In our introduction series about the Slovak startup infrastructure, we have already covered Impact Hub with Branislav Šmidt and Eastcubator with Marek Lavčák. Today, I am pleased to introduce you another established part of the ecosystem. Launcher is a startup studio based in Bratislava with such companies as Uavonic, a developer of services and application of UAVs, or Crowdberry, an equity-based crowdfunding platform, in the portfolio. Marek Zvara is responsible for Launcher’s marketing strategy.
What is your background, Marek?
I have background in advertising agencies. After that experience, I switched the side as I started to work as the head of marketing for several companies, foreign as well as Slovak. My experience in marketing domain is over 15 years.
What was your path to Launcher?
That’s quite simple. My ex-colleague asked me to help with a marketing strategy for one particular startup. However, it turned out to be the marketing core for Launcher, a startup studio based in Bratislava. From this one task, my work for Launcher has spread across all the startups within Launcher portfolio. And that is a hell of a ride compared to my previous corporate life.
Do you remember your first touch with the startup world? Why did it catch your attention?
As mentioned before, I used to work for several big corporations where processes across various levels can sometimes be tough, due to lower flexibility in the adoption of new stuff into reality. Implementing your ideas is a long run. Nonetheless, I had an opportunity to work on a spin-off project. I tried real hard and it turned out to be a great experience which opened a completely new world to me in the marketing domain.
What is the story of Launcher?
Launcher is a startup and innovation studio launched about three years ago. The name Launcher describes the core of our business – to create and boost companies, and at the same time, we felt it was something that linked us to the startup world. We also provide marketing, know-how, help with biz model setup, team formation, etc.
Launcher is founded by three private investors with strong background in IT business. By supporting and funding Launcher, they took the option to enter the startup world and, thus, attract young and innovative companies and talented people.
What is the main goal of Launcher?
You may find various entities and players within the startup ecosystem. To name just a few, there are incubators, co-working spaces, accelerators, etc. Launcher is kind of mix of all of them. To give you a better insight about what we do, we work with business ideas and startups in various stages of growth.
People approach us with their ideas, and we always strive to help them to transform them into a real startup. As an accelerator, we work with established startups and small businesses to accelerate their business curve. Launcher acts also as an investor in our portfolio startups that share the same roof with our headquarters. We are also a closed co-working space for the projects that we are partners with.
Can we name some of the projects?
One of the very well-known companies is Uavonic, an UAV service-based business. Another one is Crowdberry, an investment platform that connects private banking sector with dynamic & growing businesses. It’s a bit different than Kickstarter, as Crowdberry provides hi-net worth individuals with the opportunity to invest in promising startups and companies. The crowd is represented by a client pool of the leading Slovak private bank. I would also mention Zelená pošta known as a hybrid mail service provider. It‘s very popular among corporates that are trying to bring efficiency into their paper mail agenda. We have ten startups under the roof in total, and we are currently negotiating with another three.
What has been the greatest challenge you have faced?
It was Crowdberry. It‘s a great project which was built by our studio from scratch. There were too many obstacles on the way to success but we put a tremendous effort to make it work. We are continuously working harder and harder to make it a successful platform for investing into companies, not only in Slovakia.
What is the process when you consider taking in a startup?
We have a different approach from others. It varies from case to case, based on the phase the startup is currently in. At the point of an idea and very early phase, we act just as mentor. Talking about investments, we focus on the companies with som – even short – history, traction and a functional prototype. We need a kind of evidence that their solution is working.
What is the best way to approach Launcher?
Many different ways. You may call us, email us or Facebook us. We are always open to having a coffee with almost everyone who is capable of providing at least a somehow developed business idea. We have dozens of appointments per month with people, companies, or teams like this. Soon, we are also launching the Launch cafe, a regular „open door“ consultations with our team. So stay tuned 🙂
Are there some activities or events you organize?
We organize many events for Crowdberry and its members. Apart from Crowdberry, there is one engaging event for the startup community in Slovakia that is taking place once a year. Last year it took place at Wakelake at Zlate Piesky in Bratislava. We brought a lot of technical gears such as VR, Segway, or Tesla car and about 150 people attended. The experience was different than a standard event for startups with a speaker, Q&A, and networking.
What about the future plans? What are you up to?
At the beginning, we were almost an unknown company. Now, after 3 years in the market, we are a member of the community, we have a lot of networking partners and events organized by our partners. To this day, there are 70+ people working in our portfolio companies and Launcher as such. When I entered the studio in 2014, there were only 10 of us.
Our plans have stayed the same from the beginning – to provide support & help entrepreneurs in order to build real value companies with sustainable business in Slovakia or even abroad. On the other hand, we understand that being successful means being patient. Such a goal takes time of a 3-to-5 -year horizon.
However, it is not only about startups. With our rising portfolio of young companies, we are also open to cooperate with potential investors on new dynamic business ideas.
Photos: Marek Zvara & Launcher