Slovak Start-Up Mania

In the last few years, the compound word “start-up” has established itself in the Slovak language and is successfully edging out the original term – “a beginning entrepreneur”. A start-up, a start-uper, the start-up scene, a start-up strategy, a start-up investment – the media are packed to the rafters with such collocations. This is not a coincidence. The change in our vocabulary reflects the greater attention paid to the segment of beginning entrepreneurs.

It wasn´t always that way. That is why years ago we decided to help young entrepreneurs who, at that time, had set up the Young Entrepreneurs Association of Slovakia. We focused on their specific problems and one of the results of our effort was the formation of the Business Angels Club, an investment network which brings actual results. It is also due to the club´s activity that start-ups have much greater opportunities to access non-banking financial resources than a few years ago – this is the case of venture capital. However, the measures which are being prepared will allocate a significant amount of public funds, especially those provided by the EU what leads to greater activity of the responsible governmental departments, namely the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Economy. And their involvement makes sense. The responsibility of the Ministry of Economy is derived from the statutory law and from the existence of its agency – the Slovak Business Agency. The SBA specializes in supporting small and medium businesses. Given the circumstances, it has the best staff and adequate mindset to be able to successfully meet the needs of beginning entrepreneurs.

Unfortunately, a discussion about how to best make use of the huge pile of money which is being prepared, has not taken place yet. As a result, we have set the wrong priorities. Let’s make a football analogy: In the next few years, we will have enough money to buy a start-up Messi or Ronaldo. However, in order for a Messi or a Ronalado to become football stars, the football industry has an elaborate system of developing and nurturing young talents. Slovakia lacks a system which would take care of business talents. Just take a look on how the education system deals with entrepreneurship at all levels of schools. What are we doing to support the entrepreneurial eagerness of students and their teachers at technical schools and universities? What action have we taken to create and develop investment networks?

Everyone would like to reap the benefits easily and invest in ready-made start-up stars. But there are still not a lot of start-ups in Slovakia and among them, many are often not prepared to operate with the sums which are quite easily accessible. Instead of showering them with EU funds, we should get down to the dirty work of building a system of finding and raising talented entrepreneurs, the lack of which is widely ignored. Otherwise, we are deemed to endless lamenting about a situation in which we have the money but what we don’t have are suitable projects which could be supported.

Translation: Richard Kramár

Jan Oravec