I bet you are a first time founder – 5 facts on the Austrian Startup Ecosystem

In our little startup bubble we work with assumptions. They are a way of keeping you productive and test your hypothesis when making decision. But from time to time, it seems necessary to question those assumptions. In this case, we wanted to answer some questions about the state of startups in Austria. How many serial founders are there? What’s their background? What drives them? What do they think about subsidies and local business angels? What about women in startups?

Because those answers might be relevant for others too, we published them in our 3rd annual Austrian Startup Report where you will find answers to all of these questions and a lot of additional interesting facts on the Austrian ecosystem.

The Austrian Startup Report is an ongoing research project to get structured data about the development of the growing startup community in Austria. It provides detailed information about a nationwide, representative selection of startups, investors and public institutions.

Why we do it:

  • Raise attention for startups, entrepreneurship and growing companies. Because that helps all of us in doing it.
  • To find out what Austrian startups need to grow and thrive.
  • To make grounded decisions, based on facts about the influence of public and private support initiatives.
  • Benchmark our startup community on an international level, thus setting it in context to other cities and countries in Europe.

So, how did we do this?

We conducted a qualitative survey, collecting thoughts of 50 interviewees within the ecosystem, based on which we designed a quantitative questionnaire which has been completed by 575 interviewees.

Most of them are founders or work in a startup (87%), the remaining 13 percent were either investors (7%) or funding agencies (6%). Surprising revelation? The average person working in the Austrian startup industry is male, aged 32 and has completed a university degree.

What else did we find out?

Fact 1: Ecosystem

The Austrian ecosystem still is in the early stages of development. 73% of the founders are first-time founders. 70% of the startups interviewed are in their idea / early stage phase.

Fact 2: Funding

The majority (70%) of startups that received funding is financed by private investors. The size of the investment is growing, but still remains clearly below international levels. One third has received more than 500.000 Euro in funding.

Fact 3: Gender

The gender gap is still huge. Only 12% of the interviewees are female.

Fact 4: Business Environment

The Austrian business environment is heavily criticised. 93% believe that social security taxes and non-wage labour costs should be lower. 83% are of the opinion that business angel investments should be tax-deductible. Further 80% feel that the outdated trade regulations should be reformed fundamentally.

Fact 5: Mindset

73 % don’t see the value of startups recognized by society and 75 % don’t think startups are valued enough by the Austrian government. Moreover, 90% of interviewees think that our society lacks a “culture of failure” and assume that the absence of a culture of failure is the biggest restraint for entrepreneurship.

So, what next?

Being active in the Austrian scene for a long time and conducting this study for the third time in a row we see evidence that the awareness of Austrian startups increases slowly but constantly. Various successful initiatives such as Pioneers and Austrian Startups, as well as growing interest in the general public (e.g. 2M2M) support our confidence that the importance of entrepreneurship will rise further in the upcoming months and years.

But we need to be faster. Other spots like Berlin and London have already a headstart and Austria seems to miss out on massive opportunities if we not act swiftly. Some necessary steps needed:

  • Creation of tax incentives to foster private investments (get out of real estate and into startups!)
  • Raise awareness for the topic of startups, entrepreneurship and include this in school curricula
  • Liberalisation of corporate and labour laws
  • Allow for alternatives in investment (crowd-funding, etc.)
  • Rethink subsidies from the ground up

Read the full Austrian Startup Report.

Visionen für Österreich – read the paper by austrianstartups.com