Why Belgrade? Interview with Marko Srdanov, Timeless Music

Belgrade stands as one of Europe’s oldest cities, destroyed and rebuilt many times and is located on the mouth of the longest river in the EU, the Danube. A gateway from East to West and with a rising startup community, it’s set out to harvest the best of both worlds.

We recently had the chance to talk an Aussie who made the move to Belgrade, Marko Srdanov of Timeless Music, on making this move from Sydney to Belgrade four years ago.

Marko is Co-Founder of Timeless Music (Australia) and Founder of Hajduk Spirit Distillery (Serbia).

Here’s what he had to say:

What made you decide to move your business to Belgrade? 

With regard to Timeless Music the main benefit has been to be where our business partners are. We deal with people from various countries in the EU and attend music biz networking meets like Reed Midem. With Australia being so far from anywhere we couldn’t engage with our partners on a more personal level. As Belgrade is less than 3 hours from London, I can make a day trip to go to a face-to-face meeting and get things moving much quicker than from Australia. Digital connectivity has made things more efficient when it comes to running a business but when it comes to doing a deal you have to meet people face to face.

Also being here in Europe exposes a person to new ideas and opportunities. After living in Serbia for a couple of years, I saw the opportunity for starting up a distillery. Due to a long tradition of distilling spirits, Serbia has a very favourable laws regarding the production of spirits. For example here, it is legal for people to make spirits for personal use. As a result moving into commercial production is quite straightforward. Added is that the government heavily subsidises agricultural production which distillation falls under. With an inexpensive experienced labour force and low prices of commodities, the conditions are very favourable. In comparison, an operation like this would cost 5 to 10 times more to start up in Australia.

How important has your Australian network been to get started over here?

The Australian music industry has representatives in Europe i.e.: APRA / AMCOS as well as major labels. As we have been doing business with European companies for a while the move was smooth.

In Serbia there is a solid expat community, still developing but well connected. An Australian has made a Facebook community ‘Belgrade Foreign Visitors Club’ that has been very useful in getting settled into the groove of things. They also get together and have social events throughout the year so there are networking opportunities.

Have you raised money in Europe and how did you find it compared to Australia?

We raised the start-up capital in Australia for Hajduk Spirit Distilling. However the government subsidies here in Serbia are playing a major role on further development as the subsidies range from 40-50% on distillery equipment. The Serbian government is actively working on drawing business through agencies such as the Serbian Development Agency.

What is it like to do business in Belgrade?

The biggest cultural difference is that Serbian culture is all about doing business face-to-face. Going out to see people, business lunches and developing a network of connections is a big part of the job. In Australia this culture of doing business has almost disappeared with the take up of digital technology, most people are happy to correspond via email or phone rarely seeing one another in person. In my opinion, while this has enormous benefits in running a business, it is detrimental to doing business as limited contact limits the sharing of ideas.

In Serbia this personal approach of networking is very powerful especially as the country has only seven million people. Peoples personal and business networks are quite diverse, which is very useful as a good connection can yield many others that you require for doing your business. Added is that through regular face to face interaction new ideas or opportunities often pop up in discussion.

Are you working as a remote team or did the team move over with you? 

We have been working remotely for over four years since we moved to a cloud based operation. Digital music distribution has no need of an office or warehouse so it was a logical step to make once we stopped manufacturing physical CDs.

As well as our team in Australia, we have local talent doing backend work. With a tech savvy, English speaking, highly educated, young population, Serbia is a great place to find people. For startups, it is especially useful as the costs associated with labour are much lower than in other countries while the talent has the knowhow to deliver what you are looking for.

What do you love about living in Belgrade? 

The vibrant culture and the social aspect of human interaction makes it very enjoyable to live and work here. For me personally, social and business are one so working with like-minded people is fantastic.

Top 3 tips:

  1. Do your research on the place you wish to live, customs, culture, laws etc.
  2. Get in contact with groups that are already on the ground in the city you wish to go before you decide to move.
  3. Allow adjustment time once you arrive, Australia is far away from the rest of the world in more ways than just distance. European culture is different on the surface but at the end of the day the same things drive all people. When you arrive look, listen and ask questions until you figure how to integrate. Remember that you are integrating not the other way around so when you hit a hurdle, and you will, remember that.  After that go for it

Thank you to Marko Srdanov for this interview. You can contact him at Timeless Music

Why Munich? Interview with Chris Hitchen, Investor

While Munich may be the city in Germany best known for beer-drinking (think Oktoberfest) and being the true heart of Bavaria, it also has a burgeoning startup scene, with major founder festivals like Bits & Pretezels, attracting startup enthusiasts from around Europe.

We recently had the chance to talk to an Aussie who made the move to Munich, investor Chris Hitchen, taking the leap from Melbourne to Munich seven years ago.

Chris has been an active angel investor since 2007, was a venture partner with Australian VC Square Peg Capital until 2015, and is now a venture partner with European VC EQT Ventures, one of Europe’s largest VC platforms with approx. $600m that supports ambitious founders on their journeys to global success.

Chris has been co-founded, lead or invested in several major businesses and influential businesses over the years, namely co-founding Hynt, a native advertising platform for brands and retailers, which he sold to German ecommerce business Zalando in 2017.

Here’s what he had to say:

What made you decide to move your business to Munich? 

The truth is that my wife “made” me move to Munich, where she’s from. That said, I love Munich as a city given it’s central location in Europe, moderate climate with four distinct seasons, access to mountains and lakes, great infrastructure and quality of life. From a business perspective, travel is much easier for me now as I can cover key markets like Berlin, London, Scandinavia and Tel Aviv with shorter trips. That helps with trying to balance family life.

