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Purpose-driven industrial EIT Digital Doctorate student wants to create impact

Balázs Horváth

Balázs Horváth

Balázs Horváth at the EIT Digital Master School Kick-Off in Helsinki (2017)

Balázs Horváth at the EIT Digital Master School Kick-Off in Helsinki (2017)

Since attending the EIT Digital Master School, Balázs Horváth, now an industrial doctorate student at EIT Digital's Doctoral School and a serial entrepreneur, has changed his mindset. Initially, he just wanted to build profitable companies. Now he is living with a purpose. "I want to make impact and empower others to live for their passions."

"I grew up in modest circumstances," Horváth says, to explain where his drive comes from. "I want to make normal life available to every family. That is why I'm doing my industrial doctorate. I do not care about my grade; I believe my research can be applied in various domains to improve people's lives. If I can achieve that, then I will have made an impact."

Industrial doctorate

As an EIT Digital Industrial Doctorate student, Horváth researches how to use data efficiently at Magyar Hungarian Telekom and Deutsche Telekom under the academic supervision of Elte University. His focus is time series, forecasting, and anomaly detecting - in other words, predicting potential problems to prevent them from happening. Problems that the Telekom operators want to avoid are, for example, losing data and preventing servers from going down due to peaks in network usage.

Currently, Hungarian Telekom pays an external company to do predictive maintenance. "The data used must be anonymised which would not be needed with an in-house solution tailored to its own data. My research will create a prototype of an in-house model for predictive maintenance based on real-time data. It can replace the outsourcing service and even do it better whilst saving the company a lot of money. I already got very good results and will publish an article this year."

What he likes most about his industrial doctorate is working directly with the industry. "The iteration progress is so much faster than with theoretical research. I want to make changes now. I'm working with an industrial partner that has a problem and has data. With my applied research, I can tackle their problem. It is pretty agile and fast. Industrial doctorates completely change the way research is done. Previously, you did your research, published the results and then maybe the industry applied it five years later. Now, the research gets attention right from the start and I can do it together with the industry!"

Even though he is conducting his research in the telecom sector, Horváth believes its core subject - time series with machine learning and neural networks - is applicable to many other sectors that use Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and where sensors provide overtime measurements. He loves to mention its potential value for the agricultural sector. "With the appropriate sensors, such as humidity, air pressure or chicken movements in a shed, you could, for example, find correlations what a human would never think about, which can lead to an increased growth rate or less cost in a year. If I could bring my research to the agricultural domain, I would set up a new company to help farmers farm more efficiently, save them costs and keep food prices affordable for a lot of people."

Money versus purpose

Horváth's purpose-driven mindset arose when he was studying at the EIT Digital Master School. "When I started here, I was a profit-oriented guy. I wanted to learn how to make money being an entrepreneur. I had then already profitable companies. But my purpose has changed. I met a lot of different people who were fuelled with a passion to give back to society. Now I want to change other people's mindset and make an impact."

EIT Digital Master School

The ambition to be an entrepreneur hasn't faded though. He already started a software development company while studying for his BSc in Computer Science, and co-founded another, that failed completely. At the EIT Digital Master School, he learned how to prevent failure for his first and future companies. "I made all the mistakes the school pointed out not to do: neglecting team dynamics, huge backdoors for investors and slow decision making. I quitted."

The biggest lesson he learned from that experience and the EIT Digital Master School was never to create a company with the mission of making money. "You will hate the company in the end. When you set out to create a company, you need a mission or passion to change something in the world. Purpose-driven companies are the ones that become successful."

MF Development

During the first year of his double degree at EIT Digital Master School, which he spent at Aalto University, he continued to work as a freelance software developer. "Living in Finland is pretty costly." Due to the lack of developers, he soon got flooded with clients. "I did not even have a website then," he recalls. He started hiring freelance developers himself. "Currently, I have eight freelancers at work all the time. I am the bridge between the freelancers and the market. They are digital nomads; they like to code. I like to talk to clients."

In the second year of his masters, "one year after the KickOff in Eindhoven" while studying at Elte University in Budapest, Horváth also started a consultancy company. "Nice clients to whom I had given free advice said, ‘Why don't you charge me? You have improved my processes so I can provide better services.'" A year after his Graduation Day in Madrid, he had merged both companies into MFDevelopment.

Horváth has difficulties remembering timelines by years. "In the EIT Digital Alumni Association, of which I am an active member, we categorise times in terms of Kick-Off and Graduation Days instead of dates," he explains. His Graduation Day in Madrid was held in November 2017.

Summer School

In his second years of his masters, Horváth was asked to be one of the volunteer coaches at the EIT Digital Master School Kick-Off in Rennes (2016) and the year later in Helsinki. Last year, already a PhD student, he was one of the two head coaches at the Kick-Off in Paris and also coached in the Summer Schools in Lisbon and Budapest. He felt very comfortable with it. One evening he mentioned to Ákos Wetters, who has been coaching on various EIT Digital Summer Schools across Europe for years, how much he liked coaching. Ákos said, "Then why don't you make a living from it?" And as it goes with entrepreneurial people, this question led to a new company.

Kimitisik

Together with Wetters and two other EIT Digital Master School alumni, Alessandro Tomasi from Italy and Krishna lyer Easwaran from India, he co-founded Kimitisik, based in the Netherlands. Goal: empower people to create impact via coaching, training and mentoring in universities, companies and organisations. "We like to push people out of their comfort zone and help invoke an entrepreneurial mindset in their personal, social and professional life"

Their clients come mostly from the Middle and Far East, Latin America and Australia and New Zealand. Recently, the entrepreneurial mentor was asked to mentor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) during its two week summer school for international high school students called Future Hack. "We hope we can bring something of the European mindset across the Atlantic."

For a software developer, the answer to juggling all these different roles is simple: automate. "I've automatised a lot of tasks, such as a ticket system for my developers. I work only two hours a week for MF Development. Meetings with my fellow co-founders at Kimitisik usually take place at weekends and in the holidays. I forgot to say, I am also a guest lecturer at Elte University twice a year. In my everyday life, I am a PhD student. I love that, because I'm doing my research for the public good."

Coaching in Helsinki

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