Dr. Frank-Jurgen Richter in an exclusive interview for TOPCITY magazine gloss
– Frank would you tell about Horasis, how you started it, how you got the idea, why it happened, what was the background of all of it and of course how it developed over the years?
– Right. I founded Horasis in 2005 in Geneva originally. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and as an entrepreneur, you know, you drive your own destiny, you take your own decisions. And uh, I was always employed before. So that it’s like the right time to be an entrepreneur. This was one reason. The second reason and maybe more importantly – I very much believe in dialogue and seeing, bringing people together to create trust between people and to create an element of an atmosphere that people can easily connect and conduct business. Certainly, I was contacted by the same confederation last year in China, Federation of Industrial Economics, our partner. They asked me to create something like Davos e-world Economic Forum where Chinese CEOs can meet once per year. And this was the origin of Horasis when we did our first Meeting. My background is I worked for the Davos. I’ve worked for the World Economic Forum as a director. And so basically, I left having the idea in mind the business model to create Horasis for the first seven-eight years Horasis was entirely focused on China. I speak Mandarin, I lived in China many years, and China I was very close to my heart. I felt the necessity for Chinese CEOs to have a platform where they can easily reach out to the global counterparts. Later on we added more meetings. The first meeting was held in Munich in 2009. In 2010 we started with an Arab Meeting and also is a Russia Meeting. And we do also a Global Meeting, which is the bold route. The Global Meeting is always based in Cascais in Portugal. We discovered that Ukraine would be a very good country to host meetings.
– And it will be first time in Ukraine, yes?
– First in Ukraine. So it’s our very first meeting, the one we held together with Dima and his friends as a partner here locally and with China Federation of Industrial Economics coming from the Chinese side, and we believe that Ukraine could play a more important role in the future where Horasis could contribute. So we have the plan to host also India Meeting, and we might even highlight Ukraine at our next Horasis Global Meeting, in Portugal, inviting members of government and doing some special receptions for Ukraine. So, in a nutshell, Horasis is a global platform for dialogue very much focusing on long-term issues. We describe ourselves as a vision community and we would like to give inspiration to the world bringing thinkers and doers together. Eighty percent of participants are business people, CEOs or founders, entrepreneurs; 20 percent – the rest are government, thought leadership co-professors, think-tanks, media, and also civil society, so it’s basically a business meeting, platform for business people to meet also other stakeholders and by rotating the Meeting we can always present different opportunities to the Chinese or to the Indians. They all want to discover the world. Last year’s China Meeting was held in the UK, the year before in Switzerland, the year before in Portugal, so we always rotate and I see that Ukraine is a country where you want to stay.
– The question from my side, what is the distinction from Davos?
– Right, of course Davos is, you know, the biggest meeting in the world, very successful founded in the early 70s. People compare us and we are the run-up to Davos, we are like a new Davos, focusing on the merchant markets – that’s our strengths, that’s our USP, we are maybe a bit like Davos 20 years ago, mostly focusing on business issues, issues relevant to business and much going into politics. Davos today is mostly political meeting there are around 40 head of states attending and everybody is trying to grab for the headline in the Financial Times or New York Times and the spirit of… the original spirit of Davos is, I guess, no longer there when people still meet at a fireplace and with long discussions a bit like we spend our meeting when people will need the whole day and a late night and go to bars together at the end, continue and becoming friends. So we are less political, more based on the individuals, more based on business. Of course, we are smaller but I think we are in the same way also influential in the countries we operate. So our China and India Meeting compared to the Davos are counterparts, I think we are on the same level and um, we are a growing organization, we’re based in Switzerland but we have operations all around the world. And of course we have Horasis Ukraine.
– If there were any specific targets or goals you set prior to the bringing Horasis in Ukraine? And do you think that you actually achieved, accomplished those goals?
– Right. One main goal was to put Ukraine on the map, on the map of Chinese investors, but also of global investors. Ukraine actually is much better than some people seeing the country, you know, doing, behaving and showing to the outside world. So as many good things happening here: the investment climate is improving. And so Horasis is a platform to make this happen. The Chinese got the new concept of the One Belt One Road – the Silk Road, connecting China with Europe Ukraine is in a very strategic position in between. If you think about Odesa on the Black sea as a shipping, Kyiv as the capital, as a transportation hub. This is openness to Europe. Ukraine has some advantages: one – very talented qualified people, especially in the area of IT of anything creative – Ukraine is famous for that, and I think investors are using this potential of Ukraine and we’ve had several sessions at our summit, we’ve been talked about competitiveness of Ukraine, we talked about China innovation projects between China – Ukraine. Even of Chinese people track. And the fact of having the meeting here was already a success of doing it and highlighting the chances of Ukraine. On the operational side the Meeting went very smooth. It’s been around… which number should we say? 350 participants, mostly CEOs of important companies; to name a few we had the CEO of Sinotrans which is the largest logistics company in China. We’ve got the CEO, the vice chairman of Beijing Automotive, the chairman of FREEMAX TV, the largest media company but also lot of people in modern industries, IT, venture capital and private equity. And I think they are here to stay and want to put some operations.
– What is the meaning of Horasis?
Horasis is ancient Greek, it means visions, so long-term visions because we are visions community and we would like to inspire the future. We always say if all participants come back with this one single idea of the Meeting which is transformative, which will transform their life and their business then we lived up to our promises because you know we are generating ideas, we are like a festival of ideas with a pure business dimension, but also very much knowledge dimension. In a non-academic sense we can talk about real-life examples about, you know, experiences about success but also failures, about new technologies. We had fascinating sessions on e-commerce and on blockchain technologies, so people always say Horasis is like an executive e-MBA in one day time.
– Is there an expectation from your side that what Horasis did to Ukraine and China is actually founded a solid basement for further fruitful corporation?
– Yes-yes. I strongly believe so. And that is a China saying that, you know, every journey starts with the first step and when we go to a new place we have not been before it’s like a terra incognito, so unknown land. The government is very interested. We had follow-up discussions with the SFII, this is State Financial Institution for Innovations and as we heard that the Ministry of Economy is watching what we’re doing and seeing it’s something very useful to the government. We very much believe in private-public partnerships. Where government and the private sector can work together because one sector alone can’t hardly do it. Government needs support from society, from business. Businesses society needs support from government and the fact that we are a foreign organization actually is a big advantage. So we don’t know too much about, let’s say the local politics, we stay out of it. We are a Swiss organization. We are neutral. We just want to work for country, and we are not looking into let’s say differences of parties and things, but you know, we want to help the country like Ukraine, Ukraine has to open up, has to show its potential to the outside world. And it could definitely count on Horasis as a trusted partner.