How important has your Australian network been to get started over here?

Actually it wasn’t critical, but I think we can make it easier for newcomers. When I first came to Germany in 2002 I was a corporate employee, learning German and how to do business in Europe. When I returned in 2013 after almost eight years in Australia, I knew very few Australians here, so I built my own network the old fashioned way. At that point I wish I’d had faster access to the founders, companies and co-investors I was seeking. Perhaps I can now provide that sort of support to other Australians coming here to set-up.

Have you raised money in Europe and how did you find it compared to Australia? 

Yes I’ve supported several companies in raising money in Europe and of course I’ve invested in quite a few as well. It’s ten years since I raised money for my first start-up in Australia (Getprice), so VC and tech. Investing in general have changed substantially in most mature markets since then. Documents tend to be more standardised and good investors are both more open to direct approaches and more willing to work hard for their “customers”, the startups. Australia has a much larger pool of venture capital now and there are many good angel investors who have built and/or exited successful companies and who are reinvesting in new founders.

Europe is still a collection of markets that can be quite different, although in recent years there has been an increasing amount of cross-border investments as VCs look outside their home markets. There are some sectors in which focused capital has been slower to emerge, i.e. Industry 4.0 and Internet of Things, but this is changing and Munich in particular is well-placed to take a leading role given it’s heritage in manufacturing and industry. The first funds focused on this space are now emerging.

What is it like to do business in Munich? 

Obviously German is the spoken language, but not speaking German is rarely a barrier as the Germans tend to speak great English. In general I’ve found that it can take a little longer to build strong personal relationships through business and perhaps the formal Sie vs. informal Du system is partly responsible, although in start-ups it’s rare to use the Sie form.

Whilst it’s not really a cultural issue, coming to terms with the German tax system was a challenge, particularly as it relates to investment structures. This is an area that could be simplified for new arrivals (although not by me!).

Are you working as a remote team or did the team move over with you? 

I had a remote team for a while, but the tyranny of distance catches up with you at some point and once I understood the cost advantages of (particularly engineering) resources in Europe, it was a no-brainer to focus here.

You can hire great international talent in Berlin, although there is a lot of competition from larger tech businesses now and many are looking to markets like Barcelona and Lisbon for a steady supply of quality, affordable talent. Munich is OK with top universities like LMU and TUM (and their combined technology management program CDTM), but also competitive and more expensive than other European markets as the cost of living is a little higher.

In the more mature start-ups I’m involved with, I’ve seen that there is no quick-fix to hiring consistently great talent. It’s hard work and you need to put a lot of effort into employer branding, culture and remuneration structures.

What do you love about living in Munich? 

I love the proximity to other countries and cultures. I love the rich green landscape, mountains, lakes and the sport those afford. I love the relatively small size of the city, it’s architecture and the fact that you can get almost everywhere on a bike. The Bavarian culture (it’s more than what you see at Oktoberfest, though that’s fun too!) is wonderful and so rich in tradition, including the world’s best beer.

Top 3 tips:

  1. Don’t decide where to live based on hype alone. Think about what’s important for your work/life balance.
  2. Find the right advisors for personal and business planning so you make smart decisions about structures.
  3. Make an effort to learn the language. You may not need it to get by, but that’s exactly why Germans will appreciate it when you try.

Thank you to Chris Hitchen for this interview. You can contact him via LinkedIn.

Why London? Interview with Brennan Ong, LawAdvisor

With the recent events of Brexit and the chatter on Berlin being the next big thing for startups, old favourite London may have lost its shine. Despite this though, it’s proving to still be an innovative (and reliable) city to move your startup to.

We recently had the chance to talk an Aussie who made the move to London, Brennan Ong of LawAdvisor, making the move from Melbourne to London six months ago.

Brennan is the founder and CEO of LawAdvisor. He is a qualified lawyer, developer and former PhD scholarship candidate researching the future of legal practice. Brennan was the winner of the Chief Justice’s innovation award for his role in the development of the Supreme Court of Victoria’s cloud-based case management system, was a shortlisted finalist for the LexisNexis Centenary Book Awards for authoring a book on dispute avoidance, and through LawAdvisor, wants to use his understanding of modern day technologies and legal process to allow the profession to better meet its goal of providing access to justice.

Here’s what he had to say:

What made you decide to set up a headquarters in London?

LawAdvisor was launched in Australia in June 2015 and have since seen over 1000 lawyers sign up, over 200 client engagements weekly and over 4000 questions answered. This sparked interest not only from international investors including Lars Rasmussen, co-founder of Google Maps, but also multinational corporations based in London who were interested in our legal technology. By following leads and listening to the barriers and frustrations that lawyers, law firms and big corporations encounter on a daily basis in relation to their legal needs, we were able to build on top of our primary technology, and develop an entirely new product suite, namely, LawAdvisor Corporate. This product was launched with several UK based corporations in June 2017.

How important has your Australian network been to get started over here?

We have been incredibly lucky to have the support of the Australian startup scene who have helped shape and grow us over the past two years. I greatly appreciate the input and advice I have been given from extremely smart minds who have mentored me along this journey. Their introductions to London based businesses and contacts has certainly helped set us up and develop the credibility in the London market which has made things much easier from the word go.

