Monday, December 17, 2007

Half of Food in Developed World Goes Wasted: Problem to Solve, Entrepreneurial Opportunity to Seize

Yesterday, the BBC World Service broadcast a debate on food productivity. It was mentioned that 25-30% of food fit for human consumption in developed countries is thrown away. Some data for the UK indicate the figure is one third, for the US maybe one half. One fellow-blogger has even dedicated a site to this issue. This is really appalling given how many people starve in this world. (Picture from Wasted Food.)

But certainly a clever enterpreneur could seize on this opportunity - transforming this incredible amount of waste into something both socially useful, and profitable. Maybe he could make an agreement with restaurants and supermarkets to collect their waste and then agree with a biomass producer to transform it into biomass. Or with a hygienist he could separate what is still fit for animal consumption and make that part of the waste into animal feed. Something could be made into fertilizer.

Who comes up with the best entrepreneurial plan on how to put this waste into use, gets a present from me! Send your ideas to or post them below as comments, with an address where I can reach you.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

New Successful Start Up: Etsy

Although the Getcrafty website was launched in 1998, it wasn't until Robert Kalin was involved in 2004 that the online sale of handmade products became a true commercial venture - and a very successful one indeed. The Etsy company was born.

Today, Etsy brings together 70,000 sellers of handmade products such as whistles, porcelain bowls or candle holders. It has about 50 employees, and last November alone it increased sales by 43%, selling 300,000 items for a total value of $4,300,000.

You can read the whole story on the International Herald Tribune's website.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Entrepreneurship Growing in India, but...

A piece in the latest issue of the Economist makes an overview of the growing phenomenon of entrepreneurship in India. It reports the growth in the field, yet mentions several caveats. First, the judicial system is not as mature as in Silicon Valley, where the term sheets used are taken from. Second, knowledge of how to run a new business, e.g. on the financial side, is still lagging. And third, internet penetration is low, albeit growing (some say not fast enough, though), limiting the possibilities of internet start-ups.

But the biggest obstacle to an entrepreneurial boom, says the Economist, is that "[m]ost people prefer a safe job at one of the big services firms." This reminds of the Czech landscape, as was mentioned on But no challenge is to be left unchallenged...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

AIA at the Nation-Wide Meeting of Local Government Representatives

Today, in the somptuous hall of South Moravia Region's council hall, the Angel Investor Association spoke at the Country-wide Meeting of Local Government Representatives held in Brno and organized by Regionpartner. Present were several mayors, town parliament members and other dignitaries. Among the speakers were, besides AIA's Michal Kohoutek, Mr Ponikelský of the National Academy of Regional Management, Mrs Ostruhová, director of the Ministry of Interior Department of Supervision on Public Administration, and Mr Andrýsek of QCM, s.r.o.

The need was stressed for a synergy between public and private initiatives such as AIA's, to promote the growth of entrepreneurship and SME's. The aim of AIA's presentation was to educate public sector representatives on angel start up capital and on its role in fostering grassroots business life.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Lay Back and Let the Machine Innovate for You

Do you know how "long-life USB memory sticks, superfast racing-yacht keels, ultra-high bandwidth optical fibres, improved cochlear implants and a cancer-biopsy analyser that matches a human pathologist's tumour-spotting skills" were all invented? The answer is: by a machine. Or rather, to be more precise, by a program called "an evolutionary algorithm", as reported in the Economist's latest Technology Quarterly. The idea is Darwinian: you program a computer to try as many variations on a theme until it spots the most useful and inventive one and "selects" it.

The funniest part of the article comes at the end:

"[Dr Koza's] team at Stanford developed a Wi-Fi antenna for a client who did not want to pay a patent-licence fee to Cisco Systems. The team fed the algorithm as much data as they could from the Cisco patent and told the software to design around it. It succeeded in doing so. The result is a design that does not infringe Cisco's patent—and is more efficient to boot. A century and a half after Darwin suggested natural selection as the mechanism of evolution, engineers have proved him right once again."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Agreement Reached on Fostering Research in Angel Field: AIA at Masaryk University

Today, AIA's Michal Kohoutek was invited to hold a guest lecture at Masaryk University's Faculty of Economics and Administration at the invitation of the Department of Finance chairman, Dr František Kalouda (the two are portrayed on the left, after the lecture).

