ViennaUP’21: “We want to be a bridge from East to West for startups”
ViennaUP’21, the largest startup event in Central and Eastern Europe, is starting in just a couple of weeks. Over 40 partners of the Vienna Business Agency are supporting the event that will take place on April 27-May 12th to bring participants on a virtual journey through the hottest trends of the European startup scene – from fintech to social impact businesses, female entrepreneurship, and hardware startups.
“For ViennaUP’21, almost all players in the Viennese startup scene are pooling their strengths and pulling together to support this project. The festival shows how much a city and its economy can draw strength from cooperation and new things developing, even despite the pandemic – or precisely because of it,” said Peter Hanke – Executive City Councilor of Finance, Business, Labor, International Affairs and Vienna Public Utilities. “With individual support, coaching and networking formats, the Vienna Startup Package creates a helpful framework for young startups to take the first steps towards expanding into new markets. We want to be a “bridge from East to West” for startups,” he added. What else can participants expect from the event and what opportunities await them in Viena – Mr. Peter Hanke tells more.
Q: Could you please tell us more about the evolution of the Vienna startup ecosystem? Which were the factors, events or may be people that have influenced this growth? How does a city benefit from a thriving startup ecosystem?
Peter Hanke: Startups and young companies are an important driving factor both for Vienna as a location and by creating the jobs of the future. A Viennese start-up creates an average of 11,2 jobs. New ideas and innovation processes emanate from these young companies, and here in Vienna we are consciously encouraging exchange and overarching cooperation between traditional Viennese companies, young start-ups and global players. They network and jointly develop innovative strategies for everything to do with the new working methods of the future and Vienna as a budding location for business. These are important aspects for us to revitalize and advance the city economically.
A comprehensive startup ecosystem has been built up in Vienna in recent years, not least due to the activities of the Vienna Business Agency. Actors such as Speed Invest, Pioneers, Austrian Startups, wearedevelopers, Talent Garden and individual business angels have driven the development Vienna’s startup ecosystem, encouraging rapid growth and an international orientation over the years. They’ve made significant contributions to the level of professionalism in the scene and made Vienna a rising star on the European startup landscape.
Along with stakeholders such as universities, incubators, talents, etc., entrepreneurs are particularly important as role models for the rapid progress of an ecosystem. Vienna can come up with some success stories here: BitPanda, which has just achieved unicorn status, but also MySugr, N26, or more recently software company Kaleido Al being bought by the Australian company Canva. The fact that such successes are possible from ‘startup location Vienna’ encourages us in our activities – and with ViennaUP’21 we are throwing another ray of light on this lively community and the business location.
In order to support many more startups in the best way possible, the City of Vienna is entering into new cooperations with city networks, working on expanding infrastructure and, as the largest German-speaking university city, offering young talent the best training opportunities and companies a huge pool of skilled workers.
Q: Soon Vienna will be in the center of the international startup scene with the ViennaUP’21 startup festival? What’s it about? Whose initiative is this? Who is invited? What are your personal expectations for it?
Peter Hanke: With ViennaUP’21, Vienna is setting a global example for the international startup community from the end of April to mid-May. Unfortunately, we can only do it digitally due to Corona, but it was important to me that ViennaUP’21 take place as planned. What’s more – and in particular to set a good example – Vienna is a reliable partner for startups. Together we go further! Plus our 40 program partners also resolutely supported this decision to move online in 2021.
While the two-week event initiated by the Vienna Business Agency is aimed at the global scene, ViennaUP is an original Viennese product. The events’ origins all lie within the Viennese startup community and their European network.
We’re convinced that ViennaUP’21 will help everyone interested in these exciting topics to exchange ideas and network with future-creators such as startups, corporates and investors. With this networking, we are emboldening a treasure trove of innovation potential for Vienna as a business location.
Q: COVID-19 is an unprecedented challenge for society and the economy. You have said that it is important ViennaUP’21 to take place in spite of, and especially because of, Corona. How could an event like ViennaUP’21 contribute to the mitigation of the crisis?
