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.