Brno has become the Central European hi-tech hub, attracting international companies as well as start-ups and individual entrepreneurs. Brno was the first city in the Czech Republic to have its own innovation agency and start-up accelerator – and it keeps leading in many new areas.
You may be using the famous antivirus software by AVG (recently acquired by its global competitor Avast with headquarters in Prague), know the printing solutions by Y Soft or buy airplane tickets at Kiwi.com (earlier known as Skypicker). You may have also heard of NetSuite (ERP solution), SolarWinds (IT management) or Good Data (business intelligence company founded by Roman Stanek, the most successful serial entrepreneur with two exits in Silicon Valley). You may have also heard of electronic microscopes developed by ThermoFisher Scientific (earlier FEI) and Tescan (a third of the world’s electron microscopy production is made in Brno), a speech recognition startup Phonexia or a web marketing startup Smartlook.
All of these were born or do business in Brno.
Some key points:
- Brno has one of the highest concentrations of R&D centres (Honeywell, Red Hat, AT&T, Konica Minolta, Atlas Copco) or shared services centres (Infosys, IBM, Lufthansa InTouch, Deutsche Telekom) for international hi-tech companies. Especially the ICT Security sector (headquarters of another world-class company ESET can be reached in 90 mins) and computer games sector (Madfinger Games in Brno and Bohemia Interactive accessible within 90 mins) are strong in the region.
- Local universities (Masaryk University, Brno University of Technology, Mendel University, Pharmaceutical and Veterinary University, Janacek Academy of Fine Arts, University of Defence) are producing a great number of graduates ready to be employed each year.
- Good start-up supporting infrastructures that exist in Brno consists of the biggest innovation agency, in the South Moravian Innovation Centre, and start-up oriented co-working centres countrywide.
- Brno is a strategic point on the way to three European capitals: Vienna, Prague and Bratislava, with direct flights to London, Munich and Milan.
Incubators and accelerators
- JIC (South Moravian Innovation Centre) is a public agency supporting people in creating and developing innovative companies. It has three types of supporting programmes – Enter for beginners, Master for advanced, and Platinum for mature companies.
- JIC STARCUBE is the longest running Czech accelerator. Since 2010 more than 72 startups have participated. Twice a year teams experience two months loaded with knowledge, workshops, meetings with mentors, and connecting to global technology companies. They gain benefits and financial support for testing and prototyping, legal and tax services, marketing, travel reimbursement, and accommodation.
- Impact Hub Brno – regularly holds long-term acceleration programmes, mostly focused on social business (Impact First, Social Impact Award, Vodafone Foundation Laboratory), but some are not (Impact Hub 100-Day challenge).
- Science – Technical Park Brno-Jih – An incubator run by Research Institute for Building Materials.
- Y Soft Ventures is the venture capital arm of Y Soft Corporation. The group looks to invest in innovative start-ups combining software and hardware to deliver solutions with far-reaching potential. In addition to funding, Y Soft Ventures is able to use its resources in manufacturing, global distribution, marketing, and logistics to increase the speed of success.
- JIC Ventures is a subsidiary of JIC (South Moravian Innovation Centre) providing venture capital financing to companies in JIC programs. It can invest into start-ups in the very early development stages.
- Opifer private VC invests pre-seed capital of €50.000 to new companies born by an idea or research and seed capital of €500.000 to early stage start-ups.
You do not need to limit yourself to Brno – the Czech ecosystem is not that large and Prague, where most of the other VCs are based, is just a 2-hour drive away. The key players in Prague are Credo Ventures, the oldest Czech early stage VC fund, J&T Ventures, an early stage fund affiliated with J&T Bank, MITON investing into consumer internet businesses, and e-business focused Rockaway Capital.
You can contact more VC funds that are members of the Czech Private Equity and Venture Capital Association or business angels.
Research or science parks and clusters
Centre for Education, Research and Innovation for ICT (CERIT) created by the Faculty of Informatics and Institute of Computer Science at Masaryk University (MU) hosts over 20 ICT companies and focuses on strategic projects and long-term development concept including technical support and operational activities. The Science Park provides facilities for technology start-ups and established ICT companies, benefiting from synergies with research and teaching capacities at MU. Currently, most companies hosted work in the areas of cyber security, information systems and artificial intelligence.
Network Security Monitoring Cluster (NSM Cluster) is a co-operative industrial cluster focusing on the network security and security in ICT. It has 21 members, mostly from South Moravia. Its activities include scientific and research projects, education and training, network traffic audit, fibre network audit, etc.
Brno has several places where to rent a desk with a true community atmosphere. Some of them offer not only a place to share but a regular program for start-uppers with other services.
- Impact Hub Brno, a part of the Impact Hub global network with more than 13.000 members in the world, it has a workspace for meetings, entrepreneurship development, and events with a major focus on social entrepreneurship. Situated in the centre, offering a wide range of memberships – from 10 hours/month to unlimited or even office rental.
- JIC Cowork – A co-working space mostly for clients of JIC programs and services, but young talented students and freelancers can also apply.
- Cowo – A co-working space in the city center with an amazing view over Moravské náměstí, just next to the Brno Expat Centre and Scala cinema.
- Coworking Mitrovski – A few rooms with a view to a large garden villa located next to the Brno Fair.
- Melvil Space – A co-working space created by an independent Brno based publisher located in the city centre.
- KoPlac – A room close to the city centre where you can develop business ideas with the help of local experienced entrepreneurs during “Start-up Weekends”.
- The Distillery: Social Reactor – A place rebuilt out of an old distillery focused on creative businesses.
Other business or R&D facilities
Czech Technology park – the very first office park in Brno developed by Bovis and constructed next to the Brno University of Technology campus with tenants such as Y Soft, SGI, Red Hat, IBM, Motorola, Velux, Vodafone, and many others.
Spielberk Office Park developed by Dutch CTP is a modern site with several buildings next to the road to Vienna. The tenants include Infosys, PPG, Lufthansa InTouch, Atlas Copco and many other international companies. There is also Regus (3000 locations worldwide in 120 countries) where growing start-ups can share rooms for a short periods of time.
Faculty of Business and Management of the Brno University of Technology is located next to the Czech Technology Park, attended by many smart students with business backgrounds.
FabLab Brno Fabrication Laboratory. Access to the knowledge, computer controlled machines like CNC router, 3D printers, electronics, laser cutter, vinyl cutter.
BarCamp – international network of conferences organised by attendees themselves, usually focused on new trends for internet apps, design advertising, etc. It’s had 7 editions since 2010. The largest event of its kind in the Czech Republic
Start-up Weekend (early stage projects can be discussed with more experienced peers) by KoPlac.
Pecha Kucha Nights – an international network of events presenting creative ideas with 20 slides shown for 20 seconds each. Several editions.
Various types of hackathons, some by STRV branch office.
TEDxBrno – international network of multidisciplinary conferences focused on social and technological innovations, science, art, and business. Talks limited to 3-18 minutes, 5 editions and two Salons organized by Brnopolis since 2010.