TODAY.AZ / Business

Azerbaijani startups compete for the attention of Visegrad investors

02 June 2023 [17:38] - TODAY.AZ

This Friday the finals of the V4-Azerbaijan Tech Bridge program took place in Baku. It brought together numerous leaders of innovation ecosystems from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Azerbaijan enabling them to build an actual bridge between Caucasus and Visegrad markets.

Azernews informs that on June 2, 2023, Baku hosted the Grand Final event of the a multilateral V4-Azerbaijan Tech Bridge (V4ATB) program, which has been implemented in Azerbaijan upon a Polish initiative since the beginning of 2022. The project has built a strong, first of this kind, consortium of Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Slovak (so called “V4”) and Azerbaijani partners. The project is financed by the International Visegrad Fund and supported by Embassies of all V4 countries.

The V4ATB program is supported by the Small and Medium Business Development Agency of Azerbaijan (KOB?A), whose Deputy Chairman of the Board Rufat Atakishiyev said during the opening of the event that “We are glad that only half a year after the signing of the memorandum of cooperation between KOB?A and Startup Hub Poland, we can meet again in Baku and host partners from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia interested in developing contacts and partnerships with Azerbaijan”.

The opening ceremony was also attended by representatives of V4 Embassies in Azerbaijan (Ambassador of Hungary Tamás Torma, Ambassador of Poland Rafa? Poborski, Ambassador of Slovakia Milan Laj?iak and Deputy Head of Mission of Czech Republic Martin Lubojacky), who welcomed the participants and wished Azerbaijani startups good luck as they competed for the attention of investors present during the event and the 18-month long program. Head of the Polish Embassy, which initiated the whole program, Ambassador Rafa? Poborski said in addition that “Poland, which is one of the European leaders in the number of investments in startups, is interested in continuing the implementation of similar projects aimed at dynamizing cooperation with Azerbaijani partners”. The Slovak Ambassador Milan Lajciak stated “I´m happy the Tech Bridge project, initiated by Polish colleagues, was successfully carried out during V4 Slovak Presidency. It´s helpful in tapping the potential of young talents and opening new avenues of cooperation between V4 and Azerbaijani partners”. The Deputy Head of Mission at the Czech Embassy Martin Lubojacky added that "innovation and closer connections between young entrepreneurs and experts are a traditional priority of V4. The interest of young people in cooperation in the field of innovative technologies shows us the shape and direction of future cooperation for the coming years, which we will continue to support together". Ambassador of Hungary Tamás Torma underlined that V4-Azerbaijan Tech Bridge is a newly founded initative based a particular demand, introducing a new culture of cooperation, innovative spirit and a new atmosphere”.

The Friday’s Demo Day is a final stage of V4ATB, a project launched in 2022 by Startup Hub Poland Foundation on the initiative of the Polish Embassy in Baku. “It was an intuitive move for SHP to explore deeper all the technological and innovative potential of Azerbaijan. For last 11 years our organization has been supporting founders and investors from 16 CEE countries, i.e. the Visegrad four EU member states, to make our region more visible in the eyes of global investors” – says Paulina Brym-Ciuba, CEO of Startup Hub Poland. “The Demo Day is a result of 8 regional chapters, every dedicated to 20 different startup participants. It wasn’t an easy task to shortlist 10 out of such a strong ecosystem” – adds Brym-Ciuba.

Those 10 top-notch Azerbaijani startups selected by the international jury of the program from over 160 submitted applications, presented themselves to an audience of investors, VC funds, accelerators, business angels, bankers, mentors and experts from Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, who came to Baku. The list of the finalists of the program and all speakers and guests of the event is available at the program website.

The Baku event also consisted of speed dating - direct B2B talks between Azerbaijani startups and community leaders and V4 angels, VCs and key corporate players.

A separate part of the event were panels and keynotes, during which V4 guests discussed i.e. their experiences in the development of startups, investors' expectations, available support instruments, with their Azerbaijani collages. “We are pleased to see so much interest around Baku innovative ecosystem” – says Tural Karimli, Founder of IdealHub, Azerbaijani partner of the V4ATB. “The combination of talent and competences from my country and a know-how driven network from the Visegrad Region is a highly energetic mixture. And I hope this is just the first step in a longer journey” – Karimli concludes.

At the end of the event, the international jury of the project selected the winner of the entire program (from among 10 best Azerbaijani startups competing on the Demo Day scene, but in total - from over 160 startups examined across the whole program). The winner, startup Mur Mur (computer Vision analytics platform for outdoor advertising) received a special prize funded by the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Baku - a trip to a prestigious Deep Tech CEE Challenge event, which will take place in November 2023 in Warsaw.

The V4-Azerbaijan Tech Bridge (V4ATB) program was launched in 2022 to establish and enhance cooperation between Visegrad Group (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia) and Azerbaijan in the sphere of innovation by linking startup ecosystem players like innovation hubs, private investors, venture capital funds and innovation-seeking corporations from the EU with the potential of Azerbaijani startups and innovators. The program established a new networking platform between partners from the Visegrad Group (investors, accelerators, angels, mentors, etc.) on the one hand, and startups and innovators from Azerbaijan on the other. The project consisted of a series of meetings, trainings, excellence program, demodays, networking, post-acceleration and finally - the Grand Final held in Baku on June 2, 2023.

The project was initiated by the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Baku and received funding from the International Visegrad (V4) Fund. The initiative is implemented by a Consortium of 4 Partners from Visegrad Group: Startup Hub Poland Foundation (Poland, project leader), Look AI Ventures (Czech Republic), StartITup Gy?r (Hungary), CIVITTA (Slovakia) in cooperation with the IdealHub Innovation and Technology Center from Azerbaijan. The program enjoys the support of the Small and Medium Business Development Agency of Azerbaijan (KOB?A), has a number of community partners (i.e. Azerbaijan Oil and Industry University, Azerbaijan Micro-Finance Association, Social Innovation Lab, Youth Inc., Gamepons), and is supported by all Visegrad countries Embassies in Baku: the Embassy of Czech Republic, Embassy of Hungary, Embassy of Poland and the Embassy of the Slovakia.

More information about the event and the whole program at https://startuphub.pl/V4ATB

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