Although small in size, Slovenia has a vibrant start-up community which has evolved greatly since the beginnings of Zemanta. When thinking of its brightest stars, one cannot bypass a sensation such as Outfit 7, whose apps have been downloaded more than three billion times and ware just recently sell to China investors for more than US $1 billion. Celtra, the developer of a platform for rich-media mobile ads, which has achieved success in the US, Great Britain and even Japan; Lyst, a Slovenian-British high fashion start-up that has attracted more than EUR 36m in financing; Bitstamp, which is at the forefront of bitcoin exchanges; 4th Office, that offers mobile office solutions; Bellabeat, which enables its users to track a pregnancy, was voted the best medical start-up; and Uniplaces, the Airbnb for student accommodation and which netted the biggest investment last year of EUR 22m.
Slovenian start-ups have come a long way since their beginnings. Zemanta, for instance, managed to sell its editorial assistant and related posts technology to Sovrn. Many have found a way to become financially independent and others have found ways to attract investors. Slovenian startups raised over $120m last year – twice as much as in 2014 – and have even sparked interest from China. The amount of investment has doubled in each of last two years and is set to surpass the total amount invested in Slovenian start-ups from 2007 to 2015 of US $270m in the not too distant future.
Getting venture capital is not insurance for success as a company Although we all like to read about young entrepreneurs who take the market by storm with new and advanced technology to become billionaires, the real numbers are bleak. One in 10 start-ups fail. Among those that get venture capital investment, only one in four become successful, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Yet some do succeed and being interesting enough to attract investors must count for something. Emotech, a start-up co-founded by Slovenian Jan Medvešek, managed to get second round funding of EUR 10m last summer. Emotech and its smart assistant, Olly, who learns its owner’s habits and uses that knowledge to give better suggestions or user experience be it in smart home solutions and appliances, audio and video components and other unmanned systems, has great potential. It tries to tap into the growing global market of the Internet of Things (IoT) that connects around four billion consumers of devices and generates more than $540bn of revenue. Research and advisory group, Gartner, estimates that the global consumer market for the Internet of Things will be worth more than $1,500bn by 2020.
Seeking opportunities on the IoT market is Kolektor through its Kolektor Venture Fund, which made its first seed capital investment in the start-up, Smart Optometry, which specializes in apps that help specialists test eyesight.
Slovenian entrepreneurs have long been known for bringing innovative and commercially viable ideas to the market. One of them is GoAvio (by start-up Nizkocenovci), an award winning online travel platform which allows users to search, explore and discover low-cost flights in Europe and across the globe. It combines flights, trains, and buses to find cheaper routes between cities. The company that brought in EUR 100,000 of revenues last year, but hopes that revenues grow to a whopping EUR 15m this year.
Most young start-ups are far from those numbers. Reveel, an app that helps you find and buy a product you see on TV or in print, for instance, got $2m of funding but is yet to crack 1,000 downloads on the Google Play store. Many are collecting awards but are still trying to find the market for their product such as the award winning start-up, TAFR, which makes smart robots who tend to vines and vineyards. Some have already found it such as GINA, a smart coffee instrument with a built-in scale and an app that enables different ways to brew coffee. The second project of GOAT Story already has more than 1,700 backers on Kickstarter, who have pledged $345,000.