Exclusive interview with director of Visegrad Fund

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Design Terminal has recently launched the V4 Startup Force with the support of the Visegrad Fund. The V4 Startup Force brings together talented entrepreneurs from the Visegrád region to help launch their businesses onto the world stage. Hungarian Insider spoke with Andor F. Dávid, Visegrad Fund Executive Director, about the Visegrad Fund and the importance of the V4 Startup Force.

Building an innovative business ecosystem and common image for the V4 region

“Visegrád cooperation is more active today than ever. It is time to strengthen the economic dimension alongside political and cultural areas. This program does exactly that with the support of our most talented young founders,” said Gergely Böszörményi-Nagy, Head of Design Terminal at the opening event of the V4 Startup Force.

The V4 Startup Force initiative has been organized now three times with the help of the Visegrad Fund and supports talented entrepreneurs from V4 countries by allowing them to meet leading regional companies in one of the capitals of the Visegrád Four.

Andor F. Dávid, Visegrad Fund Executive Director, talks about the objective of the Fund and the importance of a Visegrad image.

What is the main objective of the Visegrad Fund?

We are working on building a system, an environment in the region, where companies feel good and see their future and do not feel the need to go elsewhere. In fact, those who have gone can also come back and build their infrastructure and companies here.

We want to set up an ecosystem in the region that is good for businesses, especially startups with innovative ideas. 

Fortunately, the region is no longer seen only as a cheap source of well-trained labor, but as a region with accumulated knowledge and innovative ideas. It is now seen as an area where innovation can be achieved, the political system is stable, raw materials are cheap, and young innovators can produce, implement, and test ideas.

What are the key pillars of an innovative business ecosystem? 

The key pillars of such systems are e-mobility, environmental protection, and information systems development. 

These areas will undergo major development over the next 10 years, and it would be great if the Visegrád Four could be the market leader in these areas, which would give us the drive to take the last step towards catching up with our Western European partners.

What is the strength of the V4 region and why do we need a project like the V4 Startup Force?

Let’s call the V4 region the cradle of innovative ideas, an incubator of useful initiatives for all of society. We want to build this and the infrastructure that makes it possible. I can even imagine that sooner or later a Visegrád Investment Bank could be set up to finance programs.

It has to be shown that regional cooperation in Europe is not an unusual idea. There is no need to go far to see other examples. There are the Scandinavian countries that were already cohesive and cooperative countries before the EU was founded; they have developed their positions and identity in joint forums and are still doing so. Same with the Baltic countries. What is common to both of these cooperatives is that they have a common image. We would like the V4 to have such an image sooner or later, and the key element of that image would be innovation.

The V4 Startup Force fits perfectly into this strategy with all of its goals, participants, and partner institutions. The partners work very well and hard together to continuously improve the program and get the most out of it. 

Results can be seen, as negotiations have already begun with external, large-market companies to support the program next year. 

As a director, what is your most challenging task and what is your greatest success?

As a director, you are challenged in many dimensions. First and foremost, you need to be a manager of an international team and pay attention to possible sensitivities [per each given country]. I have a strong belief in the mission of the Fund, and I want my people to have the same faith. However, it is a constant job to keep them motivated and make them realize why it is worth building this organization beyond the daily routine.

One of the biggest challenges is that if you have a good idea, it has to be accepted by four different countries, which requires good rhetoric and persuasion, and often diplomatic experience, too.

Luckily, there are small successes every day, and there are two projects underway, which, when completed, will be referred to as great successes. It is always a success if we are able to involve donor countries, which means that non-V4 countries also see serious potential in us.

The Fund will be 20 years old in 2020, and over the past two decades, about €90 million has been disbursed to fund projects and scholarships: 5,600 projects and 3,400 semesters in total.

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