Overcoming Barriers to Entrepreneurship in the Czech Republic

admininfogew | October 30, 2014
Photo Credit:

Lukáš Sedláček is the executive director at the European Leadership and Academic Institute, the official GEW host organization in the Czech Republic.

For several years, he has lectured at private universities in Prague and provided analysis of international and domestic affairs for various media outlets. He is also President of the Oxford and Cambridge Alumni Society CR.

With the Czech Republic preparing for its second Global Entrepreneurship Week campaign, we checked in with Sedláček to get his thoughts on the challenges of leading a young campaign, the state of entrepreneurship in his country and what lies ahead for GEW 2014.

When and how did you first get involved in Global Entrepreneurship Week?

Last summer, I was approached by a friend who informed me about GEW and the fact that the Czech Republic was yet not involved. I took this to be a challenge and was excited about GEW and its truly global reach. We had less than three months to launch it so you can imagine how stressful it was. Luckily our team ran with it and gave GEW a successful introduction in the Czech Republic.

How would you characterize the entrepreneurial environment in the Czech Republic?

The entrepreneurial environment is not yet fully developed in the Czech Republic. We have numerous world-ranking companies and are known for being innovative and hard-working, but almost half a century of communism and corruption resulting from the transition into a democracy managed to downgrade entrepreneurship to a level that very few young people think about becoming entrepreneurs. If we could change one thing, it would be to give the Czechs a greater drive to realize their dreams.

The 1990’s were a decade of wild privatization in the Czech Republic so many people have a negative perception of entrepreneurs. Global Entrepreneurship Week is important because it helps to promote positive examples of non-corrupt entrepreneurs. It also enables us to motivate the Czech people to become active in the field of entrepreneurship and thus stimulate the country’s economy.

How does GEW support the work that you do throughout the year?

We have been supporting entrepreneurship for several years. We believe that it is the key to bringing about a greater drive for the mostly passive Czechs to be more involved in developing the Czech economy. That positive energy coming from entrepreneurship can have a societal spillover, bringing motivated and energetic people into politics, NGOs, and other sectors of society. GEW helps us to make connections with like-minded people by having them partner with us during the week and organize their own events. GEW has created a hub of supporters with the common goal of strengthening the national entrepreneurship ecosystem.

What methods and mechanisms are you using to encourage entrepreneurship?

We use the media to promote realistic success stories of people starting their own startups and businesses that others can relate to and have as role-models to follow. We also promote various kinds of workshops and discussions for varied audiences to show people that entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be establishing a company with dozens of employees, but can in fact have very humble beginnings. We also host movie nights during GEW that engage many people who are not yet entrepreneurs to shift mainstream attention to the topic of entrepreneurship.

How has GEW grown in the Czech Republic? What are you doing to build on its momentum?

Last year, we managed within the span of only a few months to engage 20 organizations including embassies and chambers to organize 40 events. This year, we started planning in the spring and have already received personal auspices from the ministers of trade and education, added more activities, found relevant studies to go with our general motto this year of reducing barriers to entrepreneurship, expanded our team, included ministers at our planned events, and started social media and PR activities during the summer. We have established relations with the city of Prague and agreed on shared promotion of GEW. More partners are being activated than the last year, aiming for even higher impact in the media and society.

Are there challenges or barriers that you would like to overcome to increase participation?

We face many challenges as we are still a very young campaign and have much ground to cover to reach or goal of being the most active country in the world when it comes to successful GEW activities. This is especially true with regards to funding, but we are constantly working on the challenges and we believe the in time we will successfully overcome them all.

What events are you most looking forward to for GEW 2014?

There are two conferences during the week which promise to be very interesting: Support of Entrepreneurial Thinking in the Czech Educational System and Removing Obstacles to Entrepreneurship in the Czech Republic, with the latter being the motto of the whole week.

Screening movies on the theme of entrepreneurship, such as Wolf of Wall Street, will take place in the Wayra business accelerator at Wenceslas Square. Art Meets Business, a special fair, is being organized for November 19, where new designers and graphics artist will present their work to business representatives, managers, journalists and the general public. On November 20, 15 of the most promising Czech startups will be awarded an acknowledgement diploma and will be given an opportunity to network with managers and CEOs from larger companies and corporations.

To make GEW Czech Republic events accessible to everyone, all of the events will be free of charge and held under the auspices of the Czech Ministers for Trade and Industry and for Education.

Who are the local stars promoting entrepreneurship in your country?

Some of the biggest proponents of entrepreneurship in the Czech Republic are the Minister of Industry and Trade, the Minister of Finance, the Czech Prime Minister, the Minister of Education and a number of top business personalities throughout the country. In addition to sending us words of encouragement with regards to GEW, many of them will take part in our planned activities and discussions.

What makes your GEW campaign unique?

In the Czech Republic, we are striving to create an ecosystem of support for non-tradition thinking and creativity. Each year, we choose a motto to focus the campaign and address some of the biggest challenges GEW faces in the Czech Republic. This year’s motto is ‘Overcoming barriers to entrepreneurship’.

admin gen