The global entrepreneur competition as held in the Czech Republic for the twentieth time.
Oliver Dlouhý, founder and owner of Kiwi.com s.r.o., is the winner of the prestigious EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2019 Czech Republic competition. The trophy for the nationwide winner of best entrepreneur was presented on Tuesday, March 3rd in Prague’s Žofín Palace. Michael Tresner of ThreatMark s.r.o. was named EY Technology Entrepreneur Of The Year 2019. The Czech Television Prize for Entrepreneurial Contribution to Culture and the Arts went to Ondřej Kobza, owner of Zahrada na střeše s.r.o. and the Social Entrepreneur trophy went to Antonín Nekvinda and Josef Suchár of civic association Sdružení Neratov, z.s. Twenty-two-year-old Václav Staněk, founder of Vasky trade s.r.o, was named EY Start-up Entrepreneur Of The Year 2019, and also won the competition for the best entrepreneurial story 2019 in a vote of MF DNES and iDNES.cz readers.
“I really appreciate this success and award. I would like to thank my whole team, family and friends. I wouldn’t be here without them. I see a wave of Internet global entrepreneurs in the Czech Republic, but there are still few of them. Even if this success were to inspire just one entrepreneur, I would be very happy,” recounted Oliver Dlouhý of Kiwi.com s.r.o., winner of the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2019 Czech Republic title, of his immediate impressions.
“The 20th anniversary of the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year competition in the Czech Republic was packed with great entrepreneurial personalities, as evidenced by the ten regional awards. Thirty-two-year-old Oliver Dlouhý, who won this year’s national contest based on the judging panel’s decision, is the youngest representative of the Czech Republic ever to go to Monte Carlo in June for the World Finals,” said Magdalena Souček, managing partner of EY in the Czech Republic and part of the Central and Southeast Europe Region, adding: “I believe Oliver will be a very valuable source of inspiration for all those who are hesitant to start a business. I’m convinced his story will also impress the jury of the Monte Carlo World Finals. We’re still waiting for the winners from the CEE region. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Oliver to place first, though the competition in Monaco will be intense.”
Oliver Dlouhý will represent the Czech Republic at the competition’s world finals to take place 4 – 7 June 2020 in Monte Carlo. National winners from some 60 countries will vie for the title of EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year. Since 2001, no entrepreneur from Central and Eastern Europe has ever been named the international winner. The winners of the last four years are from the USA (2019), Brazil (2018), Canada (2017) and Australia (2016). For a full overview of world winners, see https://podnikatelroku.cz/monte-carlo
EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2019 České republiky a EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2019 Jihomoravského kraje
Oliver Dlouhý, Kiwi.com s.r.o.
Some years ago, Oliver Dlouhý and his girlfriend were looking for flights to Portugal. They found a good number of tickets through various search engines, all of them too expensive. In an effort to get where they wanted to go for less, they began to try all possible flight combinations of low-cost airlines manually. Their trip, with several transfers, consisted of multiple tickets and cost about a quarter of a ticket from Prague to Portugal with the cheapest vendor. Nobody at the time had a comprehensive system for searching and connecting flights of non-cooperating airlines, and it immediately occurred to Dlouhý that with successful automation, it could be a highly promising business. He took the CZK 50,000 he had saved, found a partner and in 2012 launched the SkyPicker portal for the sale of airline tickets composed of unique flight combinations. Several years later, he changed the name to Kiwi.com.
The company has gone from a small Brno-based start-up to what is now a global firm with almost a thousand employees in eighteen branch offices around the world. Another two thousand people work for Kiwi.com externally. The head office remains in Brno, as does a part of the customer service and development operations. Despite the company’s rapid growth, it has held on to its open and friendly atmosphere. Dlouhý tries to serve as an example, never ceasing to grow and develop and constantly motivating staff with his ideas and long-term vision.
Every day, Kiwi.com processes some 100 million searches; annual turnover in 2018 was nearly CZK 30 million. More than 40% of turnover is generated in Europe, a quarter in America, the rest in Asia. In addition to air tickets, the system offers ground transport. In Europe alone, it works with around 60 carriers, whose numbers continue to grow. The company takes great pride in its customer service, which it considers to be a great competitive advantage. Customers are looked after from start to finish. No matter what combination of carriers people buy, Kiwi.com guarantees it will deliver them to their destination, even in the event of a delay or cancellation of a connection.
Dlouhý doesn’t hide the fact that the business was started primarily for the profit motive. When it started to thrive, his motivation changed and the financial side ceased to be so important. Today, he primarily wants to improve the world around him through his actions. In addition to his constant efforts to make travel more accessible and easier, he is deeply engaged in the issue of transport sustainability and actively involved in several projects in this field. Elon Musk is a great role model for him.
Oliver Dlouhý defines Kiwi.com as a “virtual global super-carrier” and his dream is to aggregate the entire world of transport so that the customer can simply make the best journey from any point A to any point B anywhere in the world, no matter the means of travel. From taxi to plane to shared bikes or scooters.
The other EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2019 Czech Republic finalists were announced:
- Vít Kutnar, DEK a.s.
