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PODIM is strengthening Maribor’s role amongst second-tier cities

More than 900 organized 1:1 meetings between startups & scaleups, investors, and established companies’ representatives, collaboration for establishing partnerships, and meetings that are strengthening Maribor’s role amongst second-tier cities, are the highlights of this year’s PODIM Conference, already the 39th in a row.

Almost a thousand participants has once again enjoyed networking, experience exchange and learning from the best.

PODIM, which has established itself as the most influential startup & tech event in the Alps-Adriatic and Western Balkans regions, has been taking place between 20 and 22 May in Maribor, where it offered startups & scaleups, established companies, investors and other startup ecosystem stakeholders an excellent opportunity to network, learn from the best, exchange experiences, and establish contact with potential business partners. At the same time, PODIM’s activities are strengthening Maribor’s role amongst second-tier cities. 

The report by Startup Europe Partnership, launched last November by the European Parliament, reveals that over the next couple of years in Europe, about 50 big cities will dominate in the field of innovation in the economy, while smaller cities, so-called second-tier startup cities, will be threatened by marginalization, thus increasing the gap between first-tier and second-tier cities.

PODIM’s activities are strengthening Maribor’s role amongst second-tier cities.

Initiatives are crucial for the future of Europe

“Strengthened collaborations between metropolises and regions are very important to strengthen the European economy as a whole. The goal for companies/start-ups as well cities must be to connect, benefit from each other, and live out the idea of an European or global market,” Gabriele Tatzberger, Head of Start-up Services at Vienna Business Agency, this year’s PODIM Partner, says.

She adds that start-ups and young companies are an important driver for the city of Vienna and they are shaping the workplaces of the future: “On average, a start-up in Vienna creates 9.4 jobs. These young companies are the originators of new ideas and innovation processes. We deliberately encourage exchange and cooperation between traditional Viennese companies, young start-ups, and global players.”

PODIM Genesis, the whole new concept of developing innovative ideas, has impressed participants from startups and corporations.

“Initiatives such as Startup Europe Partnership, which are addressing political priorities for the future of Europe, are crucial because they are helping to implement the idea of one Europe, where knowledge and capital can be the lever for establishing a network where countries as well as cities are involved. I agree that it is necessary to encourage the development of entrepreneurship, and with that I also mean startup and scaleup companies, not only in capitals but also in other regions and cities,” said mag. Aleš Cantarutti, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology (MGRT).

As an example of excellent connections in the region with the goal of joint strategies, he mentioned the Italian delegation, which came to this year’s PODIM on the initiative of the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology. “I can also highlight the extensive collaboration between Carinthia and Startup Europe networks of Central & Eastern Europe, and Startup Europe of Western Balkans, which are introducing themselves at PODIM,” added the state secretary.

Because the current concentration – 476 European cities have at least one scaleup, a tenth of these cities (48) has altogether 3759 scaleup companies – does not reflect the current distribution of GDP and population, he thinks that PODIM is an important event for the startup environment and startups as well as the city of Maribor, which belongs amongst so-called second-tier cities.

Expert for augumanted reality David Rose, a lecturer at MIT Media Lab and vice president of Warby Parker, the biggest online optics, has once again impressed the PODIM crowd.

At the PODIM Conference in 2017, the startup ecosystem presented the challenges faced by startups, and the Slovenian government supported their suggestions and confirmed the Action Plan Slovenia – The Land of Startups. The current government continues their collaboration within this action plan, highlighted the state secretary and added: “Besides eliminating regulative and administrative obstacles, we are also financially supporting startup companies through the Slovene Enterprise Fund.”

Enough support for at least 300 new and young companies in the next five years 

“In the second half of 2019, once again after 2017, a line of seed capital will be again available for young innovative companies, enabling them to breakthrough and quickly expand on the market. Up to 2023, around 13 million euros of public capital will be available to young innovative companies within the seed capital line, which is twice as much as in the first financial perspective.

These funds will be invested into companies together with business angels, seed capital funds and corporations. Private investors will add at least 13 million euros. Consequently, around 26 million euros of capital for at least 80 young innovative companies with global growth potential will be available for the entire period within the seed line,” announced the director of the Slovene Enterprise Fund, mag. Maja Tomanič Vidovič.