That said, everyone likes to give you their two cents, and sometimes you need to stick with your gut instinct which doesn’t always take you down the same path a those before you. In those instances, my team at LawAdvisor have learned to trust our gut as we’re confident in the vision and what we can achieve which is beyond anything that has been done before. Sometimes it just takes stepping out and going for it!

Have you raised money in Europe and how did you find it compared to Australia? 

We have been pleasantly surprised by how open-minded and willing to embrace innovation the London legal scene has been. We have London based stakeholders investing in our LawAdvisor Corporate product and new consumer focused features in the pipeline for our core product.

We have now established a great network in London, and haven’t been able to keep up with the interest from potential investors and corporations wanting to use our product on a large scale.

The London legal sector does seem to be somewhat more forward thinking and open to change than the Australia market, so it’s been easier to engage investors and clients, as we present solutions to the problems associated with the antiquated processes that the legal sector have known for eternity.

What is it like to do business in London?

From my experience, London business is perfect for extraverted personalities (which may explain why so many Aussies move here)! Business often always involves social interactions, whether at the pub, a fine dining establishment, or over a clay pigeon shooting range. People tend to forget that people and human relationships are at the heart of any business transaction. So make sure your clients like you first and foremost, and you’ll realise that when mistakes occur, they are more likely to give you leeway!

Are you working as a remote team or did the team move over with you? 

Although we have spent considerable time in London during the past six months – negotiating deals and preparing for our launch – our core team is still mostly based in Australia, working out of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane. We have now hired some team members based in London, who will be our foot soldiers supporting our UK launch. Although it comes with it’s challenges (most of all the time difference!), it’s great having such a flexible and diverse team!

What do you love about living in London?

London is an incredibly exciting and vibrant city filled with amazing food and things to do. I work pretty long days and most weekends so there isn’t a lot of time for leisure or European escapades, but I like to take time out occasionally and enjoy the city and culture. One thing I love are the countless opportunities to meeting interesting people in London, whether it be in a lift or on the tube!

My top 3 tips for Aussies looking to move to Europe would be:

  1. Make sure you do your homework first and understand how your product/service is different from those already in the market
  2. Put yourself out there – make contacts, follow up with leads, socialise!
  3. Start preparing your liver: Londoner’s love their booze!

Thank you to Brennan Ong for this interview. You can contact him at LawAdvisor.

Why Toulouse? Interview with Simon Webb, Tarot Analytics

The French Tech Ticket has become a popular way to move your business to France and gain some much-needed support to get things moving in Europe.

We recently had the chance to talk to yet another Aussie who’s taken this route, Simon Webb (along with his co-founder Jesse Treharne) of Tarot Analytics, making the move from Sydney, NSW to Toulouse, France six months ago.

Simon is a co-Founder of Tarot Analytics, a winning start-up of The French Tech Ticket season 2. Tarot Analytics builds business optimisation tool with a focus on logistics optimisation. At Tarot, Simon manages sales, business development, marketing and operations of the company. Currently based in Toulouse, France, he previously worked in Technical Sales at IBM in Sydney and studied a double degree in Mechanical Engineering and Commerce (Finance and Economics) at UNSW.

Here’s what he had to say:

What made you decide to move your business to France? 

We moved to Toulouse as winners of the French Tech Ticket. As one of 70 winning start-ups (two from Australia, over 1,500 applicants) we were given €57,000 and a residency permit by the French government to build our business in France and Europe. Our biggest reason for moving to France and Europe is market size and population density. Our primary product, Tarot Routing, is a logistics optimisation tool works better with larger, dense cities where our clients are visiting more addresses every day and therefore see a greater benefit from Route Optimisation.

How important has your Australian network been to get started over here?

There is not much of an Australian start-up network in Toulouse so we have had to do most of it alone. However, the guys at Tenderfoot, the other Australian FTT start-up, have been a great support network. Facing similar problems, we have collaborated well sharing our problems and solutions.

Have you raised money in Europe and how did you find it compared to Australia? 

While on the FTT program we are supported by BPI, French Tech and in Toulouse our incubator Ekito. Otherwise we have bootstrapped our business from day one using our own money and reinvesting the revenue from our initial customers to build our business. For the future, we would consider industry partnerships and investment (La Poste, DHL etc.) if it was going to open a large enough market.

What is it like to do business in France?

In a lot of ways business in France is like business in Australia, particularly with B2B products. While your product is important your interactions and rapport with your customers are equally important – The French don’t care how much your product will revolutionise their business and save them time and money, they want to do business over lunch or a coffee. Their trust in your product is directly related to their trust in you – work hard to build it.

Biggest cultural difference (apart from language) – a meeting you would have done over coffee in Australia is done over lunch in France. This means having multiple meetings in one day is difficult, unless you’ve got a great workout regime.

Language is another important consideration for success in France. The younger generation speaks English but do not expect the older generation to, even in large multinational companies (especially outside of Paris). Language can make phone calls and cold calling very difficult.

Are you working as a remote team or did the team move over with you?

Our main team, Jesse and Myself, made the move. This was a requirement of the FTT funding
We are currently looking for local talent to help with business development. Currently we are looking to bring on somebody as an Auto Entrepreneur rather than an employee (easier under French law) but that may change with our success.

What do you love about living in France? 

Best part about France is the summer afternoons spent on the terrace/by the river enjoying a wine with cheese and baguettes.

Top 3 tips:

  1. L’ Administration Français is real and will be a problem for you: To move to France with your start-up you will need 6 months deposit to begin renting an apartment or a guarantor.
  2. French time: France moves a bit slower than the rest of the world, especially over summertime. Do not expect to close any deal between Bastille day and the start of September.
  3. French life and culture is a lot of fun: They really do love Australia and Australians. As soon as you attempt to speak their language the snobby French stereotype disappears.

