Why This Tiny Slovakian City Is a Hidden Startup Gem

The Central European hub is home to more than a hundred private companies on this year's Inc. 5000 Europe.

Jaroslav Luptak, the co-founder of venture capital firm Neulogy Ventures in Slovakia, was 5 years old when Czechoslovakia, a former satellite of the Soviet Union, emerged from communist rule. Just a few short years later, Slovakia would become an independent state.

"At the time, 'entrepreneur' was almost a swear word," Luptak says, adding that his father--who started a lumber mill in the 1990s--was viewed negatively by many Slovaks. "At that time, it was basically a gold rush. Big companies got privatized, and most of them just got sold in pieces for a profit, so people lost jobs," he explains.

Yet attitudes toward entrepreneurship in Slovakia have changed in recent years, founders and investors tell Inc., as small businesses help boost the economy. The country's total economic output reached $86.6 billion in 2016--of which small- to medium-size businesses contributed 57 percent, according to the research firm Global Entrepreneurship Monitor.

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