Austrian Business Agency has already been to Budapest in february at the StartUs conference, talking about the opportunities for Hungarian startups in Austria. ABA – Invest in Austria, the national investment promotion company, is the first point of contact for foreign companies aiming to establish their own business in Austria.

The interviewee, Brigit is an investment expert, offering professional consulting to foreign companies. She is focused on advising companies from Central and Eastern European countries wishing to start business in Austria.

invest in austria3Could you introduce the ABA and its pursuit in a few sentences?

We are the national investment promotion company and the first point of contact for investors and startups aiming to establish their business in Austria. Our service is owned and operated by the Republic of Austria and we directly report to the Austrian Ministry of Science, Research and Economy – hence you can get all relevant info in one place. Our services are free of charge.

We also consult international investors on all location-related issues, provide information about Austria as a business location and proactively target potential investors, which is how we have established a broad pool of contacts including investors, accelerators and incubators.

What are the main benefits that can help people to make decisions and tighten their business relationship with Austria?

Especially for startups Austria offers the following advantages:

  • the right startup ecosystem – a differentiated funding system, from outstanding early stage funding to internationalization
  • a strong support network of incubators, accelerators, startup clusters, coworking spaces and cooperation with corporates
  • active business angel scene, new crowdfunding law
  • large events such as the Pioneers Festival make international companies and investors aware of what’s going on the startup front
  • high educational level from a technical perspective
  • the “public limited company with a privileged amount of share capital“, facilitating the setting up of companies by requiring only EUR 5,000 as a minimum cash contribution instead of EUR 17,500
  • highest quality of life at affordable costs, strong international community in Vienna

Do you find the region open to build their business in Austria even though the corporate tax is just as high as in other countries? 

I think for startups the critical factor is the overall „ecosystem“, access to financing, subsidy programs and support rather than the level of corporate tax. Take the Scandinavian countries – all high tax countries and nevertheless they are considered frontrunners in innovation and technological drive. Austria is certainly not a low tax country, at the same time the „return on taxes“ – what companies get in return for their taxes – is worth a lot: excellent infrastructure, social security, stability, good healthcare and educational systems. Austria spends a lot on Research & Development. The American business magazine Forbes selected Austria as one of seven startup hotspots in Europe.

FinTech seems to be a huge thing nowadays. Do you specifically look for startups/companies in particular sectors or you’re open to anyone who’s interested in starting a business in Austria?

We are naturally happy to consult any startup or company that is interested in starting a business in Austria. However, Austria and Vienna have emerged as startup hubs, especially in the field of information technology, media and life sciences as well as creative industries. Some successful FinTech startups like Number 26 have got Austrian roots (the founders are Austrian) or developed in Austria. Wikifolio, for example, took advantage of the favorable funding landscape we have in Austria through the research promotion agency (FFG) and then found prominent business angels and investors to conquer the DACH markets. Others like „Baningo“ or „Bluecode“  – to mention just a few Austrian startups –  are on their way up.

How easy is it to assimilate to the business mentality in Austria when you come from abroad?

Austrian and CEE business mentality is close and borders are vanishing. Especially in the Vienna region you will find many Austrians with migrational background from various parts of Eastern and South Eastern Europe. Vienna is a melting pot and as the seat of many international organizations and regional headquarters of multinational companies it boasts strong international communities.

 

invest in austria2Why do you think that Austrian companies invest more (based on a SAP survey) in IT than the competitors?

The backbone of the Austrian economy are small and medium sized companies, often highly specialized, global or regional market leaders in their niches. These companies, in order to remain competitive, know very well that the only way is to constantly work on efficiency and productivity gains and to invest heavily in research and development. Hence, topics like industry 4.0 or Internet of Things are big in Austria. And there are incentives available from the government to invest in further R&D to encourage the digitalization of the economy and to support the companies to come up with new innovative products and solutions.

People consider the Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv, Bangalore and London as the biggest tech capitals. Do you think Austria could be as big as they are in the CEE region (Austria is often included in CEE)?

150 years ago Austria was the creative melting pot of Europe. And Austria has got many prerequisites for once again becoming an important player. What I mean here is not Austria as an isolated entity, but Austria and especially Vienna as a bridgehead for the wider region. The Vienna-Brno-Bratislava-Budapest area can be a real innovation hub, in many respects it is already. The focus must be on cooperation and a joint strategy for helping startups from the region to conquer international markets.

What are your thoughts and previsions for the CEE area IT-wise in general?

The digital transformation of the economy will continue with full speed. Information and communication technology plays a leading role in this change. Austria and the CEE region has got a good set of prerequisites, there are a number of „hidden champions“ that have emerged in the IT sector from the region. The focus must be on ensuring the right business framework for further innovation to take place and cooperation in the region to answer the global challenge of competitiveness.

 

 

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