Mentor interview with Tamás Békási

We launched our Global Mentorship Programme on the 3rd of August; the Mentorship Programme is a virtual acceleration that helps early-stage oncology startups to achieve their goals and become accessible to patients as soon as possible. The mentors are at the core of the programme and without them, we couldn’t have put together such a compelling set of activities, workshops, and events.

This week on the blog you can meet Tamás, the mentor of the Mentorship Programme’s sales and corporate clients workshop. Tamás is the RIS Business Creation Project Manager of EIT Health InnoStars. He is deeply involved in the startup ecosystem innovating in healthcare, yet he provided comprehensive knowledge useful for entrepreneurs from all business areas with one of the most practical sessions of the programme.

“I think of mentoring as a mission, and the most valuable part of my job. I am sure, that I will never give up this mission, which became a love over time.“

Introduction: Please tell us three things about yourself (professional and/or personal)

In the past 15 years, I acquired a wide-scale knowledge in business and process development, marketing communication, and international service transfer, while I worked within the agency, corporate, and SSC sector.

In my current role, I am representing the Accelerator portfolio of EIT Health in Central, Eastern, and Southern Europe, and my top priority is to support and mentor European healthcare professionals from the ideation phase through the market entry to the global expansion.

In the very limited time, when I do not work with startups and do not live in the current isolation, I love to learn classical music and jazz as a singer, as well as spend valuable time with my family and friends

What’s your motto in life?

I truly believe in details and complexity, therefore I do not really have a motto, but the approach I like to follow is: “Whatever you do, only do it with passion!”

Tell us about your current role

The InnoStars region covers half of Europe, including districts in Poland, Hungary, Italy, and Portugal, as well as additional areas included in the Regional Innovation Scheme (RIS) programme – the Baltic States, Croatia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Greece, and Romania. This area includes the highest concentration of funding for European Structural and Investments Funds (ESIF) for innovation, with €20 billion available up to 2023. InnoStars is focused on promoting entrepreneurship, innovation, and education in the domain of healthcare, healthy living, and active aging.

In the InnoStars region, within the RIS programme, I am responsible for exploring, managing, and supporting healthcare startups. My duty consists of the management of the InnoStars region’s flagship Accelerator programme, InnoStars Awards, covering talent scout tasks for further 19 Accelerator programmes, organized in cooperation with other EIT Health regions, establishing and maintaining cooperation with European and overseas accelerators and mentoring startups.

When and why did you start to work with startups?

From the very beginning of my career, I had a strong interest and intention to work with technology companies. In the first few years, I supported technology companies on the marketing communication side, then I switched to business development.

With the startup ecosystem, I first met in the early 2010s through some of my friends, like Péter Kovács (XO Company – Startup Safari, Global Startup Awards), who were deeply involved in the creation of the local ecosystem. Soon, I had the opportunity to mentor my first startup and supported them on the marketing and sales field. During the years, I continued this activity as my professional hobby, but the real break-through in this phase of my career came with my role in EIT Health InnoStars, where I have a full-time mission to, directly and indirectly, support 50-60 healthcare startups in a year.

I truly believe that innovation could be a cure not only for the upcoming challenges of our civilization but to be an engine as well to create an open and conscious global society. We are definitely in the entrance of a new era, led by a new generation of innovators, and I am proud to be a part of this change.

You have an impressive professional background and you’ve been in this space for some time now. How did you find it to transition to mentoring?

In most of my time, I mentor healthcare innovators, but I worked and still work with digital innovators, create B2B business and marketing applications.

The biggest space I can fill in with my knowledge and experience is business modeling and planning, market entry strategy, marketing and sales strategy, and organizational development.

During my years of professional work, I saw many things on both the corporate, public, and entrepreneurial side, I learned from and experienced best practices and failures, which can be used and avoided by the new generation of innovators.

Most mentors work on a pro bono basis in the startup sphere, so it’s mainly the startups that are benefiting from the programme. How is it from a mentor’s point of view? Is mentoring a rewarding experience?

I think of mentoring as a mission, and the most valuable part of my job. I am sure, that I will never give up this mission, which became a love over time.