Thank you to Simon Webb for this interview. You can contact him at Tarot Analytics.

Why Paris? Interview with Ava Lawrence, Pawmetrics

Moving to Paris isn’t just for the fashion or the fashion-related startups. It’s now being recognised as a booming startup ecosystem, thanks to considerable public funding made available for startups and input from key local players in this space.

We had the chance recently to speak with founder Ava Lawrence on making the move from Brisbane, QLD to Paris six months ago, and hear why Paris is an viable city to consider for your startup.

Ava is the founder and CEO of Pawmetrics, a biotech company that is developing an implanted biosensor to monitor the health of pets and other animals in real time via an app.

Here’s what she had to say:

What made you decide to move your business to France? 

My startup won the French Tech Ticket competition. In its 2nd year, 70 of the most promising startups from around the world are chosen to receive special visas, support and funding from the French Government to live in France for a year to develop the company. I lived in London for seven years before coming to Paris and part of the reason for leaving is Brexit. It is already impacting on recruitment and business confidence for startups. Europe provides access to a 500 million strong consumer market and is 7-8 hours away from the US. France has a long history of medical, engineering and scientific excellence which was attractive as well. Now with the election of Macron, you can feel an acceleration of interest, support and funding for startups here.

How important has your Australian network been to get started over here?

I work with mainly French people, but there are some Australians in the competition too – it is nice to meet up with them and share information. The Australian community is great for when homesickness strikes and you long for people who understand your cultural references and humour. Hearing the Australian accent is comforting in a foreign place 😊 The Australian Embassy is quite active and holds events here in Paris. My cat is Australian and provides a lot of support to me – I’m sure that counts 😉

Have you raised money in Europe and how did you find it compared to Australia? 

We haven’t raised yet but we are starting to find the right investors. France is unusual in Europe and probably the world in that so much public funding is made available for startups. We are funded by a private-public organisation called BPI France, they provide a colossal amount of funds to the startup ecosystem each year.

What is it like to do business in France?

I don’t speak French at all so I thought that might be a big barrier but it surprisingly hasn’t been. All the partners I work with speak English and my co-founder Alexis is from Paris, so he handles email exchanges and meetings in French if someone’s English is not fluent. I find the banking system here baffling and stuck in a time warp, and there is still an emphasis on paper files and transactions – there seems to be a lag with putting government and financial services online. I’m sure that will change soon though.

Business is more formal than Australia and the UK, there’s an emphasis on being professional from the beginning to the end. In Australia we like to quickly move from being formal to informal once the relationship develops, but they keep it up here. Some French people respond well to being more informal and find it refreshing, but I have to take the steer from the verbal and non-verbal cues on how far to push it and from my French co-founder.

Being a female founder doesn’t seem to be a big deal here. I don’t feel I have been treated differently to my male co-founders here, which I have to admit is different to my experience in the UK. I asked a French VC if being a female founder is a barrier to raise money and he didn’t really understand the question. He said it would never cross his mind. I don’t know if it is Anglo-Saxon culture that has a problem with it but it is fantastic that it isn’t an issue here. Maybe ask me in a year when I’ve had more experience in the funding system though.

Are you working as a remote team or did the team move over with you? 

My French co-founder was already in Paris and we have one British team member back in London, so it is a semi-virtual team. Trello is great for managing the workload and we work online with Google. We have hired a local art director to help us rebrand and with our marketing. Having things like relationships with local printers and advising on what words and symbols mean in French as opposed to English is a blessing.

What do you love about living in France? 

The obvious ones are food, culture and wine. Coffee still needs some work but there’s a handful of Aussie cafes in Paris now so I can get a proper flat white!

My favourite hotel ever is Hotel Costes, I love the ‘CD’ series and the aesthetic so I always used to go there when I visited Paris. Now that I live here I use it to work, hold meetings and have a drink.

The French countryside is beautiful and Provence is heaven on Earth. Biarritz reminds me of Noosa and I went to Champagne a couple of weeks ago.

I’m single so meeting French men is an interesting adventure! They are intrigued to meet an Australian as many haven’t done so before.

Bring patience, humour and join as many groups as possible on Facebook, LinkedIn and Meetups to start to build friendships and a business network.

Thank you to Ava Lawrence for this interview. You can contact her at Pawmetrics

Why Tallinn? Interview with Calum Cameron, meduza.ai

If you haven’t heard yet, the capital of Estonia, Tallinn, is a hidden startup wonderland located in the Northern part of Europe. With many home-ground entrepreneurs, it’s now becoming a popular location for global founders as well.

We recently had the chance to speak with Calum Cameron, CEO of meduza.ai, who has been living in Tallinn for 10 years. Originally from the NT, Calum moved to Adelaide for school before taking the leap to Europe.

Calum has been living in Estonia for 10 years after three tours of duty in London from the early 90s and a couple of years in Luxembourg in between. With a background in delivering and supporting web platforms and applications for the financial and energy industries in Australia and the UK, he got the entrepreneurial bug scaling operations for a couple of startups and went on to manage Europe’s leading B2B accelerator, the Startup Wise Guys. Calum is now building his own cybersecurity company.

Here’s what he had to say:

What made you decide to move your business to Tallinn?

Estonia has an amazing self-belief missing from most countries. With Skype, Transferwise, GrabCAD, Fortumo, Guardtime, Pipedrive, Zeroturnaround et al. we know we can build massive companies from this tiny country.

