Kafkadesk is a proud partner of the USA-Central Europe Women in Business Summit, organised by Polish-American Women Entrepreneurs and Cultural Vistas, that will take place on October 17 in New York City. By bringing together 350 business leaders, innovators, changemakers and entrepreneurs from across the USA, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Germany, the exciting new initiative promises to be the largest and most important summit of its kind.
After sitting down with event organisers Agata Golubiewska and Jennifer Clinton, and speaking with Czech entrepreneur and featured speaker Ivana Hronová, we met with Slovak golfer turned entrepreneur Lujza Bubanova to find out more about her latest venture, youFirst, which allows brands to pre-test a video by extracting unbiased emotional responses from facial expressions using a powerful emotional AI program
Startupism, Divano, youFirst… You have been involved in a number of start-up tech ventures. But before that you were professional golfer. Can you tell us a bit about what motivated you to leave the sports world behind and how you got started?
And the list goes on…. I just newly created a spinoff of SeeMe that tackles the mental health development of toddlers using an emotion metric with emotions speaking up for them before they can formulate problems. To answer the question about sport, I think these two careers have very high correlation in their respective means of persistence. The transition from pro golf was smooth as I used business to finance my sport, which now switched and I use golf to meet possible clients/investors or grow network. However thanks to back injury, this decision was easy to make.
What were the first challenges you encountered and how did you overcome them? Would you say that your career in sports has helped you in dealing with the difficulties of the business world?
Absolutely yes and, as said above, the approach of an athlete is the same as in business. Failure is just a big part of both, like learning to take any opportunity I got from every single bad shot I made. Understand, millions… Probably the hardest for me was to crumble the big vision into day to day agenda. I guess that is the theory of 0 and 1 personality types. Where the CEO needs COO. Here comes another learning. You do not need a partner to start. I think for the over-adviced “get a co-founder” we downgrade on the absolute need to be in line.
Figures show that, still today, discrimination poses a major hurdle to women who seek business funding. What are according to you the main challenges women entrepreneurs face? Could you give us a first-hand example that happened to you? Would you say these challenges are more prominent in the tech and start-up industries? Has it changed in recent years?
The word ‘discrimination’ should be used in a case where two absolutely similar companies with the same deal are asking for the same amount but the on lead by a woman is the one that doesn’t get funding. Only then it is unfair. Investments are someone’s money, that is to be invested for a return. It is only natural to look for the most familiar opportunities. And since business as such is dominated by men, I would find these statistics to be reflecting that. And this, I consider fair. And it is up to individual female founders to fight their way in. One by one, and help each other to even the game among the rich. What I absolutely despise is a pretended intention to investment when in fact personal interests are the real motivaton behind it. That is what I find really unfair.
How would you compare the start-up ecosystems in the USA and in your native Slovakia? In what ways can the two countries learn from one another?
There is an obvious market size difference that pre-fills this answer. One is lab market and the other is the real deal. I wish I was born in States and started a company there, instead of coming to States to start a company from scratch… I chose the lab market first, if it goes well, I’ll move. Let’s go back to sports. I would suggest that Slovakia needs to adopt a little bit of the US model of support for university sports.
YouFirst allows brands to pre-test a video by extracting unbiased emotional responses from facial expressions using a powerful emotional AI program. How prominent is the use of AI today and what place will it have in tomorrow’s world?
Challenges with AI come with the threat it brings. First to take our jobs, and later to take over our planet. It seems that our curiosity is unstoppable. There are a few brilliant minds that drive innovation at a super high speed and are forcing the whole population to go with them. When I say innovation, it does not necessarily mean technology, but our thinking and priorities as well. A great example is the bankruptcy of Forever 21 that didn’t respond to the trend of slow fashion. Coming back to AI, I believe we are still far away from any serious danger. Jobs are taken over by AI but more jobs are opening due to AI. The ability of AI to take over repetitive tasks allows humans to evolve as creative beings. This is what I love. This what youFirst is helping with as well.
We have clearly been going through a technological revolution in the past decade and digital innovations are increasingly being criticised for fostering dependence, misinformation, and even mental illnesses, such as depression. Do you believe that tech entrepreneurs such as yourself have a social responsibility when it comes to innovating?
Mental health is one of my personal topics I want to push forward. Thus my new venture, which I hope to launch very soon and I have given many talks given onsubject. We have learned how to preserve our bodies for a much longer time, some even talk about immortality. My theory is that our brains has been wired over different life spans to be occupied, have goals and be happy. Now we have all this time to look around, analyze why are we here, compare lives, thereby creating serious pressure with no real outcome. No wonder depression is the next epidemic we are seeing. Humans are very good at one thing, talking, and we should talk about mental health, about prevention and about causes. To answer the actual question, yes, tech entrepreneurs should be held responsible just like slow adaptation of regulation should.
What advice would you give aspiring women entrepreneurs from Slovakia and Central Europe? What warnings?
There will be a lot of NOs. Just learn how to separate emotional reactions from pragmatism, and use the most functional one for each occasion. Then also keep in mind that men fear non-emotional reactions, so be ready for that as well. Emotions are good, and can serve a purpose, but can also be overwhelming. No matter where you are from or what is your gender, in all fairness.
Lujza Bubanova will be speaking about starting and scaling up a business at the USA-Central Europe Women in Business Summit on October 17 in New York. Tickets are on sale here. Don’t forget to check out youFirst to learn more about Lujza’s latest venture.