Boosting the Slovak Startup Ecosystem
Hannes Leo was the rapporteur of the study and contributed to the analysis.
The study follows the logic of EU Policy Support Facility projects. The group of experts travelled twice to Bratislava to discuss the startup ecosystem with stakeholders and had a follow on meeting about one year after the end of the study to assess progress made.
Slovakia has a budding but working startup ecosystem made up of mostly private actors. The resources available through structural funds should be used to leverage existing structures and building framework and institutional conditions for increased networking, monitoring and understanding of the evolution of the startup ecosystem.
The PSF is managed by Technolpolis Belgium. The study group was chaired by Paulo Andrez. Sigrid Johannisse (Netherlands) and Jari Romanainen (Finland) were contributing experts.
The purpose of the original report was to answer the questions posed by the Slovak government to the expert panel on how overhaul the business environment to promote entrepreneurship and start-ups, how to improve the incubation/acceleration system and attract investors to create new incubators/accelerators and how to establish and implement a transparent and effective scheme to support business angels.
The report answered these questions but went further by developing more holistic recommendations aimed at managing the start-up ecosystem. It stressed that the start-up ecosystem has to be managed if it is to have an impact: focusing on isolated measures to stimulate segments of the ecosystem might do more harm than good and lead to unbalanced developments.
The sums allocated from the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) to support the Slovak start-up ecosystem are substantial compared to the (domestic) resources that have been invested so far. As a result, it is difficult to manage this process in line with the country’s absorptive capacity and to avoid crowding out private initiatives. Slovakia will effectively start implementing the first measures in 2018, which means that the time available to spend these large resources is further compressed, risking overstretching the absorptive capacities of the start-up ecosystem, and thereby reducing the potential impact substantially.
There seems to be perceived tradeoff for decision makers between supporting bottom up initiatives that have overall worked well and constitute the Slovak startup ecosystem vis a vis public actors that want to be part of the action too. Public institutions operate at arms lengths making it easier to manage the process but may not come with the armamentarium to efficiently and effectively manage the startup ecosystem.
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The team returned after about one year to assess the impact of the first report. Given that Slovakia held the presidency during that year, the challenges to implement the recommendations laid out in the report were substantial.
The purpose of the original report was to answer the following questions posed by the Slovak government to the expert panel:
- How should the business environment be improved to promote entrepreneurship and start-ups and boost business investments in research and innovation?
- How can Slovakia improve the incubation/acceleration system and attract investors to create new incubators/accelerators?
- How can the country establish and implement a transparent and effective scheme to support business angels?
See how Slovakia managed the situation.