This is one hell of a biased post so let me get that out of the way right off the bat. Being that I am from Slovakia and was just there for the Slovak Startup Awards, there is no way that this post could be considered impartial. But so be it.
Having spent the past 2,5 days in Bratislava to attend the awards show as a jury member, I had the opportunity to get around a bit in town...mostly for meetings. Nevertheless, I had some coffee and food at Foxford and Urban. I ate steak at Carnevalle. I had a dinner at Rio and drinks at the Sky Bar. Late night after too much wine we stumbled over to Bottega (an Italian deli owned by some Czech guys). Even had sushi at Osaka for lunch. Finally, the awards show itself took place at the National Theater smack in the middle of town.
Without having realized it, while there, I kept being reminded of something. I couldn't really put my finger on it until I arrived back home in Hamburg. Bratislava has a Berlin vibe. It's a tiny town and has nowhere near the size and potential of a Berlin. We all know that. But hanging out with VC's, talking to entrepreneurs and going about doing so with the Bratislava backdrop, in the above mentioned locations, I really enjoyed the interactions. It gives me hope!
Years ago, when you went to Bratislava, you'd be happy to find a place to get a decent meal and not get treated like crap by the waitstaff. This has pleasantly changed for the better. Variety, when it came to food, was tough to find. Bars...well you had the Irish pubs filled with boisterous Brits coming for cheap beers and hoping to score with a Slovak girl. Or you had local pubs that were dives but not in the hipster dive kind of way.....more so the alcoholic, depressing way. There were no "modern" cafes and yeah, you could get a coffee but it was usually crap and in a Communist era, dark hole. No more!
Bratislava is changing and I am happy to see not just VC's and entrepreneurs active in town. The town itself is becoming ever more inviting for those parties to interact and get work done. It's not Berlin and it's far from the Valley but that really matters zero. There are VC's and support networks locally (Neulogy, TheSpot, and others, I'm looking at you!) Young kids want to build companies and know how to code as well as come up with ideas. It's going to take a while for this country and it's capital city to scale but it can now be fueled by good coffee, hangouts for meetings and working, steaks, sushi, delis and bars. Can't wait to go back.
P.S. A huge thank-you to Neulogy and everyone who helped organize the show. It was wonderful to be back and inspiring in so many ways. A true pleasure to keep getting invited back.