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- Comments Off on How we built a VC Fund called Nation1

How we built a VC Fund called Nation1

We guarantee you won’t see this happening very often; we started a VC (Venture Capital) fund and stepped out of it before launching it, bringing in a new team which was a better fit…

You may remember that we have said many times that we believe women are the next big thing in tech. Somewhere around the time we started talking about it (reminder: it was the second half of 2016) a chance appeared to receive substantial LP (Limited Partner) funding from EIF (European Investment Fund). This possibility was available for newly established VC funds with new teams in the Czech Republic.

Wow! We were enthusiastic; we thought: “let’s answer this call and talk with professionals about how we can support female entrepreneurs community in Europe”.

We started working on the fund in early 2017 and it was like entering new muddy waters, nothing went easy, but we had enthusiasm and vision why we are doing it. No one from us have ever worked in venture capital (VC) or private equity (PE). We may have provided some funds as LPs (Limited Partners) but we knew very little about the process, people and mechanics of traditional venture capital business. So we called all friends and friends-of-friends working in the space. We gathered some insights, some standard ways of doing things and got a huge pile of advice to follow.

We didn't like most of it so we thought we’ll do it our own way, but it did not resonate well with EIF as a major investor. Focus only on female entrepreneurs or mixed teams — not a good idea; focus on student idea stage projects with high number of small(er) investments — not a good idea; work with several technical and science focused universities to cover their student projects — not a good idea…

And so even though our fund was getting closer to becoming a reality in early 2018 we had to reassess our reasons, why we started this and we had to think about the possibilities how to progress further. It was there when we decided this case is not for us.

We started looking for new team members so we could step out. We stepped out of the fund work at the second half of 2018 to allow new members of the team to settle in.

Why we did that?

Well, for starters we saw that with this fund and with EIF as a major LP investor we can’t focus on our original mission — support of female entrepreneurs in Europe. Then the condition of “regional investment focus = Czech Republic” which we hoped would not be as strict as it proved to be, was kind of a show stopper. For us having singular investment focus on the Czech Republic seemed extremely limiting. Just remember, you have to compare what we say here with our initial idea/vision to improve support for female entrepreneurs in Europe. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to focus on one country, for most people it would actually be a good one, but not for us.

Great news is that even though we let someone else finish the job we started the early stage venture capital fund called Nation1 which is becoming investment-ready and operational these days.


As I mentioned, it has a completely new team inside except the one person. That one person is actually the only woman in the fund’s team, Petra. We hired initially Petra to help us build female entrepreneurs community and female entrepreneurs deal-flow from across Europe as the first step towards our planned Petra was always interested in young projects and acceleration of their potential and as a new mother, she’s also heavily vested in the Czech Republic. That’s why we are glad we were able to persuade her to stay with the Nation 1 fund and increase her involvement to a partner level that the fund would become her baby too.

In case you guys and girls reading this are from the Czech Republic or you think you’d consider relocating substantial part of your economic activity (e.g. IT development) there and you are looking for early-stage funding, then you have one fresh team motivated to improve early-stage funding for promising projects: Nation1 VC. Reach out to them!

We wish them tons of promising projects to choose from and the guts to choose successful misfits!

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- Comments Off on Meet Barri – Your digital barista

Meet Barri – Your digital barista

Learnings from the making of our first Messenger chatbot.

At MotionPass, one of the hDock42's running projects, we strive to connect consumers in a specific location, with the businesses and services nearby, allowing them to find, order and pay for services instantly while consumption happens “on-the-go”. By now, we have developed two use cases. Although they both use our very same platform in the backend, they offer a completely different user experience.

The first of the is OpenToll - an integrated app for cars that improves user experience when paying for highway tolls, registering for congestion charges, or paying for parking. You can find more on OpenToll in one of our previous journals. Today we are here to talk about Barri. His mission is to cashlessly serve you your favourite cup of coffee in a nearby café, saving you the valuable queuing time . And he does that in the way which is so familiar to the majority of consumers - as a Messenger chatbot.

Meet Barri

Barri has proved himself as a perfect use case for our mobile payments platform. Not only because of his good looks, but mostly because he is so intuitive to use. The initial camaraderie with Barri starts with you either liking our Barri Facebook page, or simply scanning the promotional QR code, which brings you directly to our landing page where the digital barista himself, flashes out. Once you start chatting with him, he automatically checks if one of the contracted partner coffee shop is in your area (for this use case, we have chosen partner coffee shops in Berlin and Prague). The finalization of the order is then just a matter of few taps.

In order to make Barri as user-friendly as possible, we have invited potential users to join a focus group that would test the process flow and the intuitiveness of use. Initially, we have used "Talk to Barri" as a call to action. Unexpectedly for us, 80% of the people simply decided to vocally trigger the bot, talking at the mobile screen, awaiting for Barri to be activated on the spot and getting on with their coffee case. Judging by the amount of our users look, portraying a semi-persistence facial expression of them, taking the correct action, we had to gently step in.

