Slovenia is beyond a doubt the most successful of the former Yugoslav republics. It was the first to join the European Union in 2004, and its GDP per capita is estimated at USD 36,163 according to the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD). However, diplomats from other former Yugoslav republics serving in Slovenia often note that one of the issues burdening their Slovenian colleagues is that, though the country is successful, its small size precludes its recognition internationally, as symbolized by uninformed observers who conflate it with Slovakia. However, there may now be an opportunity emerging that will put Slovenia on the map – namely, the industry sectors of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. Over the past several years, we have seen the blossoming of these industries in Slovenia, propelled by both the Slovenian government and the Slovenian business sector, which wants to establish Slovenia as among the leaders in these rapidly expanding markets. Slovenia should therefore be on the radar of investors interested in the development of these new technologies and the commercial opportunities that go along with it.
Slovenia is already utilizing numerous bitcoin and blockchain brands that are available to users in the country. These include Bitcoin cryptocurrency; cryptocurrency and software brand Litecoin; and Ethereum’s public blockchain platform. However, people are still unaccustomed to the utilization of these technologies on a daily level. In order to remedy that, the Slovenian government, in cooperation with the startup Eligma, launched the country’s Bitcoin City in June 2018, a complex of retail stores which will all use cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. For both the Slovenian government and Slovenian blockchain startups, this project is perfect in bringing bitcoins into people’s daily lives, promoting the spread of this technology, and establishing Slovenia internationally as a new and promising market for blockchain and cryptocurrency. Bitcoin City is a way of presenting the technology to Slovenian citizens and showing how the technology can be used in their daily lives, such as through retail purchases. Slovenia has been successful in this endeavor. The USA is the world’s leading country in terms of the geographical distribution of companies accepting Bitcoin (27%). However, if looking at the number of companies in Slovenia that accept Bitcoin, one can compare it to the country’s population size to see that Bitcoin is quite successful, considering that there are 41.6 companies per million people.
The Slovenian government is deeply invested in the desire to promote Slovenia as fertile terrain for blockchain and cryptocurrency startups. These efforts started under Prime Minister Miro Cerar, who led the government between 2014 and 2018. Under Cerar’s administration, the government was eager to make Slovenia a green and circular economy. This was evidenced in a 2017 speech made by Cerar during the Digital Slovenia 2020 conference, in which he stressed that he “want[s] to position Slovenia as the most recognized blockchain destination in the European Union.” During this speech, Cerar announced what has been the Slovenian position ever since, which is the constant study of blockchain technology applications by Slovenian state and public administrations, while Slovenia as an EU member state would advocate for both the application of technology and its regulation on the European level.
In the background of the 2018 World Economic Forum, which Miro Cerar attended, he was accompanied by several Slovenian blockchain and crypto companies with the intent of promoting Slovenia as a friendly blockchain destination appealing to foreign investors. Since 2018, Cerar has been deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, but under his successor Marjan Šarec, the Slovenian government shows no sign of backing off from the effort of making its economy known for the cryptocurrency and blockchain business. The Blockchain Think Tank Slovenia was also formed in 2017 for the purposes of coordinating and advising on all research activities related to the development of bitcoin and blockchain technologies between the government and private sector, as well as propose policy solutions.
Slovenia appears determined in its efforts and is already trying to think up new initiatives and projects which will act as forums for promoting Bitcoin and blockchain technology, as well as to promote education and coordination on these. One such example is Bitcoin društvo Slovenije (Bitcoin Association Slovenia), formed by Slovenian bitcoin professionals in 2014. The Bitcoin Association Slovenia has the status of an initial coin offering (ICO), which means that they can act as a source of funding. This allows Bitcoin Association Slovenia to act as a source of funding and facilitator for further blockchain promotion in different industry domains.
In December 2018, the Bitcoin Association Slovenia became a partner with Medicohealth, a Slovenian platform formed in 2015 and intended to introduce blockchain and Bitcoin technology into the Slovenian medical and healthcare sector by using blockchain platforms that connect doctors and patients, facilitating payment in cryptocurrency. The Bitcoin Association Slovenia also allocated an ICO status to Medicohealth. Both the existence of Medicohealth and the implementation of arrangements such as the one with the Bitcoin Association Slovenia shows a strong drive in the country for the promotion of cryptocurrency technology that encompasses various industries.
Furthermore, on 21 March 2019 in the Slovenian spa town of Laško, the Bitcoin Association Slovenia organized the first Blockchain Day within the Risk 2019 conference, which is one of the leading and largest cyber security conferences in the region. The conference gathered experts from the EU, the Adriatic Sea region, the US, and Israel, addressing the issue of security risks associated with cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. This shows that there is a vibrant and ever-growing industry in Slovenia, which is not only interested in these technologies per se but it is also willing to engage in debating some challenges associated with them, like cyber security risks. The Slovenian business community is interested in delving into even these complicated issues, proving how much interest is being placed on this sector and how much potential it carries.
Slovenia is unmistakably becoming a recognized name in the tech trends that are sweeping the global market. The country is small but has the advantage of being an EU member state, and it also has the expertise and established interest from the professional public. The strong synergy between the government and business community means that they are invested in seeing through their desire to make Slovenia a prolific market player in blockchain technology. This in mind, this location and market will continue to be of interest and demonstrates worthwhile potentials for savvy investors.