Interview with Jakub Tížek, founder of Podnikni to! (Do business!) and proponent of pre-incubation for start-ups

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Jakub Tížek is a young, dynamic entrepreneur. He started out in a garage with a loan from his parents, but after a year and a half he still had not achieved success and the money gradually ran out. However, he gained valuable experience, thanks to which he successfully established two private companies while still at school. As he says himself, it was that experience and not money that was important for him. With respect to his schoolmates’ interest in advice on how to start doing business without risk, he decided to establish the Podnikni to! project ( Podnikni to! means Do business! in translation), in which he makes a point of imparting experience through working on the participants’ actual projects. Jakub is also a leading proponent of introducing and expanding pre-incubation for start-ups and young firms. How does he want to change the established system? And is that even feasible? We got the answers to those questions and more from Jakub Tížek himself.

 

1)    Jakub, tell us about your “baby”, the Podnikni to! project ( Do business!).

Podnikni to! offers unique business courses, meetings, mentoring and other activities for everyone who is at least considering starting a business. This involves the so-called pre-incubation phase, the moment when someone has an idea but doesn’t know what to do with it or doesn’t even have an idea yet but is interested in starting a business. Our goal is to enable such people to safely get started with doing business and to try it out on their own project so that they can decide, based on their own experience, whether running a business is the path they want to take now or in the future.

My partner, Maxim Dužek, and I discovered that if you ask people if they want to start a business, they’ll tell you no. But if you ask them if they would like to develop a project that would be fun for them and maybe someday they can make a living from it, they’ll tell you yes.

After dozens of course, we realised that as long as there are courses teaching business as being about taxes, accounting and law, people will logically be afraid of doing business. We initially help participants transform their ideas into viable and sustainable projects for which they first find enthusiasm and gather contacts and know-how, and then the issues I mentioned previously are no longer such a great obstacle.

Such practical support for entrepreneurialism among people with zero business experience is a tremendously important step for the Czech Republic. Every day, each of us has some idea of how to improve something, how to do it better, but we don’t know how to turn that idea into a project. And on top of that, we hear how doing business is risky and bureaucratically demanding, so we don’t even give it a try. And that is how we are missing out on tremendous innovation and economic potential in the Czech Republic.

 

2)    Pre-incubation is not widespread in the Czech Republic and it is an unknown concept for many. How do you see pre-incubation of firms? What is your vision? How do you want to change the established system?

Despite the fact that pre-incubation is a relatively new concept, it is actually a logical step toward active business development in the Czech Republic. It’s simple; we now have an excellent and well-developed incubation system here that is able to help beginning entrepreneurs who are still building their businesses. They already know what they want and are making their first money, and an incubator helps them become successful start-ups more rapidly. However, that is not the start of the entrepreneurial journey. At the beginning, we have “non-entrepreneurs”, people without experience who need help with the initial steps. They’ve never done business before, they don’t have experience or anyone around to support them, but in spite of that, they are at least considering it. And that is the task of pre-incubation, to help such “non-entrepreneurs” become beginning entrepreneurs through their own real-world experience.

It’s a simple funnel, where Podnikni to! works with thousands of “non-entrepreneurs” and turns hundreds of them into beginning entrepreneurs, and incubators then transform dozens of those into successful start-ups. We thus help incubators either deal with the lack of people interested in incubation or, conversely, we stop everyone who only has an idea from signing up with incubators.

 At Podnikni to!, we have two visions, the first of which is to bring practical entrepreneurialism into the Czech education system. That was the purpose for which we established the project and since we are fulfilling that purpose, we will definitely continue with it. After some time, however, we found out that not only students have unimplemented ideas in their heads, but also mothers on maternity leave, senior citizens, unemployed people, people with jobs…simply everyone. Therefore, we specified the main mission as helping to build a pre-incubation ecosystem in the Czech Republic, just as we have an incubation ecosystem today. Based on that, we began collaborating with regional incubators and cities, and over time we want to have in every region institutions with pre-incubation programmes that will ensure that everyone with an idea will have access to practical assistance with its development into a sustainable project.

I personally believe in “golden Czech hands” and I also think that we Czechs are a highly creative and innovative nation, clever and capable. But due to our history, we have to awaken that in ourselves. In short, entrepreneurialism and creativity are in our DNA.

 

3)    What is the biggest challenge for you?

As I said in the preceding answer, our vision of establishing the pre-incubation phase is the greatest challenge that we face. In order to fulfil that vision, we need capable people and partners.

It’s a lot of work for a lot of years, but we value the fact that, even though the concept is relatively fresh, significant Czech organisations and institutions are getting involved in our activities and we are negotiating with many others, such as CzechInvest. Pre-incubation shouldn’t be our private product; that’s not realistic. It should be a common ecosystem that is seen and supported by the public.

 

4)    What is your view of today’s young people you meet? Do they have the entrepreneurial spirit?

We gladly tell our participants that today is the best time to start a business. There has never been a better moment in history to start working on your own project, find out if it makes sense and gradually transform it into a business that you can make a living from.

So, as to the question of whether the young generation has the desire to do business, we can say with a clear conscience that the answer is yes. However, these beginning entrepreneurs need someone who can help them take the first steps, break down the barriers in their heads and support them at the most difficult moments before their business ideas pick up speed. And that’s where Podnikni to! courses help them.

 

Thank you very much. We wish you luck.

Jakub Tížek, co-founder of the project Podnikni to! ( Do Business!)