If you have lived here, you know: Vienna is a great place to be. Moreover, it is a great place for startups and scale-ups ready to take a crazy idea and turn it into something grand.
Vienna was ranked the #1 city in the world for startups in 2019, according to a survey conducted by London-based PeoplePerHour.com. The numbers speak for themselves: Exactly 9,063 new companies were formed in Vienna in 2021, while 1,381 international startups applied for the Vienna Business Agency’s start-up package. At the Vienna Business Agency, business basics are usually in focus: from funding and consultations to the growing ecosystem of investors, incubators, accelerators, public support institutions and more. There are the generous pandemic relief packages for businesses. Plenty of co-working spaces, offices and manufacturing locations. The deep talent pool of highly skilled programmers, researchers, scientists and creatives. But much of Vienna’s appeal for founders and CEOs goes beyond the ABCs of business. A company's choice of home base affects daily life for the team – and should hopefully help attract top global talent.
Here are 6 outside-the-box reasons to consider building your business in Vienna.
1. Vienna is a durable regional hub for trade, culture and dialogue.
The city’s history has been long and colorful, not least because of its location in the heart of Europe. Vienna has been at the center of vast trading networks ever since the Romans first recorded it as a military outpost, which evolved into a trading town and finally the capital of the Hapsburg empire. Today, direct flights, highways and the picturesque Danube River all connect Vienna to the rest of Europe. On one hand, Austria makes an excellent test market for companies with their sights set on Germany, Switzerland and the rest of Western Europe. On the other hand, Vienna is a hub and major investor in CEE countries, benefiting from their growing economies, talent and vibrant startup scenes.
2. Ridiculously efficient infrastructure
A person can pretty much set their watch by the bus, tram, commuter rail and train schedules in Vienna. The tap water is cold, clean and fresh. Garbage collection and recycling services run flawlessly. The internet is fast and getting faster. The roads are smooth, there are bicycle lanes across town, the parks and playgrounds are plentiful, and every single neighborhood has access to all of the above, as well as to supermarkets, pharmacies, schools, restaurants, bakeries and other shopping essentials. Most importantly, the city is continuously investing in improvements and expansions to its services. The only downside? Once you have lived here for a year, you may think a subway delay of 3 minutes is a catastrophe worth complaining about.
3. Parks, playgrounds and nature reserves
Many Viennese get to work by bike or on foot. Many of the most-used paths traverse Vienna’s plentiful natural areas. In fact, there are nearly 1,000 parks throughout the city, with publically accessible green areas covering 30% of Vienna. (Private back yards and public places that require tickets, such as swimming pools or the zoo, bring Vienna’s total green area up to 50%). The city’s larger recreational areas, so-called “Erholungsgebiete” (literally: “recovery areas”), encompass forests, hills and river ecosystems. Like all parks in Vienna, these are studded with playgrounds and laced through with footpaths and bicycle trails, and are usually accessible by public transport. These parks often contain educational resources to help kids and adults learn more about local wildlife and historical sites, such as medieval castle ruins. The Viennese love nature and frequently venture just beyond city limits to hike, rock climb or cycle, with options available for people of every age and skill level.
4. People-first policies
Vienna works hard to create policies that put people first. One recent success story has been Vienna’s Covid-19 testing program: All residents and visitors have access to free at-home PCR testing kits, which can be picked up and dropped off at hundreds of supermarkets and gas stations across the city. Results are received by email within 12-24 hours, including a certificate valid for international travel. Fortunately, Vienna has an excellent ecosystem of private companies, scientists and engineers with the right expertise. The City’s ability to build public-private alliances and its willingness to invest in solutions helped deliver the world’s smoothest coronavirus testing system.
5. A high standard of living at a low cost
For ten years in a row, Vienna topped Mercer’s quality-of-life survey of cities around the globe (the study has been on hold since 2020 due to the pandemic). Despite that standard, the cost of living in Vienna, including rent, is a quarter lower than in Paris, Copenhagen and Amsterdam, and only half of that in New York City, according to city statistics that can be cross-checked using crowd-sourced data. The public education system is for free, and includes several options for bilingual schooling (English-German). Parents of young children enjoy heavily subsidized day care and kindergartens in every neighborhood, again with many bilingual options – e.g. Spanish, Russian and English – so that young expat kids can fit in without losing their mother tongue. Of course, there are also several accredited private international schools that offer International Baccalaureate and comparable programs, some including boarding options.
6. Cultural diversity – especially in the kitchen
Long gone are the days when Vienna’s vegetarians struggled to find options beyond the (delicious) spinach strudel or a salad. At this point, Vienna is a true culinary hotspot of high standards at affordable prices. Offering everything from hearty Austrian classics, hidden Thai bistros, tacos, boutique pizza, and poké bowls to Michelin-starred luxury dining. With residents from 189 different countries, diversity at the office, on the street and in the kitchen is to be expected. Shoppers with time to spare can visit one of the many open-air markets. These range from permanent set-ups encompassing cafes and restaurants to small pop-up farmers’ markets. While the Naschmarkt is perhaps the most famous, residents also treasure the Karmelitermarkt, Hanovermarkt, and Vienna’s increasingly hip Brunnenmarkt, one of Europe’s largest.
From the big picture down to the details of daily life, Vienna is a great place to live – and an attractive environment for businesses of all sizes. In its thousand-year history, Vienna has seen, done and learned a lot, both through dark times and light. This city understands that long-term business success and a high quality of life and leisure are not just compatible; they are, in the end, inseparable.
Curious to learn more from a startup point of view? Plan your visit during the city’s #1 startup festival, ViennaUP’22 (27 May – 3 June, 2022) to get to know our ecosystem, mingle with like-minded entrepreneurs and enjoy this town!
Vienna, 25. March 2022