Companies, far and wide, are crossing seas and operating at a digital distance to maximize new markets more effortlessly than ever before. Aljoša Ficko of ABC Accelerator, Germany, has done exactly that. Having set up Ljubljana’s ABC Accelerator in the heart of Munich’s innovation ecosystem at Mindspace Viktualienmarkt, not a day goes by where Aljoša is not discovering a great deal, making a new contact, conceiving a new idea or discovering new ways to ride the innovation train.
It sounds like a busy day in Munich…
Yes, it is always like this. Nothing new. There are things popping up all the time! It’s a good thing – that means that we are doing something right.
Is startup life generally quite hectic?
Yes, for sure. But, you don’t have these corporate shackles which makes the process much more fun and creative – and that is why I love it so much. For a long time, I was working for urban platforms as an attorney and I just wanted to break out and be creative – that’s the main reason why I am doing what I am doing.
ABC Accelerator Germany in a nutshell. Go!
Everything started in Ljubljana, Slovenia, with the accelerator. Our CEO, Dejan Roljič, is a serial entrepreneur and world traveler, and he wanted to contribute to the whole system and provide starting points for startups in this part of Europe. ABC decided to open an entity in Munich and San Jose, Silicon Valley, for later stage startups and SMEs that are eligible for the DACH region, or the US market, to give them a platform to boost, prosper and have better opportunity for a market entry. So one of the services that ABC Accelerator Germany provides is a soft-landing solution for such companies, taking care of accommodation, offices, operational support through our partners as well as sharing our network in Germany, to introduce our clients to potential investors and business partners.
Another vertical of our company in Munich is providing HR-solutions in the IT-field. It is no secret, that Germany is not ‘producing’ enough software developers for the growing demand and we try to solve this problem with our Kiev-based entity, Move on Miles, with a talent pole of around 25,000 developers, by forwarding great talent to the DACH region or providing remote solutions for IT-projects
We have another joint venture company based in Bosnia which is called ABC Software Development, more concentrated on providing software developers to work remotely. A lot of companies are not in the need of hiring developers all the time, and can just get people on board for a certain project.
Last but not least, we, in collaboration with the Enterprise Development Group, offer the ABC EDG Enterprise Accelerator, a globally based program for companies looking to radically transform their innovation capability.
Eastern Europe sounds like a sure breeding ground for tech talent.
Yes, you are completely right. It’s due to the educational culture. Central European companies are shifting their development to the east of the continent. The wages for software development in these countries is five to 10 times higher than wages for other occupations and they are ahead of the curve when compared with the rest of Europe. Eastern Europe currently has 700,000 developers and this number is growing each year by another 120,000.
Are you thinking to expand your talent forwarding venture, ‘Move on Miles’, to other countries for talent too?
Our talent pool is mostly based in Ukraine. It is easier for us to process and know who you are working with and, of course, be more productive with the clients to get them in touch with really good talent. Currently, we have a talent pool of 25,000 developers.
You are impassioned by startup culture. What excites you most?
For me, it’s very important to be in a very international environment and to be amongst very innovative people. I learn so much through this process – business, different cultures, ideas – as a businessman, but first and foremost as a person. My main business in the ecosystem is to talk to people, to help thrive in something that they are very passionate about. The startup world gives you a really, really strong energy and keeps you going. It’s that feeling of going home with a smile after 14 hours of work, knowing that you did something great, you met great people, you listened to very different stories – it fulfills you. This was the main reason for joining the ABC Accelerator Group.
Tell us a bit about what differentiates the Munich startup scene. Germany is the largest and strongest European market, with really great possibilities. Munich has a broad network and infrastructure with the strongest purchasing power in the country. Munich’s startup culture, itself, is already really strong and I think it is the place to be, especially regarding B2B oriented solutions.
Do you think being a Mindspace member opens the right doors?
The biggest thing that you can do for your company and the companies that you are working with is, of course, to build a strong network. In my opinion, to report on Mindspace in one sentence, it is ‘instant networking’. You guys here are doing a really good job. From the beginning, there was good synergy and energy, based on trust and similar ideas and I knew that the partnership was going to work. And it works! Each day, a lot of interesting people pass through and it’s all about meeting random people, sharing ideas, sharing stories. The location of the offices is amazing – it doesn’t get much better than that – so for me, for our company, it is a big asset and we love it here.
Have things changed for ABC since you opted for a co-working at Mindspace?
Yes. I feel really good here, which is important to me. To be able to work in an environment where I know that I am accepted, where I know that I am surrounded by open-minded people. It puts a smile on my face, each day that I come here.
Why would people choose to apply to the ABC accelerator, as opposed to other accelerators?
The ABC accelerator in Ljubljana has been around since the end of 2014, currently, our 6th batch ongoing and equity-based in more than 80 companies, and ABC Ljubljana was selected as the best startup accelerator for the Central European Startup Awards 2017. It gives our startups a fantastic platform to get to know the team and product, and the possibility to work within a very strong and experienced practice that we have at ABC Ljubljana.
And, the startups you are currently working within Munich – can you tell us about them?
We currently host two companies – 42DBS GmbH and MIK Celje d.o.o. The first provides software solutions – a cloud-based SAAS program for companies, called Shakespeare. It is an entity from a Slovenian company who incorporated here in Germany through us. MIK Celje d.o.o. is a strong SME from Slovenia, producing windows and doors, now also offering their products and services in the DACH region.