Meet Zsanett, the startup matchmaker of OTP LAB
As HubHub Budapest is still fresh meat on the Hungarian coworking office market, we are happy to make new friendships with other market players. That’s why we are flattered to work together with OTP Lab and support each other‘s goals to help startups and scale-ups on their journey.
On a daily basis, our SPOC is Zsanett. We are truly fascinated by her enthusiasm and professionalism towards her work. It was out of the question that she should be our next interviewee. Read the interview we made with her and know more about how she got involved in the startup ecosystem, how she sees the tendencies and her opinion about Brexit and its effect on the Hungarian market.
Pls, tell us about yourself? What are you doing?
I started out in marketing, then I decided to switch to innovation because it gave me the opportunity and also the responsibility to always keep my finger on the technological advancements. Put simply, I do matchmaking between startups and corporations and just like in dating, both parties are satisfied if you bring them together with someone complementing them, help them coming over the initial awkwardness of getting to know each other and they can enter into a long-term relationship based on mutual understanding and respect.
How did you get involved in the startup ecosystem?
I always had a thing for technology, I fangirled Sophia and the cheetah of Boston Dynamics even before they became officially cool (or frightening depending on who you ask). Then a few years ago I had the chance to develop a hackathon event format for the largest bank in Italy, which I helped realizing at two of their subsidiary banks and during these 24-hour sessions I came in close contact with startuppers. I felt deeply motivated and engaged by their drive to a make change for the better and by their focus on meaningful problem-solving.
Where your passion for startups come from?
Besides what I already said, I think I can attribute their appeal also to the fact that my mum and dad are entrepreneurs and I could see how tough it is to build something from zero but how rewarding it can be when it resonates with your target audience.
Could you please introduce OTP LAB a bit more? How and why OTP started with the LAB?
OTP LAB is OTP Group’s innovation hub with the mission to support the competitiveness of the banking group by giving the appropriate tools, resources, and information to our colleagues in order to become the engines of innovation throughout the organization. The LAB grew out of the bank’s digital transformation project in 2017 in order to further enhance the group’s focus on innovation.
How do you see the Hungarian/Budapest startup ecosystem? What are the tendencies you see happening now based on your experiences?
I think that Budapest still has the potential to become a leading startup ecosystem in Europe, but we are not there yet. Startups can get funding rather easily, there are an expanding knowledge base and mentor pool available to the founders due to the increasing number of incubators, accelerators or even coworking spaces. Fully international programs just like the OTP Startup Program can easily attract best-of-breed foreign startups confirming that now Hungary is on the global startup map. Besides this, the concept of startups is reaching broader layers of the population through such initiatives as the Millenáris Startup Campus or even the Hungarian remake of the Shark Tank TV show.
What do you think the biggest strengths and weaknesses of the local ecosystem are?
On the plus side, I’d mention the availability of funding and talent, the cost advantage due to the lower cost of living, working labor and infrastructure compared to Western Europe or the USA and our geopolitical location (all major destinations in Europe are easily accessible). However, I see room for improvement in the openness of the corporate world to startup innovations (in terms of tangible partnerships and not just vague incubation or acceleration). Besides this, still only a few local startups can truly step in the international market. Some don’t develop their product/service for the global audience from the beginning, others lack the sales capabilities in which their US or UK counterparts excel more often.
Since OTP LAB is a global accelerator program you meet startups and scaleups from around the world. What kind of impressions does the Budapest ecosystem make on the teams? Do you receive any feedback?
Our program doesn’t require relocation for its 12-week duration, so our international teams get exposed to the local ecosystem only during the three onsite weeks. However, when they are here, we usually bring them together with the local ecosystem players through our meetups or opportunities to attend partner events. Thus they can experience that various local happenings encourage collaboration. Probably it’s needless to say but they are really impressed by the city’s beauty and the leisure activities it has to offer. I think this factor shouldn’t be underestimated, because the vibes of your surroundings can significantly impact on what level of creativity you can rise. 🙂
Rumor has it that Budapest can have a bigger slice of the cake when Brexit finally hits. What are your expectations when it really happens?
If the Brexit really happens (personally I have some doubts about it), Budapest can definitely be an attractive target for formerly UK-based businesses. For me, the first sign in this direction was Blackrock’s move in 2017 to establish its largest EU unit in Budapest with 450 employees. Recently, the study of Startups.co.uk revealed that Budapest came out on top out of 80 key European locations as the best place in which to launch a business or startup after Brexit (partially due to our famously low corporation tax rate).