Editor's note: The trip to Prague was paid for by Wayra CEE, but the information and thoughts herein are my own.
Seeing how the startup culture works in other countries is always interesting, we often compare the ArcticStartup region to USA or the UK but what about our neighbours? We write about Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, who are a part of the CEE, but we rarely have the opportunity to take a look at the whole region.
Heading out to Prague, I had no expectations really. I knew that there was going to be a beautiful city ahead of me but the startup scene was nothing more of a mystery.
The Wayre CEE demo day was the very first attraction, which was completely packed with angel investors, VC's and media. Literally, every person I had the chance to approach was either an investor or a media rep and that was the first sign that something is brewing in Prague. After a relatively short networking session, the pitching started.
First up, WOPPA, a startup connecting talent and corporate employers. The pitch was very enthusiastic and it felt like every syllable was practiced and rehearsed. All the points were addressed: the problem, solution, market, team strength, funding requirements, business model.
The rest of the companies followed in the same style: very well rehearsed, professionally done slides and perfectly structured. We heard pitches from RemoteAssistant, Networker, Big Launcher, LionExpo, Trashout/Venzeo, Mapilary & Datamolino.
In fact, the pitches were perhaps too good, in a sense that every company followed almost an identical flow & slide styles. On the one hand, that was great, because you could really focus on the content. However on the other hand, it did get a little repetitive after four or five companies. That being said, if you put any one of them next to 10 companies outside of Wayra Demo Day, they would rock and feel extremely professional, so I guess in the end it was a good thing for the companies themselves and their future.
The winner of the day was Datamolino, who have secured €500,000 right before the demo day and are aiming to make accountants lives easier by eliminating manual data entry of invoices and receipts by accountants through OCR. It is definitely a great market and they already have a nice clients list.
The only worry is that in our region everything is going online with e-invoicing and e-receipts, and I would be worried about the general direction of the market in ten years. That being said, the team was very impressive and I am sure they will figure out the right path in due course.
It is of interest that Wayra is run by a telephone operator Telefonica, and many of the companies listed Telefonica as one of their clients, which makes it a little different from other accelerators out there, as they are able to use their network to push startups early on. To date, Wayra has invested €12.6 million into startups and attracted €32.8 million in external funding. So if you are interested in taking part in their program, you can join in by applying before the 23rd of February.
Talking to the participants, we found out that there are about 20-30 active angel investors in Prague and a growing number of VC's. For a small town, they also have a comparitively large number of co-working spaces and accelerators. So if you are in Prague, you should check out:
Impact Hub - The same type of a coworking space for freelancers and startupers that you would also find in Helsinki, Copenhagen & London, but boasting an impressive amount of over 400 members.
TechSquare - An extremely hot co-working space, with multiple floors and even a full size swing. They have some of the biggest startups in Prague there and also one of the most activies VC's in the region - Credo Ventures.
StartupYard (Accelerator) - This one was a physical space coupled with an accelerator that promises over €250,000 in perks, a three months acceleration program and funding.
All in all, I went to Prague to check out one of the most beautiful cities on earth, drink €1 beer, which was actually cheaper than water or juice, but ended up falling in love with the startup atmosphere there too. So if you are planning to go to Prague, give me a shout and I will put you in touch with the key people there.