InnoKOL | Stephan Horvath: Innovation and “Working Together” Define the Future Of BRI

2021/06/18 Innoverview Read

On June 18th (GMT+8), InnoKOL had a fascinating conversation with Mr. Stephan Horvath, who is the Founder of Ideations, talking about his unique working experience in adapting the innovative strategic vision in actions and deep insights on the opportunities to deliver a brighter future for Silk Road cooperation.


Jokia: How would you describe yourself in three words? What’s your motto?


Visionary - Resourceful – Analytical

Motto: It's not about the #hashtag, it's about the relationship.


Jokia: Can you please share more about your educational and professional background? And we’d love to hear what brought you to innovative strategic advisory domain.


I studied economics at the Technical University Stuttgart, focusing on marketing, controlling, and computer science; Stuttgart is the home to the German carmakers Mercedes Benz and Porsche. I wrote my theses at IBM on a market Strategy Simulation Model. The topics marketing, analytics, and technology is the central theme throughout my professional career.


After university, I started my career as a management consultant, including working for a consulting company owned by Mercedes Benz, with clients in the aviation, telecom, ITC, and automotive industry.


It gave me the chance to learn about challenges and solutions from different sectors at a very early stage working on solving problems in various marketing, controlling, and customer data topics to find quick, intelligent, and logical solutions to overcome challenges.


From there, I moved to a client in adverting, marketing, and media space and then spent most time in this industry, which explains the creative motto.


I was working for two major U.S. agency networks, WPP and IPG. During my time there, I worked directly with industry veterans like Hal Brierley and Howard Draft; both helped me go international, especially in the Middle East and Asia. It is crucial to have good mentors. I have learned that the US is the top dog when it comes to media and communication. This allowed me to work for my clients in China; I still remember my first trip to Shanghai in 2012 for a meeting with SVW and SAIC.


After that, I have decided to start Ideations, a consulting boutique firm, and integrate all the experience I have gathered during my career. I work with some fantastic people in Ideations on different international projects and in various industries.


I believe that Innovation plays an essential part in our lives to fight upcoming challenges like climate change.


But what brought me first time. on the innovation advisory train was learning from and together with clients like Airbus, T-Systems, Microsoft, and Toyota, on their innovative projects. My work is on a strategic, making it easier to see the big picture and their innovation strategies.

I worked for my clients Microsoft and Volkswagen on innovative projects with my Chinese team for Greater China and Asia. It was great working together and lots of what I know about China, I learned from listening to the European client, the Chinese partner, I trusted my local Chinese team, hard-working and talented, they always helped find the right solutions.


You find innovation even in small businesses, you only require an innovative environment. It is also a successful approach. For the work on VW, planned and executed by our Chinese team in Beijing we won an innovation price for Asia Pacific Marketing Effectiveness & Strategy - Data Mining, Audience Association and Clustering Analysis.


For Microsoft BING our Beijing team won the “ECI Award for Marketing Innovation - Global Marketing Campaigns”. Their work demonstrated advanced analytics and innovative technology offerings, which bring actionable insights from client data, helping clients improve marketing efficiency and performance.


It is important to recognize innovative achievements discovering, honoring, educating and incubating innovation. And China and Asia are a perfect runway for innovative ideas.


From the perspective of global economic development, the digital sector is a very important field in which China is already leading and able influence the world.


Jokia: When I first read your bio, I risk being overwhelmed by the amount of different projects you has successfully conducted and industries you focused. Management Consulting, Investor Relations, FinTech, deep-tech and Cross-cultural Competence. So, my third question is basically about a paranoiac feature of your career: How does you combines so many interests and manage to be successful in all those areas?


There is no need for that. Please, allow me to explain. Management Consulting is the profession, in which, I always was and will be interested in technology. Technology is a lifelong learning process, so fintech, deep-tech, and Investor relations are areas where I am consulting.


Currently, I am working with a team on a research topic about Digital Currencies, CBDC.

The monetary system is a crucial part of our economy; global trade and global business are about transferring goods and payments. And there are various aspects involved and many questions to answer. For example, imagine the impact on the free flow of goods along SilkRoad where a Digital Euro, a digital GBP and a Digital Yuan can seamlessly be exchanged - it is worth thinking about that now.


And finally, cross-cultural competence is a skill. Today, a significant skill in our global world. In our globally connected economies, there are so many obstacles and misunderstandings between countries, companies, and people. It is essential to understand where people come from to find a way to walk together with them, in business and in life.


It might take some time; it will come faster once people experience the positive scenario. I was lucky enough to work for a company where I was exposed to different industries at a very early stage, it gave me the chance to look into various companies which helped me develop experience, knowledge, and good relationships.


