Financial Times’ European Startup Hubs Rating and CEE Representation

  • Financial Times put together a list of top 125 startup hubs in Europe
  • There are only 8 representatives from the CEE countries: the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, and Estonia
  • Some of them point out that ranking isn’t the main part of their job, while others try to take lessons from it and look at similar ranking in the future with optimism

This March, Financial Times published its Europe’s Leading Start-Up Hubs 2024 ranking of the top startup hubs that offer incubation and/or acceleration programs for people looking to start or grow a company. The list was prepared in collaboration with Statista R and Sifted.

How It Was Put Together

Out of 125 spots, the top three in the overall ranking are UnternehmerTUM from Germany, Hexa from Belgium, and SETsquared from the UK. Only 8 representatives of the CEE startup ecosystems made it to the list.

Cedric Maloux, CEO at StartupYard

The Financial Times website specifies: ‘Several elements were considered for the evaluation, with the main criterion being the assessment of the respective startup hub by alumni who participated in at least one incubator or accelerator program run by the respective hub. In addition, the recommendations of external experts, such as investors (business angels, representatives of venture capital firms), entrepreneurs and academics were included. On top of that, the most successful startups coming out of a hub were examined.’

As such, Cedric Maloux, CEO at StartupYard (#59, Czech Republic), is grateful to the alumni and other participants for their ranking. In his opinion, Startup Yard’s relatively low ranking is to be attributed to the fact that StartupYard now runs a fully remote program.

For Rebels Valley’s (#94, Poland) growth & innovation designer Tomasz Kowalczyk, being featured in the Financial Times ranking is a real morale booster for the team. It shows that supporting startups in a market-oriented model makes sense and builds advantages over other entities in Poland. On the other hand, the actual ranking reveals how much more can and should be learned to increase the scale of activities on an international level.

Why CEE Startup Hubs Are Underrepresented

Martin Gillár, PR & Media Relations Lead at JIC

JIC (#65, Czech Republic) doesn’t even position itself as a startup hub – it is an innovation agency, and startups are just one of our targeted segments. JIC also works with students, scaleups, and globally successful companies, adapting its services to the current demand and situation. JIC’s PR & media relations lead Martin Gillár suspects that this may have been a bit opaque for the evaluators.

Mr Gillár expresses a pinch of reasonable doubt: ‘Out of a total of 125, this is a relatively low number. For example, Estonia has interesting numbers but only one representative in this overview. In terms of population, the results of Poland, which has two representatives in the selection, is again surprising. Surprisingly absent, for example, is the Kraków Technology Park which offers incubation services for startups.

René Samek, director of the innovation department of CzechInvest (#103, Czech Republic), suggests a more trivial reason for the somewhat disappointing ranking. Most of the information about Czechinvest’s startup activities on the website is in Czech, and the FT/Statista experts looked at the English version.

Tomasz Kowalczyk, Growth & Innovation Designer at Rebels Valley

Mr Kowalczyk feels that the CEE region is not fully leveraging its potential. ‘For decades, countries like Poland have been at the forefront of global economic growth dynamics – however, this is not reflected in the number of success stories of regional companies and recognizable technological brands. This also translates into a low representation of the CEE region in terms of innovation hubs. Support centers for startups in this region must primarily collaborate more closely at the regional level – so that the CEE becomes a more significant point on the international heatmap of the innovation ecosystem,’ he tells ITKeyMedia.

Outtakes and Conclusions

According to Mr Gillár, JIC has its own strategy which is linked to the innovation ecosystem, and being selected is a confirmation of the good results of the agency over the last years. For Mr Maloux, recognition by the FT is nice, but not much more than a vanity metric, while the real motivator is the success of portfolio startups and their founders.

Cristian Dascalu, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Techcelerator

Mr Samek begs to differ: ‘It has provided us with an incentive to continue to improve our services and especially our English-language website so that we provide better information on our services and achievements in English and not just in Czech. We will definitely participate in the contest next year too.’

Cristian Dascalu, co-founder and managing partner at Techcelerator (#59, Romania), also welcomes the recognition and is convinced that future rankingIn the few years we have had, we have managed to establish ourselves in the market and organize ourselves in the region, but the most exciting years are yet to come,’ he is convinced.


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