This past spring, Budapest hosted its third Startup Safari, with over 4,000 visitors swarming the Hungarian capital to catch the best and the brightest from the country's startup scene. Most are fully aware of Hungary's history of innovation in the tech arena. No, we're not talking about the Rubik's Cube and the ballpoint pen. And, yes, there are many other names beyond Prezi and LogMeIn. Zsófi Fekete, project lead for the event, gets us up-to-date on what went down in 2018 and what 2019 has in store.
Although the majority of visitors come from Budapest, the CEE Region is also highly represented, Zsófi tells me. And VIPs—looking to invest or just curious to see what talent here is doing—come from all over the world. All presenters over the course of the event are employees and founders of startups based here in Budapest; many of these ventures boast international leaders, some of whom will be presenting at the 2019 Startup Safari.
Those attending Startup Safari come from a wide range of backgrounds: startuppers, investors, students, jobseekers, people ready for a career change, or those simply interested in the startup scene. Although the first Startup Safari Budapest focused solely on deep technology and innovation, the group realized they were missing out on another key audience: those not yet engaged with the topic of tech. Zsófi notes that they realized they could "attract a lot more enthusiastic participants by widening the palette of (their) events" and initiated efforts directed at this less tech-savvy audience. So, this past spring attendees could enjoy sessions covering a variety of lifestyle, gastronomic, and cultural opps during the two days—those there solely for tech could attend these as well. :)
This visual gives us "the evolution of (Safari's) thematic journey" in brief:
As to why startups and sponsors join in, there are plenty of reasons and motivations to come to Budapest:
- huge exposure to a target audience
- lower recruitment costs
- introduction of a new product to the market
- promotion of an already existing service
- lower costs for company trainings
In terms of trainings, think about it. Startup Safari featured over 100 workshops over two days this past spring with 13 different thematic topics or "journeys." A marketing agency or HR department could send their employees to get up to speed on the latest trends in innovation via various workshops and talks for the mere fee of a plane ticket, low-cost accommodations here in Budapest, and the cost of entrance equal to a movie ticket. And, as Zsófi states, why not get "out of your regular office environment and have fun while learning?"
"And of course many of the startups are looking for investors," she adds. On this last point, yes, there have been many occasions where a random investor sitting in the crowd has decided to put money into one of the companies presenting. And this most definitely makes Zsófi and the entire crew at Startup Safari, very proud. In fact, the Budapest edition of this now-global event is the biggest and most successful one. Budapest Startup Safari has attracted more and more people—attendees and participants—every year and shows no sign of stopping, as depicted below.
There are lots of opportunities for a startup to expand internationally via the numerous accelerator programs today. And many look to start divisions abroad in order to be closer to their target audience or end user. But these startups, per what Zsófi has seen, have no intention of moving their HQ out of Hungary. At a time when Hungary is looking to encourage talent—and innovative young companies—to stay home, this is definitely good news.
And, as Zsófi notes, why leave? "Here in Budapest everything is given to them, so they don’t have to worry." She doesn't mean that anything is free—just far cheaper than say in the U.S. Expenses for rent, equipment, infrastructure, employees, and development are all simply much more affordable. Knowledge, knowledge sharing, incredible mentors, excellent community, great conferences for learning and networking: everything a company needs to develop and grow is here at a fraction of the cost you would find elsewhere. Add to this the ability to easily travel to participate in other high-profile accelerator programs and then come back here to Hungary to establish your dream venture? Budapest is hard to beat. This was not entirely the case maybe one or two years ago, she tells me. But today, there is really no reason to leave.
For those looking to find out more about Budapest Startup Safari 2019, are curious about xLabs' other endeavors, or want to talk about other relevant interests, please email Zsófi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From Zsófi Fekete, project lead for Startup Safari Budapest and other xLabs events:
xLabs stands for "experimental laboratories," which is our playground to concoct the secret sauce of solutions.
We do 3 things, just like in a fairy tale:
- Tailor made B2B solutions
- Help accelerators and corporates build connections with startup ecosystems
- Connect service providers with companies (kind of a freelancer.com with our chemistry-check approval process)
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF xLABS