And being so small, everyone is accessible. This means we can get stuff done fast here. As a result we see early stage companies from across the world – 40+ countries from all continents – coming to the Startup Wise Guys accelerator in Tallinn to launch their startup from here.

For a cybersecurity business like meduza.ai, access to people here and in Latvia, who are already active defending against nation-state cyber attacks is a serious advantage.

How important has your Australian network been to get started over here?

Not massively because I already had a strong Estonian network before moving here. It doesn’t take a lot of hand-holding to get into the scene here either as there loads of events connecting entrepreneurs. In saying that, we have a network of Australians helping out new comers with tips on visas and bureaucracy which must be pretty useful.

Have you raised money in Europe and how did you find it compared to Australia? 

I never raised funding in Australia but have spoken with the angel groups and accelerators out there and it sounds like we have it easier in Estonia because there is a history of successful startups coming from here. European VCs and corporate investors are also pretty visible here so funding is available for quality teams. To get their attention, though, you have to prove you can get out of the Estonian market (too small). Once you do, the Estonian brand becomes a real asset for raising.

What is it like to do business in Estonia? 

Estonia has this bizarre contradiction of being a very conservative culture but able to pump out seriously successful startups. I think this comes down to their blunt approach to themselves and one another: there is some serious execution quality and a willingness to help those who are committed, but you’ll be told quickly if you are bullshitting.

In particular though, there is easy access to key decision makers and entrepreneurs who have been successful before. Australia can learn from the success here to remove hurdles to sharing knowledge. If teams can get access to the right people fast, they can move their business forward faster. That’s good for all of us.

Are you working as a remote team or did the team move over with you? 

Meduza.ai is very young and built from scratch in Estonia but with Latvians. We will hire locally or regionally in the coming six months. There is lots of talent but we want the stars.

Startups who have come through the Startup Wise Guys program have often distributed their teams between Estonia and their home countries, or built their operations here in Estonia and sent their sales teams to target markets. Prices are going up but Estonia still offers more bang-for-buck than most European countries.

What do you love about living in Estonia?

The quality of life is hard to beat: if you live in the centre of Tallinn you can walk nearly everywhere and meet everyone you need. In short, you can move and build faster than almost anywhere else in Europe.

For Aussies coming to Europe, the biggest tip is to just dive in. Use the Australian community to connect you but don’t hide out in Earls Court. If you can, sort out your paperwork before coming over and even set-up your EU business in Estonia before landing.

Thank you to Calum Cameron for this interview. You can contact him at meduza.ai.

Why Paris? Interview with Lucas Lovell, Hopstay

Paris may not immediately come to mind as a city for startups, however the capital now leads Europe for the number of venture-capital funding rounds and is seeing the rise of “deep-tech”.

We had the chance to speak with Lucas Lovell, Managing Director of Hopstay (previously TenderFoot), on making the move from Adelaide, SA to Paris six months ago, and hear why Paris is a great spot to consider for your startup.

Lucas is Managing Director of Hopstay, a platform that helps accommodation providers communicate with guests and share travel information digitally. He grew up in Adelaide and went on to study Law, International Relations and a Diploma in French at Adelaide University. hopstay was launched in his final year of Law School before being accepted into the French Tech Ticket Program at the end of 2016.

Here’s what he had to say:

What made you decide to move your business to France? 

We were accepted into the French Tech Ticket Program, a French government-funded initiative that brings 70 international startups to France per year. As part of the package, we receive a €57,000 grant, one year in one of Paris’ top accelerators/incubators and a four-year residence permit for the founding team. As a tourism company, being located in one of the most visited cities in the world with significant tourism infrastructure is hugely beneficial. Combined with the credibility of the program and the strength of the Paris&Co Welcome City Lab (our incubator), it represents a huge opportunity for us. More generally, the UK/Europe offers market size and access that is incomparable to Australia.

How important has your Australian network been to get started over here?

To be honest, important but not critically important. Given we are part of a structured program, we have had access to an extensive network from day one. I have reached out to some Aussies and Austrade/Australian Embassy have been really helpful. It’s also important to mention that I actually found out about the French Tech Ticket Program through the Aussie.EU community, so I have a lot to thank for that. In general though I don’t think the Australian network in Paris is overly big (compared to say London and Berlin), but I’m keen to change that as the Parisian tech ecosystem is going from strength to strength.

Have you raised money in Europe and how did you find it compared to Australia? 

Not yet, but we’re looking to raise a seed round here in France over the coming months. It looks like France is a good place to raise money and the French Tech Ticket/Business France are very supportive.

What is it like to do business in France?

Doing business in France is quite different and has its positives and negatives compared to Australia. Dealing with corporates is more traditional – it takes a few meetings to gauge interest levels and the emphasis on relationships is stronger. Warm introductions are important and don’t expect a yes or no on first encounter. Meal-based meetings are common.

On the flip side, companies are more receptive to innovation. Larger companies are easier to access here and enjoy working with startups in mutually beneficial relationships. The culture of innovation is stronger across the board which is great for startups. Language is less of a barrier than one might think – most professionals are happy speaking English (particularly in Paris), but having a bit of French behind you certainly helps.

Are you working as a remote team or did the team move over with you? Do you, or have you, hired local talent? If not, why not?

Our founding team of three are in Paris, so this is definitely our base now. We are only a team of three at the moment with a remote development team. We haven’t hired local talent up to this point as we’ve only been here six months and our company isn’t yet at a point to hire, but we’re looking to grow our team here in France over the second half of this year. There’s a stigma that hiring and firing is difficult in France, but if you look at the laws closely, it’s not as dire as one might think. And it’s changing rapidly too with the new government.

