We have to bring more venture capital to Carinthia

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

The fact that Carinthia is an exciting ground for technology companies can be seen in the fact that Infineon Technologies has invested more than € 1 billion in the Villach based Development Center. In fact, Villach has been a home for microelectronics development for 28 years. The southernmost Austrian state is competitive in the startup area and there are plenty of young companies cooperating with the global IT giants. Tanja Scheliessnig, Start-up Consultant at the build! Gründerzentrum Kärnten GmbH, talks about the challenge of building an innovation scene far away from Vienna and why people in Carinthia are also counting on the Alps-Adriatic region.


Tanja Scheliessnig, build! Incubator © build!

“On a nine-stages startup scale in Austria - where would you place Carinthia?”

“If we’ve learned one thing in the more than 15 years of our existence, it is that the direct comparison of one ecosystem with another always leaves something behind. Each ecosystem is the result of a complex interplay of different factors, which in turn interact differently in different regions. In such a comparison, one can only lose sight of the essentials.”

“What is the essence of the Carinthian startup landscape?”

“Our strategy in Carinthia is based on the identification and strengthening of own location factors and potentials - that of course one tries to get best practice from elsewhere to Carinthia through supraregional cooperation and networking. But the reverse works as well.”

“What's good in the startup area in Carinthia?”

“Carinthia has managed in recent years to turn a relative weakness of the ecosystem into an absolute force. We are a comparatively small venue, but this is exactly the way extremely short distances can be created. Basically, it does not matter where or with whom in the ecosystem a first contact takes place - in the end, each founder is directed to the institution where he receives the best possible support. Turning our gaze to the south, we have been successfully working together with Italy and Slovenia for years to integrate the Alps-Adriatic region, which will open up many opportunities.”

“Which leads to the next question, how do you cooperate beyond the borders of Carinthia?”

“If you are located in Carinthia, cities like Ljubljana or Udine are much closer than Vienna for example. Of course, it makes a lot of sense to bundle resources and know-how in appropriate cooperations. Especially with, for example, the University of Maribor and the ABC Accelerator in Slovenia, or with Friuli Innovazione in Italy, there are many synergies that are already being realized in joint projects.”

“What could be better in Carinthia?”

“One challenge that we will definitely have to solve is to bring appropriate venture capital to Carinthia, or we need to capitalize capital that is already available. With the establishment of the BABEG Venture Fund, an important step has been taken in this direction - startups can raise funds in the region and don’t necessarily have to go to Vienna for seed funding. The question we still have to ask ourselves is how can we make sure in the future that investors in Carinthia find something they can not get anywhere else.”

“What are the challenges?”

“The shortage of skilled workers, especially in IT, is of course clearly felt in Carinthia (as in many other federal states) and hurts startups in particular. Without good employees, you cannot have growth, and without growth, you cannot keep good employees. In the future, solutions need to be found for the current bottleneck of talent - that's where we all need to be.”

“In what fields should then Carinthia focus on?”

“Emphasis should be placed on areas where there already is a strong academic and entrepreneurial base, access to talent, know-how and partners. This makes the work easier and ensures synergies. In Carinthia, these are areas such as microelectronics, ICT, data science or Industry 4.0.”

“Which startups are the Carinthian success stories?”

“When it comes down to it, our sign has facade size - because anyone who dares to take that step, to create a livelihood for themselves and others, and especially for young Carinthians, fuels optimism for the future, deserves to be named here. However, startups such as bitmovin, Symvaro, Harmony & Care, Tremitas, add-e or myAcker have made a decisive contribution to the fact that the world has been looking to Carinthia again and again in recent years.”

“What role does build! play in the Carinthian and Austrian startup system?”

“We see ourselves as a central startup hub in Carinthia - the link between research & development, industry and funding landscape when it comes to the implementation of innovative startups in Carinthia. We have more than 15 years of experience supporting innovative, knowledge-based startups - more than any other service provider in the region. Therefore, we can provide tailor-made, targeted and performance-oriented service packages for startups. In Austria and the Alps-Adriatic region, we are excellently connected - the opportunities and opportunities for Carinthian startups definitely do not end at the national border.”

“Is the startup hype going down again or are we just at the beginning?”

“What you can do in any case is that the conversation about startups is generally more complex and should focus on high-quality. It is important to ensure that the momentum, which has undoubtedly been created in recent years, is also being used to put the startup country Austria on a stable and long-term footing.”

“How important are startup initiatives, pitching days, demo days and competitions?”

“Very important, because they create what startups urgently need, especially in the early stages - visibility, diverse feedback and a chance to get in touch with markets.”

“What would your advice be for someone who has a good idea and wants to start a startup?”

“Find people who will encourage you to think your idea through in new ways as early as possible, enable a critical exchange of opportunities and risks, and help you make informed decisions about what to do next. Facilities such as build! in Carinthia can be a good partner for you.”

You can read the full article on (in German).

This article was developed in cooperation with the A plus B centers.

Lakeside Science and Technology Park in Klagenfurt. © Johannes Puch