Czech Invest partnered with Rockaway, Seznam and Czech ICT to help Czech startups to expand their business to Silicon Valley. In the past, Czech Invest served mainly as a helping hand. Today, it is a two-way bridge that make sense not only for the Czech startup ecosystem, but also for the whole country. It brings new investments, job vacancies, contracts and contacts. It also helped with establishing the Czech entrepreneurship community in Silicon Valley that helps other young companies that are coming to the Bay Area. In 2009, this whole idea was non-existing and sounded rather unrealistic to be true just a few years later.
Czech ICT Incubator
Application deadline: 31.12.2014
Maximum of 9 teams will be selected. They will be placed in the Runway Incubator for one or two members of the team for 3-4 months, mentoring, and also free conference passes.
For more info visit www.czechict.cz/inkubator
What is cool about Runway?
We are located in the same building as Twitter. Unlike other accelerators, we focus on speed. Others are more like a real-estate. We help companies to go faster and we are connecting them with their first employees, customers, and experts. We work a lot on the culture and community of the place because that’s more important than anything else.
What qualities you look in entrepreneurs?
It is more about personality, the size of your idea and scalability.
What are the main criteria to join the program?
We don’t care about technology. It is entirely about the team and scalability. Good team is no assholes. They want to share their knowledge, time, and networks. If you are able to share with others, we will share with you. Also moving fast as possible. There are other entrepreneurs in Germany and China – and they are really good in copying. They force you to go global much faster.
KI-WI DIGITAL: Silicon Valley Experience
Kiwi Digital was founded in 2008 and moved to SF in 2012 as a member of the Czech Accelerator Program. Since then, they’ve made a lot of mistakes. “We weren’t ready to go there. We didn’t know what is an “elevator pitch” or how to network with people,” says
we were scared of networking
unrealistic ideas about the cost of living in SV ( financial underestimation)
czenglish (they didn’t take us seriously)
we were full of empty words, lack of numbers (SCALE!)
sale > help
we didn’t delegate our Czech agenda
How to be successful:
pretend you are an American company (website, telephone number)
focus on presenting numbers/references (mainly the ones from US)
network, compete and pitch everywhere
follow-up and LinkedIn after the networking
be ready to change everything
CORINTH: Our experience from Silicon Valley
There are three basic motivations why people do startups:
- they want to make a difference
- they want to earn money
- they want to be cool and have more sex
All the options are valid. But in SV it is mainly about the first group.
We absolutely changed our thinking:
Before: The goal is to generate revenue.
After: The goal is to THINK BIG! (big business with a big number of users and big revenue)
It’s hard to scale business from Central Europe. On the other, staying in the Bay Area is not easy and the situation is getting worse. It’s hard to find accommodation and if you are not sitting on a good funding, the first three weeks you will spend just thinking about surviving.
Use the opportunity if you know somebody in the area who can help you.
In Silicon Valley, you are just one from thousands people that came there – and nobody cares about you. Every presence in incubator or partnership increases your attractivity. Every time we meet somebody in SV, our presence in Runway is something that makes people interested.
Change is not about doing things differently. It is about the change of your thinking and attitude. The best is to visit Silicon Valley as soon as possible.
Focus on scalability and partnerships.
In the Czech Republic, our thinking is excessively sophisticated and complicated. You have to create a product that is understandable to everyone. Even to idiots.
I got into startups because I hated working for a corporate company. With one of my colleagues, we were thinking about doing something we would enjoy. We created MPV and waited for freedback. We had the classic pair of founders (CEO & CTO) and we found a designer. We started quickly developing something the market was asking for. It took us 20 months to build a product we were happy about. When we were in SF, we didn’t understand the purpose of “networking”. But you really have to go everywhere and ask for feedback. It will move you forward more than when you pay for that.
CZECH ICT ALLIANCE: Michal Zalesak
Michal is an executive director in Czech ICT Alliance and he has been working in the IT industry since 2000. Nowadays, he is one of the most active supporters of the Czech startup community.
Czech ICT Alliance was founded in 2005 and it is not a state organization. The main goal is to support startups in the Czech Republic (regional incubators, startup events, foreigner mentors) and abroad (through TechCrunch Disrupt, CeBit, IT SA, startup missions).
Why move your startup to another country?
great opportunity to move forward
Any success story?
JIC told us they had a team from India. It is called Hansure. They won StarCube and got into Microsoft Ventures Accelerator in Israel. Now they are sitting in Tel Aviv and they raised money from Microsoft and BD.
What are the criteria?
We don’t care about the age of the company — but we want to see it’s moving forward.
CZECH INVEST: Karel Kucera
We had 52 companies in the Czech Accelerator and we’re planning to continue with the program. We don’t want to be the only one, first one nor best one – we want to collaborate with others.
Our goals are:
Support business environment
Attract new investors
Create a communication channel to connect startups with second parties
Unity makes strength.
If we are going to have a great presence in US building a good name for Czech startups, there is a better possibility key players will extend their branches and business in the Czech Republic. That would help the whole economy. We’re in touch with other incubators and we want to help also in other fields (Precise Mechanical Engineering).
“If you are working for a state company, you are paid for not making mistakes. If you are an entrepreneur, you are paid for making them.”
ROCKAWAY: Jakub Havrlant
Why Rockaway decided to join the Czech incubator?
It fits our strategy to focus more on startups. And it is global, not local (globalization is extremely powerful).
How do you choose startups you want to support?
We divide startups into two groups:
strategic division: startups that are proved economically. We call them “milk businesses” and it is mainly e-commerce. We usually buy the majority of the company and we control it.
portfolio division: technology projects with global potential. We prefer engineers with a sense of product. We own minority of the company and our main contribution is in money. We also help with the business side and we have our own team of excellent entrepreneurs that are ready to help.
There is no segment we would prefer more than the others. But lately, we tend to focus on B2B cloud solutions, visual-analytics startups and e-commerce platforms. We’re trying to avoid global consumer business.
What are the main evaluating criteria?
Product and technology
Idea and vision must fit together.
The size of the market
What are the main differences between the Czech Republic and Silicon Valley?
Silicon Valley is like Disneyland. There are many opportunities but also a lot of hype and bullshit. But if you are focused on technology – it’s your place to be. It will help you with development, funding and also a potential exit.
What is the difference between a good and a bad startup teaser?
Good teaser is easy and clear. It looks good and it has only one page.
SEZNAM: Marek Novy
In 2014, Seznam invested CZK 10 million into two Czech companies and a few smaller startups. These investments weren’t publicly announced. Seznam is planning another investment until the end of 2014 to a selected company. At this moment, this collaboration is still confidential and it will be announced in spring 2015. Seznam wants to bring the experience into the Czech market. To partnered startups, it offers money, media coverage, business network, technical know-how, and consultations.
If you were working in your previous job with a specific technology and you are trying to sell it now – that’s not a product. Many people don’t know what the word “product” really means and they are coming to us with a service. Seznam is interested mainly in ideas that can be connected to what the company already has (sreality, sauto…). It is also focused mainly on the Czech market.