Smart People: Startup incubator IoT – No wait and see

Floor Drees of Sektor5

Floor Drees may be from Holland but she loves to live and work in Vienna where she heads Sektor5, a coworking space cum startup incubator IoT – even though she admits that the Austrian startup scene probably isn’t the most exciting one in Europe.

Floor Drees of Sektor5 - startup incubator IoT in Austria

In fact, she believes that Austrians are plagued by what she calls the “wait and see mentality” (‘Schau-mer-mal’ Mentaliät).
Soon after arriving in Vienna, Drees became interested in helping budding entrepreneurs to get a foot on the ladder, especially female entrepreneurs like herself. “There aren’t enough women starting their own businesses in IoT, ” she complains. After almost three years at the helm of Sektor5, she is proud to have been chosen by Austria Wirtschaftsservice Gesellschaft to organize its startup incubator IoT program AWS JumpStart, a venture capital fund run by the development and financing bank.

Starting with three candidates, a number which has since risen to five, she provides coaching and help in keeping the books balanced, as well as holding hands through tense times, and keeping the java flowing. She connects budding business owners with trainers, and organizes visits abroad to major startup hubs in Europe and the US.

There aren’t enough women starting their own businesses here.

Floor Drees

Startups have to apply to become members but no one is expected to submit a business plan “because business plans are all outdated anyway,” she says. Instead, she grills each candidate, expecting them to provide a frank assessment of their own strengths and weaknesses. Applications are whittled down to a shortlist of candidates who are invited to a ‘screening day,’ which is a make-or-break chance to convince Drees and her team that they really do deserve to be funded.
Most applications are from Austria or Eastern Europe, and their focus ranges from fntechs to software-as-a-service and hardware. Each program lasts five months after which, the ‘alumni’, as Drees calls them, are more or less on their own, barring the occasional coaching session or assistance in finding IT talent.
She finds the conditions for founding a startup in Austria are “great – it’s pretty easy to get an appointment with the authorities, and even with other people willing to provide money.” She thinks Austrians are rather risk-averse, and notes a tendency among young people to rely too much on the excellent social net that embraces everyone in the small nation of Alps and lakes. “They could really be a bit more adventurous,” she chides. Finally, she would like the government to be more willing to invest directly. “All this trickle-down stuff is not really expedient,” she feels. She is fiercely proud of her alumni. These include Codeship, a specialist in continuous integration software, and MySugr, an app that helps diabetes patients and allows them to personalize medication. MySugr recently received €4.2m in funding and is rapidly expanding into the US market.
The latest portfolio of startup incubator IoT projects includes ExtraSauber, Austria’s frst online cleaning portal, ChillBill, for automating receipt management, and Getfolyo, a mobile advertising venture. “We’re much more than a coworking space,” Drees boasts. “We’re a community of entrepreneurs.” And one where she feels quite at home.

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