By João-Pierre S. Ruth
xconomy.com – 5/7/13
The campaign to attract more startups to New York is reaching across international borders. Last night a coalition of private and city organizations introduced a group of 15 startups from Europe to the New York tech and investor community. The mission was to build local business connections for these companies and the event organizers say some of these entrepreneurs plan to relocate to the city.
The startups included Austria’s 4sqwifi, which helps users find venues with Wi-Fi, and Hungary’s BoatForRent.com, an Airbnb-style boat sharing service.
The event was part of a New York City Economic Development Corp. program to encourage investment and trade between New York and cities in Eastern and Central Europe. This initiative, called World to NYC, is an attempt to show entrepreneurs from around the globe what the city offers in terms of expansion opportunities.
VentureOutNY teamed with iCatapult and NYCEDC to present these startups to the city’s innovation and funding community. Brian Frumberg, entrepreneur-at-large with DFJ Gotham Ventures and a partner with iCatapult, is the founder of VentureOutNY, a nonprofit which promotes the city to startups from abroad that want to expand and establish operations in the United States
Accelerator program iCatapult—which has offices in New York and Budapest—brings tech talent from Europe to the U.S. Imre Hild, the CEO of iCatapult, spoke with me about why the companies who presented last night want to connect with New York.
“The Central European startup scene was very under-developed two years ago,” he says. “At the same time, we’ve seen a couple of successes like Prezi, Ustream [now headquartered in San Francisco], and LogMeIn. They’re all Hungarian Internet startups that became very successful.”
Looking to recapture some of that lightning, he says iCatapult offers business development services to help other startups from that part of the world. “Most Central and Eastern Europeans are good at technical development but business development and sales are not in the culture,” Hild says. He previously worked for Lehman Brothers and sees the U.S. as a proxy for testing how successful ideas could be on the international market.
Some might question bringing these European startups initially to New York rather than Silicon Valley, fore example, but Hild says it was a simple business decision. “This is where their clients are,” he says. “Many Hungarian startups are in ad-tech and fin-tech because that’s where most of their talent is coming from.” New York’s strengths in those industries, he says, made it a natural fit.
At the moment, Hild says, Hungarian tech companies do not have a deep presence in New York, but he hopes to change that. “This is a very international, very diverse startup community,” he says, “We can find our place and establish a home here.”
Hild says the 15 companies who presented last night plan to relocate their headquarters or open offices in New York. His accelerator works closely with three of those companies: Multipass Solutions, Zinbox, and iMect.
In addition to putting some funding on the table, he says, iCatapult offers business connections for these startups. Hild expects to bring more companies to the U.S. at least twice per year with plans to host five startups next time. He hopes to see 20 companies in each cohort making the trip within the next three years. “We want to open doors for them and introduce them to various marketplaces,” he says.
The companies who appeared last night will be on a bit of a tour of the city in May, he says, getting introduced to potential investors, the startup community, and other entrepreneurs—and they will also spend one week in Silicon Valley. “We don’t want to completely shut our options,” he says. “We want to test the waters.”