Startups Need Corporate Experience, Says UP21 Co-pilot Lenka Heřmánková

We have recently written an article about the importance of co-pilots – professionals who, instead of being an external consultant, become an integral part of incubated startups. To show you how such cooperation works, we asked one of them, namely Lenka Heřmánková, Business Development Manager at the ČSOB Bank, who advises the startup sdí

For the last 8 years you have been working in a managerial position at ČSOB. How did you become a mentor at UP21?

One and half years ago, I met Petr Sobotka who is a co-pilot at UP21. We worked together on one project and I learned from him about the possibility of becoming involved in the UP21 incubator. Since autumn 2018, I have been a part of the Idea Board where startups come to pitch their ideas and in April 2019 I became a co-pilot of sdí

Why did you choose this startup?

In March, I took part in a speed mentoring event, where selected startups came to talk to mentors about their products and get feedback on them. There, for the first time, I met the founder of sdí, Vlaďka Koncarová, and she subsequently expressed interest in establishing cooperation.

Lenka Heřmánková, UP21 kopilot and Business Develover at ČSOB

What specifically do you help Vlaďka with?

We redesign the whole idea. At the beginning of May, we made a focus group to verify the needs of the market and future customers and what they want. Now, we are moving towards creating a simple business plan, from which we will gradually create a strategic plan and communication and marketing strategy.

Do you think that your corporate experience is relevant for a small startup?

I believe it is. Vlaďka learns about project and process management that is typical for corporations and in addition to that, she also learns that it is not always possible to handle everything in one person. When you work in a corporation, you know a lot of people and learn how to collaborate, delegate, and share.

This can motivate startups to invite someone to join the team, or to work with external consultants. I have also noticed that most startups do not understand why decision-making in corporations can take up to several weeks and why it sometimes includes so many people. This is also good for startups to know.

Lenka Heřmánková, UP21 kopilot and Business Develover at ČSOB

How do your consultations work?

We meet about once a week to discuss what happened and to plan next steps. For example, in case of the focus group, we prepared an invitation letter, created a list of invitees, talked about the technical background and created questions. During the week, Vlaďka works on individual tasks, meets people with whom I connect her, and gets opinions on various areas from experts.

How much time do you invest in mentoring?

Usually 1–2 hours a week. It depends on what we are doing in terms of preparation.

What goals have you set to achieve?

Vlaďka wants to create a completely new category in the real estate market, i.e., sharing underused spaces. Together, we would like to achieve a state in which the right clients use her services and her business becomes profitable.

In September, we plan to launch a new design of the website. In the first phase, we want to focus on getting as many offers as possible and, in the latter one, on giving more space to the demand side.

Lenka Heřmánková is a Business Development Manager. She gained her work experience in both large and small companies, having worked at various levels from Key Account Manager to Director with a sharp focus on business. She began in the telco environment, switched to the distribution of IT solutions and now works in the world of finance. She likes looking for solutions for crisis situations and moving things forward.