Startup Scene: “Can Learn Much from Britain”
Many startups and young entrepreneurs dream of success in California’s Silicon Valley or in the USA. But this is no easy undertaking, and hopes are often dashed by the inability to get a visa. Because of this, London is a stopover on the way to global expansion for many. An initiative of the Federal Economic Chambers now wants to help startups there achieve their breakthrough.
After Go Silicon Valley, which sends a selected group of Austrian startups to California every year, the foreign trade office has now launched a second initiative, Go Cambridge, that focuses on the technology scene in Great Britain. Interested companies can still apply for one of the three office spaces for the ideaSpace business cluster in Cambridge until November 30.
"We can learn a lot from the British," said Austrian economic delegate Georg Karabaczek in an interview with futurezone in London. "Austrian companies are generally good in product development and in inventing new technologies, but often do not succeed in effectively marketing their business ideas. People here are a lot better at that, like in the USA," said Karabaczek.
And the British are networking masters, he said. "In Austria, if you are at an event and don`t know anyone, it is usually horrible. In Great Britain, everyone talks with everyone else, and you are quickly set up with the right contacts," said Karabaczek, speaking from his own experiences. That is also the secret of the various technology clusters in London, Oxford and Cambridge.
The economic delegate sees Great Britain as the perfect stopover for companies looking to make a breakthrough internationally or in the USA. "It is a huge step for small companies and startups to go to California. And while it`s the last thing some people want to hear, not everyone is ready to go at it in the USA," said Karabaczek. London and Cambridge are good stopovers on the way.
Karabaczek still sees a great deal of potential for economic relations between Austria and Great Britain, in part because the country is perceived as a "far away island" by many companies, and not so much as a part of Europe. According to the foreign trade office, Great Britain is one of Austria`s ten largest trading partners, and Austrian companies exported nearly EUR 3.7 million in goods there in 2011. Aside from traditional IT, Karabaczek also sees niches like biotechnology and sustainable building as industries with potential.
Two years of hard work
Companies that want to make it in Great Britain must assume that it will take two years to get established, provided that they find the right partners quickly. And with conditions as they are in the British economy, it is not as easy to raise venture capital as it was a couple of years ago.
"But from the point of view of a startup, I have to say that there are at least chances, unlike in Austria," Marie-Katharine Traunfellner, who is responsible for the Go Cambridge initiative at the foreign trade office, told futurezone. Great Britain has long been a trendsetter and is often ahead of the rest of Europe in software and apps. "If you are successful here, you can easily succeed in Central Europe and, with some luck, in the USA," said Traunfellner.
Initiative and drive
As for the Go Silicon Valley program, initiative and good preparation are key for Go Cambridge. "Such programs are only as good as their participants," stressed Karabaczek. If you want to win investors for your idea, two people should definitely represent your company. "An idea is not enough by itself. An investor wants to see the team behind it and has to be convinced that the idea has enough potential to succeed."
Companies that are interested in one of the three office spaces at ideaSpace in Cambridge can submit their application form and a five-minute video message to the foreign trade center in London by November 30. The company and the business idea should be presented in English in the video. After a preliminary selection, the applicants will be interviewed by telephone, and the three winning companies will be selected by the director of ideaSpace. A detailed description can be found on the websites of the foreign trade office.
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