Over the years of supporting innovative start-ups, the Slovene Enterprise Fund with the help of stakeholders from the support environment came to important insights into what all companies, and especially entrepreneurs actually need. This is not only financial support but also content support, combined under the name Startup Plus Program.
Financial support is the basis for the development of any business ecosystem, and in Slovenia, this is the basis for the P2 start-up incentive, SK75 seed capital and also SI-SK (co) investments.
The Slovene Enterprise Fund (SEF) has:
- In the last 10 years, managed to support 800 young innovative companies with more than 70 million euros in financial incentives.
- supported more than 400 companies since the launch of the SK (seed capital) programs in 2014,
- invested 8.8 million EUR of seed capital in 97 companies, accompanied by 8.5 million EUR in private investments,
- In 2020 alone, it approved 6.31 million EUR through financial incentives and supported 111 innovative projects.
The financial incentives in 2020 were distributed as follows:
- P2 grant incentives for 40 innovative projects in the amount of 2.16 million EUR
- non-repayable launch incentives in problem regions P2R for 55 projects in problem areas in the amount of 2.2 million EUR
- SK75 convertible loans for 14 projects in the amount of EUR 1.05 million EUR
- co-investment with independent private investors SI-SK for 2 projects in the amount of 0.9 million EUR
The success of all activities is also confirmed by the balance sheet in 2019, which shows that in 2019, 80 SEF portfolio companies generated 15 million EUR in revenue.
With knowledge, money can be better used
However, over the years, it has become clear that entrepreneurs who know how to develop their products or services, as they arise from the pain of their customers, need to be empowered in many other areas, especially in sales, marketing, business organization and prepare them to the many challenges they face on their way forward. For example, to grow, to expand into foreign markets, to seek investments…
"The basic purpose is that companies, in addition to the financial incentive, get everything they need to make the best use of this financial incentive. This means that the Slovene Enterprise Fund follows their needs in every segment,” says the director of SEF, M.Sc. Maja Tomanič Vidovič.
Startup Plus Program includes:
- mentoring support of 147 mentors according to the system of the best match between entrepreneurs and the mentor,
- Push2start: accelerator program for P2 startup recipients,
- SK Growth Camp: intensive acceleration program for global growth of companies, recipients of SK seed capital,
- Startup Clinic: support to companies in eliminating critical business risks
- Next Round Investment Conference: Pitch Training, Demo Days and International Investment Conference
- KorpoStart: a program for connecting startup companies and corporations by finding common strategies,
- INTL: program and individual support for entering international markets,
- Podim DX: the most influential startup and technology event in the region, which connects startups, investors and other stakeholders in the business ecosystem as well as the support environments,
- HardwareSTART: vertical accelerator for the hardware industry,
- Scaleupgrade: a specialized program and meetings for scaleup companies,
- Sales Promoter: a program of knowledge and skills for sales promotion,
- School for mentors: training of startup and scaleup mentors according to the principle "train the trainers",
- School for investors: education for future investors
- Teambuilding+: an “all-inclusive” connecting, educational and social event of the Community.
Mentors can save entrepreneurs from bruises
The construction of an excellent mentoring system - the database of SEF-certified mentors now includes 147 mentors - has proven to be the most valuable form of content support for startup companies.
“The development of new ideas and new companies that emerge from these ideas is a very demanding process that requires a lot of change and personal development from the individual in a relatively short time. And because time is relatively short and changes are relatively large, it creates a lot of pressure on entrepreneurs, a lot of need for new knowledge and different views on things, and here mentors can play an important role,” says Dr. Rok Stritar, Ph.D., Head of the School for Mentors, which operates on the principle of "train the trainers".
Recipients of SK75 convertible loans are entitled to 25 hours of mentoring per year, and recipients of the P2 start-up incentive and SI-SK co-investments to up to 10 hours of mentoring.
Entrepreneurs value content support
“Mentoring was important to us because we got an experienced entrepreneur who gives us valuable feedback on what we have done, what we could have improved to achieve even better results,” says Nastja Kramer Pesek, founder and CEO of Malinca, recipient of SK75.
"The supportive environment is extremely important, especially because you never know everything, you have to learn and sharing knowledge with someone who is in a similar phase is something that contributes the most to rapid growth," says Rok Gulič, founder and director of Ollo Audio.
"In a rich set of content, you always find the one that answers your weak points," says Klemen Furlan, Giro Car Share"
Successful "exits" are proof of success
“For our company, SEF's financing programs were of key importance. With the help of the Fund, we managed to take the first steps in entrepreneurship,” says Tomaž Levak, co-founder and director of OriginTrail, which used SEF's P2 and SK50, and is now looking for a new investment round after several investments.
Among the companies supported by SEF, which successfully repaid convertible loans, while also finding strong partners/investors are Nervteh (taken over by AMZS), Daibau - Moj mojster (became a part of the Daibau Group after receiving funds from German and Croatian Funds) and Simarine (received an equity investment by a strong German partner).
More and more investment opportunities at home
The comprehensive development of the Slovenian business ecosystem has also raised the level of maturity of companies to the level that they are increasingly attractive for investments. Not only for starting stage investments, but also for more serious investments.
"We have everything we need: we have startups, investors, mentors and SEF, which has so far dictated a very fast pace of development and brought us to this point," says investor Aljoša Domijan, who points out that many Slovenian startups need millions of investments already today but for this lacks home capital.
Cooperation is the path to success
Well-established companies are also increasingly aware of the importance of cooperation with startups to increase the competitiveness of the Slovenian economy, and some are already entering into partnerships with their agile partners.
Mateja Lavrič, director of the Kolektor Ventures corporate fund, says that the role of SEF is extremely large, especially in the initial stages of startup development.
"I think that young start-ups are the essence of development in Slovenia," says Dr. Jure Knez, Ph.D., founder and director of the high-tech company DEWESoft, which also operates successfully in the startup environment.
Small size can also be an advantage. Big Advantage
Every good startup ecosystem also has its ambassadors, unique eminences who are not only proof of the excellence of an environment but they often also have a different perspective on it. As they have extensive experience abroad and often live there, as well as experience with entrepreneurship and the domestic ecosystem their views of it are always valuable.
"For us entrepreneurs, the support we receive from the ecosystem is crucial," says Jaka Levstek, co-founder and director of d.labs, adding that the advantage of the Slovenian business ecosystem is that it is small: "In the sense that we are all very close, just one step away from the other, which means a lot at the beginning of the entrepreneurial journey."
The path taken by the Slovene Enterprise Fund with the model of financial and content support in order for the Slovenian startup ecosystem to give birth to as many successful companies as possible, that will return knowledge and energy back to the Slovenian ecosystem new successful startups is always confirmed as correct.
Content support for recipients of P2, SK75 or SI-SK financial products under the "de minimis" scheme is co-financed from the Slovene Enterprise Fund and the European Union from the European Regional Development Fund. This is implemented on the basis of the Content Support for Funds Recipients (SMEs) Programme in the 2018-2023 period, under the Operational Programme for the Implementation of the European Cohesion Policy 2014-2020.