Our lesson learned, when pre-ordering a coffee and the instruction says ‘talk’ then the outcome of the user action is talking. Perhaps, this particular testing helped us to be informed of the trend that goes far beyond texting, and should have a future adjustment. The voice over function embedded in. So who knows, maybe the already existing Alexa could get a new buddy very soon, your voice-called to action digital barista - Barri.

Wanna check out Barri? Visit his homepage at

PS: Please note that Barri currently works in beta-mode only in limited area in Berlin (Germany), which was a perfect testing ground due to large number of privately owned coffee shops and very deep running roots of coffee shop culture. Follow Barri on Facebook in order to be informed about his next steps.

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- Comments Off on A revolution in small satellite engines is happening in the Czech Republic

A revolution in small satellite engines is happening in the Czech Republic

This is our first Press Release of this year related to our SpaceLab EU project working on pretty exciting new things. Enjoy below...


SpaceLab EU and the Czech Aerospace Research Centre (VZLU) have entered into a SpaceLab-logopartnership under which they will, over the next five years, develop and commercialize a unique air-breathing ion propulsion engine that allows satellites to maintain their position on a very low orbit. The engine thrust is created by accelerating the residual atmosphere of the Earth and thus engine itself needs no other fuel. The project of the new engine type is a response to increasing users' demand for small-satellite fleets operation, including prolonging their service life. Think SpaceX or OneWeb plans for thousands of small satellites providing connectivity from space.VZLU

The uniqueness of the joint project is increased by the fact that it is the first opportunity to make very low orbits accessible to sustainable satellite traffic. The benefits of operating on a very low orbit are obvious both in the field of communications – significantly lower latency (signal delay) compared to the present situation and lower transmitter power requirements, and in the field of visual monitoring of the Earth – significantly more accurate and clearer pictures. The value of the joint development is in millions of EUR. The commercial potential is expected in hundreds of millions of euros. The prospects are expected to be the future commercial operators of small-satellite fleets as well as military users.

The teams of both companies are working together on the project at VZLÚ premises in Prague, where both computer simulations and experimental hardware are being born. The teams have there all currently necessary laboratory equipment, including new clean rooms necessary for experimentation and preparation of the engineering model, which will then be tested in space.

SpaceLab EU SE is a newly established entity dedicated to space research and its global

ionoSat; air-breathing ion propulsion for small satellites in breadboard

breadboard of our air-breathing ion engine

commercial use. The entire project, including the SpaceLab EU, was launched thanks to the group of European enthusiasts and investors jointly operating under the brand hDock42, which is focused on promoting and commercial development of European know-how.

The Czech Aerospace Research Center (VZLU) is a national centre for research, development and testing in aviation and astronautics. Its mission is to provide scientific support and bring innovative solutions for the industry.

(this press release was first published at SpaceLab EU website and via EIN Presswire)

- Comments Off on Women are the next big thing in tech! (Journal #8)

Women are the next big thing in tech! (Journal #8)

This is kind of an old story but it will give you a good perspective for the whole “let’s build a venture fund” idea and possibly lessons you can draw from it in case you’d ever decide to go down the venture capital route.

Short summary would be - about two years ago, soon after we actually established hDock42 and the whole European Launchpad idea, we’ve had came to a conclusion, which at that time was hidden to most people in Europe : “Women Are The Next Big Thing In Tech and Business”. It’s who and not what!

And yes, we could debate this till we drop, but it’s a simple fact. If you don’t see it yet, no worries, you will. It’s like gravity, you don't see it or think about it but if you try to understand how we live on Earth, you find out it’s here and it works.

Now let me tell you how we got to this belief; in the early days of hDock42 we’ve traveled extensively to visit different innovation communities across the world to see and feel the vibes, and to establish or re-establish connections and to find out how we could create or transfer those vibes to Europe. Yes, we were kind of obsessed with “how to get the Silicon Valley vibes to Europe”. I mean look, it kind of makes no sense, no one wants to live in Silicon Valley, because of its beauty and culture and history, we all went there because of people we can meet there and vibe (or atmosphere if you want) we find there. Wouldn’t it be much cooler if you could have the vibes, the people and drive to try and experiment in a place where people actually want to live? In a place which actually has culture, history, and streets you can walk on!

American influence

And as we’ve visited trade fairs, job fairs, innovation fairs, makers fairs, business and tech conferences, and startup summits. We loved them all but one trip has felt very special among them all. It was our trip to NYC, Boston, and Pittsburgh. Our main destination was annual EmTech (MIT Technology Review event) in Boston where we went to hear more about emerging technologies cooking in labs around the world.

It was completely unplanned but this whole trip was the first one, after many before, where we saw the female power in action…

  1. organizers of EmTech kept absolutely balanced the diversity on stage and it struck us as an amazing that at the two days conference focused on fields of deep science, robotics, and new materials, that’s even possible
  2. we got invited to Boston meetup community Tech-In-Motion running “Women Entrepreneurs” evening where we’ve seen ladies from 12 years old special ice-cream inventor to lady doctors running a healthcare apps for special-needs care and we’ve found out how city of Boston supports innovators and diversity for over a decade, including mayor himself.
  3. We’ve met amazing female creators at NYC Media Lab.
  4. and many more little instances where the combined presence of both genders has made us think, wow, they are a great team or it’s a great match these two, etc.

