Hacking away on a beach in Thailand may sound like an epic way to build a startup. But then beach sand starts getting stuck inside your Macbook’s keyboard. You’re sick of the king’s picture on every building. And you find out that the sabai way of thinking isn’t really compatible with the capitalist productivity mindset you’ve been raised in.
It’s either the low cost of living and therefore a longer runway for your startup or access to and timezones of modern Western countries. You can’t have both. Or can you?
Meet Slovenia, a European country spanning 20.000 square kilometres (8.000 square miles) with just over 2M residents and a hard-to-pronounce capital city — Ljubljana.
In this post, I’ll explain why it’s perfect for building a startup.
Slovenia, despite its size, is extremely geographically diverse. Want to ski? We have mountains. Want to swim? There’s a sea shore. Fancy a relaxing weekend? Go swim in the fucking mineral water. Yes, really.
Sure, we don’t have sandy beaches like Thailand, but you know what else we don’t have? Dengue fever. And the beautiful gorges and mountains here can still make you Instagram famous.
Here are some photos you could have taken, but u playin’.
The costs of living in Slovenia are bizarrely low.
Coffee starts at 1€. Glass of wine is 1.2€. You’ll pay the same for a bus ride in Ljubljana. You can get a 3-course lunch for 6€. For a month of broadband fibre, you’ll pay around 25€. Monthly membership in the Poligon coworking space will cost 95€.
These prices are noticeably lower outside the capital city.
The low costs give you a much longer runway for your company, while still letting you reside practically in the heart of Europe. But more about this further down.
It’s common for young Slovenes to rent apartments (not houses), normally long term. Rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in the very centre of Ljubljana will set you back around 400€ + utility bills (~100€) per month.
If you’re willing to commute (or want to build your product far away from people), the same price could get you a 3-bedroom apartment about 20 kilometres away. There are no complicated procedures and credit checks to rent a place: you normally deposit a month or two’s rent when signing the lease.
This is really just a nice way of saying that there is nothing to do here. But just imagine how much more productive you would be without all the tempting distractions of nightlife and stores open after 9 pm.
Other than Friday and Saturday nights, there is virtually no nightlife in Ljubljana. Slovenes, however, still fucking love their alcohol, so bars and pubs are open at least until around 1 am in the capital city.
Oh, and say goodbye to Amazon Prime, Uber, and Spotify. It’s just you and your startup now.
We now have Netflix, albeit with very limited film choice.
It can be quite cheap to hire developers here, as well — that is, if you can find them. Lots of the good ones are, like in the eastern countries, already hired by american and western-european startups.
I find people in the startup community extremely friendly. Which made me think about another awesome community in Slovenia — the LGBT+.
Some of the LGBT+ places have died out in the last years, but Tiffany and Monokel, as well as Kolaž and a few others still hold on. Despite the recent referendum results and the unfair NomadList score, Ljubljana is still a quite safe city for gay folks.
Virtually all cafes in Ljubljana have free Wi-fi. Ljubljana city centre and some smaller towns also offer a public wireless connection.
Slovenian telecommunications companies started offering LTE a while back. Optical fibre is available in lots of places, even outside of the cities. This is not a rule, though — I recommend you check with each place you’re looking to rent.
The average internet speed is 14.8 Mbps.
Slovene language is not very useful around the world — not even the rest of ex-Yugoslavia speaks it. It is essential for us to learn English, and a large portion of the younger generation speaks it very well. You’ll have to get used to the slavic accent, though.
If you like a challenge, try to learn some Slovene. It should only take you around 1100 hours.
Slovenia is located in the central Europe, providing access to Balkan states as well as the Western countries. This essentially means that on the weekends, you can travel to see Plitvice Lakes in Croatia, and on weekdays fly to London with EasyJet for as little as 10€ / one way. Zagreb, Venice, and Graz with their fancy big town airports are all in the vicinity.
The garlic I bought once in Berlin tasted like pork. But we were more surprised it actually had any taste.
Slovenia, on the other hand, is about 90% farms.
Ok, maybe not really. But vegetables really do taste a lot better here. I’m guessing that’s because it’s a lot cheaper and easier to get food from farms directly to the market or stores.
Someone who had worked at a McDonald’s told me that even the food there was locally produced and better quality than in other countries. After a lot of careful examination of McD restaurants in many countries, I can objectively attest that this is true.
Why does this matter for startup founders? Because in order to save money, you may want to cook food at home. And great ingredients are the heart of great meals.
When you go out to eat, however, there’s a variety of great choices in Ljubljana and elsewhere. Don’t forget to order one of the local wines Slovenia is known for.
Beautiful nature, mild weather, and low costs are what makes Slovenia the perfect place to spend a couple of months hacking away building your product.
However, I couldn’t recommend moving here permanently or even starting a company. It’s easier to open an LLC in the UK over the web, and pay taxes to a country that supports gay rights. And has Amazon Prime.
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