The increasing US-based investor interest in Austrian tech start-ups – despite the hard times and a certain lack of governmental decisiveness – is creating a buzz in the country, according to DLA Piper Austria Managing Partner Christoph Mager.
“There has been a markable uptick in the levels of US-based investor attention looking at the Austrian market,” Mager begins. “One of the contributing factors to this has been a government initiative to support local technology and technology-adjacent sector start-ups,” he explains. “The growth cycle of these kinds of start-up companies has been heavily incentivized by the Austrian government, to the point of establishing dedicated agencies to evaluate these companies.”
Based on a start-up's capacity to attract financing, their business plans, and business models, as well as professional backgrounds, Mager says the Austrian government offered “targeted incentives – especially during the worst COVID-19 moments – and these companies started growing and growing. In particular, software development companies and those making efforts to usher in digitalization are at the forefront,” he reports.
Mager goes on to explain that, even with the Austrian market being “rather small, there are promising start-ups that are knocking on the door of such growth levels as to attract venture capital or even private equity financing. Given such promise, it is not surprising that US-based investors are coming around.” Even with Austria having a somewhat stringent regime for screening foreign direct investments, Mager says that investor appetite is not affected. “US investors are accustomed to heavy screenings and rigorous regulations – so it is not an obstacle,” he says. “Overall, these are massively beneficial signs for our economy – all of these companies being local – there is a huge amount of know-how entering the country.”
And, speaking about the economy, Mager reports that it is still quite internationally orientated, even in trying times. “The economy is doing great overall, though there are companies that are struggling – primarily those that have energy-heavy production processes,” he reports. “Those who are struggling the most could see their customers and investors seeking to get what they need, and there is a lot of competitive pressure, especially coming in from Asia and America,” Mager reports.
Finally, assessing the current status of legislative activities, Mager explains that he is surprised the “government isn’t introducing more initiatives. There is no clear focus or decision for increasing the focus on helping the economy and businesses survive these tough times. The primary focus for the government has been the population, with a lot of talk about introducing safety measures such as energy price caps – however, more determination would be needed when it comes to businesses,” he says. In conclusion, Mager shares that he feels “nothing major will change over the next six months. There is still comfortable investor interest in the Austrian markets, and the economy is robust – we’ll do okay,” he concludes.