Women shine as start-up founders in Austria

In the spotlight: some prominent women entrepreneurs from Austria

Austria is gaining a reputation as a hub for women start-up founders, who flourish there successfully. According to data from Austrian Startup Monitor, more than 35 per cent of all start-ups created in Austria had at least one female founder, with women making up 18 per cent of the total of all start-up founders, up from 12 per cent in 2018.

Currently, around 40% of Austrian companies are led by women, and in the startup scenario, over 35% are founded by teams that include women.

Are we wondering how to explain the surge in women entrepreneurship here? First and foremost reason is that Vienna, the capital of Austria, takes extra effort to promote women in leadership positions. And, while the number of female-led businesses in Austria has risen in recent years, the longer term impact of the pandemic is yet to be known.

Still, trends for female entrepreneurship in Austria are strong. The good news is that it is definitely growing and forging ahead.

Presenting some prominent women entrepreneurs in Austria.

> Lisa-Marie Fassl & Nina Wöss, Co-founders, Female Founders

Lisa-Marie Fassl and Nina Wöss created the Vienna-based Female Founders hub in The mission spelt out was – to create equal opportunities for entrepreneurial women in the European tech and innovation ecosystem. The company provides female founders with products, services and opportunities in the areas of startups and investment, female talent and its growing community to help make that mission a reality.

Their backgrounds are equally impressive. Previously, Fassl was managing director at the Austrian Angel Investor Association and cofounder of Ideentriebwerk – a student association with the goal of shaping the Graz startup ecosystem in a sustainable way. Wöss held roles at Speedinvest for over seven years, including two years as head of marketing, and also worked at AVCO, the national association for Austria’s private equity industry and corporate finance service providers.

> Barbara Sladek, Founder & Managing Director, Biome Diagnostics

Sladek founded Austrian medtech company, Biome Diagnostics with the aim – to transform cancer care. The startup uses DNA sequencing and machine learning algorithms – to develop new technologies for routine clinical practice.

In 2021, Biome Diagnostics received a huge funding from the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG), the national funding agency for industrial research and development that aims to strengthen the competitiveness of companies based in Austria.

Prior to the launching Biome Diagnostics, she worked in various business manager roles at Siemens Healthineers and studied at the University of Oxford.

> Tanja Sternbauer & Mahdis Gharaei, Co-founders, The Female Factor

The Female Factor was founded in 2019 in the effort to close the gender leadership gap. Besides being Co-founders, Sternbauer is head of talent and Gharaei is the CEO.

Before co-founding The Female Factor, Sternbauer was Managing Partner of Startup Live, a European acceleration programme, and was Founder and President of non- profit organisation Female Founders. Gharaei was previously Managing Partner at Iran Air (for over seven years) and also worked at Female Founders as head of business development and growth.

> Désirée Jonek-Lustyk & Lisa Kögler, Founders & Managing Partners, WoMentor

In 2019, Kögler and Jonek-Lustyk founded thinktankWoMentor, outlining the mission to empower women to be braver in their careers with the support of role models and mentors. In 2021, they also established WoMentor Impact with the objective – to help organizations and leaders step up and invest in gender equality, attract more female leaders and achieve more visibility for women in business.

Their past is interesting too. Jonek-Lustyk previously worked as innovation and UX expert at WhatAVenture and as a strategist at Schibsted Media Group. Kögler is a specialist in purpose coaching, and has a background in psychology.

> Sasha Lipman, Founder, tech2impact

Lipman founded tech2impact in 2020 – a global digital hub that works with a network of over 600 founders, investors, mentors, accelerators and incubators; and their aim is to make impact tech the new norm. She wears other hats too. She is also an ambassador for 4FYN, a business platform that enables start-ups to launch new ventures with investors and corporations, and works as speaker liaison for TEDxVienna.

Earlier, Lipman worked at AIESEC in Ukraine and Austria for almost five years and was head of impact at Hackabu, a business that helps to generate growth for start-ups.

> Cornelia Habacher, Co-founder & COO, Rebel Meat

Focusing on the growing appetite for sustainable meat, Cornelia Habacher launched Rebel Meat in 2019. Now its products are in stores nationwide – across Austria. The nature of the business is that the startup develops meat products that aim to taste just like meat, but actually consist of only 50% meat!! The company supports Austrian organic farming, so no soy from overseas is used for feeding.

As a qualified scientist, Habacher worked at the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research for over four years, before stepping into entrepreneurship.

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