powered by Startupland

In this blog series we explore buzzing startup ecosystems in different Austrian regions. Since Tyrol made the start (check out our Inside Austria – Tyrol article), we are now taking a closer look at Austria’s far west – Vorarlberg. 

Austria’s westernmost federal state (Bundesland) nudges up against Germany, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. This advantageous geographical location as well as a strong industrial sector allowed local companies to become experts in internationalization and exports. Just take a look at these figures, they speak for themselves: In 2017, Vorarlberg – which 400.000 people call their home – generated an export ratio of €25.147 per inhabitant. Hence, it boasts a stronger economic power than neighboring German regions such as Baden-Württemberg or Bavaria. Apart from export successes, Vorarlberg also provides favorable conditions for entrepreneurs and startups: In relation to its population, Vorarlberg occupies 10th place in terms of patent applications and about 1.020 people founded a company and became self-employed in 2017. Currently, Vorarlberg counts 50 active startups – so, let’s dig deeper into its startup ecosystem. 

Vorarlberg’s startup hotspots at a glance  

One of the biggest indicators of the entrepreneurial appetite growing in the “Ländle” (that’s how Vorarlberg is nicknamed since it is almost completely mountainous. ;-)) is the proliferation of rentable working/office spaces: Rhomberg’s Fabrik, Millennium Park, Fabrik Klarenbrunn and the Wirtschaftspark – just to name a few of them. The “Rheintal” with its cities Bregenz (the provincial capital), Feldkirch and Dornbirn can be considered pivotal and prospering economic locations. However, it’s Dornbirn where the startup magic happens: Increasing numbers of co-working spaces (e.g. CAMPUS V, Gelbe Fabrik or Schlosserei), the opening of the digital innovation hub Postgarage by CAMPUS V in summer 2019 and – last but not least – various startup events and programs from FH Vorarlberg University of Applied Sciences make up the right ingredients for a thriving startup ecosystem.

Active corporates and business angels in the ecosystem 

Recently, SME’s and industrial enterprises such as Illwerke VKW, Omicron or Rhomberg haven taken notice of the thriving local startup scene. Encouraged by the entrepreneurial spirit, some of them even founded their own innovation hubs. The above mentioned digital innovation hub Postgarage at CAMPUS V is going to mingle and match startups and corporates in the region. Besides innovation hubs, the other key ingredient to a buzzing ecosystem is of course, funding. Among various well-connected business angels, the venture capitalist Speedinvest is quite active in the “Ländle”. 

Actions and measures of the public sector 

Consequently, numerous private and public initiatives have emerged: In 2018, Startupland was founded by regional startups in cooperation with the economic chamber Wirtschaftskammer Vorarlberg. As the voice for startups in Vorarlberg, Startupland aims to provide startups a network by connecting them with experts, mentors and partners at various hosted events. Because fostering an entrepreneurial and a startup mindset is key! A public initiative which develops strategies how to harness advantages of digitalization is the political working group “Digitale Agenda Vorarlberg”. 

© Startupland

Strengths and weaknesses of the region 

What makes the “Ländle” so attractive for startups and investors? The Startup Barometer Vorarlberg 2018 reveals the answers: It has a strong economic power, an advantageous geographical location (neighboring Germany and Switzerland), a high quality of life as well as well-connected economic and strategic partners. The most common issue affecting the entire region is a shortage of skilled manpower (especially in the IT sector). 

How should an interested investor spend a day in Vorarlberg? 

Start with a breakfast at panorama restaurant Karren in Dornbirn and enjoy Vorarlberg’s natural scenery of impressing, majestic peaks and narrow valleys while tasting our traditional Austrian food. Afterwards, stop by at the co-working space Campus V and meet up with inspiring local entrepreneurs. Also don’t miss the unique combination of nature and culture at Bregenz lake stage (home to the Bregenz Festival) which is situated at Lake Constance. Let the day end by exploring the region’s culinary treasures: Visit the Käsestraße Bregenzerwald and enjoy the taste of traditional cheese produced by locals. 

Thanks to Startupland for this deep dive into the startup ecosystem of Vorarlberg.