CzechInvest Startup Challenge showcases the best of Czech innovation

An award ceremony followed a conference on innovation and the startup environment, and the need to stay competitive. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 19.07.2022 16:00:00 (updated on 19.07.2022) Reading time: 5 minutes

The CzechInvest Startup Challenge at the end of May put the spotlight on new companies that are bringing innovations to the market. The startup Dronetag won against nine other innovative companies that have gone through CzechInvest's international programs in the last six years. The goal of the competition was to have the most creative pitch to interest people in their product.

Before the competition, a conference on key topics concerning the Czech Republic's startup and innovation environment took place for the first time.

“Czech startups constantly surprise us with their huge potential, which this competition clearly proves to us,” Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Petr Očko, who is in charge of managing CzechInvest, said.

The largest project in CzechInvest's history, called Technological Incubation, is now giving startups even more support, Očko said. “The current situation in the world shows us the great importance of technology and innovation, and that we must continue to give support and maintain focus on these areas,” Očko added.

Beáta Vörösová, the director of CzechInvest’s startup division, said that Technological Incubation has opened up many foreign opportunities for companies. “We see that startups' demands for growth. … The more success our startups gain, the more we perceive the need to expand our services and tailor them to entrepreneurs,” Vörösová said.

Očko and Vörösová were joined on the award jury by content maker and summit organizer Disraptors director Tomáš Cironis and Deloitte’s director of innovation Senta Čermáková.

They evaluated 10 companies – Whalebone, ThreatMark, Sharry, BeiT, BornDigital, Dronetag, Motionlab, Spacemanic, ROI Hunter, and – that were selected out of 217 startups that participated in CzechInvest's acceleration programs in 2016–22.

The winner Dronetag develops solutions for the safe and efficient operation of drones. The company completed seven months of mentoring in the space incubator program at ESA BIC (European Space Agency Business Incubation Center) in Prague space in cooperation with CzechInvest.

Lukáš Brchl, co-founder and CEO of Dronetag, said the company has succeeded in solving real safety and operational problems concerning drones. “We have been able to connect the hardware and software worlds in a simple and elegant way so that we can offer a versatile solution to all who use drones. This clarity is shown every time we deal with a potential customer. It only takes us a minute to explain what we are and what added value we bring,” he said.

One thing he learned was the need to delegate. The founder knows the product best and is initially indispensable for almost all departments. But eventually, the founder needs to step back. “You need to tell yourself in advance where your added value is to stick to it. Otherwise, you’re just getting in the way of the others,” he said.

Second place went to ThreatMark, which uses artificial intelligence to analyze variations in online user behavior and detect fraudsters. It is considered one of the global leaders in threat detection and intelligent authentication.

ThreatMark’s products protect Internet banking for over 30 million users around the world. The company has used a seven-month acceleration program from CzechInvest in the Czech Republic and a follow-up two-week program directly in Silicon Valley.

Michal Tresner, co-founder and CPO of ThreatMark, says he is most proud of his company for keeping its focus on fraud detection, and not moving into using the technology for other purposes such as marketing.

“I would advise my younger self to focus on the one thing that brings value to customers and then on how to get that one particular thing to as many customers as possible. In other words: Don't let feedback from a small number of initial customers break the focus,” he said.

Sharry, with a mobile application that gives employees and visitors access to office buildings and their services, took third. Thanks to CzechInvest, the company spent three months in 2019 on an acceleration program in New York and subsequently won a contract for the One Vanderbilt, the city’s second-tallest office building.

Their system is currently used by over 100,000 people in hundreds of buildings. Josef Šachta, co-founder and CEO of Sharry, said the company is in the top league in their field in the world.

“We are invited to the most prestigious tenders, and we succeeded in New York, which is the mecca of PropTech,” he said. He added that a key to success was focusing on what is important and setting strict priorities., which has an application that takes care of mental health, won the Audience Award.

CzechInvest has been supporting the startup environment since 2011. During its existence, it has provided aid to almost 400 startups. Through acceleration programs, these companies draw on experience with domestic mentors or gain experience abroad.

The most frequent destinations included Silicon Valley, New York, Singapore, and London. Companies can also use support to attend industry conferences around the world such as Web Summit Lisbon or TechCrunch Disrupt.

Since 2016 CzechInvest has organized a total of 236 foreign startup missions. In total, startups that went through these programs received over CZK 1.3 billion in investment.

Before the CzechInvest Startup Challenge, a conference titled Challenges of the Start-up and Innovation Environment in the Czech Republic took place in Prague. The conference’s aim was to describe the current state of the startup and innovation ecosystem and look for ways to improve.

Vít Horký from the Czech Founders project and Markéta Přenosilová on behalf of CzechInvest discussed the startup ecosystem. The present and future of tech talent in the Czech Republic were analyzed by Matěj Matolín from Impulse Ventures, Pavel Kordík, vice-dean of the Faculty of Information Technology at the Czech Technical University in Prague, and Jan Kopkáš from Brno Expat Center. Michal Pohludka from Charles University Innovations Prague / GeneSpector Innovations and Jiří Krechl on behalf of CzechInvest discussed how to support spin-offs on the campus as effectively as possible.

The practice of employee shares in the Czech Republic and the world was presented by Tomáš Ditrych from Mavericks Legal and Richard Novák from OmniCrane. Ondřej Bartoš from Credo Ventures, Šíma Pavel from Bound & Roivenue, and Jaromír Zahrádka from i & i Prague and i & i Biotech Fund closed the conference on venture capital and innovation financing.

The conference was held under the auspices of Helena Langšádlová, the Czech Minister for Science, Research and Innovation.

CzechInvest’s Vörösová said the Czech Republic will have to face challenges if it wants to keep pace with the technologically advanced world. “These issues need to be addressed together, which was one of the main goals of the conference,” Vörösová said.

This article was written in association with CzechInvest. To read more about our partner content policies see here.

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