Category: Startups

Start-ups in Austria risk falling behind European rivals

This text was first published in the Financial Times here

Austria, like Germany, has a deftness for creating highly specialised companies — often less well-known “hidden champions” — that are also global leaders in their field, according to the agency charged with promoting investment in the country.

The Austrian Business Agency (ABA) paints a shining picture of the local start-up scene in which new businesses, incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces and new venture capital funds have emerged over recent years, attracting capital from outside.

“In 2019, start-ups attracted €218m in investment. Especially, scale-ups have been successful in attracting funding internationally,” the ABA says.

But the rate at which start-ups are created in Austria remains lower than that in comparable European countries, and a new law aimed at controlling foreign direct investment from non-EU countries, coupled with existing red tape, has prompted concerns that innovation is being stifled.

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Crowdfunding picks up slack for green tech start-ups in Europe

This text was first published in the Financial Times here

Even in the midst of this year’s coronavirus pandemic, Bernhard Stöckl still saw the potential for attracting investors to his renewable energy venture.

The chief executive of Austrian renewable energy company Photovoltaik Leitinger started crowdfunding for his “bifacial” solar panel fence, which collects sun energy from two sides and produces up to 10 per cent more energy than its conventional counterparts. “We expected renewables to gain momentum during this crisis — and our investors agreed,” he says. 

The transition to clean energy is dominated by big companies and large-scale public projects aimed at delivering low-carbon power at scale. Yet many individual citizens are keen to do their part in achieving climate targets by backing and installing small-scale renewable kit.

Crowdfunding can get green energy projects off the ground and democratise the energy transition. At the same time, these platforms function differently from traditional investments and carry different types of risks for retail investors.

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WeWork cares about sales more than community

WeWork is more interested in sales than building a community. It’s increasingly for big corporates. And it shouldn’t be described as providing “coworking” spaces.

These are the words of Tobias Kremkau, the manager of St. Oberholz in Berlin, one of the oldest coworking spaces which is now expanding all over Germany.

They come as WeWork’s parent company this week filed paperwork to go public in the US, just months after raising money from Japan’s Softbank at a $47bn post-money valuation.

WeWork describes itself as providing more than “beautiful, shared office spaces” but a “community” and “a place you join as an individual, ‘me’, but where you become part of a greater ‘we’.”

Kremkau knows more about coworking spaces than pretty much anybody else in Europe. Travelling from Barcelona to Stockholm over two months with his wife in 2015, they worked from a different coworking space every day. 

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Waldemar Zeiler on condoms, menstruation and self-ownership

Condom-entrepreneur Waldemar Zeiler, the bearded founder of Berlin-based Einhorn Kondome, recently dressed up as a giant vulva to announce his company’s next goal to “unfuck menstruation”.

Founders flee to Estonia’s digital paradise

With 12 guides, over 600 tours sold and plenty of positive reviews, Arzu Altinay’s company Walks in Istanbul was going well. Then the business started to go very wrong.

The political atmosphere in Turkey started to change around 2015 and there was a a bloody coup attempt a year later. Tourism dried up. Altinay, who had been a professional tour guide since 1998, lost the vast majority of her customers.

When PayPal stopped operating in Turkey in 2016, even those still wanting to pay for her tours couldn’t. “I was desperate because my business died immediately. I’m a single parent and had no money coming in.”

Altinay knew that she had to move her company outside of Turkey. “The business was working, it just wasn’t working in Istanbul”. Read More