The lecture was held in a jovial atmosphere thanks to Dr Kalouda's rapport with his students and their trust in his expertise and his supportiveness. Michal started his lecture by asking the attending students how many were running a business and how many would like to. From about a 10% positive response to the first question, the share jumped to more than 60% after the second.

To the question if they had heard of the concept of "business angel" or "angel investor" before, only a handful answered affirmatively, which led to a presentation of who such investors are and to examples of successful angel investments. Many passionate questions were asked by the students about the mechanics of how entrepreneurs initiate angel fund raising and how investors approach their decision making, which showed both the interest in this form of financing and the need to educate the future Czech business leaders about it.

After the lecture, Michal Kohoutek and Dr Kalouda agreed about the need for a reliable assessment of the weight of angel investments in the Czech economy and for creating a local research point analogous to the American Centre for Venture Research led by Professor Sohl. They agreed on specific steps about how to improve the situation, to be disclosed soon.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Feast for Entrepreneurs: European Forum with 200 Angel Investors!

From February 25th to 26th, Milan is going to host the third European EASY forum, where up to 200 investors attend presentations of 22 entrepreneurs trying to raise angel money for their projects, to be selected by an expert committee by December 15th. This is an unmissable opportunity for entrepreneurs who are serious about starting their business or are trying to expand it, and are in one of these four sectors:
  • Med-tech and Healthcare (technologies and service applications for health and medicine)
  • Design (products across all sectors which focus on design)
  • Transportation and logistics (technologies and service applications)
  • Cleantech (environment and energy technologies)

If you want to apply for attending, visit and email me at by December 15th. The Angel Investor Association is a partner of the EASY project and will be submitting its candidates.

Don't miss this opportunity!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ekonom Article on Angel Investing in Czech Republic

Ekonom, the most read economic magazine in the Czech Republic with a readership of 129 000, has published a cover story on angel investing in the Czech Republic. It interviews the most active business angels in the country and reports on AIA's September match-making forum. The point running through the article is that business angels have begun to sprout in the Czech Republic only recently, as the entrepreneurs who started their successful businesses in the 1990's have cashed out and thus become able to invest not that long ago.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Start Ups Plan to Move Slow, Says The Economist

There are two basic forms of entrepreneurship: the life-style kind, where you have your safe source of income but don't want more, and the big-plans kind, where you want to conquer the world (or at least your country). Of course there are shadows in between. The latter kind is understandably in a minority, but they create the most jobs and wealth, of course. And entrepreneurs of this type is what angels look for!

Only 6.5% of new firms are likely to grow quickly enough to need more than 20 employees within the next five years, according to a report by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor and Mazars, an accounting firm. Entrepreneurs were asked how many people they expect to hire in their early years. Based on the responses, 90% of jobs will be created by less than a quarter of new firms. Nearly half of all start-ups do not expect to hire any staff at all. China has the highest number of entrepreneurs per head, with 17 per thousand. Russian start-ups are the most confident about creating jobs. America scores well on both counts: it has lots of entrepreneurs and many of these expect to employ at least 20 workers.

(From The Economist,

Thursday, November 22, 2007

AIA at the Student Business Forum 2007 in Hradec Králové

Today, Veronika Špačková of Inovia and Martin Dittrich of the Technological Centre of Hradec Králové University have organized an engaging and inspiring day for students fancying financial indepence and starting up their own business. They put together some 11 savvy speakers who tackled the issue of start-up entrepreneurship from each angle.