The Slovene Enterprise Fund is planning to use startup funds, intended for new companies before they receive seed capital, to support around 200 new innovative startups that will come into existence until the year 2023. To penetrate global markets, at least 35 million euros will be invested in young companies with global growth potential with venture capital, taking place through the Central European Fund of Funds. Chosen venture capital funds will invest into the companies.

Altogether through all three lines, at least 300 new and young companies will be supported over the next five years with these financing lines, with altogether 32 million euros of public funds, which will encourage at least 45 million euros of additional private funds.

At least 300 new and young companies will be supported over the next five years with these financing lines, with altogether 32 million euros of public funds, which will encourage at least 45 million euros of additional private funds.

If we only take the year 2019, the Slovene Enterprise Fund will – through P2 grants, seed capital and venture capital – offer startups and young companies 3.46 million euros of financial incentives, which will encourage at least 2.08 million euros of private investment, representing altogether 5.54 million euros of invested public and private funds into around 52 young innovative and development-oriented companies.

Krisztina Toth, president and cofounder of Startup Europe Central & Eastern Europe and Startup Europe Western Balkans networks, highlighted the construction of these two networks, whose goal is to coordinate startup programmes and actions as well as mutually exchange best practices for a unified performance of European programmes. “The fragmentation of ecosystems that otherwise face similar challenges has encouraged us to build strong, connected networks of Central & Eastern Europe and Western Balkans. Their goal is to coordinate programmes and actions, to mutually exchange best practices, to have a unified performance in European programmes, and to offer a platform that is also interesting for big stakeholders.”

The new Silicon Gardens Fund II officially presented at PODIM

Strengthening the ecosystem is bringing fresh capital of two new venture capital funds into the broader region as well as Slovenia. Gregor Rebolj, Jugo Petković, Andraž Tori, Luka Renko and Luka Ferlan with the Silicon Gardens team took advantage of this year’s PODIM to present the new Silicon Gardens Fund II, through which about 5 million euros will be invested into the national startup environment, with possible additional investments by individual angels. “The money we ensured for SGF II stems from successful Slovenian startup stories. A big advantage of our fund is good integration into the startup community and experience with the challenges faced by entrepreneurs,” said Gregor Rebolj about the fund, where entrepreneurs use their own money to help other entrepreneurs on their business journey. In the past, partners have, amongst others, established companies Cosylab, Flaviar, Iconomi, Klika/Sportradar, Mimovrste, Outfit7 and Zemanta.

The Croatian Fil Rouge Capital will invest 42 million euros into Croatian startups and scaleups over the next five years, until the end of the year 2023. “We are already accepting applications for our first accelerator programme, and we see PODIM as a platform for an overview of good investment opportunities,” said Julien Coustaury, Fil Rouge Capital partner.

Sergej Prosen, cofounder and CEO of Biometrika, incubated in Venture Factory, the business incubator of the University of Maribor, was happy to present the investment of the Hungarian investment fund SmartWare.tech into their company, which is developing Armbeep, an analytical platform for tennis players.

“The new investment will enable us to finalize product development and launch to the market, because we found the contact with our investors in the past at PODIM,” said Sergej Prosen, whose company also received Slovene Enterprise Fund’s P2 startup grant for innovative young companies with potential for growth. Biometrika also introduced itself at this year’s Startup Olé in Salamanca as a participant within the MyGateway project, whose partner in Slovenia is Start:up Slovenia as a founding member. 

PODIM Genesis and PODIM Deal Room stand out

Urban Lapajne, PODIM team member and Start:up Slovenia community coordinator, highlighted the peaks of this year’s conference for startups & scaleups, investors, and the representatives of big companies, with which PODIM is answering the increasingly strong trend of collaborations between startups and established companies. “Established companies as well as startups recognize the incredible benefits of successful collaborations, which is why we established excellent conditions for encouraging such collaboration,” said Urban Lapajne.

PODIM Genesis is an innovative three-hour workshop that’s based on open innovation and design sprint execution.

The newest addition to PODIM is PODIM Genesis, an innovative three-hour workshop that’s based on open innovation and design sprint execution, which enables a structured and goal focused debate between chosen attendees – startups, corporate representatives and domain experts. It’s something that is practically impossible to find anywhere else, as the concept was developed in the teams of PODIM and the Vienna-based WhatAVenture, event partner. 

