In only two years after its launch, the Ljubljana-based ABC Accelerator became not only one of the strongest start-up accelerators in the region, but also expanded with new facilities in Munich and San Jose in Silicon Valley, with the latter being the site of company’s new headquarters. ABC launched its own venture capital fund, and started an original virtual accelerator program, with plans to open a new accelerator in Bangalore, India, later this year.
What is behind the success of this accelerator, attracting investors, partners and young companies from all over the globe to come to Ljubljana? At a basic level ABC operates just like any other start-up accelerator. It provides its members with accommodation, a loft-like office space, access to a global network and individually tailored services like operational set-up, market research or funding support. What is unique, however, is an approach that is much more personal than seen in similar accelerators. “When we invest, we invest in you. In the end, it’s the people who are making it happen,” stress the founders.
The original location of the accelerator also brings a number of advantages. Slovenia is small but diverse, and thus young companies can easily test their business models in varied environment. The country’s well-developed infrastructure and strategic position are also a plus. Moreover, as ABC’s CEO Dejan Rejlič explained in a recent interview, the Slovenia small size brings another advantage to budding entrepreneurs: “Our start-ups don’t lose time staying within our borders, as they immediately go international. In addition to this, the accessibility of talent, especially in the technical field is incredible.”
Still, this small size is a constraint when it comes to raising capital, and this is the main reason ABC expanded into Germany and California. When setting up ABC the founders designed a development path for young companies. The entrepreneurs start in ABC Hub as the first phase of the program. They may then advance to the second stage, ABC Accelerator in Ljubljana, where they go through an intensive 3+3-month program with mentors and coaches, during which they receive the first investment. In the third stage, in ABC Venture Gates in Munich, the company is looking for up to 15 million euros of capital, with the aim of using Bavaria as a launchpad to spread its business across Europe. For those entrepreneurs who make it to the final phase, ABC Global Home in San Jose in Silicon Valley is read for the best start-ups that are ready to take on the world.
The new ABC virtual hub program adds another pre-acceleration phase for young companies. This includes workshops, lectures enhanced with mentoring, demo days and other activities to help a start-up enter the market place for investors, partners or – last but not least – other start-up accelerators.
A number of extremely interesting young companies have chosen Ljubljana’s ABC as their launchpad. One of these is the Italian FruttaWeb, selling fresh fruit and vegetables from all over the world online. Another is the Estonian HireHunt, which aims to be the “ultimate hub for hiring top talents”, while BeFelix has developed a powerful algorithm that is used as the basis for a business intelligence tool. Cibo is British-Indian company offering a unique “all-in-one restaurant management system, offering a 360° solution to hospitality venues”, integrating hardware, mobile and cloud technologies. Another Italian start-up is Marketcloud, developing mobile solutions for eCommerce.
Sophico from Herzegovina has developed a management app for sports, and especially for coaches. Solopex, founded by two German engineers, brings customized optimization solutions to industrial companies of all sizes. Froc offers the world's first “smart high chair”, used to track children’s weight and store the data in cloud, an idea developed by a Slovenian family business. Croatia’s Vyoocam produces the world’s smallest and easiest to use wearable camera for live video-streaming over the Internet, which you can easily attach to any glasses you already have. The product is not a gimmick, as the camera is intended to be used in industry, business, e-learning, telemedicine, and similar applications. The Slovenian company Nervteh Simulation Technologies' vision is to reduce the number of death in traffic accidents by empowering drivers. Their Zetadrive is an advanced motion driving simulator based on immersive virtual reality and big data. Finally, Symvaro is developing smart city solutions with a focus on water and waste management, and their Waste App is already used by 300 cities and communities in Austria. All these are just a few examples of the companies helped by ABC Accelerator, with many more sure to follow in the coming years.