Vienna – Europe’s Startup and Corporate hot spot… at least for a week

Pioneers 2105, Arthur D. Little’s Exane Executive Event and the True Economic Forum

With Eurovision Song Contest just having paid a visit to Vienna, it was time to get back to business. In the past week Vienna hosted three major events focused on Startups, Corporates and the linkage between the two worlds – and Match-Maker Ventures was an essential part of it! Before we get to the details, let me share my key takeaways.

1. Vienna is sexy!

Quality of the events and quality of speakers and participants speaks for itself. Thank you Pioneers, thank you Arthur D. Little!

2. Europe is still lagging behind

Quality and confidence of European Startups is without question increasing, but it’s still clearly behind US peers. Just read the numbers: 4 out of 8 finalists in the main Pioneers Startup challenge were US based (not necessarily though headed by US entrepreneurs). Having participated in all four days of the Pioneers event, I can also ensure you that the quality and confidence of the US Startups was clearly above that of European peers. We need to step up our game!

This obviously does not come as a surprise when you read the numbers of Unicorns (i.e. tech startups with a valuation >1bn USD). Out of the 100 on Fortune’s list (see

  • 11 are based in China
  • 7 in Europe
  • 5 in India
  • 2 each in Singapore, South Korea and Israel
  • 1 each in Canada and Australia
  • AND a booming 74 (!!!!) are US based. All the reason for being confident I would say…

3. Corporates are doomed to lose

I am sorry, but I just have to say this. Just take this example: At Arthur D. Little’s exclusive Telco CEO and private equity event telecom executives were relieved to hear that there is “light” at the end of the tunnel (excellent report by the way – check The authors predict a growth of 0.6% for the period 2016e-2020e. This is without question big for the telecom industry given the recent past and left the participants happy, still when you compare this to the bustling energy at the Startup event, you can’t really come to a

different conclusion…

I also did a small poll during my FinTech workshop at True Economic Forum: I asked the
participants “If you had one coin (Bitcoin :-)) to bet, what kind of player would you bet on?

  1. Established players represented by MasterCard Austria CEO Gerald Gruber and Erste Group’s Innovation Manager Oriol Pons
  2. Collaborative approaches represented by Tomasz Dreslerski leading Orange Poland’s banking initiative or
  3. Startups represented by Slawomir Lachowski, Founder and CEO of SmartBank

Results were obvious, but likewise surprising

  • A good 50% bet on Startups
  • A good 40% bet on collaborative approaches
  • Less than 10% on established players…

4. So where does this leave us?

We from Match-Maker Ventures are more than ever convinced that there is a substantial need for what we are dedicated to do: Help Startups to scale quickly and efficiently and likewise bring the “dreaming” back to Corporate Executives! We are convinced that there is tremendous unrealized potential and are dedicated to bring this to life!

We also thank you for the great discussions and invaluable feedback received during the innumerable formal and informal discussions! You will hear more from us!

As promised, please find below my detailed feedback on the event:

Pioneers Festival

From May 26th to May 29th Vienna hosted the Pioneers Festival – one of Europe’s largest Startup Festival. Starting on Tuesday with the Mentoring day, on to the Investors’ day on the 27th and subsequently to the main Festival on the 28th and 29th in the Hofburg – Vienna’s imperial palace. More than 1,600 entrepreneurs applied for the various challenges with the Top50 Startups representing an incredible collection of Startups from various backgrounds. The final winner of a 100k EUR check was awarded to Dronamics – This is an amazing startup dedicated to build cargo drones! Already before the winner of the challenge was announced the crowd in the Hofburg got super excited seeing the CEOs and founders of Europe’s most exciting supercars pitching against each other: Rimac from Croatia vs. Koenigegg from Sweden – I guess I was not the only one dreaming of a life as a professional racer… guess that’s too late.

Arthur D. Little Exane Event

On May 28th Arthur D. Little hosted an exclusive event in its Vienna office to launch Arthur D. Little & Exane BNP Paribas’ 14th annual Telecom Operators Report with over 50 top executives and shareholders of leading operators, internet players, software companies, media groups, equipment manufacturers, as well as regulators from 19 different countries attending. Atmosphere was relaxed and got even better when Dr. Karim Taga, Global Head of Arthur D. Little’s TIME practice announced that there is light at the end of the tunnel for Europe’s telecom operators. The authors predict a 0.6% CAGR over the 2016e-2020e period. The exciting part of the evening began after the presentation with many exciting discussions. If you are interested interested in the full report – download here:


True Economic Forum

Last, but for sure not least, Arthur D. Little and Pioneers teamed up to host the True Economic Forum on the 29th of May providing a gateway for Corporates to the Startup world. Close to 200 executives joined the event and discussed the “right” approach to today’s ever increasing innovation challenge. Later I co-hosted the FinTech workshop. I believe the most exciting question was raised by one of our Match-Makers (Mirek Kula) opposing MasterCard and Erste Group: “Are you ready to disrupt yourself?”. A clear answer was not given, but still the openness of both players surprised: “Yes, we know that there are many things happening with which we are struggling to keep the pace. BUT – we are doing everything to make sure that we remain relevant.” Given the activities by both players and investment into the Startup scene one can hardly deny.

If you made it to the very end: Congratulations! Happy to receive any feedback. Feel free to reach out to me!