ABC – Acceleration Business City – Accelerator is an acceleration engine that pushes new businesses and startups to greater heights, by providing services such as mentorship, management training, an initial investment and office space in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The vision of the incubator is to establish South-Eastern Europe as a region of innovation. The incubator travelled to Luxembourg at the end of November to discover Luxembourg’s vibrant startup ecosystem and attend Silicon Capital’s event. We got the chance to meet Co-founder and COO, Urška Jež.
How did you come up with the idea to bring 15 startups to Luxembourg?
Since the entrepreneurship spirit can be felt in Luxembourg, we decided that it might be a good fit for our startups to test the local entrepreneurial activity. At ABC Accelerator we strive to connect our startups on a global basis, and we never forget the importance of collaborating with other European countries. We also wanted to profile and promote our startups and the entrepreneurial activity of Slovenia in Luxembourg in order to connect our startups with investors – VC funds and business angels – outside of our country. We were invited to Luxembourg by the Luxembourg-Slovenian Business Club A.s.b.l., a central player in helping promote relations and encouraging networking between businesses in Slovenia/the SEE region and Luxembourg/the Greater Region. The association plays a strategic role in helping Slovenian startups breakthrough into global markets, through established partnerships with partners in Luxembourg. We wanted to give as many startups in Slovenia the opportunity to come to Luxembourg. Therefore, in addition to bringing our current batch of startups from our incubator, we also carefully selected five other startups, which are not directly involved with the accelerator, but which we felt also present Slovenia at its best.
What do you think about Luxembourg’s startup ecosystem?
We see the Luxembourg startup ecosystem as being committed to its startups and providing a real ecosystem to prosper. From public to private engagement, it seems like the Luxembourg government takes care of providing incubators that are helping facilitate startups’ growth. Recently, we were introduced to the “One Euro” scheme, which provides a legal framework to support the development of startups, without the heavy capital requirements. We believe this initiative, along with the RDI aid schemes and Young Innovative Enterprise grants, which were introduced by law firm Luther and business incubator Lux Future Lab, will help boost the startup ecosystem.
Are you in touch with incubators, accelerators or partners in Luxembourg already?
ABC Accelerator had the opportunity to visit the Lux Future Lab, an incubator founded by a major bank to help grow companies – which it does very successfully. In its current portfolio, there are companies that the incubator helped grow from one person to sixty. The Luxembourg branch of the law firm Luther Law held a presentation for us, explaining their special offers tailored to startups’ needs and the perks of being headquartered in Luxembourg. This is our first Luxembourg connection, but since we attended Silicon Capital’s event, we have managed to already connect with Luxembourg’s community of VCs, business angels and potential partners for us, as well as for our startups. We are actively working on nurturing and developing our new connections, since we found we share a common point: the pride of being international and taking care of the startup ecosystems outside of our countries as well as within.
The Slovenian and Luxembourg ecosystems are quite similar. We have nearly the same set of issues and are facing many of the same problems. However, our strengths and weaknesses in general don’t collide, and it is only logical to work together to create a healthy, strong ecosystem that provides possibilities for young companies to be mentored, supported and grow.
What did you expect from Silicon Capital’s event? What is your immediate feedback?
The point of attending Silicon Capital´s event was to network and include our startups in an event where they could interact and network with investors in a more relaxed environment compared with the usual stressful pitch scenario. Connecting ideas with capital, the founders of Silicon Capital brought together 15 top entrepreneurs and investors in an innovative way to help support both sides of the startup community. We already feel that the event was beneficial to all of our entrepreneurs.
“One very rarely sees an event where startups have an opportunity to talk with investors on level grounds – the interaction is usually one-sided – startups try hard to get the attention of investors, who are seemingly uninterested. However, when one ensures real pre-selection, the atmosphere changes, and also the investor side becomes eager to talk,” added Jakob Gajšek, Co-founder, Head of Venture Relations.
As far as startups are concerned, ABC is pleased that Silicon Luxembourg’s team organized this opportunity to talk to investors in a different environment.
“I would say that our trip to Luxembourg to meet the investors was quite productive – most of them understood our company’s vision very well and accepted it with a lot of enthusiasm. We’ve created many successful first contacts,” commented Miha Pulko, CEO and founder of Krip.to. His company provides instant transferring, automated trading and arbitrage between different cryptocurrency exchanges.
ABC was very impressed with the whole concept of the event, and hopes to continue to collaborate with Silicon Capital in the future.
What do you see as the common traits between the startup ecosystems of Slovenia and Luxembourg?
The Slovenian and Luxembourg ecosystems are quite similar. We have nearly the same set of issues and are facing many of the same problems. However, our strengths and weaknesses in general don’t collide, and it is only logical to work together to create a healthy, strong ecosystem that provides possibilities for young companies to be mentored, supported and grow. Slovenia’s startup scene, just like Luxembourg’s, has grown a lot in recent years. Europe’s startup community has become much more competitive with Silicon Valley. In the smaller European countries we really dig deep, searching for the best talent, and now, more than ever before, these startups from Slovenia and Luxembourg have a much higher chance to access the global market. Startups in both countries innovate in diverse sectors, ranging from health to fintech, and are constantly striving to find better solutions to improve people’s lives. The Slovenian government sees the benefits of supporting the startup ecosystem. Luxembourg’s government has also recognized the importance of supporting startups and the positive impact that nurturing the startup ecosystem can have on diversifying and boosting the country’s economy.