When I entered the room, Václav Bittner (in the picture below), founder of Et Netera, was speaking. I was impressed by the frankness and ease with which he was talking to the students and sharing his experience of starting his first business during his college years. He was recounting meetings with his classmates when ideas would float in the air about what kind of business to start first. He encouraged the attending students not to be held back by fear and to be entrepreneurial while still at university.

Mr Mareš of the Bohemian-Moravian Guarantee and Development Bank (ČMZRB) presented the possibility of obtaining government-backed loans for beginning enterprises, but lamented the end of the requirement for applicants to attend the Basics of Entrepreneurship course. He mentioned receiving a big amount of... badly prepared business plans after it was allowed to apply without attending this course. Also, he warned of the increasing strictness of criteria for granting the loans: whereas until last year 80% of applicants were successful, the reverse is true now. Undoubtedly, he said, dropping the entrepreneurship course requirement is part of the reason.

On my part, at the start I made an informal survey among the students to find out how many were familiar with the concept of business angels. Given that only a minority knew what is meant by this phrase, I described the typical angel profile of the entrepreneur who successfully sold his first business with a nice return and who can now mentor new adventurers, whilst enjoying the benefits of a share in their promising firm. I illustrated the concept through the shining examples of the Body Shop, Apple and Amazon, together with one of the best angel investments in the Czech Republic, Eduard Míka's Internet Mall. I mentioned the EASY project where AIA is a partner, with the upcoming February Milan investment forum (more information above).

To learn more about the Student Business Forum 2007 in Hradec Králové, please visit

AIA's mission is entrepreneurship promotion, and if you have an audience eager to learn more about angel investing, we'll be more than happy to assist you. Send me an email at to learn more.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

AIA at the National Assembly of Cohesion Regions

In the magical setting of Litomyšl's UNESCO Heritage castle, today AIA spoke at the 2nd National Assembly of Cohesion Regions, organized by Regionapartner. Among the speakers at the two-day conference were Tomáš Studeník of Westminster s.r.o., David Petráček of Atlantik Asset Management, and Michal Kortyš, Litomyšl's mayor. The event presented a unique opportunity for discussing cooperation schemes between public and private sector for the promotion of grassroots entrepreneurship.

To read more about the event, click here.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Angels and Entrepreneurs Meet in the Czech Republic

PRAGUE, Czech Republic – On September 26, the Angel Investor Association ( organized the first match-making forum in the Czech Republic, bringing together both private investors (often called “business angels”) and high-growth entrepreneurs. Four pre-selected entrepreneurs were given the opportunity to present their ventures to an audience of around forty angels, investment fund representatives, business incubator managers and fellow entrepreneurs. Guests included the 2004 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Mr Miroslav Řihák, Mr Nicolas Boissin of BKS Capital, and business angels Mr Michael Prokop and Mrs Silke Horáková.

The forum – held on Na Příkopě street with an amazing view on Prague’s historical centre – was opened by AIA’s president, Mr Richard Husovský (pictured on the right, speaking with investor Anthony Smith). AIA’s event was held under the aegis of the European EASY project, a two-year cross-border project which includes six major investment forums in Europe’s main capitals. The objective of these forums – as was pointed out by AIA’s Michal Kohoutek in his introductory note – is to enable entrepreneurs from throughout the EU to present their projects to selected groups of investors. Centring on the market of the Czech Republic, AIA’s September 26 forum was another milestone in the process of raising local awareness about angel investment, and this forum followed on from the success of the 2006 European Business Angel Network annual conference, organized by AIA in Prague in April of last year.

The AIA forum opened with a presentation by Mrs Modwenna Rees-Mogg, editor in chief of VCR Directory (a database of British venture capital and private equity investors), as well as of Angel News (a free commercial news service for early stage funded companies), and was entitled “Keys to a Successful Business Angel Investment”. The presentation began with an overview of the various types of angel investors, ranging from the angels looking for an intriguing job in an investee company, to the “passive portfolio builders”. The presentation then continued on to the ten specific steps for optimizing investments so as to minimize risks – tips included the formula to calculate the amount to invest based on your free assets, as well as ideas on how to source a quality deal flow.

