StartupBlink Blog

Nestled in the centre of Europe with a population of 2 million this small country has a bustling startup ecosystem. Slovenia has jumped 13 places in 2020 to find itself in the top 40 in  the StartupBlink 2020 Startup Ecosystem Ranking Report

With its capital, Ljubljana, maintaining its position at 128th in the global city rankings and seeing no change from 2019, this rapid jump to the top 40 shows that the majority of its growth has come from its 2 other cities that appear in city rankings: Maribor (365th) and Novo mesto (695th). 

Unique Ecosystem Advantages:

  • Most vibrant economy of all the ex-Yugoslavia countries.
  • Active efforts from the public sector to improve regulations and make sure entrepreneurs have better conditions for innovation.
  • Slovenian ecosystem is focused on fintech and cryptocurrency verticals.
  • Strong Marketing and Sales and Social and Leisure verticals.

Overview of Slovenia’s Startup Ecosystem

Sitting at number 35 in the StartupBlink 2020 Startup Ecosystem Ranking Report Slovenia has a GDP of $42,431. Additionally, the average cost of living is 30% cheaper than London. Making Slovenia, and it’s capital city of Ljubljana affordable and with a highly developed startup ecosystem.

With one of the most vibrant economies from the ex-Yugoslavian states, Slovenia has transformed into a startup hub. With the country prioritising developing the startup ecosystem the country has become a great ecosystem for fintech and cryptocurrency verticals as well as active efforts from the public sector to improve regulations and make sure entrepreneurs have better conditions for innovation. Situated in the heart of Europe bordering Austria, Croatia and Italy the country boasts a healthy economy and geographical advantage. 

With the opportunities and investment available there is no reason why Slovenia could not transform into a powerful ecosystem and compete alongside other small population countries in Europe such as Estonia and Lithuania.  We take this opportunity to salute the American Chambers of Commerce in Slovenia for its efforts to support the Slovenian startup ecosystem. Slovenia’s most successful verticals include Marketing and Sales, Social and Leisure, with growing Fintech and Food tech sectors. 

Investment Opportunities 

This small country is the perfect playground for startups. The smaller size of the country and its geographical location make it an accessible country with connections and support from the European Union and neighbouring countries, opening the market for online and digital industry. The EU regulations and support mean that startups in Slovenia can compete on a global level despite the smaller population.

Slovenia has many public and private partners who are working, along with support from the government, on developing startup support initiatives and programmes,welcoming a healthy startup ecosystem. By introducing the startup VISA Slovenia has successfully facilitated procedures for foreign investors as well as offering opportunities to both international and national startup teams. National startup awards, along with national entrepreneurship are well supported by the Slovenian government. Alongside this support from the government Slovenian startups are amongst some of the most successful (per capita) on crowdfunding websites such as Kickstarter. Early-stage startups are also heavily financed by public sources including the Slovenian Enterprise Fund

This growing ecosystem has achieved significant investment and exit opportunities for Slovenian startups. An example of a promising startup exit is that of Bitstamp, with Bitstamp emerging from this startup ecosystem it increased media attention and awareness of the entrepreneurship and startup opportunities available, attracting younger generations interested in IT development with the increasing viability of career options. These examples of opportunities and the increase in private investment have meant that since the financial crisis in 2008 Slovenia has become one of the most promising and financially-stable ex-Yugoslavia countries. 

Financial Innovation Hub

Slovenia ranked 54th in Fintech in 2020. This is a fantastic position considering the total size and population of this Sloveni. The country also ranked high for Food Tech (11), Health (12), Ecommerce and retail (31) and Software and Data (39). In light of developments with blockchain innovation, Slovenian officials have promoted and aided the development of cryptocurrencies in Slovenia. 

The great success that has been seen in Slovenia is an example of how countries can use legislation to help entrepreneurs experiment and support startups in forward thinking projects and new innovations. Although Slovenia is a small country it has been able to gather some excitement and promotion around cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology due it not regulating the issuing, trading and storing of cryptocurrencies. 

Response to COVID-19 

According to their cohesion policy, the EU is investing more than €3 billion in Slovenia in making the country’s economy more sustainable, innovative and inclusive. The European Union is also investing €2.6 million into the Slovenian Digitisation project supporting the Digital Innovation Hub Slovenia. They provide free of charge services to help SMEs go online thus making them more resilient to the impact of coronavirus. 

Check out the StartupBlink Coronavirus Innovation Map for more information on the global fight against Covid-19.

Top Startups 

Nice Hash – NiceHash is a crypto-mining marketplace where you can mine altcoins and get paid in bitcoins.

Koofr – Awarded the “Best Slovenian start-up 2013” award, this startup  uses cloud storage to address some of the biggest problems related to public and private cloud storage. Koofr allows companies to use their own, existing commodity hardware and build on-premise private storage clouds.

Iconomi –  Iconomi provides a safe platform which makes it easy to buy and sell cryptocurrencies. Iconomi transforms the way people invest with its experience in the blockchain space and a diverse team of professionals operating with the goal to make cryptocurrency accessible to all.

GenePlanet – GenePlanet is a biotechnology company specializing in genetics and research. They provide innovative lifestyle and healthcare solutions based on preventive genetic testing to improve personalized health and nutrition.

Eligma – Eligma creates payment infrastructure for accepting crypto payments for both online and retail stores. As well, they offer a platform that allows users to buy and sell crypto, pay and transfer crypto, and use crypto as a reward system. 

Accelerators and Initiatives 

Hekovnik Startup School – They offer an incubator environment at Ljubljana’s Technology Park and do angel/seed investments in companies they work with. With a flexible business model they include systems which will benefit a range of startups at various stages. 

ABC Accelerator – ABC Accelerator is the biggest regional startup accelerator in South East Europe, located in Ljubljana, Slovenia. It is the perfect place for early startup success for the companies from South-East Europe. It is near, shares the same culture and represents a bridge to the EU markets.

Poligon Creative Centre – Poligon is a coworking space for creative communities, startups and freelancers operating in the field of creative economies, social entrepreneurship and culture.

Key Organizations

Slovenian Enterprise Fund – A specialized financial institution that provides effective financial and content incentives to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, start-ups and fast-growing companies.

Startup Slovenia – identifies the best Slovenian innovative start-up companies in the earliest development phase and professionally support and promote them to the general public.

Startup Summary

Slovenia offers entrepreneurs and startups the opportunity to experiment, crowdfund, grow and expand. The country has many innovation hubs and programs that support startups in their initial phase of development. Additionally, the flexible and supportive legislation around blockchain makes Slovenia a great place for fintech startups to scale their ideas in a safe and unrestricted environment.

Ultimately, Slovenia is a country that excels in supporting and promoting the growth of startups and provides the perfect playground for startups to innovate and create solutions to global problems. 

For more information on startup ecosystems download the Startup Blink 2020 Global Report