What do you love about living in France? 

Paris is an amazing city and France an amazing country. It’s a cultural melting pot and the vivacity of Paris makes it such a fun place to live. Everything is close and the access to Europe to do business/travel makes for an exciting lifestyle. I also feel like French tech is at a significant turning point so there’s a huge buzz in the startup world.

Top 3 tips:

  1. Be organised: Moving your own life and your business (if you’re a founder) requires a lot of administration and work. If you arrive with a plan, you’ll find those unexpected processes far easier.
  2. Don’t expect too much: Moving is hard, really hard. Emotionally, too. Don’t expect to be living the dream in week two. It takes time to settle, figure out where you fit socially and get things off the ground. A few months, at least. Sometimes longer. Stick at it!
  3. Throw yourself out there and ask questions: Go to meetups, join a sports club, and persist with relationships. You need to be a ‘yes’ person for a while. You never know where you’ll meet that person who turns out to be your closest friend. There are also plenty of people who’ve moved abroad before – expat communities are everywhere in Europe. Go to social events and find out the tips and tricks to settling quickly.

Thank you to Lucas Lovell for this interview. You can contact him at Hopstay.

Why Lisbon? Interview with Lou Schillaci, cloudyBoss

Lisbon, Portugal is quickly becoming an entrepreneurial hotspot for startups and budding business ideas, thanks to affordable living, comfortable weather and an ever-growing tech scene.

We had the chance to speak with Giuseppe (Lou) Schillaci, CEO cloudyBoss, on making the move from Perth, WA to Lisbon four years ago, and hear why Lisbon is a great spot to consider for your start-up.

With 25 years experience in the high-tech industry, Lou has held executive positions in both Australia and the US, including CEO of NDG Software, a multi-million dollar US-based network software corporation, which later was sold to IBM; CEO of NoizeNet, Australia’s first Digital Rights Management company; and CEO of SigPoint, a leading edge Non-Destructive Testing software solution.

He’s been named one of the “Top Six High Tech Heroes in Australia’s IT Industry” by Business Review Weekly, and was among the “Top Ten Movers and Shakers” in the Australian IT industry according to The Australian

Here’s what he had to say:

What made you decide to move your business to Lisbon? 

Our business, like many other start-ups, was born global and has the natural capacity to grow to fulfil this role. However even with that advantage, many Australian startups like ours, face a host of issues that can become detrimental to that goal. These include cost of living, time zones, distances, connectivity, and of course, financial assistance and political will.

With this in mind, we looked for a country where we could base our operations and alleviate most if not all of these issues. We chose Portugal in the end for many reasons, not only those I have just mentioned.

Firstly Portugal’s proximity to the largest markets in the world – it sits right between our most important markets – USA and Europe. In fact to make things even easier, in terms of communications and travel, it is the only country within Europe that shares London’s GMT.

Speaking of travel, Portugal’s two international airports and its national carrier TAP, have daily services to almost every major country in Europe as well as the east coast of the US.  Of course low cost airlines such as Ryanair etc. are also here and offer rates as low as AUD$12 one way to London and many other European destinations. Perfect if you’re a start-up!

Secondly, some people may not be aware that Portugal’s infrastructure rivals most others countries in Europe and certainly Australia. Telephone and Internet services are second to none, with almost 90% of all homes having access to high speed / no download limit internet and 4G cell networks, both at very low prices.

In fact it is not unusual to pay less than AUD$50 for a package that includes 100Mbs fibre/cable Internet, two mobile phones with unlimited national calls, your wired house phone with unlimited national and limited international calls, as well as over 100 cable TV stations, most of which are English.

It’s also worth noting that Portugal is one of the few countries in the world that does not dub their TV or movies, only sub-titles them. This has had a dramatic effect on the nation’s ability to speak English, especially with millennials and their younger peers.

It was only 1974 that Portugal changed from a dictatorship to a modern republic and with that change came a quick catch-up to the rest of the world in many senses – modern medicine,  world leading banking services and importantly modern education methods and with it access to low cost university tuition. As an example, the average bachelor and master programs cost between AUD$1,200 and AUD$2,200 per year. With this comes a stream of highly educated and eager graduates. Perfect if you’re looking to staff a start-up!

We wanted to get away from the oppressive Tall Poppy syndrome that we’d experienced in Australia. In Portugal, if you are successful, in whatever your field, you are congratulated for your efforts and for showing others what can be achieved. It’s refreshing.

So although I haven’t singled out the low-cost-of living, I am sure that you’ve gleaned that from what I have been saying. Did I mention a great cup of coffee here is less that AUD$1?

How important has your Australian network been to get started over here?

Our Australian contacts were not relevant to us commencing business in Portugal. It is not a country that is recognised as being a commercial centre by most Australians. That said, just recently the new Australian Ambassador, Peter Raynor, has shown interest in actively supporting bi-lateral trade. For us the importance is the focus being given to supporting Australian companies wishing to establish themselves in Portugal.

Prior to this, there was no focused Australian support network in Portugal. Even now Austrade does not have a representative based here, however the Paris based team, who are assigned Portugal as one of their territories, have recently shown interest in expanding their support.

Have you raised money in Europe and how did you find it compared to Australia? 

