May 10

Maribor's development into a dynamic startup hub!

We talked to Dr Andrej Fištravec, mayor of the Municipality of Maribor, which is one of the major PODIM Conference supporters, about the city's development into a dynamic startup hub.

In your opinion, is Maribor still an industrial city or how do you see it?
Maribor still has a strong industrial core, which is increasingly complemented with the innovative entrepreneurial way of doing business. It is true that Maribor dozed off economically in the past few years and this is why we find ourselves in such a bleak situation. But our efforts and the efforts of innovative entrepreneurs and economists are once again putting Maribor on the international map as a city with industrial potential as well as a city with the best support environment for startup companies. Maribor has an esteemed University with a highly-educated and hard-working staff and an excellent logistic starting point for doing business in Europe.
These advantages are reflected in economic delegations that come from the whole world as well as in discussions about projects that we have with them.
So you see Maribor in a positive light?
I see Maribor extremely positively. I am looking forward to its development. In Maribor, innovative potential is stirring and co-creating the city's future. I wish that the citizens and visitors would get increasingly mobilised through all activities that the city is offering. So that the city becomes active socially as well as entrepreneurially, and this is the future of Maribor, also recognized by the global economic public.
Last year, why did you decide to actively support the Start:up Maribor programme and with which goals?
Start:up Maribor convinced with a quality internationally-recognized programme that encourages entrepreneurship and what's more, it encourages entrepreneurship at home where we need it. Entrepreneurship and innovativeness support should've been supported years ago. In the Municipality of Maribor, we realize that besides supporting social and cultural programmes in the city, supporting the economy is crucial. And economic support should be carried out by experts from the field of entrepreneurship, who have knowledge and experience. We also support and implement other programmes that offer support to the local economy. The central project is “Invest in Maribor” through which we lead comprehensive support. We actively work on establishing an investment office, supporting foreign investors, implementing tenders for directly supporting local companies, and connecting and collaborating between both chambers of commerce, the Regional Chamber of Trade and Entrepreneurship Maribor and the Chamber of Commerce of Slovenian Styria. With help of support programmes that the city offers, entrepreneurs have a lot of opportunities for their own development and the development of their business ideas.

Which are the most important results of implementing the Start:up Maribor programme in 2015?
As part of the implemented programme Start:up Maribor, dedicated to the education and active networking of entrepreneurs, 30 events in the form of workshops and moderated discussions, and one startup weekend. The programme engaged 48 lecturers altogether and attracted 800 participants. 35 most established Slovenian startup mentors carried out mentorship and consulting support. They jointly carried out more than 1000 consulting hours for more than 50 startup teams in the earliest development stages and five startup teams in the growth stage. Amongst them are well-known Maribor startup companies, such as, ASK,, Drugi vid and ADORA MED, which is also this year's finalist for the Slovenian Startup of the Year 2016 award.
Which current achievements of Maribor-based startup teams are you especially proud of or bring the highest value added to Maribor, in your opinion?
I am proud of each and every startup because I know that these are groups of talented and capable people who have a set goal. The most ambitious teams of Maribor-based startups that were privy to intense consulting and mentoring in the Start:up Maribor programme are planning to create altogether 197 new jobs in the next two years, which is definitely very important for Maribor as well as for young talents, because at least some of them will then find enough challenges on the home ground. I would also like to mention that three teams of students from the University of Maribor (UM) achieved excellent international business success. The team Equaleyes, consisting of three students at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (FERI UM), won the resounding programming competition TechCrunch Disrupt in London. Business team Reveel, consisting of three students from FERI UM and one student from the Faculty of Business and Economics UM, received an investment of 2 million dollars from an American venture capital fund. And the team ADORA MED, consisting of researchers and students of the University of Maribor, received an investment of the patriarch of American investors, Tim Draper, and the Bulgarian Fund Eleven, in the amount of 200,000 EUR.
What are your concrete plans for encouraging startup entrepreneurship in Maribor this year?
This year, we also wish to continue with economy support programmes. The budget has the resources earmarked and we wish to carry out the programmes in the future years as well. It's important that the city offers startups conditions that enable development and new jobs.
This year, why did you decisively help organize and carry out the PODIM Conference as one of the key supporters and why do you think it's important that an event of such a form and dimensions happens specifically in Maribor?
PODIM has been organized and carried out in Maribor since the very beginning. It's a central event of the startup environment, an entrepreneurship and innovation conference in the Alps-Adriatic region which, according to the latest information, attracted more than 800 entrepreneurs, investors and other stakeholders of the regional and international entrepreneurship ecosystem. By organizing international entrepreneurship conferences such as PODIM, Maribor is placed on the global entrepreneurship map and organizers only succeeded at this through persistence and hard work. The event deserves support because of its contents and because of Maribor’s development, because we wish to build on PODIM’s tradition in Maribor.