From left to right: Ministry of Foreign Affaires‘ Karel Žebrakovský, South Moravian Incubator’s Michal Kostka, CzechInvest’s Iva Jeglová and AIA investor Silke Horáková
From left to right, at the fore: Pilsen Business Innovation Centre’s Zbyněk Doležal, Pedersen & Partners‘ Michael Al-Nassir and the 2004 Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Miroslav Řihák of Anect
The following two speakers were Helena Kopalová of the Prague School of Economics, and Michal Kostka, of the South Moravian Innovation Centre. Mrs Kopalová talked about her experience at the 2007 July European Entrepreneurship Colloquium at Harvard Business School, and Mr Kostka presented the services his incubator offers to entrepreneurs. His presentation bore the title “How to Breed a Beginning Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year”, as Václav Muchna of Y Soft, the 2006 winner of the award, comes from the South Moravian Innovation Centre incubator.

At 5 pm the core of the program came – the four entrepreneurs, one after another, presented their entrepreneurial projects to the attending investors.

First was Mr Daniel Zuth of ViDiTech, a Brno-based company producing vibrodiagnostical devices, which monitor – as the name reveals – the vibrations of costly machinery in order to prevent damage to it. After the presentation, a lively debate ensued with AIA investor Anthony Smith, who showed his interest in the proposal and enquired about the possibility of applying the ViDiTech system to wind turbines, given the advantageous ratio between their respective prices.

Second to present was Mr Václav Březina of BP Medical, also from Brno, a company growing algae in a closed system – the only one in Europe – and able to tailor their nutritional content to the customer’s needs. The purpose of the algae cultivation is to obtain biomass from which to extract ingredients for nutritional supplements as well as for cosmetics. The liveliest business angel in the ensuing discussion this time was Silke Horáková, whose main interest focused on the company’s marketing strategy.

Third came SoggyMelon, a project of two American-born entrepreneurs living in Czech Republic’s Moravia region, Gary Keith and Glenn Weidner. In its first stage, the project is initially centred on the localization of online video games in the region of Central and Eastern Europe, while at a second stage the development of own games is planned. Investor Michael Redgwell expressed the greatest interest in this project.

Finally, Indian-born Manna Justin of Foretee presented his project, which consists of a tee time booking website, where players can see weather forecasts for different golf courses, and where golf courses can subsequently post real time discounts in case of bad weather. Mr Justin is currently operational and has built up a team of employees in the Czech Republic, India and the United States. Whilst his target market is currently only the United States, given the number of golf courses in Europe, future plans are expected to extend to include the European courses as well.
The first match-making forum in the Czech Republic was most certainly deemed a success, achieving its goal of bringing together entrepreneurs and angels together into an engaging environment. No doubt we all look forward to seeing the outcome of their negotiations in the weeks to come, and also to the second forum expected in the near future.

You can download a podcast from the forum here.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Interview with AIA's Michal Kohoutek on

Today, I sit down with Adam Daniel Mezei from the show The Knowledge and we had a pleasant chat about entrepreneurship in the Czech Republic at Kogo on Havelská ulice. As a vegetarian, I ordered a mouth-watering meat-free paella, and Adam couldn't resist commenting about it in the interview.
If you want to hear the sound of the paella, feel the summer morning atmosphere at Kogo, or simply listen to what we're doing here at AIA, please download you podcast now at the website or from our site.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Angel Investing Takes Foot in Czech Republic has just published an article by AIA's Michal Kohoutek on how "Angel Investing Takes Foot in Czech Republic." Please check it out here.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

AIA at Business School Ostrava

Yesterday the Angel Investor Association, represented by one of its investors, entrepreneur Martin Beník and Michal Kohoutek, has presented the concept of angel investing to the students of Business School Ostrava (Vysoká škola podnikání). Present was the school's rector, Professor Josef Jünger. You can read more about the presentation on the school's website (here) or in AIA's June Investor's Brief.