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Startups used the pandemic to prepare for further expansion. Business visas could help them go abroad


Startups used the pandemic to prepare for further expansion. Business visas could help them go abroad
  • CzechInvest supported 79 startups in 2020.
  • Domestic activities predominated; 14 companies travelled abroad.
  • Startups may travel to Singapore this year thanks to special business visas.

Last year, the Czech startup scene experienced a deviation from the trends of previous years. Whereas interest in foreign activities connected with CzechInvest’s acceleration programmes was prevalent between 2016 and 2019, last year's restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic drastically altered the situation. Startups focused more on preparing at home, which will help them commence their foreign expansion once restrictions have been eased. Business visas, about which CzechInvest is currently engaged in talks, could also help them with travelling abroad

CzechInvest's acceleration programmes have long been very popular on the domestic startup scene. In the past five years, they have received nearly 800 applications and the agency has supported a total of 196 startups, which have taken part in the agency’s projects more than 300 times. In terms of the distribution within the total number, foreign activities (195) have outstripped domestic activities (119). Last year, however, the trend was exactly the opposite.
“Restrictions connected with the COVID-19 pandemic have had a significant impact on the possibility to travel abroad. Therefore, interest in domestic activities prevailed in 2020. Out of 138 applications, we supported 58 startups in these programmes, while another ten continued with their incubation from the previous year. There were fewer applications for foreign programmes, in which 14 companies received support. We thus supported more companies in domestic activities in 2020 than in previous years,” says Patrik Reichl, CEO of CzechInvest.

From 2016 to 2019, CzechInvest sent five companies abroad per month on average. In 2020, activities aimed at supporting foreign expansion gradually declined due to border closures around the world. Business opportunities first came to a halt in Asia and Singapore, followed by Europe and the United States. In comparison with previous years, it was possible to send fewer than 30% of companies abroad.

“Prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis – from January to March 2020 – we managed to arrange two foreign acceleration stays in the United States and London. Eight startups attended one of the largest technology conferences, CES Las Vegas, and four participated in foreign sectoral conferences according to their own preferences and respective business segments,” explains Markéta Přenosilová, head of the Startup and Innovative SME Division at CzechInvest.
 

CzechInvest’s support for startups 2016–2020

According to Přenosilová, a full range of conferences have been moved to the online environment, but companies have less interest in this format, as they see it as beinging less beneficial to the development of their business. This is generally true of the whole online environment. According to CzechInvest, it is very important for startups to be able to travel abroad, meet potential customers and business partners in person, and become more familiar with the given market.

CzechInvest believes that this can be done successfully in the acceleration programmes this year. “We are monitoring the current development of the situation and we are ready to implement acceleration programmes abroad as soon as that becomes possible. It appears promising at this time in Singapore, where we are negotiating special business visas together with a foreign partner,” said Markéta Přenosilová.

Startups used last year mainly for preparation under the supervision of mentors
Last year, a full range of startups focused primarily on the development of their business on the domestic market and preparation for foreign expansion, which they will undertake when the situation allows. There has been an increase in interest in the CzechStarter programme, which provides hours of mentoring and consulting with top professionals who have helped companies in selected sectors with improving their products and business models, as well as with determining the further direction of their business and preparation for expansion.

“We focused on pre-departure preparation also in the past, though it often happened that startups did not pay proper attention to it. After arriving abroad, they realised that they could have prepared things like market and target-segment research, business strategy and drafts of sales or licensing agreements when they were still at home. Instead, they had to allocate time that could have been used for in-person meetings, for example in London, for tasks that could have been completed at home,” explains Přenosilová.

Last year, startups were advised by CzechInvest’s experts in the areas of marketing, law, business planning and sales. According to Markéta Přenosilová, these activities lead to the formation of a strong and healthy basis for doing business on the domestic market, thus enabling startups to be independent and profitable at the time of expansion. Based to her experience, expanding a business on another continent while maintaining a team at home is not a simple matter.
 
 
About CzechInvest
CzechInvest plays a key role in the area of comprehensive support for business and investments. The agency’s unique combination of regional, central and international operations ensures the integrity of its services and its ability to connect global trends with the regional conditions in the Czech Republic. One of CzechInvest’s primary objectives is the transformation of the Czech Republic into an innovation leader of Europe. CzechInvest is a state contributory organisation subordinate to the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic. The agency was established in 1992.

 

Contact to CzechInvest:
Jana Kohoutová
Spokesperson
+420 720 965 969
jana.kohoutova@czechinvest.org