The European Young Innovators Forum supports young entrepreneurs, innovators and ecosystem builders across Europe and through our blog we aim to make their voices heard and connect them to our community.
This week we have the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Oliver Csendes, CEO at Pioneers.io, the organisers of Pioneers’18 – one of the largest and most important startup events in Austria and in Europe.
Before joining Pioneers in 2015, Oliver spent six years as a Country Managing Director of multiple subsidiary companies of the Novomatic Group in different management positions in CEE. Raised in Hungary, Slovakia and Austria, he has also worked in portfolio management, consultancy and as a Lecturer at FH Wien der WKW. He holds both a Master Degree in International Marketing and Management from Vienna University of Economics and Business and an MBA from Oxford University, completed in 2017.
– In your opinion what is the current state of the tech & startup ecosystem in Austria? What do you think is lacking at the moment in terms of opportunities?
The ecosystem has evolved significantly since Pioneers started organising events in 2009. Today there are plenty of events of different sizes and technological areas, attractive opportunities for early-stage funding, as well as an evolving VC-scene. Big corporations offer interesting opportunities for collaboration and are actively looking to accelerate the development of the ecosystem. Co-working and lab spaces are increasingly present and offer a good breeding ground for startups.
What Austria is lacking are international VCs as well as labs and specialised infrastructure for hardware and deep tech startups. The promotion of university spin-offs would also have a positive effect on the ecosystem. Specialisation and thought leadership in selected areas could help the evolution of an ecosystem that can compete on a global scale. Tax incentives for investors could help to activate idle capital in wealthy private trusts.
– How is Austria supporting young entrepreneurs and what special facilities they find here?
Quality of living, education as well as ease of doing business are definitely strengths Austria has to offer. Furthermore, there are good opportunities for early-stage startups to receive funding from public organisations promoting entrepreneurial initiatives. FFG, Austria Wirtschaftsservice, ABA Invest in Austria, the Global Incubator Network and many others.
– What is the main focus for this year’s edition of the Pioneers’18?
The theme of Pioneers´18 is “ B L U R R E D F R O N T I E R S ”, referring to the ever–fuzzier boundaries between humanity and technology as well as reflecting the complexity of today’s business environment where industries, value chains and business models don’t follow traditional paths studied and documented a few decades, or years ago.
– What are the main challenges for the entrepreneurs in Vienna and how does the flagship event and Pioneers network / Pioneers’18 address them?
The main challenge is finding the right partners when it comes to funding and scaling the business. Pioneers gives entrepreneurs the network to succeed. Whether it is giving them exposure, mentoring or connecting them with funding opportunities or enabling them to tap into the infrastructure, resources and market access of big corporations, our startups are very thankful for the support they get from our amazing team and broad network.
We are pleased that the winning startup of P500 program of Pioneers’17, Stromkind just announced a few weeks ago further success in the shape of the Joint Development Agreement they’ve signed with the China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC), for developing autonomous electric technology solutions. The deal signed in Beijing (above) is another sign that our Pioneers Challenge Award judges were right about the relevance of autonomous technology for sea and ocean applications – and an indication of the doors that our flagship event can open.
“Winning the Pioneers Challenge Award was a strong signal to our corporate partners, creating trust in Stromkind’s team and technology”, says Hans Waldherr, Partner at Stromkind. “Without this, it wouldn’t have been possible for us to partner with such corporate giants in the maritime and autonomous segments on a global scale in such a short time. Pioneers was also particularly helpful for us to talk with US investors and corporations. We’ve already learned a lot from this and will be investigating a US strategy”.
– If you were to compare the ecosystem in Austria with the one in Hungary, what would you say are the differences?
Austria has more VCs and of course – also thanks to Pioneers Discover, our consultancy arm – stronger and more fruitful collaborations with corporations of different sizes and in different industries. I also think that there are more media outlets focusing on tech and entrepreneurship and also the awareness of the mass media is bigger.
On the other hand, the role of the government in Hungary is strongly leading to a more structured approach of mentoring and funding of startups. Hopefully, these initiatives will have a multiplicator effect and fuel private initiatives to create a sustainable and competitive ecosystem.
– How would you describe the level of engagement between startups and corporates in Vienna and what trends have you noticed so far?
The level of engagement is relatively high and still increasing, despite the disappointments some collaborations brought about. Pioneers Discover has delivered more than 80 projects in the area of corporate open innovation ranging from scouting projects to designing and co-managing complex incubation and co-creation processes. The most important trend is that most corporations realised that without top management support, careful definition of goals and the necessary infrastructure and internal processes that enable a speedy execution, engagement with startups will not have a long-lasting significant effect on their innovation strategies. They might result in advantages for employer branding, inspiration or short-term business development, but will not improve the adaptive efficiency of the organisation.
Take part of the award-winning annual gathering of a community of 2500 bold, pioneering entrepreneurs from around the world in the magnificent 500-year-old Hofburg Imperial Palace in Vienna between 24-25th of May!
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