- Alessandro Pasquale, Mattoni 1873 a.s.
- Libor Musil, LIKO-S, a.s.
- Vlastimil Sedláček, SEKO Aerospace, a.s.
The profiles of the other finalists can be found in Annex 2 to this press release.
Michal Tresner, owner of cybersecurity company ThreatMark s.r.o., was named EY Technology Entrepreneur Of The Year 2019.
Michal Tresner has spent his entire career working in cybersecurity, which also happens to be his hobby. In the past, he worked in consulting, testing the security of many different systems as an ethical hacker. The fight against cybercriminals is like a game of cat and mouse, where the mouse in the form of an attacker usually has the upper hand. Most security technologies work with previous attacks or attempts, try to learn from them and avoid them in the future. Tresner and his colleague at that time came up with the idea of fighting cybercrime in the opposite way – based on correct user behavior in the online environment. They developed software for almost a year and approached an investor with a prototype. He liked the idea and decided to invest money in the start-up ThreatMark. Their software determines whether users are legitimate or fraudulent by detecting variations in their online behavior. It focuses primarily on banks, specifically internet banking, an area of great interest to cybercriminals. A unique technological solution operates on computers and mobile devices and works with hundreds of variables. From classical parameters in the form of location and device type, through the usual user steps in the application, to behavioral biometry. For example, it evaluates how fast users type on a keyboard, how they move the mouse, or how much they move their fingers on the touch screen. This is where ThreatMark has almost no competition in the world. The company’s main advantage is that it offers banks a comprehensive anti-fraud solution in the online world. From detecting threats and fraudulent transactions to identity validation.
It was not easy at the start; Tresner mainly struggled with the distrust of banks. A young start-up without references had to convince large financial institutions that their solution was not only beneficial, but above all, as safe as possible. This was eventually achieved thanks to several partner companies. Since its establishment in 2015, ThreatMark has been steadily growing and today is the most widely used solution for online fraud identification in Czech and Slovak banks. Recently, the company has partnered with a large international banking group for which it delivers solutions to nine European countries, and thanks to its foreign partners, it already has customers in Canada and Africa. It is currently looking for another investor to help with international expansion.
Every year, ThreatMark invests nearly 70 percent of its profits in research and development. In addition to banking, Tresner also wants to focus on other industries in the future and aims to enhance both safety and user comfort. He believes that his technology will soon allow reliable authentication without the need to enter any passwords, codes or fingerprint readings.
Václav Staněk, whose company Vasky trade s.r.o. produces handmade leather shoes and accessories, was named EY Start-up Entrepreneur Of The Year 2019 and also won the MF DNES and iDNES.cz Readers’ Prize for Best Entrepreneurial Story of 2019.
Václav Staněk dreamed of having his own company since childhood. As a native of Zlín, a great admirer of Tomáš Baťa and the son of a shoemaker, he played with the idea of his own brand of shoes. He devoured the professional business literature, and additionally competed in sports and was a multiple national champion in the 800 meters. A few years ago, however, he had to suddenly end his promising running career due to illness. At that moment, he decided to fully venture into business, and a few days after his eighteenth birthday founded the brand Vasky trade. His shoemaker father tried to dissuade him from the idea at first, but because he liked Václav’s suggestions, he placed his workshop at his son’s disposal.
Václav introduced the first pair of hand-stitched cowhide shoes in 2015 and after a few months won a start-up competition. Over the four years of its existence, it sold over 13,000 pairs of shoes, and at twenty-two Staněk has a team of thirty people working under him. Vasky is growing by nearly 200 percent year-on-year and has its branded stores in Zlín, Prague, Brno and Ostrava. The average employee age is around 25. Besides a passion for the product, friendship and a belief in the company, employees also enjoy a high degree of freedom: every employee is a proud Vasky ambassador.
Václav Staněk is building on the Bata tradition and, as such, endeavouring to develop and popularize shoemaking. Each pair of shoes is handmade in Zlín and passes through the hands of up to 12 people. Women’s and men’s formal shoes and hiking boots are offered and in addition to finished models, Vasky offers customers the option of custom shoes. From color, stitching and sole to monogramming. In addition to focussing on quality and sustainability, Vasky also minimizes production waste. Small accessories are made from leather remnants. Currently, Vaclav is working intensively on his own sneaker line, which should be launched in 2020. He believes that sneakers will help the brand penetrate new markets. The vast majority of existing customers are in the Czech Republic; in the near future, the company is preparing to expand to neighbouring countries.
After shoemaking, Václav started doing business in other market segments, becoming involved in companies producing leather handbags and backpacks, industrial furniture and women’s underwear. Last year, he co-founded an agency that helps not only with the marketing and branding of Vasky and others, but also with employee development. In his spare time, Václav continues to be into running and traveling. Indeed, it’s when he’s on the go that he gets the most ideas.
