Demium Managing Director, Budapest

How does a typical day in the Demium office look for you?

I usually arrive around 8am and, funnily enough, I do the dishes. I find some weird joy in having a clean office waiting for the entrepreneurs. When they arrive, we have coffee and I try to attend as many daily stand-ups as possible. Usually after this I have meetings with investors, then one-to-ones with the teams to help mediate and figure out problems. There is no typical day though, as we have so much going on, from office yoga and rooftop CrossFit to museum outings together.

What excites you most about working at Demium?

The power of creation. From nothing, we create everything. We have these incredible ingredients (i.e. the entrepreneurs), from which we can create amazing teams and companies in just six months.

Tell us about your personal experience in the startup world…

I’ve been part of the startup ecosystem since 2007, when I joined Microsoft as the local leader of their startup program, BizSpark. Later I left the company, but stayed with the program as a trainer and mentor. I joined my first startup in 2011, it was a company that creates libraries for JavaScript developers. It grew from seven to 60 staff in six years, received funding in three rounds, and is now active in three countries. I also founded a games studio in 2014, knowing next to nothing about how vulnerable the gaming industry is. This one never became successful, but it’s still alive.

Describe the AllStartup Weekend in Budapest…

It’s a crazy three-day rollercoaster. It’s loud and vibrant and exciting. You see what can be achieved in almost three days when people focus exclusively on the task before them. I enjoy this journey the most: the arrival, forming teams, the terror and excitement rolled into one. Then people start working and suddenly everything snaps into place. It’s order in chaos.

What can you tell us about Budapest’s startup ecosystem?

We have a vibrant ecosystem in Budapest. There are more than 15 active VCs, a growing network of business angels, multiple co-working spaces, and more startup meet-ups, contests and events than I can keep track of. Plus, lots of foreign VCs have a presence here, so it’s not hard to find funding from abroad. Hungary has always been rich in tech talent and the government has multiple initiatives to help entrepreneurs.

In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge for an early-stage startup?

Staying focused. That and not falling in love with your idea! You need to find a real problem, a problem so crucial that your customers will be willing to pay for your solution. Analyze that problem, feel it and want to solve it. Don’t try to sell to everyone, find a target audience that will receive your stuff well and grow from there. But most of all, focus!

Name three characteristics that are essential for any budding entrepreneur.

Incredible willpower, amazing adaptability and the willingness to learn. Hubris is the greatest obstacle!

How would you advise someone worried about the risks of starting their own business?

Building something that lasts and scales successfully cannot be done part-time. Saying, “I’ll focus on it full-time when I can see that it’s worth it” is a very bad approach. So my suggestion is to set aside six to nine months’ worth of savings minimum, then take the risk – quit your day job and focus on your startup 100%. Only commitment will lead to success. It’ll be risky, but it will be the best journey of your life.

What is the most valuable experience you can gain on the path to becoming a successful entrepreneur?

An entrepreneur is most successful around the age of 35, because they have real work experience. They’ve worked alone, in teams, in small companies and large, with bosses both bad and good, they’ve been praised, chastised, promoted, demoted… All of this is important. The more successes and failures they’ve been through, the more they have to learn from.

Who is the entrepreneur you most admire?

Masataka Taketsuru, the father of 20th century Japanese whisky. His example shows that entrepreneurship isn’t something new, only that technology has made it easier to become one. He took an opportunity while studying in Scotland to break from family tradition, which was producing sake, to go home and make whisky. He was called a madman, but he got investment from his Scottish wife and now Nikka has won awards and is one of biggest selling whiskies in Japan.