Startups: the Real Competition is Not With Investors but With Customers

According to a study by consultancy McKinsey, if domestic start-ups could grow at a rate and scale similar to other European countries, they could attract €2.5-5 billion of additional resources to the sector. A significant proportion of this - around €1 billion - would be used in the local economy. But how do domestic start-ups approach this ecosystem? Do they have the necessary collaborative skills and motivation?

The study also finds that Hungarian start-ups are well-positioned in terms of venture capital and the availability and quantity of skilled labour, especially IT professionals. However, there does not seem to be a significant degree of synergy between the actors in the sector, although international market expansion may also require exploiting synergies of knowledge, financial and relational capital.

"Game theory works extremely well in the small, resource-limited Hungarian startup market: it pays to turn a competitive, zero-sum game into a cooperative, positive-sum game,  especially if it involves opening up foreign markets, because in the long run it is more beneficial for all the players involved," Péter Csillag, president of HunBAN (Hungarian Business Angel Network), told Connect Magazine.

Innovation Stage: a pitching opportunity for domestic startups

"We startups can also actively contribute to the development of the ecosystem. We often try to learn from each other when entering and selling on international markets, but we can also share our experience and network of contacts on the domestic market in order to ensure that some innovations reach a wider audience, in our case real corporate customers" - confirmed Tamás Barathi, founder and CEO of Blue Colibri App. 

The company, which develops an HR-digitalization and internal communication app, is organizing the Connect Conference in April, during which it will launch "Innovation Stage" together with the Hungarian Startup University Program (HSUP), where startups can present themselves in 5-minute pitches, and then delegate an active user customer to a panel discussion. According to Tamás Barathi, this will allow them to experience the user experience first hand.

"We are happy to share our contacts and experiences with other startups. In addition, we tried this format in January and it worked well, benefiting everyone, both the business leaders and the startups. The former, based on their feedback, were able to learn about several very useful innovations in a short time, the latter were able to reach a much larger community and potential customer base. This is what they call a win-win", stressed the CEO of Blue Colibri App.

The Hungarian Startup University Program (HSUP) and its operator Express Innovation Agency Zrt. joined the Innovation Stage initiative as main sponsors, as the program's mission is to develop the Hungarian startup ecosystem. HSUP is a nationally unified, complex startup program whose main goal is to introduce Hungarian university students to the world of innovation, modern entrepreneurship and startup operations through a new, common e-learning platform. So far, more than 10,000 students from 31 universities across the country have participated in the program, and nearly 500 teams have developed or are developing their own ideas, many of which are already on the market and have received investment.

The Connect Conference and Innovation Stage concept is truly unique, as it provides startups with an opportunity to present themselves in front of potential customers, rather than the classic investor pitch. Also, as the organizer of the event, Blue Colibri, is itself a startup, this is a unique initiative that can benefit the ecosystem in an extraordinary way.

To make the Innovation Stage accessible to as many start-ups as possible, HSUP and Blue Colibri are also launching a call for start-ups with at least pilot customers. Three selected startups will have the opportunity to present themselves at the HSUP Innovation Stage free of charge.  

Application deadline: 7 April 2023

Application form available here:

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