It is wise to learn from one sector and then transfer your expertise to another industry. Likewise, it is wise to know what works in one country and share and successfully adapt that to another country or region. Over time, I developed good cross-cultural skills, and I’m still working on improving them.


My advice is always to take enough time to understand the country and its people, understand the culture and history, and treat yourself by enjoying local food. Entrepreneurs - even from small countries or small companies - can ‘change the world’ when they are confident, and believe in themselves, their teams, and their ideas. This is the most critical success factor.


Jokia: Some of the figures in your resume are particularly prominent especially the start-ups you founded. Could you share 1-2 typical cases on how to be a successful serial entrepreneur?


Here we go with the examples: I founded my first startup, a software company, while studying at the university, lots of work and sleepless nights, but it was a great experience. For me, it was a crash course on how theory and reality are different. As a student, I was eager to learn at the university, but at the same time, as an entrepreneur, I wanted to execute what I learned and try - by the way, it is good to make mistakes, but make every mistake once and learn from it. The company developed a few businesses software titles, and I had a successful exit selling to a US publishing house.


Another example, a recent startup I joined is an online travel agency in Saudi Arabia, focusing on AI algorithms predicting the timeline on pricing models of hotel chains, airlines, and car rental companies. It is a combination of travel with an arbitrage business providing better services and prices for GCC customers - an example of how AI and communication technology improve our business processes.


But then, shortly after our go live, we were severely hit by the Covid situation. Still, the management team did a fantastic job, refocused the strategy instantly to B2B travel for large Saudi enterprises, and use the time to add a fintech component and win MasterCard as a partner.


The company will now launch its own branded credit card end of this year, and in 2022, we will start a coalition loyalty program. That is important, never give up, patients, persistence, and passion - and as always, a great team. I am happy for the team.


Jokia: With over 20 years of international C-level experience in working for network agencies and consulting companies, you are adept in combining strategy and innovative technology to drive business in North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. How will the Fourth Industrial Revolution affect business from your point of view?


While the third was about information technology for production automation, the Fourth Industrial Revolution extends that layer.It is a fusion of technologies: melting the physical, digital, and biological spheres.


Almost every industry in every country currently faces unprecedented challenges globally, with a high pace of current breakthroughs. These challenges are often cross-disciplined: Complicated, Complex, and Connected Challenges.


It is disrupting nearly every industry in every country. And the rate and depth of these changes announce the transformation of entire production systems, management, and governance.


It requires novel forms of collaboration, especially given the velocity at which innovation and disruption from agile competitors are gaining speed and influencing production processes and the currently existing supply chains and value chains.We already experience this development today within the sharing economy or "on-demand" production.


Let's have a view from a European perspective:

What concerns me from a European perspective is that during the digital revolution, the EU was caught between the innovative drive in the United States and China and has never built its solid digital industry. The disruptive digital leaders are today the tech giants in the US and China, from consumer to B2B: Alibaba, Apple, Ant Finance, Facebook, Google, Huawei, Tencent, to name a few.


New technologies, such as AI, IoT, AIoT, 5G, NEV, or intelligent driving, extensively change the design and acceptance of products and services.These activities will lead to higher competitiveness in an area - Industry - where European companies are still the front-runner.


To keep pace with this development, innovative European companies require an environment where they can develop their new products and apply them to new solutions.

Unfortunately, this technological infrastructure is not available yet.The European companies leading in their area today have to compete on a global market, but they miss out on developing future products.


It is very complex but here is a simple example:

In Industry 4.0, fast and reliable connectivity and automated communication is the base for success. It's about new processes and IoT and AIoT.

The technology leader here is, without any doubt, Huawei, not only when it comes to hardware but also when we talk about software.


I was impressed learning about the technical concept of the Harmony OS. Even it is in its early stages of development, but it includes IoT devices seamlessly.

Most readers will now think about connecting wearables, a Fitbit, or an Apple watch;

My first thought was about the European manufacturing systems engineering and how this can affect them.


Imagine European automotive industry suppliers, referring to medium size companies, would have access to an Industry Park like the Yuelu Hi-tech industrial development zone to test or develop their products and solutions. In Asia, European suppliers are competing with Korean and Japanese manufactures already taking this advantage. Taking advantage of collaboration can keep European companies still in a leading position in the future.


In my view, collaboration on a global scale and especially with Asia will increase the performance for new and groundbreaking developments and build the base for faster growth.The definite shift for innovation based on technology combinations pushes companies to reexamine their business in a constantly changing environment.

The fourth industrial revolution will impact businesses and people and affect organizations, culture, and individually required skills.  But the Industry 4.0 can also give us the tools to fight climate change together. Innovation defines our future!