Although raising capital locally is ideal, for many reasons, we have not actively pursued the VC/Angel community here. We believe that investment of any kind should bring with it access to a larger network of possible partners, second stage investors and the corporate community. In Portugal, to date, we have not found the right fit.  Whether that is because it doesn’t exist or because we just haven’t found it is yet to be determined. (If you know anyone let us know!)

What is it like to do business in Lisbon?

Portugal is a small place with a short history of modern commercialisation. With that comes the good and the bad. On the positive side, it is a place of opportunity. The acceptance of new technology and modernisation, which allows an innovative start-up to quickly establish a presence and following.

This is exemplified by the intense focus on, and astronomical growth of, the start-up community, as can be seen by the overwhelming success of Web Summit in November 2016 and a reason for the entire Web Summit team to move from Dublin to a new base in Lisbon.

The bad side? We have to understand that Portugal has been through a very tough financial period. Although preliminary figures show that GDP in 2017 are expanding at the fastest rate in over a decade, there is a still a lag within most industries and will take time to catch up. Evidence of this is the reluctance of some government departments and fiscal institutions to fund new projects and lend money. I should also mention that some of the old-school thinking remains in Portugal where things may not get done today but rather “Amanha’’ (tomorrow).

Overall, I believe this to be a land of opportunity, especially in the technology sector. As I mentioned before, the fast transition from dictatorship to democracy, opened many doors for positive development. The kind of quantum leap I am referring to is like going from vinyl to digital music, missing cassettes and CDs.

Are you working as a remote team or did the team move over with you? Do you, or have you, hired local talent? 

At cloudyBoss, our entire vision is that the workplace is changing and that team members can work equally as effectively in remote locations as from a central base. We have over 50 engineers, partners, interns based across the entire globe, including people we have hired in Portugal.

I moved to Portugal, to exploit its many advantages, and the rest of the team continued working in their locations – including Thailand, Australia, Germany, France, Russia and India. For all intents and purposes nothing has changed in the way we conduct business, except that we have unlocked new opportunities from me being here.

What do you love about living in Lisbon? 

Although I enjoy the business and social benefits of living in Europe’s smallest capital city, Lisbon, I particularly enjoy being close to Portugal’s ‘Riviera’, the Algarve, where myself and my wife spend a lot of time.

The lifestyle that we enjoy is not dissimilar to that of Perth, in terms of climate and the laid-back environment.

Top three tips:

  1. Choose a location that offers both business and lifestyle opportunities. You don’t want to live in a cold and stressful metropolis and neither do your staff!
  2. Seek advice on the possibility of attaining residency in your chosen country. Countries like Portugal offer various visas and tax incentives for non EU passport holders.
  3. Take the blinkers off and consider non-mainstream countries. There are other options besides France and Germany. (Post-Brexit, I can’t include the UK anymore!)  

 Thank you to Lou Schillaci for this interview. You can contact him at cloudyBoss. 

Jock Gordon: Binding the Aussies of the EU together

Moving overseas in itself is not an easy feat. Add starting a new business – with a completely new set of governances (in a different language) and it’s borderline diabolical. Looking to make that transition easier across Europe is Berlin-based entrepreneur Jock Gordon, who is taking measures to create a unified collection of Aussies across the continent via Aussie.EU

Gordon landed in Berlin after a stint in Florida and selling his startup MenuPad, an iPad-based menu system for restaurants, and immediately noticed absence of a support structure for Australian-run businesses. The online network aims to bring the Australian community in Europe together, by facilitating introductions and collaboration.

At the rate it’s growing and with the increase of Australian individuals and organisations flocking to Europe, it’s clear that a platform like Aussie.EU is more necessary than ever.

Where do you call home?  

I’ve been living between Australia and Berlin for two years. I have spent a lot of time in America and also Australia with my previous businesses. It was time to explore and live in Europe. Berlin was the next obvious place!

How did you start Aussie.EU?  

After selling my company, MenuPad, I travelled a lot, building up a network all around the world. I had a lot of foreign connections and not many Australian ones. One of the things I noticed when I was going back and forth between Australia and Berlin was that there wasn’t much of a unified community of Australians in Germany or across Europe. I joke that Aussie.EU is connecting the Aussies that don’t just want to hang around with other Aussies at the pub. In essence, I wanted to connect the internationally minded Australians that are looking to connect with like-minded people. There’s a lot of groups in London, but nothing in Europe that was pulling all the Aussies that are scattered round together.

I started Aussie.EU last August. After I started to get its name out there, we got a little bit of press, and now we have over 400 members. The members range from big company executives right through to startups or freelancers. As the groundswell increases, I think there will be more of a need for an organisation like this – even in the last six months there’s been many startups moving here from Australia. When I first came here and was beginning to explore Berlin, I didn’t know any fellow Aussies. I didn’t have a network to ask some basic questions – how to get a visa, how to sort out my taxes, etc. That’s why I just wanted to connect the Aussies here in one group, and it’s growing naturally, like a community movement.  As hubs like Berlin, Paris and Lisbon get bigger and bigger, this will become more important.

Where do you hope to see it grow? 

The future of the organisaiton is actually to help Australian startups to launch in to Europe. Not just to Germany, but to other innovation capitals as well. In the future, we’re looking to implement scholarships to bring people out of Australia into Europe and help connect Australians to investors and corporates in Europe – to open up the cross-cultural dialogue in all businesses, not just startups. Our mission is to make it easier on Australians looking to launch in to bigger markets like Germany, France, Italy or anywhere else.

What does Aussie.EU currently look like? 

