selected: 10 startups
from: 4 countries
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Cristina Muntean: I like that Czechs think things through

After 12 years of learning and practicing journalism, Cristina Muntean decided to look at it from a different perspective. Now she offers her business reporter’s perspective to her clients, in an attempt to help them transform into better, more efficient, attentive and passionate communicators. She does this through advisory, training, coaching and communication strategy execution.

What is your connection to Czech republic and what has brought you to Prague?

I moved to the Czech Republic in September 2004, immediately after graduating journalism at the University of Bucharest, Romania. My Czech connection occured in 2002-03, when I received an Erasmus scholarship and moved to Grenoble, France, to enrich my journalism education. It is there I met my future Czech friends, and it is thanks to them that I discovered Prague. So, my moving to the Czech Republic was driven by a combination of personal, education and work-related reasons. Looking back after almost a third of my life spent in Prague, my decision to move to the Czech Republic was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Where do you see the similarities and differences compared to your home country?

There are numerous similarities between Romania and the Czech Republic, same as there are numerous differences. In terms of similarities, they come from our common past – we both share almost half a century of socialism. More, prior to World War II we shared a common border, and, during the Austro-Hungarian Empire, we (at least Transylvania, where I come from) shared similar rules and mentality influences. So, there is a common background to build on.

In terms of differences, they are most obvious in terms of culture and mentality – Romania is a typical, temperamental south-eastern nation, with a developing economy, while we can say the Czech Republic is already a developed economy. This is why, when the economic crisis hit Eastern Europe in 2008, Romania fell from far higher, as it is usually the case with emerging economies. But this is also an opportunity. Romania is untapped in so many economic fields, and numerous services that are common sense on the Czech market are yet to be developed. Of course, we need to take into account the size of the country and quite significant differences among various regions. Yet, this shouldn’t be an impediment for clever entrepreneurs in the years to come.

Where do you see the potential for Czech startups, designers, developers?

The biggest potential for Czech startups (and I include all lines of business, not just technology-driven services) comes from the Czech way of doing things: thinking things through and measuring twice before cutting. After the economic crisis I perceive a global need for slowing down, taking a healthy distance, looking at things in perspective, and puting energy only into effective things with impact and meaning. I think the Czech mentality and life-style is tailor-made for such an approach: put things in perspective, and do the right thing. When you back that up with the amazing capacity to think and create technology, you can realize what an outstanding potential Czech companies can have locally and worldwide.

And where do you see the problems?

There are some traps on the way. First is the educational system. Entrepreneurship is still far from being a native part of the Czech schools and teachers’ mentality, and, in a way, every entrepreneur must start from the scratch and confront the mentality: why don’t you get yourself a comfortable, well-paid job somewhere, so I can be proud of you? Second is the curse of welfare: the more we have, the more we get used to it and somehow we think we deserve it. Thus, we find no need to fight for our place under the sun, and we lose the skills to be genuinely competitive. Yet, a simple look outside the borders to India and China can give you a feel of what losing our competitiveness may mean. Third, Europe still lacks the financial tools that prop US companies to extreme growth from the very beginning. If someone has dream of global growth comparable in scale with US companies, sooner or later will need to get closer to the US environment to benefit from its financial set-up.

Do you have any advice for foreign entrepreneurs visitng Czech republic or planning to stay a bit longer?

Certainly :). Leave your ego at home. If you want to work with Czechs and engage them into your vision, observe what motivates them and activate those triggers rather than pushing for success. Don’t be afraid of cultivating mix teams in terms of nationality. Have a crystal-clear vision and be consistent. Sudden, often, unexplained change is the best thing to switch people off. And choose your people well. Some things may last longer in the Czech Republic, but in the end, the one who patients has the final laugh.