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Instead of direct support for start-ups, money goes to expensive conference

THE TECHMATCH Slovakia 2015 conference, organised for start-ups between October 12 and 16, has caused enormous controversy, and even a boycott.

Branislav Šafárik defends the costs and structure of the TechMatch Slovakia 2015 conference(Source: TASR)

The conference, taking place in Bratislava, is to cost €1.4 million – which both professionals and others consider excessive. Some of the star speakers shall get €30,000 apiece for royalties, transport costs, food and accommodation; while the main speaker, Guy Kawasaki, shall receive €60,000, the Sme daily wrote. This is the usual amount he gets, however, and so maybe not a true bone of contention. However, the €12,000 allocated for wi-fi internet, €15,000 for a mobile application specific for this event, and other similar amounts have evoked much criticism.

Participants, or potential investors, also get €9,000 each – allegedly for transport, food and accommodation – not for participation – and as five of them have been announced, this will amount to €45,000.

Experts criticise the overall concept of the conference, and compare its total costs with that of other conferences. Similar events abroad are usually partially co-financed also by the private sector, investors and sponsors who use them to find promising business projects to invest into.

In this case, it is organised by a government agency for the support of enterprise, the Slovak Business Agency (SBA) that contracted the Adom.M architecture studio – which won the public tender launched in summer – to organise it. Although six companies took the documents containing conditions of the competition, one company finally bid on the order.

Head of the SBA, Branislav Šafárik, said that the budget allocated to TechMatch Slovakia 2015 week is still being developed, but it will certainly be lower than the €1.4 million stated in the press and on social networks. It is true that the contract for organising the event is only an outline, a general one. Šafárik estimated that €200,000 to €300,000 could be saved. He also promised, as quoted by Sme, to publish the final account after the conference ends.

The Slovak Economy Ministry allotted €1.5 million for the support of start-ups in form of subsidies for the entire year of 2015, the Pravda daily wrote on October 10.

Companies and personalities from the Information- and Telecommunication Technology sector (ITT) called on a boycott of the overpriced conference on social media. “The situation surrounding the start-up conference TechMatch Slovakia 2015 is one enormous misunderstanding,” Šafárik said, as quoted by the Hospodárske noviny daily, reacting to the boycott. “It has caused huge problems for the start-up community not only in Slovakia, but also abroad,” he said, adding that it is absurd to read attacks on social media against an event that will bring many foreign top experts and that is unprecedented in the region with its size and importance.

This conference is a unique and first-time event that will bring to Bratislava the top players of the world start-up and innovation scene, investors and mentors from Silicon Valley. According to the contract, a total of 60 firms have been selected to present themselves at the conference, Hospodárske noviny wrote.

An independent committee could carry out an audit of the transparency in public procurement, Šafárik suggested as quoted by Pravda, calling on NGOs and watchdogs like the Fair-Play Alliance and Transparency International Slovensko to become part of it.

 

Topic: IT


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