia. Their mission is to help projects develop their prototypes into a product.
Geek House – a publicly funded accelerator program for innovative start-ups and companies with a global growth potential wanting to get a firm-to-market confirmation of their idea on the market as soon as possible. It is mandatory for all startups that obtain 75,000 € in the form of a convertible loan (capital is provided by the SPS under the SK75 tender).
GoGlobal – A public program usually following up the GeekHouse program for start-up companies that have already found their product-market fit, it offers everything necessary for a successful start of rapid global growth. It is mandatory for all startups that obtain 200,000 € in the form of a convertible loan (capital is provided by the SPS under the SK200 tender).
DsgnFwd – lately not very active, DsgnFwd is a specialized acceleration program with a focus on the design of products, services and communications.
SmartNinja – a startup specializing in software development education, teaching people to code – and connect them with startups or corporations.
There are many local incubation programs, supported by public financing and covering different regions in Slovenia. Vrelec Incubator, SaSa incubator, Incubator of the Savinja Region, Program at Primorski tehnoloski park and at Pomurski tehnoloski park, RC IKT incubation program and many others…
Startup Slovenia (www.startup.si) provides up to date information about the start-up scene, investors, founders, entrepreneurs. It represents the startup ‘industry’ association of Slovenia and tries to represent the startup ecosystem to other stakeholders, including policy-makers.
Finance (www.finance.si ) – the leading Slovenian daily newspaper is covering startup activity extensively and on a daily basis. It is also publishing the Startaj.si portal with news specifically from the startup ecosystem.
Other daily newspapers are also covering startup news, especially successful capital raise news. Other weekly newspaper addition also covering startups is Svet Kapitala, issued by Delo daily.
RTV SLO – is preparing a popular weekly TV show called Prava Ideja (‘the right idea’) presenting the stories of successful entrepreneurs. Similar shows are aired on other, competing TV stations, for example Dober posel at Planet TV.
Netokracija – founded in 2009 in Croatia but covering the whole SEE region, Netokracija is a simple idea put in practice: get people across Central and Eastern Europe talking more about web business, marketing and startups. From Austria to Romania and Russia to Croatia, the web is helping businesses and cultures grow in ways they couldn’t before. The leading startup medium in the region.
Mladi podjetnik – an entry point to the world of entrepreneurship, this media web portal is gathering all news connected to startups and entrepreneurship and also offering services to potential entrepreneurship, including assistance in the establishment of legal entities.
Slovenian Business Angels – the Slovenian Business Angels Network is an association of approximately 30 investors. It is investing to up to 500.000 € but most investments are much smaller. Usually, they invest in syndicates, often with business angels from abroad. Their services include Startup Klinik consulting to startups and matchmaking services to VC Funds.
RSG Kapital – the first VC Fund in Slovenia with experiences from 2006, It has invested 10 million € and already done its first exit. It has invested 10 million € but is currently not investing as it is out of its investment period.
STH VC Fund – a local VC Fund established in 2010 with 7 million € funds under management . It has already closed their investment period.
ABC First Growth – a seed VC Fund connected t o ABC Accelrator, it is investing small ammounts of money to both ABC and external startups. However, it remains fairly small and is still increasing the size of its fund.
Silicon Gardens Fund – a seed VC Fund investing 20k-40k € for 5- 15 % equity . Founded as a syndicate of business angel investors investing seed-sized investments. Established in 2010, it has invested into 9 startups. Recently, it also started informing the ecosystem with annual Ecosystem Reports and a Dealbook service.
The Slovene Enterprise Fund - established with purpose of improving the access to financial resources for different development – business investments of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) including with financial resources for SMEs startup and micro financing in the Republic of Slovenia. Every year, the Fund offers proper financial solutions for development – business projects in Slovenian entrepreneurial sector via financial engineering, which is mainly based on financial instruments with refundable means (loans, guarantees for loans, subsidised interest rates, venture capital) which allows combining of financial resources of different financial institutions (financial le ver). Its P2 instrument offer 75k € grants to startups while its SK75 and SK200 convertible loans offer the most widely used financial support for Slovenian startups.
SID Bank – the Slovenian national development bank is getting involved in the startup ecosystem in 2017 as it aims to establish a Fund of funds that will also support new VC Funds in the future. It cooperates closely with the Slovenian government and both the EIB and EIF. It is expected to have a strong role in the startup and investment community in the future.
Technology Parks – There are several technology parks in Slovenia who also implement incubation services for startups. They cover differnet regions in Slovenia. The largest technology park is in Ljubljana and is the founding member of the Startup Slovenia initiative.
Tehnološki park Ljubljana – it hosts more than 300 companies with a total of over 1500 employees. With its support programs, physical spaces and connection to other actors, it claims to be the larg est innovation ecosystem for commercialization of knowledge and technology in SEE. While publicly owned, most of its revenue comes from market activities, mostly rents.
University of Ljubljana – the oldest and largest University in Slovenia with more than 40.000 students and 5.600 staff divided into 23 faculties and three arts academies. The University of Ljubljana is the central and largest educational institution in Slovenia. It is also the central and largest research institution in Slovenia with 30 % of all registered researchers (according to the data from the SICRIS database). The University of Ljubljana is listed amongst the top 500 universities in the world according to the ARWU Shanghai, Times THES-QS and WEBOMETRICS rankings.
University of Maribor – the second largest and oldest University in Slovenia, it has 19 institutions and is focusing on the development into a focal point for Eastern Slovenia’s R&D and innovation. It is collaborating closely with Tovarna Podjemov, their university incubator.
University of Primorska – the youngest University in Slovenia is also the smallest one but is very active and is actively developing the academic-government-industry cooperation. Due to its proximity to the Italian border and the city of Trieste, it is closely connected to the Italian innovation system and often acts as a bridge between Slovenia and Italy in the field of innovation cooperation.
Startup Slovenia is interested in creating new collaborations, meeting with investors and discussing potential opportunities that can improve the Slovenian ecosystem.