Peter Hanke: As early as 2020, Vienna created the concept for a completely new event format with the umbrella brand “ViennaUP”, aiming to put Vienna at the center of the scene as a startup and business location. Due to the pandemic however, implementation had to be postponed to 2021. We know that many startups and companies are facing major economic challenges as a result of the crisis. That’s why it’s particularly important for us to send a visible signal with ViennaUP’21: despite COVID-19, the economy in Vienna continues, the city is and will remain an economic engine for Central and Eastern Europe and the preferred location for companies in various sectors from all over the world. For ViennaUP’21, almost all players in the Viennese startup scene are pooling their strengths and pulling together to support this project. The festival shows how much a city and its economy can draw strength from cooperation and new things developing, even despite the pandemic – or precisely because of it.
Q: Vienna ranks number one in share of female founders in Europe. What are the measures that the city has taken in order to achieve such a result?
Peter Hanke: If you want to think in clichés, Vienna as a city is definitely “feminine”. The city is not only the most livable city with a high sense of safety, it also offers excellent infrastructure in terms of care facilities and training positions, and has an extremely dense network for funding. For example, with many of the Vienna Business Agency’s funding programs, there is a bonus when the funding is paid out for projects that have a woman as a project manager. The city also boasts excellent service facilities such as WAFF (the Vienna Employment Promotion Fund) or the Vienna Business Agency’s women’s service, all of which are tailor-made for female founders. As far as networking is concerned, it’s all also possible beyond the borders of Vienna, with other initiatives including Investorinnen.at, Female Factor, or Female Founders.
Q: Could you please tell us more about one specific opportunity that Vienna offers to foreign startups and that may be pretty interesting for our audience – Vienna Startup Package – who is eligible, how can you apply and what’s next once you are approved for the program?
Peter Hanke: We are doing a lot to ensure that young entrepreneurs and innovators increasingly choose Vienna as the starting point for their success, as they bring new ideas and innovative approaches to the Viennese economy. With the Vienna Startup Package we offer excellent international startups the opportunity to get to know Vienna’s as a startup ecosystem and business location for a while on site. While here in Vienna, they should further develop their business model for an international market – and in the best cases also establish their economic center here. With individual support, coaching and networking formats, the Vienna Startup Package creates a helpful framework for young startups to take the first steps towards expanding into new markets. We want to be a “bridge from East to West” for startups – and of course we look forward to announcing the winners of the Vienna Startup Package as “Brand Ambassadors” for the Startup City Vienna.
The crisis year 2020 showed us just how exciting the contents of the Vienna Startup Package is for young companies. Despite the pandemic and difficult economic situation, there was a new record in the number of applications for the package last year. This shows us just how interested international startups are in immersing themselves in the local scene and getting to know Vienna as a business location.
Q: If I am a startup representative, looking for investment opportunities, which are the ViennaUP’21 slots I should not miss?
Peter Hanke: It is difficult to highlight individual ViennaUP’21 events because the whole program is outstanding and offers something for everyone. The Investors Summit and Connect Day are particularly eye-catching for investors, placing a lot of emphasis on matchmaking between companies, investors and startups. Perhaps you would also want to visit the B2B Software Days, or search for new investment opportunities in the Office Hours sessions of various ventures spread throughout the week.
Q: What would you advise other cities that are planning to support the development of their local startup ecosystems, can you share any DOs and DON’Ts?
Peter Hanke: The success of Vienna as a business and startup location lies in the involvement of the community. As the City of Vienna, we’re able to create the prerequisites for startups to feel comfortable here and offer the necessary economic framework – but we cannot simply arrange success for startups or networks; that has to happen from within the scene itself. That is why we are in close contact with the local ecosystem and create the conditions so that private initiatives can also flourish in Vienna.
The topics also have to fit the city! Why is Vienna number 1 among female founders? Because diversity has always been important to the city outside of the startup community. The same applies to smart cities, social entrepreneurship and life science.
It’s also just as important that Vienna is itself part of international startup networks like the Start Alliance and Scale Cities, enabling the fruitful exchange of ideas and projects across national borders.
+++ The program of ViennaUP ’21 +++