Silicon Valley is today not necessarily the best place to start a business. It is really hard to recruit and retain good engineers because you are competing with companies such as Google or Facebook. A lot of globally successful start-ups are today born in Europe.
London and Berlin are the European cities attracting tech people because they are cool places to be. Stockholm and Tallinn are other cities popular among tech companies. Are there more European places with good conditions for tech companies? Slovakia, the small country in the middle of Europe, might have been overlooked by investors in the tech industry in the past – but we might be surprised what startups were and are being born there.
Slovakia: A primer
Slovakia is part of European Union and the euro zone, it enjoys fair corporate taxes and not-too-crazy bureaucracy. Talented people concentrate in Bratislava, the Slovak capital city. The workforce is significantly cheaper compared to London, Berlin or Silicon Valley. The average salary in Bratislava is €1000 per month according to platy.sk. Senior programmers earn an average of about €1800 per month, compared to over $8,000 per month per month in Silicon Valley.
The knowledge and expertise amongst the Slovak IT workforce is very high, with Slovaks employed by companies such as Google and Facebook. Bratislava also hosts a couple of technical universities. Still, when it comes to living conditions, the relatively small Bratislava lags behind London or Berlin, although proximity to Vienna helps a bit.
Slovakia has a great advantage compared to bigger countries such as Poland or Germany. Slovak tech entrepreneurs have found the country’s population of just 5 million is not simply big enough to feed them. If you start in one market, and the domestic market is large, there is a danger you can get stuck there. A lot of Polish companies, for example, end up depending on their home market. The advantage of Slovakia is that it is so small that you have to think internationally from the start.
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