Interview with Ondřej Zezulák, director of TECHNOLOGY CENTRE Hradec Králové

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Ondřej Zezulák is the director of TECHNOLOGY CENTRE Hradec Králové, which was established by the city of Hradec Králové for the purpose of supporting business in the region. The centre annually woks with approximately 40 start-ups, a quarter of which are incubated here. As Ondřej himself says, that is sometimes a challenge. Considerably more start-ups register with the centre than eventually reach the “final”. There are several reasons for that. Start-ups find out that their ideas are not feasible, they do not have financing, they collapse or they come to the realisation that they need for their business far more time than they are willing to sacrifice. Therefore, TCHK offers a broad spectrum of business-support services. The centre is starting to conduct workshops at elementary schools and works with entire teams that are formulating their own business plans at secondary schools and universities. What is Ondřej’s view of the Czech business sphere? What is he proud of? You can find the answers to these questions and more in the following interview.

1)    From your perspective, Ondřej, how do you see the business sphere in the Czech Republic? Do young people want to do business?

They do, and we are glad about that. Dozens of business ideas come to us during the year. In the end, only a few that are “viable” remain, but that’s okay. Not every project can be successfully moulded into an actual product or service, but beginning entrepreneurs can use this experience later in life.

A lot of young people have a somewhat distorted view of business, but we are attempting to rectify that at schools. Therefore, we organised courses focused on business, in which stories of real-world experience get a lot of space. This is true also for student conferences, Hradecký startovač and the Student Business Forum, as well as Hradec Fuckup Nights. Business stories including failures and downfalls are what young people need to hear before they set out to start their own businesses.

2)   The technology centre incubates selected firms, which co-finance a symbolic 15% of the total financial costs. Can you tell us how much one incubation in the centre costs and what it involves?

The total cost of expert consulting is currently CZK 23,000, where the incubated companies contribute three thousand. However, this amount does not cover the time and costs connected with our internal consultants and employees, who are present throughout the given firm’s growth and provide assistance based on their experience and contacts. Expert consulting is a service that uses a number of specialists in resolving current problems. Sometimes that involves an industrial design, other times UX or, for example, strategies for entering new markets. It is very individual and we strive to develop truly tailored services for every firm.

Another possibility of support for start-ups is discounted rent in our facilities. The maximum incubation period is two years and the discount on rent ranges from 30% to 70% depending on the duration of the lease – that is significant aid in the early stages of doing business and firms use it frequently.

3)    What is your greatest professional challenge?

I would like the TECHNOLOGY CENTRE to expand to the whole Hradec Králové region through its activities. We want to be the first such organisation to which beginning entrepreneurs turn when starting their own business. And I’m pleased that we are starting to succeed with that.

In the area of support for start-ups in recent years, there has been an infinite number of activities, programmes and calls, and it is difficult for start-ups to find their bearings among them. However, we don’t want to go the way of one-off financial injections. Rather, we want to work conceptually with firms and truly help them manage their initial years in existence.

4)    Tell us about your successful start-ups from the Hradec Králové region. Which of them give you pleasure and emerged from your centre?

There is a full range of successful start-ups that have emerged from our incubator, so it’s difficult for me to mention only a few of them. The guys from Pandemic have done some good work, as they advanced from making t-shirts with a bear mascot to publishing their own illustrated children’s book titled Medvěd Wrr: Po přečtení zavřít! (Bear Wrr: Close After Reading). The book has been very successful and was recently complemented with an original card game.

One of the incubated firms that is also based at TCHK is TriLab, which is focused on production of 3D printers and is finding success both in the Czech Republic and abroad. It started in a small office at the centre and gradually grew into a space of more than 100 m2 and now our premises are starting to be too small for it.

I’d also like to mention the Oghma project, which is based on a unique solution for encrypting e-mail communication. This project even got an opportunity to exhibit at Websummit in Lisbon in connection with the CzechDemo programme.

We would find many more such successful firms. Every start-up has its own story that distinguishes it from the others and we’re glad that we can play a role in those stories.

Thank you for the interview and we wish you further success.