There are currently more than 2,600 active start-ups in Austria in the narrower sense and every year the number is growing by at least another 15%. A total of more than 20,000 employees work in domestic start-ups, which employ an average of 9.6 people per company. The survival rate of 80% is particularly high when compared internationally.
4 out of 10 start-up founders also already have experience as a company founder (serial entrepreneurs), and female founders make up 18% of all start-ups. More than €1bn in international exits have been recorded just in the areas of BioTech & Life Sciences in recent years.
We are strong in the areas of BioTech, (Digital) HealthTech, FinTech, CryptoTech, EdTech and increasingly also in the GreenTech environment. Some clusters have established themselves in various regions in Austria, for example BioTech & Life Sciences in Vienna, Industry 4.0 & IoT in Upper Austria, and AI & robotics in Styria or Lower Austria.
The start-up scene in Austria is multifaceted and very strongly networked, even if there are regional clusters. There is a variety of different players involved such as… — startup networks (e.g. AustrianStartups and Startup Live) — investor networks (e.g. aaia, primeCROWD and Startup300) — individual venture capital funds or investors (e.g. Speedinvest, Calm/Storm, eQuenture and Venionaire Capital) — female founder networks (Female Founders, the Female Factor and Women in Business) — topic clusters such as SENA, GreenTech Cluster, the Spin-Off Austria Conference and the EdTech Hub, — and finally the AplusB incubators, through which startups have been shown to be more economically successful than comparable companies without support.
There are so many that it is actually difficult to really list them all. The Economic Chambers are also part of the scene with their start-up services, as is the Young Economy (Jungewirtschaft.at) initiative.
Sustainability in the form of SDGs (sustainable development goals), social entrepreneurship and above all GreenTech is playing an increasingly important role — 63% of all start-ups pursue social and/or ecological goals. This is a particularly high value in Europe, and Austria has the chance to take the leading position here. The development of sustainable products and services is the top priority. Many start-ups are also increasingly implementing SDGs in their strategic goals right from the beginning.
Thanks to organizations such as the Impact Hub Vienna and SENA (Social Entrepreneurship Network Austria), there is a lot of knowledge building happening and impact investing is becoming more important. Initiatives such as Circle17 and Innovation2company also facilitate strategic cooperation among start-ups, SMEs and corporates. We also have an increased focus on sustainability, and above all GreenTech on the part of the funding agencies, such as “FFG”, “Austria Wirtschaftsservice” and “KLIEN”.
The public sector in Austria is very firmly anchored in the ecosystem and involved in numerous initiatives. On the one hand, we have the funding agencies on federal & state levels, including “Austria Wirtschaftsservice” and “FFG” (Austrian Research Promotion Agency), as well as the individual state agencies in each federal state. On the other hand we have the Economic Chamber with its initiatives: “Start-up services”, “Gründerservices”, “Junge Wirtschaft” and “AUSSENWIRTSCHAFT AUSTRIA”. The Economic Chamber is thus positioning itself as the central contact for start-ups in Austria. Here is an overview of the services:
- Personal Meet-ups with the Head of Start-up Services
- Personal start-up consultants in every federal state
- Founder workshops
- Various guides
- Legal form guide
- Financing Guide
- Social insurance and tax calculator
- Cooperation exchange
- Internationalization programs (go-international, GIN)
You get a lot of support as a start-up, which also has to do with the fact that the start-up scene, though smaller than others, is all the more networked.
When it comes to early stage financing, Austria is well positioned at the top with business angels, VCs, strategic investors, crowd investors and grants. As a start-up, you can successfully combine private financing with public funding. This creates greater leverage in financing rounds.
For later stage financing, i.e. follow-up investments, there is still a lack of large Series A to C investments in Austria, although the number is increasing. In 2020, more than €240m was invested in start-ups (source: Angel Investing Report) and a total of over €1bn in recent years. The trend is rising, with government investment premiums and allowances in particular being able to fuel higher volumes.
There is also direct funding for internationalization via the “go-international” program.
The start-up ecosystem in Austria is still relatively young (just under 10 years) and is still in the development phase. Even if the domestic scene is smaller than in other European or global locations (Silicon Valley, Israel, France, Germany, Sweden), it is very specialized and has many (hidden) champions in verticals such as BioTech, HealthTech, Crypto Economy, or in Industry 4.0 and IoT.
Ever-increasing networking between industry, research, public institutions and companies creates an innovation ecosystem, which achieves better solutions through close cooperation. This is our greatest strength and we should build on it.