Since 2006, EY has awarded a prize for social entrepreneurship. Cousins Antonín Nekvinda and Josef Suchár of civic association Sdružení Neratov, z.s. were named EY Social Entrepreneur Of The Year 2019
An unforgettable place “at the end of the world” with an exceptional atmosphere. That – or something like it – is how most visitors describe the village of Neratov, located in the Eagle Mountains [Orlické hory] near the Polish border. In just the last year, some forty thousand visitors have come. It had taken little for Neratov to become a forgotten place, as did many other displaced Sudeten villages in the country’s border region. In the late 1980s, however, it was discovered by Catholic pastor Josef Suchár, who decided to return life to the abandoned village and restore the Baroque church that served as a pilgrimage site. All this with the help of people with intellectual disabilities, for whom he wanted to build a pleasant place to work and live. In 1992, he founded the civic association Sdružení Neratov together with several others and the revitalization work began. Suchár’s cousin Antonín Nekvinda joined the association in 2012. The long-time former insurance company director was originally supposed to have only a formal role, but so enthused by the activities of Sdružení Neratov, he decided to play an active role in the project and help it evolve and achieve maximum financial independence. He recalls with a smile that his pastor cousin’s first response when learning of his plans was to make the sign of the cross.
Sdružení Neratov’s main activity is to provide sheltered housing and a day-care center for people with various degrees of mental disability. In addition, it runs a primary school for children with multiple disabilities and continuously repairs and enhances the Neratov church, which has become a sought-after pilgrimage site. Due in large part to Nekvinda, the activities are largely financed from their own social entrepreneurship. Right in Neratov, the Association operates sheltered workshops and facilities for visitors – a shop, accommodation, kitchen, restaurant, laundry and horticulture. In 2017, the Association opened its own microbrewery and is currently completing a community hall with a large hall and accommodation in the village, which should satisfy the growth in visitor interest. Thanks to the activities of the Association, a number of social events, such as weddings, are held year round in Neratov. The Association runs other sheltered workshops in neighboring towns and villages, including bakery, ceramics, weaving and assembly operations.
Today, Sdružení Neratov has nearly 60 full-time and 200 part-time staff. More than half of the employees are people with disabilities. Over 200 volunteers also help with operations and development, and the number of job applicants is constantly growing.
In addition to the region’s further enhancement, the Association’s main objective is the sustainability and maximum self-sufficiency of village life for people with and without disabilities. Over the next five years, it aims to cover at least three quarters of the cost of running its social services from its own earnings. Sdružení Neratov is already a great model for many other social projects in the Czech Republic and abroad.
This year, the Czech Television Award for Entrepreneurial Contribution to Culture and the Arts was awarded for the fourth time in the history of the competition. It went to Ondřej Kobza of the company Zahrada na střeše s.r.o.
Ondřej Kobza started to do business in the field of culture as a teenager in the 1990s. Dissatisfied with the offering of cultural activities in his home town of Ústí nad Orlicí, he and his friends rented an old clubhouse and started organizing events where, over time, people from all over the world came together. He continued organizing lectures and pilgrimages. In 2010, he opened the Café V lese in Prague’s Vršovice and helped to start the revitalization of Krymská Street, soon to become a sought-after destination. He garnered broader public awareness three years later with the project Pianos on the Street. He placed pianos in five different public places around Prague and asked that people play. Gradually, the project expanded to other cities, and pianos were followed by chess tables and so-called poesiomats, which recite poetry upon request. Later, he started organizing concerts in unusual places, for example in the Main Post Office building in Jindřišská Street. By doing so, he tries to show that culture does not only have to take place in established, purpose-built institutions.
Kobza’s most notable recent achievements are the spaces for the Šesťák gatherings at Dejvice’s Victory Square and the Střecha Lucerny. This is also the most expensive of the projects. In 2014, Kobza acquired the roof space of the Lucerna Palace in central Prague. During the building’s construction, it was planned that the roof would be used for social events, but this original intention was eventually dropped, and it remained closed to the public for almost a hundred years. Kobza breathed new life into it and in 2016 the roof began gradually to welcome visitors. Nowadays, social events, concerts, yoga lessons and exhibitions are regularly held on the Lucerna roof. In the future, Kobza would like to revitalize and make more roofs available across the country.
What links all Ondřej Kobza’s projects is the cultivation and revitalization of existing public spaces and what he calls “subtle interventions in the appearance of cities and places”. Through his activities, he endeavors to show that public places can be improved and favorably influenced even without extensive financial resources. His aim is to inspire people of all ages not only to be more receptive to their surroundings, but also to embark on projects similar to his and transform the world around them for the better.
Kobza successfully combines business with the non-profit sector. In addition to the café in Vršovice, he also operates Café Neustadt in the New Town Hall building and co-owns the enterprise na Náplavce. Profits from cafes and events are used to finance non-profit activities. He says he does business to make money and makes money to invest in other projects.
EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2019 partners
The official car of the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2019 competition is BMW Group Czech Republic.
Raiffeisenbank is a competition partner. The main co-organizer is the daily MF DNES and iDNES.cz. The main media partner is Czech Television; other media partners are Forbes Magazine and the Info.cz news portal. The contest is supported by CzechInvest and held under the auspices of the Czech Chamber of Commerce.