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Why fast-growing startups use Austria as a platform for expansion across Europe

Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna
Image credit: Manfred Reinert/ Pixabay: Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna
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For many, it was surprising when Czech e-grocery unicorn Rohlik expanded to Austria at the end of 2020. Now, it looks like this was a successful strategic move. Following the launch on the Austrian market, Rohlik has officially passed the $1B valuation threshold and is planning to grow further in DACH. One step into this direction has been the expansion in Germany under the brand Knuspr.de.

According to Maurice Beurskens, Rohlik Group CEO in Austria, – each market –  be it the Czech, the German, or the Austrian – has unique needs and requirements. Therefore, the transfer of knowledge between everyone in the group is a main priority.

Austria: The central destination for international companies

Rohlik is not the only fast-growing Europe scaleup to have chosen Austria for its international expansion. Because of its central position in Europe, close to 400 multinational businesses have picked the country for their headquarters. Moreover, Austria has turned into an operations hub for approximately one thousand international companies. 

As explained by Birgit Reiter-Braunwieser, the Director for Central and Eastern Europe at the Austrian Business Agency (ABA), there are several reasons behind this attractiveness – innovativeness, efficiency, well-educated workforce, great life quality, and of course, the core function of the country in Europe’s internal market. 

Birgit Reiter-Braunwieser, Director Central and Eastern Europe at ABA Invest in Austria
Birgit Reiter-Braunwieser, Director Central and Eastern Europe at ABA – Invest in Austria

With a dedicated team of 32 experts, INVEST in AUSTRIA helps companies looking to expand in Austria, free of any fees. Services vary from location selection through support with real estate and recruitment to assistance with the discovery of funding and investors.

1. A thriving startup scene

With Bitpanda and Go Student, this year Austria celebrated not one but two unicorns. Numerous other scaleups are quickly growing their metrics, in the quest to earn the famous valuation one-billion-dollar valuation tag. Speedinvest, a VC firm known all across Europe (which has also invested in a few companies in SEE) and also  many prominent funds, angels, and innovative banks, operate from Vienna. All actively engaging with startups on a regular basis. 

2. A first point for expansion in DACH

With a total population of almost 100M people, approximately 50M workers, and a combined GDP of over €5 trillion, the DACH region, consisting of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, has a talent base almost twice the size that of Japan. From the DACH countries, Austria has been often mentioned as the best test market for accomplishing a rapid expansion trajectory across Europe and around the world.

3. Living costs are also good

Many people complain about rent and the living costs in the big cities in Europe such as Paris, London, or Amsterdam. However, the expenses in Vienna are manageable when compared to many European capitals, allowing citizens to have a better quality of life. Another advantage of Vienna is that, unlike other cities, there are still plenty of housing options.

4. High quality of life

For quite some time now, Austria has been rated as one of the top 10 best places to live in the world – and there’s a good explanation for that state of affairs. The country provides excellent public transport, has low crime rates, and offers an excellent health system. Did we mention the great education ecosystem and breathtaking nature close to major cities? Language is also not a problem for foreigners – Austrians are ranked 8th in terms of English proficiency, which creates a welcoming environment for internationals. Austria may look like the perfect place for any person – but it’s particularly a good match for families.

5. Purchasing power

Despite the fact that Austria is a smaller market compared to its neighbour Germany, it’s still a very wealthy nation. Just 8 other countries in Europe are ranking better when it comes to real gross domestic product per capita. While Vienna is Austria’s single city that has a population of more than one million people, the purchasing power in rural areas is higher than in any other location in Europe.

6. Smart and connected

Austria has always been an experimental market for the mobile telecommunications industry. Following its traditions, the country has become one of Europe’s 5G pioneers. In addition, Vienna is one of the top 25 locations globally in respect to smart city rankings.

7. A bridge between the East and the West

Milan, Munich, Prague, Budapest, Zurich and Bratislava are all reachable in a few hours by train. Other major cities in Europe can be quickly accessed via air. This enables Austria-based companies to easily travel to their international offices. Vienna is also a popular destination for globally important conferences – both the United Nations and OPEC have hubs in the country.

The Austrian Business Agency: Here to help

If you’re looking to grow in this positive environment, the Austrian Business Agency (ABA) is the partner you need. With its 3 divisions – INVEST in AUSTRIA, WORK in AUSTRIA, as well as FILM in AUSTRIA – the organization advises and helps international business, skilled labor and film producers – at no cost. ABA can provide assistance with any business or research challenge.

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