As the capital city of the Czech Republic in the heart of Europe, Prague attracts millions of visitors every year. Besides the rich gastronomic culture, beer, and sightseeing, Prague is also home to the majority of Czech startups and tech companies in the country. With a relatively low cost of living, low tax rates, and strategic location in Europe, the Czech Republic and Prague offer great potential for startup growth. The article presents the beginning of mapping out the Prague startups, ecosystem, and opportunities the Czech capital brings to the CEE region and beyond.
The Czech startup ecosystem in numbers
The Czech startup ecosystem has been taking the attention of local innovators while still at a lower development stage compared to the western nations. Based on various factors such as business climate or cost of doing business, the Czech Republic was placed 9th among the best countries for startups in 2020, NimbleFins‘ study finds.
According to the Global Innovation Index 2022 report, the Czech innovation ecosystem ranked 19th in Europe. It falls right behind Estonia in 2nd place in the CEE region. Taking into account the startup ecosystem ranking, the Czech Republic has placed 32nd globally, 19th in Europe, and 4th in Eastern Europe in 2022, StartupBlink reports. Followingly, the Prague startup ecosystem has ranked 82nd globally and 5th in Eastern Europe, highlighting the importance and potential to become a key city hub in the region.
Although the Brno innovation hub is known as the “Czech Silicon Valley,” with the highest concentration of small and medium-sized businesses with their own R&D sites, Prague’s advantage of higher population and development makes it the tech center of the country.
Experiencing a significant boost since around 2010, the Czech startup ecosystem has started to experience various initiatives and programs, including support from organizations such as CzechInvest, a key business and investment development agency, based in Prague.
Mapping out key Prague startup industries and verticals
There are over 700 startups residing in Prague (Crunchbase, 2021). While most innovative projects are still in the early stages, the high-tech and gaming industries already belong to the relatively advanced Czech sectors. A significant portion of the startups operate in the information technology (IT) sector with a notable focus on cybersecurity, followed by software, scientific instruments, hardware, and electronics.
Notable Prague startups and companies
Founders: Eduard Kučera and Pavel Baudiš
About: One of the most notable companies established in Prague is a multinational cybersecurity software Avast. Founded in 1988, the company is a global leader in digital security products for businesses and consumers, protecting them from internet threats. Their goal is to give their users the power to explore our shared digital world freely and safely.
Highlights: Having its IPO in 2018, Avast has expanded globally with over 435M users and employees around 1700 people. Its annual revenue for 2020 was close to $900M. Today, the firm operates under a parent company Gen Digital, a multinational cybersecurity company based in the US.
Founder: Simona Kijonková
About: Coming up with an alternative to save the pain point of delivery logistics and promote flexibility, the Czech company Zásilkovna was founded in 2010 in Prague to offer an alternative delivery method for e-commerce clients. Under the name Packeta Group, the company operates in six countries and delivers to 34 countries. Zásilkovna was established by one of the most significant female figures in the Czech tech scene.
Highlights: Zásilkovna has close to 140 000 pick-up point partners around Europe and cooperates with 46 000 online shops, delivering over 73M parcels. The firm has received multiple awards thanks to its use and focus on innovative technologies and customer service.
About: Another startup success recorded in the country is the transportation app Liftago founded in 2012. Operating in all major Czech cities (20) and Bratislava, Liftago offers an alternative to competitors such as Uber and Bolt. The company also offers package deliveries and courier services, making up around a third of its operations today.
Highlights: Liftago distinguishes by allowing users to choose their driver based on the ETA, price, reviews, and type of vehicle. The company has over 2000 active drivers and more than 500 000 users.
About: Twisto is a payment and cash flow management application that simplifies and modernizes online purchases. With the app, customers can postpone their payments, split them into three without fees, divide them into installments, split the bill with friends, and manage invoices quickly and easily. The company was established in Prague in 2013.
Highlights: Twisto was the first company to introduce the “buy now, pay later” (BNPL) payment method in the Czech Republic. Cooperating with over 20 000 merchants, Twisto expanded to Poland in 2018.
About: Founded in 2014 and launched a year later, the Avocode software app allows users to export and share designs from Photoshop and Sketch, acting as a bridge between designers and developers. The startup enables users to export designs, including colors, fonts, text, image assets, dimensions, and more.
Highlights: Some of the most notable Avocode customers are Panasonic, Intel, and Accenture. In 2021, Avocode was acquired by Ceros, a no-code content creation platform for interactive design.
About: Prague startup Rossum is a leading AI-based cloud intelligent document processing solution to automate business communication between companies, vendors, and customers. The startup began as a Ph.D. research of three students and today presents a solution that oversees the entire document lifecycle from receiving to internal IT systems posting. Founded in 2017, Rossum helps clients understand layouts, terminology, and formatting cues within documents and adapt to changes in layouts.
Highlights: The startup reports an average time saving per customer of over 80%, annual document growth of 200%, and a 130% customer retention rate. Listed in our Soonicorns of 2023 article, Rossum has a promising year ahead, after securing a $100M Series A funding in 2021.
Name: Storyous (SaltPay)
About: Founded in 2012 in the Czech capital, Storyous is an e-POS system helping small and medium-sized businesses run their gastro businesses more efficiently. Their startup solution saves money by fully automating front and back-of-house operations, improves management decisions, and optimizes guest integration, delivery, and supplier technologies.
Highlights: In 2021, Storyous was acquired by international FinTech startup SaltPay (UK), opening the door to new markets. Storyous under SaltPay currently cooperates with almost 5 500 clients in the Czech Republic, Poland, Spain, Slovakia, Croatia, and Hungary.
Following on our already spotlighted startups, the Czech Republic has, to date, recorded two unicorns. Both notable startups Rohlík, an online grocery delivery store, and Productboard, a workflow management software, reside in Prague and are listed in our top 10 largest funding rounds in the Czech Republic in 2022.
Three more Prague startups to highlight are a data science platform Deepnote, DevOps solution Better Stack, and new generation energy of devices Woltair, which have been on our to-watch list since last year. All three closed their Series A funding rounds in 2022, accounting for some of the most significant investments of the year.
Note: The list above includes only some of the most notable Prague startups and scaleups, focusing on various industries.