Have you been here in KIBU ever since its beginning?
Yes, I was one of the organisers of this program. Before I was the founder of COLABs – Community Laboratory business, which was a co-working office. We organized mobile and social picnics, which were the first social and mobile meet-ups in Hungary. Before that I was a product designer. I studied at the University of Technology in Budapest. As a designer I was a lonely worker, then we organised the COLABs, because I just had enough of this lonely era of my life. I designed future concepts for mobile phone companies. I was trying to figure out how cell phones could be used in the future; what kind of new habits would be formed and what kind of actual devices would be needed for that particular function. But this was quite some time ago, so by now, we are already doing all things that were just being dreamed up then. I got tired of working at home because I never got out of my pyjamas and I always drunk cold coffee. It’s a state when you do not work but actually you always work. I got tired of that life. One of my friends who was also tired of the same life style said that in the US there is already a solution for this problem, it is called co-working lab, let’s do it. So we met a lot of “pyjama and cold coffee guys” and we saw that they were working on exciting projects. It was great to see that after working hours they did not go home but they continued working. After a while we realized that these were startups, but at the time there was not such a big hype around them, they were not even called startups yet, but they literally wanted to change the world. We began focusing on the needs of these people. I have never in my life been a leader in any company. I was very bad at finance, I just saw the mission but I had no idea about how this could be cost effective, or even bring money. So after a while we had to stop. This was the time when I met Zsolt Winkler, the head of KIBU. He told me that KIBU would need a startup program.
What is the mission of KIBU?
It is a good question as each and every month we would like to find our mission. At the moment one of the most important things is to find the best talent, the greatest idea to help them to become project, to become startup, to become famous and help to make the world a bit happier and easier to live in.
Does KIBU work as an incubator?
Like an incubator, like an accelerator, like a hacking lab, like just a lovely place with full of innovation.
How do you find your potential startups that you are working with right now?
We have a web site and an online form where everybody can join our startup program but of course it is not enough. We directly try to find the best startups. We have really good eyes for talent, for example we try follow good students and innovative ideas at universities. Also, the best advertising agencies help us to find the best startups, the best ideas and companies in Hungary. We have a really good network. They are individuals, rather than companies. They are into business, design, and technology. I think these three things are the most important basic points when you work with a startup. We try to find the best designers, the best technology guys and the best business guys.
Designers – in what sense?
Designers as a unit designer, user interface and user interaction designer, service designers. Design - as a power and technology, which can model processes. 86 % of information are gained visually through the eyes. What we see defines our life.
When you are talking about service design, what type of service do you think of?
We do not have any preference. We do not like to incubate games because we do not have the knowledge to help them. We do not like energetics because we do not have the knowledge and the money to fundraise them. We really love disruptive fields of innovation. They can shake and renew a whole existing system, a set of tools of a field of an earlier generation. A good examples is sharing economy. It is an economy after the startup era. RBMB for accommodation is a good example, Uber for transportation is another one, and one is our startup Piqniq for food. They are really disruptive. Piqniq is one of my favourite ones. Our startup program is really young, it is less than three years old. Some of our programs have more than 20 000 followers and users.
How do you validate your work?
This is a very hard question, how to set up our own KPIs (Key Performance Indicator) to measure our efficiency. Probably the most important indicator could be the number of the people and teams that would like to participate in our program. Probably this is a good indicator of our communication skills. How we can measure our development is a more complex issue. The fact that we could sign a contract with 5 projects during the last 3 years is a good sign, on the other hand, we see how many things are still ahead of us.
What does such a contract cover?
We define our common aims, where we would like to get, and we try to define as close as we can the way that will lead there. A startup is always changing. On the other side we define what we give and what we expect. We have a knowledge of design technology, we have a network, we have a “network capital,” media and investor, we provide tools and space, as well as 6 million HUF that the team can decide how they can use this sum in the best way. We of course expect that if the company is set up, we get a certain percentage of it. After the first turn, which is us, the next investor comes and there is an exit, so there is the next turn of a much bigger investment. This generally means a five-year cycle and we are only 3 years old, so we still have to wait another circle of investment.
How do you step further?
Right now, I am working for KIBU but I am leaving for San Francisco. I will still help startups, as I began working with them and I want to complete that work, I feel responsible for them. But with the new projects I will just judge what risks I can anticipate with them, what tasks I think necessary. My next step is that I am going to join and work for one of our startups as a designer. So I am returning to where I began. I missed that kind of creativity. The world is in a huge transformation. One sign of this is that generally one moves on from a workplace every three-five years. It is a must, you have to step further. It is better to be aware of it than always being frustrated. Today, in the present world, we have more possibility than ever before to create something. It is very important for students to see this clearly. This knowledge was not always public, when I was at the university, for example, many people watched to keep this knowledge a “secret.” It provided a certain type of power that some people had this knowledge and other people did not. It is also a very important lesson for our higher education in Hungary. Now is a time when you can do things independently or with a team. Not everybody should follow this paths, but we have a choice. We have our choices and options in our own hands.