Earlier this week, I had the privilege to take a trip to Prague, the golden city in the heart of Bohemia. Initially it was to be a trip of pleasure and relaxation. However, my work ethics got the better of me. As a result, I decided to go visit some coworking spaces, accelerators, and startups. Please find my report from Prague below:
The Hub (coworking space)
The Hub is a different type of coworking space. While many coworking spaces are tech oriented, this space tries to support startups that will promote socially beneficial activities. The Hub is one of the older (est. 2010) and more established spaces in Prague. It is one of a global network of Impact Hubs. I spoke to David and Martina the co-hosts for the day. They told me that they have a current membership of about 400. They offer a very modern-looking coworking space with an international membership, meeting rooms, internet, networking opportunities within the Impact Hub community. They also have an accelerator program with access to investor angels. They also offer space for events such as the Hub Mashup: where every two months, they will have a keynote speaker and 8 startups will have 200 seconds to make their pitch. Among the social startups, they also have the usual line-up of tech startups. The Hub has won the Social Impact Award. I would like to highlight the following startups from the Hub:
1. Pragulic – Offering tours of Prague given by the homeless while learning about the often untold stories of the beautiful city. They have been featured on the Huffington Post.
2. Kokoza – Offering organic waste collecting services while turning them into compost
3. Piggy – Offering contactless payment chips
Node5 (Coworking space)
I caught up with Marek Sykora from Node 5 situated in the Smichov district of Prague. This independent coworking space was founded by Lukas Hudecek and Peter Ocasek in October 2011. They have a industrial space with the "infrastructure to help startups succeed" complete with a full bar. They offer a team of experienced entrepreneurs as well as angel investors to mentor the startup teams. Node 5 also provide meeting rooms, and are expanding rapidly. They also offer dedicated offices which will allow startups some room for growth. They encourage anyone who is innovative and creative to join their team. Node5 organized the Founder's Stories stage at the annual Webexpo in Prague this past year. Like Krakow, they organize a open coffee once a month. Like other coworking spaces, the thing that they are proud of is the community and the collaborative atmosphere that they helped to make among their startups. Marek would like Czech investors to take more risk and invest on more ideas. Among their recent success stories are:
Apiary.io - offering tools to design and implement API's who raised $1.5 million
Realpad.eu - offering mobile applications for the real estate market
OpenBrand - a smart home for all your logos, designs, and other branded stuff
Brand Embassy (Startup)
While visiting TechSquare another coworking space in Smichov, I met Martin Svarc, the Commercial Director of European operations of Brand Embassy. Brand Embassy brings good old customer care to a modern world. Their unique SaaS platform helps companies to increase efficiency of Customer Service on Social Media. It is a management tool for easy identification and engagement of dissatisfied customers across the social Web. Currently they have contracts with some well established companies like ING Bank, Vodafone, Telefonica and Kia Motors. They have been featured on Forbes, TechCrunch and The Next Web. They are among the first round graduates of the Prague accelerator StartupYard. It's been about two and a half years since inception. They have a strong revenue stream from the afore mentioned firms. However, they got part of their early round funding from angels like Michal Nydrle of the Kindred Group. They intend to take their product global in the next couple of years and to have a strong position on the market in the years to come based on lots of hard work. Generally Martin is happy with the progress of the Prague startup community. There are many very interesting projects out there as well as nice success stories. Martin advises his fellow Czech startups to keep working hard and don't be afraid to make mistakes. It is only with failure will you learn to build a stronger product and service.