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Startup formula: Think regional to go global

Imre Hild, an opinion leader in the Hungarian startup ecosystem, says that CEE startups stand a better chance of gaining recognition in the world market if the region works together.  

Hungarians have enough intelligence to come up with new, creative ideas, which is why this country is fast becoming a hub for startups. But what many new enterprises lack is the ability to take their ideas to the global market. Fortunately, there is help at hand.

“Hungarian startups desperately need competence from abroad, but most celebrated mentors will come only if they get well paid. It makes no sense to pay local business consultants or tendering firms, that competence is what’s needed,” Imre Hild points out to the Budapest Business Journal. “Gathering world-class human resources under the roof of an accelerator is necessary, but costly.”

Hild is one of the key figures in the local startup ecosystem. His venture, Global Platforms helps promising projects develop their business in order to take it to the next level; that is, the world stage.

“Many times it’s not money that startups need, but the right pro, an international sales expert, for instance, who can get their product launched in foreign markets. We assess what startups have, and where they want to get to, and we connect them with a member of our specialist network from New York to Singapore,” Hild says.

The hopefuls

The latest hopefuls that could make use of Global Platforms’ resources are some of those that were funded by the CEED Tech EU program operated by Digital Factory, an accelerator for incubation, in the first half of this year. The best three projects received €200,000 on top of the €30,000 that all were given in the first place. SpyMoz, which offers sophisticated SEO analyses, is flirting with an opportunity in Singapore, while Laborom (My Lab) and its diabetes self-help tool frequents conferences successfully.

And car maintenance as we know it should change for good if AzAutom.hu (My Car) makes its breakthrough. According to founder György Tardy, it would like to offer an early warning system for drivers that signals every technical error even before it appears on the dashboard. Another idea is to make the car communicate directly with the service provider for due scheduled maintenance. (AzAutom is also building a network of reliable providers that would be part of their service package.) To close the circle, repair parts could be bought in AzAutomʼs webshop.

V4 reinterpreted

“There will be a lot more capital available to fund projects like that next year,” Hild notes. What matters though is to catch up with American competitors. One way could be to rely on iHub, a European initiative that makes so-called FIWARE software available. Since startups’ technical profiles often overlap, big corporations put software developed by them in digital depositories for free use. The number of such items is relatively moderate, but the European Union is striving for joint action in order to speed things up.

Hild sees the importance of using each other’s strengths in Europe as inevitable. “The Danube Region Initiative is a great example of how Europeans should act in order not to lag behind the global competition.” Accordingly, four cities, namely Budapest, Vienna, Brno and Bratislava have realized that if they support the startups of each other, they can make use of their respective vertical competences. The Visegrád Four (minus Poland) seems ready for action.

Joining forces can create critical mass

“It’s got to be clear that places like Singapore are ahead of us. The government there has 24 billion Singaporean dollars (SGD) to fund innovative young enterprises, and there’s an enormous level of engagement on the part of those involved in such programs,” Hild explains.

Things happen at an accelerated pace, too. “If they deem your project desirable for the country, you will have your work visa for establishment in four hours and will get SGD 500,000 to get started. The only requirement is to grant a 30% stake of your company to a Singaporean national, and that your headquarters must operate in the country for real.”

The only way to match this sort of development locally is by joining forces. “Hungary does not exist on her own. But if we say ‘CEE’, then we already have a critical mass that makes it worth coming here. On the part of the startups the openness is there, and the same is true of the big players involved. Only systematic work towards this direction will translate into success, just as in Israel or Finland,” Hild says.