Startup & scaleup representatives will work with established companies’ representatives and domain experts to find and develop breakthrough ideas in banking (fintech), insurance (insurtech), culture, technology and business, smart cities, agriculture, foodtech, smart workplace and cleantech.

PODIM Deal Room with more than 900 1:1 meetings has proven to become a huge hit, which has taken the excellent PODIM networking to even higher level.

With help of the Deal Room Events software from Finland, we will raise the organization of business meetings at the event to a completely new levels and, as the organizers say, offer 365 days of meetings in only 2 days. Deal Room improves the quality of the meetings, their effectiveness and organization. Startups & scaleups, investors and corporate representatives can guarantee up to 30 one-on-one meetingsin only two days.

“We are especially proud that nearly half of the chosen startups and scaleups are in the growth stage, meaning they are present on the market and generating revenue, which makes them even more interesting for established companies and venture capital funds,” says Urban Lapajne from the PODIM team.

“PODIM is an excellent event that you should definitely attend. It is truly wonderful to see young entrepreneurs at the beginning of their journey, as PODIM is an opportunity for them to show off and ‘measure’ their business idea in front of a broader public,” says dr. Jure Knez, president and cofounder of the high-tech company DEWESoft, partner of PODIM. Knez is aware of the power of partnerships: “We could not develop as much technology by ourselves as we can in collaboration with partner companies.”

Robert Gfrerer, CEO of build! Gründerzentrum Kärnten, that accompanies founders from the idea to their own company, says for the region: “To be visible at our location to others in the world – from Shenzen to Silicon Valley – we have to put all our forces together in the Alpe Adria Region. This enables us to be highly visible on the maps of investors and other industry partners. Co-operation, co-branding and doing business together is the requirement for our visibility on the globe.”

“Carinthia has undergone massive development over the past few years – we have made the enormous step forwards from a popular tourist region to an internationally recognised business location. Carinthia provides young entrepreneurs with the ideal infrastructure for their ventures,” Jernej Dvoršak, M.A., International Investment Promotion at BABEG Carinthian Agency for Investment Promotion, points out.

“Startups are showing new features compared to other Italian firms in their early stages: they are bigger and extremely innovative, develop business in high technology sectors and are used to compete in the world markets since their birth,” says Serenella Marzoli, Director of Ljubljana office of Italian Trade Agency, which promotes business opportunities, supporting Italian companies and their innovative force.

Startups as an opportunity for digital transformation 

By collaborating with startups and scaleups, established companies can improve their business operations with a decrease in costs and increase in value added, strengthen their position on the market by marketing improved existing and new products, take advantage of new technologies, improve existing business models, and increase the entrepreneurial culture, which is already built into the startup DNA.

“Big corporations learn about established innovation concepts faster together with startups. Startups are throwing us out of our comfort zones, but we still feel better with them than without them, because they know how to react faster and more skilfully,” says Miha Pahulje, member of the management board of Zavarovalnica Sava, partner of PODIM.

Mariano Kostelec (Uniplaces) in Stephan Schambach (NewStore) are experts on scaling a startup.

“The corporate culture is definitely changing in the direction of increasing the startup mentality, where the main player is competitiveness on the market, dictated by the market offer, customer needs and cost effectiveness in developing, industrializing and commercializing products,” dr. Roman Kužnar, Head of Iskratel’s corporate startup program, adding: “Of course, we aren’t turning corporate culture and processes upside down. Since we are still working on the markets of incredibly demanding B2B customers, it is crucial for us to keep the company robust, which is reflected in the effectiveness of our processes and the ability of the company to ensure, in set deadlines, cost-effective industrialization and commercialization of a high-quality product that has come from the development laboratory.”

Can you imagine, what your shopping experience of the future will be?

An interesting novelty of this year’s conference is also the PODIM Future Store, established by the Maribor startup Agitron, where startups & scaleups can join forces and introduce how the shopping experience of the future will look like, taking into account numerous solutions that startups developed by themselves.

PODIM Future Store offered an insight on how the shopping experience of the future will look like.

Centre for creativity (CzK) is PODIM partner as well, interdisciplinary platform, which is connecting, promoting, representing and supporting activities and development of cultural and creative sector in Slovenia and actively connects it with the economy, science, education and other sectors. “The role of entrepreneurship is getting more and more recognized by the creative sector, and, on the other hand, the entrepreneurs are realizing the value of creative sector for development of entrereprenurship,” says Mika Cimolini, Head of program at Centre for creativity.

