Things to Know When Starting a Small Biz in Vienna

Austria is well known for its rich culture and history. But beyond its art spanning visual and performing arts, famous attractions that include historical and grandiose buildings as well as exquisite cuisine and delicacies, not many people know that the country also has a stable business climate.

With a fully developed market economy, this German-speaking country boasts of a high standard of living. In fact, the capital city of Vienna has earned the second spot as among the world’s “most livable cities” for seven straight years including this year 2016. This recognition is based on the annual survey conducted by International consulting firm Mercer covering 230 cities worldwide. Factors being considered are the political, social and economic climate as well as education, medical care, public transportation, power and water supply.

Local residents and foreign investors are welcome to set up their own businesses in Vienna and Austria in general. Being a member of the European Union and European Economic Area, the country strongly promotes the free movement of goods and capital and provides a support system to entrepreneurs and investors.

For two decades, the number of new companies (mostly startups) in Austria more than doubled. In 2014 alone, the number has already reached 37,120 with innovative startups accounting for close to eight percent.

The Austrian Business Agency (ABA) exists to help and provide incentives to foreign investors. So far, it has assisted some 600 companies to date.  Apart from giving professional advice and assistance, the agency also supports entrepreneurs looking for the best location for their business in Austria.

About Vienna Business Agency

Vienna has its own similar agency called the Vienna Business Agency which provides support to national and international businesses in the city. Apart from financial assistance, it offers real estate and urban development incentives, free service and professional advice.

The agency’s main objective is to help grow and strengthen Viennese companies. It puts priority on certain areas particularly life sciences, urban technologies, ICT (information and communication technology) and creative industries.  

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The services being offered by the Vienna Business Agency are being funded by the City Government of Vienna. For startups and young companies, these include comprehensive support, academy workshops, migrant enterprises, women enterprise service as well as coaching, financing and expansion.

Vienna today is known as the startup hub of Central Europe. Promising startups not older than five years enjoy welcome package supports that cover cost of travel to Vienna, accommodation, business coaching, place in a co-working space and airfare for the Pioneers Festival.

Requirements for Business Registration

Before starting a business in Vienna, entrepreneurs need to register their business or company first with the city’s Department of Commerce and Trade. This is in accordance to the Trade, Commerce and Industry Regulation Act of 1994.

Sole traders and partnerships need a trade license to operate a business in the city. They also have to appoint a manager pursuant to trade law. However, for sole traders who cannot provide evidence of professional competence for a regulated trade or those who are not legal residents of Austria, a manager who can prove such competence is necessary.  

Foreign individuals including expats are welcome to do business in the Austrian capital. They are also allowed to be appointed as business managers as long as an agreement between their country and Austria exists. A primary requirement is one should be a legal resident of Austria and must present a certificate of residence (residence permit and residence registration) to the Commerce and Trade Department. Citizens of countries belonging to the European Union (EU), however, are exempted from providing a certificate of residence.

In addition to residency, the Vienna Business Agency has other special requirements. These include proof of qualification, financial efficiency and sufficient parking lots.

Vital documents that need to be presented are birth and marriage certificates, certificate of citizenship or passport, proof of academic degrees, certificate in accordance with the Business Start-up Promotion Act issued by the Economic Chamber. Other than the business owners and shareholders, appointed managers must also present the same documents.

After submitting these documents, business owners also have to pay specific fees. These cover registration or federal fee and fee for the registration certificate.

Business details that need to be provided include the title of the trade, location and name of person or company registering the business. For managers, they have to provide their complete personal information (name and surname, address, date and place of birth, citizenship), employee status if applicable, social insurance number and account number of employer.

Types of Business

Entrepreneurs planning to venture in Vienna should also decide on the type of business they will start. There are three basic types to choose from – sole proprietorship, partnership and limited liability company (LLC).

Sole Proprietorship. A sole proprietorship is the easiest way to operate a business. You are your own boss and you decide what to do on your own without having to consult a partner or other people. You just need to get a trade license. Keep in mind, though, that you have full personal liability for your company and you have to notify as well the Austrian tax office of your business activity.

General Partnership. Married couples or close friends who are determined to launch a business a Vienna can get into a partnership. Also known as general or limited partnership, this type of business involves two people. In a general partnership, it should be understood that each partner has unlimited personal liability while in a limited partnership at least one partner only is completely liable while the other has only limited liability.

Limited Liability Company. If more than two people or a group of people are interested in starting a business, the most common option is to create an incorporated entity or a limited liability company. It may be incorporated by only one or several of the shareholders involved. In the past, this requires a minimum capital of 35,000 Euros with half of it being fully paid in. However, it is now possible to start an LLC business with its own legal personality for only 10,000 Euros.  


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