If you meet someone traveling through central and Southeast Europe, you can guess that they are going to make a pit stop in Budapest. Known for its wild nightlife, thermal bathhouses, beautiful open-air markets, and a maze of historical and cultural sights influenced by the country’s long and diverse history, the Hungarian capital has become a go to destination for travelers.
After joining the European Union in 2004, Budapest’s growing startup scene caught the attention of both local and international investors and entrepreneurs. Today, one can enjoy a high quality of life for relatively little money and also become a part of the city’s now booming startup scene. With hubs like Colabs, which works in collaboration with the Budapest Chamber of Commerce, there are now various communities completely dedicated to helping new talent find their way.
The Development of Coworking in Budapest
In 2009 the first coworking space opened in Budapest. Based in the former printing house of the Liszt Academy of Music, the five-story building was restored to its original character and fitted with renewable energy appliances. L’OFFICE quickly became the base of for a new generation of entrepreneurs. “As Hungarian pioneers of the coworking model we designed our workstations, offices, event spaces and exhibition areas with respect to unique needs, which focused on integrating contemporary art into the work environment,” explains L’OFFICE founder Kata Klementz.
Klementz stressed the fact that the concept of collaborative work was an unknown concept at first, so it took time to educate the community. “There was no Hungarian expression for “coworking”, so our mission was to spread the word, explain the importance of the new way of working and make it available to people.” As L’OFFICE is a family run business, there is a certain level of intimacy when it comes to dealing with members, which includes companies coming from different fields. Klementz explains that L’OFFICE aims to always “support small start-ups and fulfil their needs of growth, providing entrepreneurs single-person workstations or small and mid-sized offices, which can be individually rented from one day to one month.”
In a similar fashion to Slovenia’s first coworking space, LOFFICE was a response to the precarious economic situation Hungary faced after 2008. After the financial crisis, Hungary saw an overwhelming spike in unemployment rates, and many businesses were facing bankruptcy. Through local initiatives and investment in the startup community, spaces like L’OFFICE have also inspired a wave of entrepreneurs to open their own coworking hubs throughout the city. Today, there are about 10 coworking spaces in Budapest, including The Hub that specializes in “entrepreneurial mentoring, strategic business development, and project management.”
A Shining Startup Scene
The startup scene in Budapest has been growing significantly since the early 2000’s. Around the same time that the city’s first coworking space opened, one of Hungary’s biggest startups came into being: Prezi. Changing the way presentations were given, Prezi offered a sleek alternative to PowerPoint and is now has over 50 million users.
Other startups like Ustream, which aims to “empower businesses and societies to be more transparent, more productive and create deeper relationships through the power of video”, have also gained international recognition and have also influenced investors to turn an eye towards Budapest.
Amongst the diverse selection of coworking spaces the city has to offer, those who are interested in developing their ideas can find support at more startup-focused accelerators. The Kitchen is one of Budapest’s most notable spots, offering both a “Talent Program” and a “Startup Program”, focusing on specific member needs. The team at The Kitchen aims to help individuals develop concepts with “business potential and service or design projects through an experimental approach.”
As Budapest is home to one of Europe’s most lively startups communities, it continues to stay active so as not to lose momentum. Through festivals, meetups and events, experts in Budapest continue to share their knowledge with newcomers, which is perhaps the main reason this beautiful city is becoming home to a new generation of investors, innovators and creatives from around the world.