In 2010, the Slovak-American Foundation set out with a mission to foster and strengthen relationships between the US and Slovak citizens and businesses. In 2023, the Foundation reached the final milestone and ceased operations.
This Closing Report maps the Foundation's story and impact on the Slovak innovation ecosystem.Read the closing report
“The ecosystem becomes vital and vibrant only when the players break down barriers among themselves and begin to look at the whole, rather than its singular parts.”
Explore what the Closing Report covers – from the origins of the Slovak-American Foundation to various programs it ran as well as stories of program participants.
This report illustrates how SAF dedicated its efforts to fostering a stronger bond between the United States and the Slovak Republic. The Executive Summary concludes with observations and recommendations for the future evolution of the innovation ecosystem, based on SAF’s years-long experience on the ground.
“In establishing SAF as the legacy activity of SAEF, the Board determined that SAF would pursue the original goals established by the US Congress. That is, to encourage and assist in the development and growth of a vibrant open market, private business sector in Slovakia.”
This chapter delves into the origins of the Slovak-American Foundation. The US Agency for International Development administered the funding that led to the creation of the Slovak-American Enterprise Fund. Later, SAF was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, taking over assets from SAEF and additional funding from the sale of investments.
Since then, SAF has been committed to supporting the growth of a robust open-market private business sector in Slovakia, providing access to Western business knowledge and fostering strong networks between the US and Slovakia.
“US Connections gave SAF a broader platform to connect with Slovak ecosystem builders. These included innovation consultancies, venture funds, accelerators and incubators, academic institutions, coworking spaces, think tanks, NGOs, and government bodies. These relationships have continued to grow over the last 13 years.”
Learn how significantly the Slovak startup ecosystem has grown over the years. Through partnerships with innovation consultancies, venture funds, and accelerators, SAF has helped to shape a thriving startup culture.
The ecosystem's visibility increased through local and international media outlets, while cooperation with government and academic entities offered support and nurtured innovation. Despite the setback caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ecosystem has rebounded, with continued growth and development evidenced by initiatives like SAPIE Forum and the upcoming Slovak version of Shark Tank.
“This opportunity opened more doors than I could ever have imagined! It was challenging, exciting, it topped my expectations, and helped me move to a whole new level.”
Delve into the world of exchange programs developed and run by SAF and its partners that facilitated transformative journeys for recent graduates and research scholars. Learn how 32 interns and five research scholars gained invaluable experiences across a spectrum of industries, from Silicon Valley startups to Washington, D.C.'s public affairs sector.
Discover first-hand accounts from these participants, and understand the long-lasting impact these programs had on their professional growth and personal lives.
“Want to build a billion-dollar business? Get out of the weeds!”
This chapter gives you a glimpse into the US Connections program's focus on equipping innovative Slovak founders to make their mark in the US markets.
This initiative began when the SAF team engaged with startups at The Spot, Bratislava's initial coworking space, leading to a pilot program that laid the groundwork for US Connections. The goal? To facilitate Slovak startups' expansion beyond Slovakia and Eastern Europe, offering them a firsthand experience of the US entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Take a deep dive into the rigorous selection process, program statistics, and the impact of the program as well as feature stories of five participating companies.
“Slovak Pontis Foundation focused on three strategic topics: social innovation in education, philanthropy, and responsible entrepreneurship. Pontis’ operational approach of creating strong relationships among corporate, civic, and public sector players was similar to the methodology that SAF used to support the innovation ecosystem.”
What are the synergies between the Slovak-American Foundation and the Pontis Foundation as they joined forces to foster social innovation?
This chapter looks at this collaborative venture and the Generation 3.0 program, with a focus on enriching education, promoting philanthropy, and encouraging responsible entrepreneurship. Included is an interview with Pontis Co-CEO highlighting the goals and achievements of this and other social entrepreneurial initiatives.
“We are grateful to the many people in Slovakia and the US, as well as other countries, who have shared our vision and will remain lifelong friends.”
Fulfilling the Slovak-American Foundation’s vision wouldn't have been possible without many partners and collaborating organizations. This chapter acknowledges these partners and aims to say a big Thank You to all of them.
The Slovak-American Foundation (SAF) was the legacy successor to the Slovak American Enterprise Fund which was formed in 1991, using US government funds to invest in the regional economy.
As a US 501c3 non-profit organization, the Foundation focused on the startup ecosystem in Slovakia.
Its goal was to create a competitive environment for young, innovative companies aiming to attract domestic and foreign investors, penetrate US markets, and become a leader in the Central-European region.
The Board of Directors of the Foundation decided that once its funds were spent and its mission fulfilled, the organization would be dissolved. At the beginning of 2023, the Slovak-American Foundation reached this milestone.Read the closing report