Jokia: What inspire the move to start The SilkRoad Cooperation (SRC) this year? What’s your suggestions for global companies to work together and deliver a brighter future for belt and road cooperation?


Before Covid, I spent more time traveling for business rather than being at home. The last time I visited China was in December 2019, was two weeks before the outbreak started.With COVID, business travel is globally restricted, and digital meetings and events have replaced physical events.Communication is essential, the exchange of information is substantial, first-hand facts as a base for educated decisions are crucial.


SilkRoad Cooperation is not a typical startup, it is a non-profit Organization, and the aim is to provide research, expertise and create a platform for dialogue.The difference is that the “thinking” won’t happen in an ivory tower with desktop research; it will occur on a local or regional level, by experts familiar with the situation.It is crucial for companies to learn and to understand first about the advantages of utilizing the existing infrastructure projects and participating, regardless if they plan to invest or make business in Greece, Mombasa, or Hainan.Only local research can bring in unbiased expertise and allows a fact-based decision.


We spoke before about innovation; we talked about Industry 4.0. The world is not only changing but changing faster than ever before. Billions of people digitally hyper-connect to each other in an unprecedented global network, allowing for an almost instantaneous and frictionless spread of ideas and innovations.Combine this with rapidly changing demographics, growing political and climate change challenges, and exponential advances in technology, and we will bear witness to global historical transformation in the next one or two decades.


With change comes opportunity; we already discussed the advantages not only for European but also other SMEs.With the challenges of climate change ahead, the world needs more ‘working together’ than ever before.

Jokia: Today, business innovation and artificial intelligence (AI) seem to go hand-in-hand to improve many areas of a business. From your perspective, how Artificial Intelligence Is Changing Business?


Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the ability of machines to show human-like intelligence by collecting and analyzing enormous digital information that enables these machines to perceive, self-learn, reason, and make decisions like humans.These self-learning technologies transform almost every business vertical from healthcare to retail to financial services, bringing new business models.


AI encompasses all the capabilities to reshape the future fundamentally.Despite the uncertainty, AI has slowly started to move out of research labs and into the real world.

While it would be very early to predict the true potential of AI, it will positively impact global problem areas such as mobility, healthcare, education, agriculture, security, poverty, and resource management.


Cloud integration, high-performance computing tools, increased productivity, diversified application areas, and increased customer satisfaction will drive the artificial intelligence market.From customer servicing and marketing to manufacturing and regulatory compliance, AI can touch every possible aspect which could add value to the system.Now, early adopters of AI in many sectors are starting to reap benefits across several fronts.According to Accenture estimates, companies with AI capabilities can increase their realizable productivity by a minimum of 40%.Artificial Intelligence is an enabler for businesses to extract valuable insights from a large set of data for providing innovative products and improving customer experience.By generating new ideas and enabling new business models, artificial intelligence is redefining how the business is run and gradually becoming an integral part of any business.


I see AI as a positive development.The AI industry will continue to fulfill its transformative potential. It will shape the broader industry landscape in the coming decades.

The AI revolution is now knocking on the doors, and the companies who will soon embrace it will position themselves to flourish in an environment redefined by artificial intelligence.


Jokia:  As a global recognized speaker, what’s your benchmark to select the top-tier conferences?


As you can see from the topics above...

Belt-and-Road initiative with the focus on European companies:

Creating an Innovation Path along the SilkRoad and building an Innovation Bridge from Europe to the RCEP countries with the focus on the strongest economies.And then, Conferences in the area of Technology, Sustainability and Impact, with a strong focus on Renewable Energies, especially on Hydrogen.


I see that the Green SilkRoad or Green Belt-and-Road as one of the major topics for the future.All that relates to Innovation - which requires sometimes competition, and sometime collaboration.

About the speaker:

Mr. Stephan Horvath is the Founder of Ideations.He has over 20 years of international C-level experience in working for network agencies and consulting companies. Stephan is adept in combining strategy and innovative technology to drive business in North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

Stephan understands what drives growth and expertly adapts the innovative strategic vision in actions. His startup mentality and business development culture is not only a critical commercial imperative but defines the DNA of the organization, going far beyond just international growth.

About the MC:

Ms. Jokia Yin is the Founder of Innoverview and InnoKOL,  the Vice Chatiman of HK International Blockchain Finance Association as well as the Head of Media at United States of America-China Chamber of Commerce。 Jokia has over 8 years of marketing and management experience, much of which has been in the Asia Pacific Region within events and PR industry. She has held key leadership roles executing market research and entry, developing sales channels and revenue generation, building marketing, finance and Operations related infrastructure for a more than 20 events related to retail, tourism, energy storage, blockchain, cosmetics domains.