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 (later acquired by its global competitor Avast with headquarters in Prague), benefiting from the printing solutions by Y Soft or buying airplane tickets at Kiwi.com. You may also have heard of electronic microscopes developed by Tescan Orsay Holding or Thermo Fisher Scientific (originally Brno-born FEI), but in all likelihood are unaware that one-third of the world’s electron microscopy production is located in Brno.
And there is more – Kentico Software (e-commerce management systems), a software platform for Facebook and Google campaigns by ROI Hunter, or the speech recognition startup Phonexia. We also have here the database giant Oracle (ERP solution) and Good Data (a business intelligence company founded by Roman Stanek, the most successful Czech serial entrepreneur, with two exits in Silicon Valley).
All of these firms were born or do business in Brno.
- Brno has one of the highest concentrations of R&D centres (Honeywell, Red Hat, AT&T, Konica Minolta, Atlas Copco) and shared services centres (Infosys, IBM, Lufthansa InTouch, Deutsche Telekom) for international hi-tech companies in Central Europe. The ICT Security sector (the headquarters of another world-class company, ESET, can be reached in 90 minutes) and computer games sector (Madfinger Games in Brno and Bohemia Interactive accessible within 90 minutes) in particular are strong in the region.
- Local universities (Masaryk University, Brno University of Technology, Mendel University, University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Science Brno, Janacek Academy of the Performing Arts, University of Defence) send out around 15,000 highly employable graduates a year.
- Good start-up supporting infrastructures in Brno include the biggest Czech innovation agency – the South Moravian Innovation Centre – and start-up-oriented co-working centres.
- Brno is a strategic point linking three Central European capitals – Vienna, Prague and Bratislava.
Incubators and accelerators
- JIC (South Moravian Innovation Centre) is a public agency supporting people in the creation and development of innovative companies. It has three types of support programmes – Enter for beginners, Master for advanced, and Platinum for mature companies.
- JIC STARCUBE is the longest running Czech accelerator. Since 2010 more than 60 projects have been supported with 5 mil. USD. 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 holds regular long-term acceleration programmes, most of them focused on social business (Impact First, Social Impact Award) but some open to any kind of business (Impact Hub 100-Day challenge).
- Science – Technical Park Brno-Jih is an incubator run by the 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 in order 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 speed up success.
- JIC Ventures is a subsidiary of JIC that provides venture capital financing to companies in JIC programs. It can invest in start-ups in the very early development stages.
- Opifer private VC invests pre-seed capital from €10,000 for new companies and seed capital of up to €1,000,000 for early stage start-ups.
You don’t 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 Banka, MITON, investing in 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 and science parks and clusters
The 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 15 ICT companies and focuses on strategic projects and long-term development concepts. 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 at 2,200 sqm) work in the areas of cyber security, information systems and artificial intelligence.
The Network Security Monitoring Cluster (NSM Cluster) is a cooperative industrial cluster focusing on network security and security in ICT. It has about 20 members, mostly from South Moravia. Its activities include scientific and research projects, education and training, network traffic audit, and fibre network auditing.
Brno has several places with a true community atmosphere where you can rent a desk. Some of them offer not only a place to share but a regular program for start-uppers along with other services.
- Impact Hub Brno, part of a global network with more than 1,700 members in the Czech Republic, has a workspace of 480 sqm floor space for meetings, entrepreneurship development, and events with a major focus on social entrepreneurship. Situated in the centre, it offers a wide range of memberships, from 10 hours/month to unlimited or even office rental.
- Cowo is a co-working space in the city centre with an amazing view over Moravské náměstí, just next to the Scala cinema.
- Coworking Mitrovskil, which is located next to the Brno Trade Fair grounds, offers a few rooms with a view to a charming late-eighteenth-century summerhouse.
- Melvil Space, a co-working space created by an independent Brno- based publisher, is situated in the city centre.
- KoPlac is housed in a room close to the city centre where you can develop business ideas with the help of experienced local entrepreneurs during “Start-up Weekends”.
Other business and R&D facilities
Czech Technology Park is Brno’s oldest office park, developed by Bovis and constructed next to the Brno University of Technology campus. Among its many tenants are Y Soft, Zebra, IBM, Velux, and Vodafone.
Spielberk Office Park, developed by the Dutch CTP, is a modern site with several buildings alongside the road to Vienna. The tenants include Infosys, PPG, Lufthansa InTouch, Atlas Copco and many other international companies. It also houses Regus (3,000 locations worldwide in 120 countries), where growing start-ups can share rooms for short periods of time.
The Faculty of Business and Management of the Brno University of Technology, which is attended by many bright students with business backgrounds, is located next to the Czech Technology Park.
FabLab Brno Fabrication Laboratory. It offers know-how advice as well as access to computer-controlled equipment such as a CNC router, 3D printers, laser and vinyl cutters and other electronic devices.
StartupClub – regular seminars and panel discussions organized by JIC; no charge to attend
BarCamp – international network of conferences organized by attendees themselves, usually focused on new trends for internet apps and design advertising. Running since 2010, it is the largest event of its kind in the Czech Republic.
Start-up Weekend – venue where early-stage projects can be discussed with more experienced peers, organized by KoPlac.
Pecha Kucha Night – an international network of events presenting creative ideas with 20 slides shown for 20 seconds each.
TEDx Brno – international network of multidisciplinary conferences focused on social and technological innovations, science, art, and business. Talks are limited to 3-18 minutes; 5 editions and two Salons organized by Brnopolis since 2010.