It was during this two weeks trip that we started to watch out for the signs of gender equality and the feeling started to grow into belief - that it’s more important who is involved than what is being done or where.

Let's try a venture fund

Then we looked around and thought, if we want to make an impact, we should be able to move female founders forward hence we should build a venture fund. But wait, if we are going to work on building a venture fund, it will be number 1001 in Europe, so we should really find some edge no one has. Could that edge be hard-focus on gender?

I mean everyone will tell you they have smart money, smart ass, great contacts, operational expertise, and…you name it. But very few VCs in Europe actually stand for something special; be it deep understanding of the industry and real hands-on experience like Passion Capital, or building a strong supporting community like Hardware Club. And so we decided (on a very high-level) to get the special edge by focusing on female founders across Europe.

And that was it. Our ideation start for the project to create a venture fund focused on female entrepreneurs. It did not have a name back then but we knew we want to focus on female founders or mixed founders teams across Europe because this can have a disproportionate impact and we won't be competing in a faceless crowd of VC funds. And yes, we thought that everyone will be as excited as we were about this unexploited niche focus. This was early 2017...

Well, we were heading in for a big big surprise…


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- Comments Off on Going more hardware – first really physical project we’ve invested in (Journal No.7)

Going more hardware – first really physical project we’ve invested in (Journal No.7)

Today’s note is not a new thing for anyone who’s been around hDock42 from the start about two years ago. Yes, we've been around for almost two years and we are still trying to find our spot in the sun 🙂

The fact that we’re working is nicely illustrated by our projects which have their ups and downs. And that means they are pushing through and learning and we’re (hopefully) learning with them.

Today’s note is the first disclosure that we like hardware too! Not just computer hardware which is btw Petr’s thing - little tech toys, wearable gadgets, IoT devices, etc. Like aerospace stuff…

Another partner of ours, Michal, likes to fly airplanes. Not just small ones but also big ones, like B-737 ones.

We can’t buy Boeing just yet, but some time ago Michal liked the idea of a small team of industry veterans to transfer and upgrade a production of a small utility plane from the former Soviet Union to the Czech Republic. Such step would be a great start for further upgrades and for expansion into new product lines (understand - bigger planes) and this market is generally supply driven with long waitlists which means there's room to grow! The team behind OrbisAvia is living and breathing aviation and aerospace so we thought, let’s help them to get this thing off the ground.

We thought it would mean mainly helping them to organize their sales process efficiently, support their international sales and getting them ready and structured for future fundraising. They would need to do only one thing at first….guess what… sell, sell and sell.

And so we did invest and embarked on a journey with them to transform their hotch-potch operations of a group of enthusiasts to investable and stable airplane production site with future possibilities for growth and expansion.

What do you say, you like the first look of Praga Alfa? Praga Alfa airplane from Orbis Avia

Go check out a few of our own pictures on our Instagram feed and see you soon back here!

hD42 Team


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- Comments Off on OpenToll – project we forgot to tell you about (Journal No. 6)

OpenToll – project we forgot to tell you about (Journal No. 6)

It's really not just for toll payments

For the past three months, we’ve been doing a lot of things in parallel and we failed in some of them. Regular communication with everyone outside our core team being the first obvious one. Not a complete failure but it’s hard to be satisfied when we are running about one month behind real things. For example, you have no idea that we started supporting our very first project about a month ago, that is very exciting to say the least. We took it to Berlin Tech Startup Fair to find new team members and accelerate product development and sales. We believe that for this product, Berlin is a great fit as the base for the team.

The project is called OpenToll and it’s a platform for upcoming smart-cars & smart-cities era.

OpenToll will automate all payments your car needs to make.

Now it’s You doing everything for your car - buying highway stickers, looking for points of sale for green stickers, registering for congestion charges or looking for cash to feed parking meters and imagine how these troubles or little annoyances multiply when you travel abroad, or worse when you travel across several countries. Given technologies available inside your car, it’s completely feasible to let the car do it all on your behalf. It’s not only possible but it would be sooooo much more convenient and driver or passenger friendly.

OpenToll is the platform which we are building to improve user experience as a driver. We also believe that such a platform is painfully needed, to allow for real usage based charging and smooth transition from your own cars to pool cars and later to autonomous vehicles.

We are aware that there’s a lot of political interests involved and we don’t plan to take anyone's job. Our aim is to provide everyone with easier, more convenient and a cheaper way of realizing and administering these payments Europe wide. We are all drivers or passengers after all. Let’s make our lives easier.

Our goal at OpenToll is to provide a platform to completely automate toll payments, congestion charges, ecology taxes and other car usage related payments.
No more stickers, no more searching for point-of-sale.

If you feel inspired and want to help this project to become a global force, reach our at "join (at)” and if you just feel interested in knowing more...sign-up for occasional project updates at

It's projects like this one which will help us Make Europe Great Again! Will You Sign-In?


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