The StartUp Nation

The young, dynamic and innovative companies of Slovenia managed to raise a record 270 million US dollars of venture capital last year. The most successful startups include a fashion e-commerce platform, an online marketplace for student accommodations, a mobile messaging platform for commercial use, e-mail organizer based on artificial intelligence and innovative advertising solutions.


The Top 300 list brings essential insight into Slovenia's most established businesses by focusing on their past track record. But where can you get a glimpse of tomorrows' business leaders? You can get the closest – if not complete answer – by checking out the most successful startups. 2015 was a pivotal year for Slovenia’s start-up scene. The young, dynamic and innovative companies from the Alpine republic managed to raise a record 270 million US dollars (around 240 million euros) of venture capital last year – 100 percent more than in 2014.  As has become normal recently, the winners took it all: 35 companies attracted almost a half of all the investments. 

The largest chunk of capital was invested in Lyst, a high fashion e-commerce platform. Most of the investment was provided by French group Arnault, which owns top brands like Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton. Lyst is somewhat shy of its origins: in 2013 the company was listed among UK’s Future Fifty – Britain’s most promising companies. Lyst was indeed co-founded by Brits and is headquartred in London, yet the key entrepreneur behind the company is Slovenian Sebastjan Trepča. 

Uniplaces is another successful European partnership: the online marketplace for student accomodations (similar to Airbnb) was founded in 2012 by Slovenian Mariano Kostelec, British Ben Greech and Portugese Miguel Amaro. Layer is a Californian-Slovenian partnership led by Ron Palmeri and Tomaž Štolfa. The company is developing a mobile and web messaging platform for commercial use. Sillicon Valley’s top tech blog Venture Beat listed Layer among the 15 most interesting start-ups in 2015. Celtra developed unique technology for data driven display advertising offering “a revolutionary new way of brand storytelling with mobile video ads”. Founded in Ljubljana, it has since moved its headquarters to Boston, Massachusetts. Another successful young Slovenian company focusing on advertising is Zemanta. Its product is a platform for content marketing built around a semantic web – with automatic spotting of context relevant content and images. The company operates from Ljubljana and New York. 

Do you know what digital detox is? It is a cure for information overload and cluttered e-mail inboxes. 4th Office uses artificial intelligence to plough through your mails and reorganize them in a clean, clear space without clutter. Not surprisingly, 4th Office received the Best Entrepreneurial Idea Award in 2014, awarded by Slovenian newspaper Finance. The company employs 45 developers at is headquartered in Ljubljana, in UK and Netherlands.

Bellabeat combines fashion and healthy living: it is a smart health tracker in form of jewelry. The author of the concept is Slovenian Urška Sršen – the idea was strong enough to convince the editors of Forbes magazine to include Sršen on its “30 Under 30” list of most promising young business people. 

And we could go on. The fact is that Slovenians found or co-found many successful start-ups – even if these companies are not recognized as Slovenian. Slovenia, which celebrated 25 years of independence this June, is in fact itself a kind of a start-up, though maybe it is a bit far-fetched to make a connection between the youth of the nation and proliferation of young and dynamic companies. But then again, maybe the two phenomena are not completely unrelated. A start-up nation as a home of European young, dynamic and innovative companies sounds just like something Europe really needs.  

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