A one day conference where you speak, run a panel and spend time in the jury of a pitching competition can only give you a taste of what’s going on in the country, so this article should at best be treated as an outsider’s reflections about this relatively new country on the European startup map.

The 20 startups competing for the awards could have been from any other European country; they ranged from the product of an IT services company to well-functioning local apps, and from just another plane ticket sales site to a world-changing project, which could much more likely fail than succeed.

For the finals on the main stage, we selected four teams: AR education app SparkLab Education, travel app Travel Guide, a medical site and a new type of battery development project.

SparkLab demonstrated their chemistry learning feature, which allows pupils to mix chemicals to make a rocket to fly, in a live demo – which they were able to fit into 3-minute pitch!. The rocket flew off above the heads of the audience. It is a very early stage project, but with a determined leader, it can be taken far. Of course, this space is getting increasingly crowded, with many startups have already launched, or is due to launch soon, AR apps for chemistry, which seems like the subject most suitable for drag and drop learning games. The team’s business proposal was clearly aimed at schools and education systems that cannot afford expensive fully-equipped labs. This could be a good way to attract some youngsters into the field, but of course, it will mostly stay as “the next best thing”.

The Travel Guide team promised an interactive tourism app suitable for people landing in a new town. The idea of the phone waking up when I stand in front of a castle and telling me the best guide’s version of the story sounds attractive. When coupled with some good early traction and a clear request to investors, the team becomes a good contender to win any startup competition in the region, and they did list many wins that they have already had. However, I still have no clear picture of what makes them unique. When you have tens of thousands of users and some serious sales under your belt, never fail to stress it as an argument.

The digital health platform could also report a decent local demand to start the service, which allows you to choose between doctors and their prices on an app and also tells you which pharmacist to walk to to find a better offer. The unique local language is clearly both a positive and negative factor for the company. Th e founder laid out their expansion plan during Q&A, but looking from the outside the language will also hold the company back.

This leaves us with the winner. A local team who seemed to have a know-how base comparable to any top university in the world. Will they raise the money they need though?



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