At the moment it’s all online, however we do throw specific events from time to time. It’s really just a connection organisation; we really want to connect Aussies who are coming in to Europe with the people they need to be connected with. We’ve already had some interesting results with companies and entrepreneurs who have dipped their toe in the water of Europe. The system is very different to Australia; you need to be prepared to adapt when you move here. Aussie.EU helps make those connections easier.

What are they key differences? 

The paperwork! The tax system here is very different, the legal system is very different. It’s not simple, yet at the same time, it’s all black and white. This isn’t something you just want to “wing”, and have the attitude of she’ll be right mate! Aussie.EU is already helping Australians who are starting out break through these barriers – to connect startups with accountants or lawyers who understand Australian law and the right structures that need to be put in place to get something going. There are also a lot of opportunities for support from the local German Governments to open up shop in Germany, it’s very supportive.

Is it difficult to get a working visa in Germany? 

No, it’s actually quite simple. If you’re under 30, there’s a working holiday visa available which is very easy to apply for. If you’re a freelancer, there’s a separate visa for that too, you just need to show you have some money in your bank account and you’re not going to be a burden on Germany!

Is it “easy” to start a business in Berlin? 

Generally speaking, yes. The cost of living in Berlin is really reasonable and the time zone also makes it very easy to do business across Australia.

Another pro of doing business in Berlin – if you live in an expat area of Berlin, you don’t need to speak German. I think a lot of Australians moving to Germany are a little fearful of the impact the language barrier will have on doing business here. There is a huge number of expats here in the startup community, and I think after Brexit, it’s only going to grow. Entrepreneurs love it because of the cost of living is quite low which means they can get a very good team at an affordable rate, there is a vast amount of talent available in the city, and it’s a city of like minds. There is a huge amount of entrepreneurialism in the city. They say Berlin is poor but sexy, and it’s only going to continue to get sexier.

Berlin isn’t the only city in Europe, if you have a high tech manufacturing business for example there is also a lot of support from cities like Munich, and a large investment community there. Portugal is investing heavily into the startup ecosystem, but that’s still many years behind Berlin. Though will likely become a major hub in the future.

Have you noticed an increase on Aussies moving to Berlin over the past few years? 

Yes, I’ve noticed a lot more people are starting to dip their toes in the water to see what the fuss is about, and I think it’s only going to grow, especially for freelancers.

What makes Berlin so unique? 

I think it’s the mix of people. You can run an international business in Berlin with people from all over the world, from all walks of life, who speak all the major languages.

Berlin is so laid back, Australians fit right in. The lifestyle is great here, especially in summer. Sure, the winters are long, but it’s counterbalanced with the summer.

Another reason I moved here is because everything is so close. The locality of Berlin makes it quite easy to do business – we’re also on a good time zone to get to Australia as opposed to the US, which is a little bit harder. Berlin is like one big West Village of New York.

Interview by Molly O’Brien, Marketing & Communications Specialist, Advance 

Article originally posted on Advance.org 08 June 2017

Connecting Aussies to EU entrepreneur communities

Aussie.EU (www.aussie.eu) has officially launched in Berlin, Germany, to bring together Australian entrepreneurs, services providers and investor communities focusing on the European market. Aussie.EU is the brainchild of Adelaide born entrepreneur Jock Gordon who spent time travelling between Europe and Australia after selling MenuPad, the world’s first iPad restaurant ordering system, in the USA.

“There are pockets of Australians spread across Europe,” Jock said. “Aussie.EU will bring together an entire Australian entrepreneurial community in one place and will link into existing chambers of commerce across Europe.”

In April 2016 the Australian Government announced a Landing Pad in Berlin, under the National Innovation and Science agenda, to help Aussie companies accelerate growth by launching in Europe. Aaron Birkby from Startup Catalyst, based in Queensland, said: “Australians need to be more globally aware and look at international markets.”

Startup Catalyst is running trade missions globally to facilitate this awareness and has just completed a 12-day trade mission in London and Berlin, with the aim to connect entrepreneurs and investors from Queensland with the local ecosystem and build relationships.

“One of the biggest challenges for Australian startups in entering a new business ecosystem is making the jump into a new market,” Jock said. “The Aussie.EU network will connect an Australian business with the right people in a local market to help them get off the ground quickly. We’ll look at putting startups and experienced entrepreneurs with networks in Europe together with the relevant service providers to help fast track a company’s launch in Europe. This also helps build camaraderie in a new market.

“Whether companies want to base their business in Berlin, Amsterdam, London or Stockholm a united Australian entrepreneurial community will help make it easier for startups that are in Australia to be able to easily plug in to existing Australians in the entrepreneur space spread across Europe,” he said.

“They will have mates and a common ground that they wouldn’t necessarily have when entering a new culture.”

Jock said he has met a lot of Australians in Europe.

“One of the common things about Aussies overseas in Europe is they tend to hang with the foreigners more than each other, this is a chance for a common group of entrepreneurial Australians to help each other move forward to a common goal of building successful businesses overseas. As a wise man once said ‘A single stick breaks easily but a bundle of sticks is strong’. “

Shortly after launch, Aussie.EU had attracted over 100 members and had interest for collaboration throughout the continent.

“There are some exciting Australian entrepreneurs and talent spread throughout Europe,” Jock said. “An Australian company could easily be able to link in with the startup scene in Berlin, Stockholm, London, and now with the network in Krakow or Amsterdam. It’s only going to continue to expand as we continue to grow the user base and strengthen Australian businesses. There is a lot of interest from investors and strategic alliance partners to help the network grow.”

Originally posted on Newsmaker, 14 July 2016.