The British daily Financial Times is directing prominent Silicon Valley investor and co-founder of PayPal Peter Thiel and other ambitious technology experts to Bratislava, where they say the industry is being used to tackle real-world problems.
“The Slovak capital, whose medieval churches and cobbled streets bear scarce resemblance to the sprawl of San Francisco, is part of a network of cities in this region that hope to become central Europe’s answer to Silicon Valley,” the daily wrote in a story titled “The Danube Valley: central Europe’s answer to Silicon Valley”.
Though the country’s economy is still heavily reliant on the automotive industry, which accounts for almost half its entire industrial output, new technology startups have emerged in the past few years that are shifting the economy away from heavy manufacturing, Financial Times wrote.
The daily gave the example of AeroMobil, which has recently introduced the final model of its flying car, and described the company as “an archetype of this transformation”.
Other successful examples include cyber security software company Eset, which was described as a “supplier of one of the world’s most widely used antivirus systems”, and Sygic, the developer of navigation applicants used by about 200 million people across the world. The daily also mentioned game developer Pixel Federation.
“Slovak start-ups have benefited from the fact that costs are far lower in the country than they are for rivals in richer economies,” Financial Times wrote. “Technically-minded graduates are easy to find, and the limited size of the local market nudges ambitious entrepreneurs towards international sales faster.”
The daily also mentions the younger generation of founders, giving startups Photoneo (a designer of a 3D camera that can quickly recognise objects, allowing a robot to pick out particular tools or components in a factory), GA Drilling (which is rolling out technology that uses electric plasma to help drill more efficiently for oil and gas underground), and Slido (an audience interaction app) as examples.
On the other hand, the daily reminds that entrepreneurs in Slovakia still face funding challenges.
“Slovakia has seen a stream of EU research and innovation funding worth nearly €4bn since it joined the bloc 13 years ago,” Financial Times wrote. “However, private capital can be tough to find, which can stifle late-stage projects at a crucial stage of growth.”
The daily also criticises the legislation which seems to favour larger companies over smaller enterprises and wrote tax breaks appear to benefit foreign investors promising to bring manufacturing jobs to the country more than smaller innovative ventures.
“Another problem is a scarcity of workers with skills and business experience,” Financial Times wrote. “While many Slovak expats could bring valuable business experience from abroad, the country’s political climate, marked by endless corruption scandals, does little to encourage them to return home.”
In this respect, however, Financial Times praise the initiatives to fight corruption, digitise public services, set up better schools, and encourage Slovaks abroad to return home. The paper wrote that these initiatives that have popped up around the country are sometimes founded or backed by successful entrepreneurs.
“Other Slovak entrepreneurs have joined advisory boards of younger startups or become angel investors themselves,” Financial Times wrote.
7. Jun 2017 at 14:25 | Compiled by Spectator staff