Czechs and Romanians dominated the winning positions, but Slovaks also placed. The winners from each region will meet at the global finals in Istanbul in September 2024.
The Central European Startup Awards (CESA) is part of the worldwide startup competition Global Startup Awards. CESA covers one of the twelve regions that are part of this competition. Each year, the regions receive thousands of applications, which are then evaluated by a panel of experts.
“We wanted to bring an international event to Slovakia, where Slovaks would have the opportunity to present themselves to neighboring countries in the region, gain new contacts, and show that Slovakia also produces exceptional innovative companies. The winning companies and individuals, of course, were at the center of attention, but it was important for us within the event to create a space for international networking among all the finalists and guests,” said Marianna Szarková, organizer of CESA and CEO of StartuPeak.
Take a look at the winners of the 12 categories:
Startup of the year – Patron GO
Patron GO is a Czech fintech application that, thanks to AI and machine learning, can identify unnecessarily high costs on clients’ bank accounts, directly recommending more advantageous offers and thus enabling better financial management. The free application is already used by over 200,000 users.
Best Newcomer – Renergia
An application from Romania that helps its users reduce their energy bills through artificial intelligence algorithms. The application, which analyzes household energy consumption, was developed by experts from the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca. Renergia estimates annual and monthly energy costs and provides potentially more economical solutions for the user and the planet.
Founder of the Year – Jozef Šimko (Readmio)
Jozef Šimko from Slovakia is the founder and CEO of the startup Readmio. Established in 2020 in the Czech Republic, Readmio takes reading and storytelling a step further by enriching the narrator’s voice with sound effects. The fairy tale startup is available in seven languages. Jozef Šimko co-founded several companies, for example, INLOOPX, which was acquired by Avast in 2020, or the company F.A.T.
Ecosystem Hero of the year – Georgina Lupu (Wolfpack Digital)
Founder and CEO of the Romanian digital agency Wolfpack Digital, which specializes in the development of websites and applications in the fields of health, finance, beauty, or transport. Georgina Lupu is an active startup mentor, co-founder of Women in Tech Cluj, and a board member of the Transylvania IT Cluster. The winner in her work integrates education acquired in the fields of engineering, psychology, the creative industry, and management.
Best VC – Soulmates Ventures
The Czech venture capital fund Soulmates Ventures supports innovative green projects that have a positive impact on the planet and society. In their portfolio, Soulmate Ventures include startups such as the Slovak Twinzo, Estonian eAgronom, or Czech KARDI AI. Their goal is to advance innovations that support sustainable development in areas such as air, water, energy, circular economy, agriculture, mobility, education, and healthcare.
Best Coworking Space – Mindspace Bucharest
Mindspace is a boutique provider of office spaces for companies of various sizes. The coworking space was established in 2014 and since then operates its stylish premises in 45 locations, 20 cities, and 7 countries across Europe and the USA. In Romania’s Bucharest, they opened their spaces in 2019, currently hosting two Mindspace coworking locations. The company’s aim is to create a space for its members that is tailored to engaged work and organic community building through various events.
Best Accelerator/Incubator Program – The StartSmart CEE
The StartSmart CEE incubator connects founders of technology startups with corporate partners to jointly build an innovative ecosystem. Through its connection with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the incubator in Warsaw brings top-notch resources and expertise to the community. It has helped over 300 startups from more than 70 countries grow.
Diversity Role Model of the Year – Tanja Dzido
The winner, Tanja Dzido, hails from Croatia. She has over 15 years of experience in the field of communication and professionally focuses on building personal brands and marketing within the LinkedIn network. She is a certified trainer and lecturer in DEI – diversity, equity, and inclusion, and trains employers on these topics as well. In 2019, she was awarded Female Role Model of The Year at the CESAwards.
Best GreenTech – Blue Planet Ecosystems
The Austrian company Blue Planet Ecosystems develops an automated aquaculture system that uses sunlight to create food for marine animals. The company enables sustainable production of seafood in urban or desert environments by replicating natural aquatic ecosystems in a modular system named LARA.
Best HealthTech – MAIA LABS
MAIA Labs is a startup from the Czech Republic, whose product is the endoscopic module MAIA. Thanks to the system supported by artificial intelligence, doctors are able to observe many types of lesions in real-time, as MAIA highlights areas during endoscopy that exhibit visual characteristics of various abnormalities. The founders of the startup have extensive experience in the development of AI applications.
Best Web3.0/ AI Startup – Herity Network
Herity Network entered the market with its own cryptocurrency – the HER token, built on the Binance chain. The Romanian company builds and manages several platforms that support the crypto community. Among them is the crowdfunding platform Crypto Seed Investment Platform, which serves to seed finance blockchain startups, precisely through HER tokens.
People’s choice – FUMBI
The Slovak startup Fumbi, which operates a platform for investing in cryptocurrencies, received the most public votes. The platform has more than 130,000 users, which brings it close to the size of a small bank. The company opens the door to the world of crypto for the public, also thanks to the Fumbi Academy, which educates about cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and how the blockchain works.
“We are proud that the winners of two categories are from Slovakia and will go to represent us at the global finals in Istanbul. It is a unique opportunity for them to establish new partnerships and also to make Slovakia visible within the foreign community of innovative companies. At the same time, we are pleased that thanks to the CESAwards, we can once again draw public attention to the innovations emerging in our region,” added Szarková.
The tenth edition of the regional award ceremony was organized by the civic association StartuPeak, which enriches the Slovak entrepreneurial ecosystem with various startup events through its activities. Thanks to the StartuPeak initiative, the regional finals of CESA were held in Slovakia for the first time, attracting many foreign guests to Bratislava. The auditorium of the Radošinské naivné divadlo was filled with more than 300 guests from 24 countries. Partners of the event included companies such as Accace Slovakia, ZAKA VC, Pierre Baguette, Techband.io, as well as the accelerator AceON and the Full Time PR agency.