Centre for creativity (CzK) is connecting, promoting, representing and supporting activities and development of cultural and creative sector in Slovenia and actively connects it with the economy.

PODIM is strengthening established partnership networks, based on trust and good reputation, based on decades of tradition. That is also one of the reasons why we were joined in Maribor by representatives of European startup networks of Central and Eastern Europe and Western Balkans. Additionally, the event is this year supported by the European Investment Bank with the European Investment Fund and the European Commission, joining as partners.

PODIM Marketplace has once again exhibited startups’ and scalups’ products.

The EIB is the largest venture debt investor in Europe with EUR 600 million per year in long-term financing for highly innovative companies. Since 2015, they have financed more than 80 companies with EUR 1.8 billion and mobilised circa 16 billion euro in additional investments in European R&D. This support is expected to create more than 25,500 high skilled jobs.

“The EIB Group can offer European SMEs and innovative companies a wide range of services. From intermediated debt-financing, risk-sharing, venture capital to numerous private equity instruments designed to improve financing conditions, the EIB Group can help companies access finance to develop their businesses,” an EIB representative says.

Hurra Studios is the Slovenian Startup of the year 2019

Every year, this year for the 12th year in a row, PODIM is also the stage for the final award ceremony for the Slovenian Startup of the Year, which highlights the best Slovenian startups. Sileo, Ollo, Lake, Hurra Studios and Hopalai were the startup companies that were contending for the prestigious title Slovenian Startup of the Year.

This year, the Award went into the hands of Hurra Studios, a startup creating Hooray Heros (Mali junaki), personalized children’s books where the customer can define the name, gender and appearance of the main character.

“The feelings are incredible, we are very happy,” said Rado Daradan after receiving the big crystal statues. Rado created Hooray Heros (Mali Junaki) together with Mic Melanšek who reminisced that the idea for personalized books actually came into existence between two friends who went for a beer.

Hurra Studios’ team was happy to have won the Slovene start-up of the year Award.

At the beginning, to ensure better recognizability in creating Mali junaki stories, the team also attracted Feri Lainšček and other well-known literary names. Today, the team counts more than 100 individuals, 25 of which attended tonight’s final ceremony, receiving the decision about the winner with big enthusiasm.

A stable team is the company’s goal, said Rado and Mic. At the beginning, they were having difficulties convincing investors, but the company’s potential was recognized by investor Nina Dremelj and her Swiss investment fund AlpVent invested into the company.

So far, the Horray Heros (Mali junaki) team has made nearly 1.000.000 kids and their parents happy, and this number will rise to 1.5 million by the end of the year. In two years, their traffic grew by 82 times. The company obtained their product confirmation on six markets, where they are also leading in the segment. These markets are Slovenia, Italy, Austria, France, Germany and the US. They are currently preparing to conquer the British market, and have plans with Canada and Australia in the nearby future.

The winner of PODIM Challenge is AdScanner

At this year’s conference in the Habakuk Hotel, more than 150 startups & scaleups from 33 countries are networking. Their maturity level positively deviates from the previous years, as half of them are already successfully marketing working products and have so far obtained 45 million euros of investments.

A business meeting with them represents an excellent opportunity for Slovenian and regional established companies to come to PODIM and find their lean and agile business partner, who will bring fresh views on business into their operations and can represent an opportunity for their digital transformation.

Careful selection of the startups, who applied for the PODIM Challenge pitching competition, has given 20 semi-finalists and then 5 finalists, whose pitches on the PODIM main stage, have been the grand finale of this year’s PODIM.

The winner of the PODIM Challenge, Croatian startup AdScanner, gets a one-week all-inclusive networking package in London as well as the use of the TMRW coworking space for six team members for one year.

The pitching jury was utmost convinced by the Croatian AdScanner, who offers a TV DMP solution for data-driven TV advertising and control in order to help optimize their clients’ TV strategies, stay on top of their competitors’ activities and deliver a higher degree of transparency and speed overall in the TV ad ecosystem. 

The potential of the company has been recognised by venture capital fund South Central Ventures, whose investment rised the capital of the company from 0.8 to 2.7 million euros.

The AdScanner team will get one-week all-inclusive networking program in London, and TMRW, the PODIM partner, will give one year free office space for 6 members of the team in TMRW, south London’s Nr. 1 tech workspace.

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