In the cooperation between the members of society, I believe my piece of responsibility is mentoring. The common goal is to give our planet a strong chance to survive and improve the links within our society.

I believe that the best way to live your life is by continuous learning. As a mentor, I always meet amazing people, who have outstanding ideas and this helps me to keep my knowledge and professional view up to date and maintain my motivation. What else would you need as a reward? J

What’s your motivation in mentoring oncology startups?

Even in these hard times of the COVID-19 pandemic, we should not forget that the second death cause globally is cancer.

Unfortunately, by close experienced, I realized how hard it is to fight against the highly adaptable and invisible enemy.

As cancer is one of the biggest healthcare challenges, every solution that contributes even in the slightest way to the set of answers to this challenge, needs to be supported with all possible assets. For this reason, whenever I have the chance to support a team focused on an oncology-related solution, I make sure that I do whatever I can.

Part of being an entrepreneur is about learning to fail. How did you learn to embrace failure?

I still find managing failures quite a challenge. I found that my maximalist attitude is the root of this challenge and it is based on my sociocultural background and the fear of loss. The first part is quite common for people who live in Central-Eastern Europe. A major part of the school system is conditioned for reaching perfection, and there is very limited space for alternative paths, new directions, or pioneering results. Of course, this situation improved a lot in the last 10-15 years, but still, we have a lot of steps to do here. The other part comes from my personality, and while sociocultural boundaries by being part of international communities and never stop learning, it can be tightened, however, changing your inner roots is the most difficult challenge in life.

I believe that the most powerful asset to manage failures is self-reflection and the need for feedback from your surroundings. On a daily basis, we tend to follow our routine that is considered to be safe and act according to by our social patterns. I believe, that every moment of your life should go through your own personal filter, independently from the social and professional patterns, and you should analyze in order to learn to move forward and become a more successful, and happier person.

The other thing I believe in is that time could not be reverted. Even if a failure hurts, you can not do anything else, just grab the remaining pieces, analyze and learn from your mistakes, and wake up the next day and lead your idea and approach to success.

What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned and how is it valuable for entrepreneurs?

I am a firm believer in cooperation. Probably my best advice for entrepreneurs is to search and find your key people, build and maintain trust.

In many cases, people forget that the biggest asset in creating and maintaining motivation is not the message and the vision, but the credibility. As an entrepreneur and a leader, you are responsible not only for your product and business but for your people as well. Be honest, even in the hard times, work harder than any of your team members, and share success!

You have long-standing, substantial experience in business development, what do you think is the biggest challenge for early-stage startups at the moment and how do you see their future in business the arena?

In most cases, early-stage startups think that their biggest challenge is the lack of money, and I believe that they are partially right. These startups are not on that level, where they are attractive for investors, therefore they should seek resources from EU and national funds, investments from business angels, or from their own pocket. As I see, the problem is not as big as most of the early-stage teams see it. In Europe, we have a large funding portfolio for early-stage startups, which can be easily found and applied by these teams. Getting financial support for innovation in Europe is now easier than ever.

So what happens, when the money is available? We all know, that spending 20-30, maybe 50k is quite easy, but for spending it to reach a significant impact on the progress of your product/service is challenging. For this, teams need basic, but proper business knowledge and/or a team member, who has sense and knowledge for this field.

This is the first step, to get into the journey for success. Uncertainty is one of the other challenges. While we tend to believe that a 9 to 5 job gives us stable and safe life, the life of an entrepreneur is full of ups and downs. Persistence and striving for excellence should be an organic part of the daily life of each entrepreneur. Sometimes it is hard, but in my view, it does worth it.

Off the top of your head, what’s the one book every entrepreneur should read?

For all entrepreuners, I would advise the following books:

  • Yvon Chouinard: Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman
  • Scott Stratten: The Book of Business Awesome / The Book of Business UnAwesome
  • Geoffrey A. Moore: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers
  • Ben Horowitz: The ​Hard Thing About Hard Things
  • Clayton M. Christensen: The Innovator’s Dilemma : When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail
  • Daniel Kahneman: Thinking, Fast and Slow
cLAB Ventures - October 27, 2020