It is expanding in the media, but now Zoltán Varga is investing in one of the most interesting regional companies. Series production of Aeromobil’s flying cars could begin soon, and the company could attract the interest of the world’s largest automakers.
“No, I’m not the target audience, I’ll stay on the ground, with the bike and the electric car,” replies Zoltán Varga to the question if he will be the first Hungarian to invest in a flying car, will he be the first domestic user is? He adds that he will test Areomobil anyway – honestly, who would miss this opportunity? So it’s not a late April joke, the filmmakers of Back to the Future seem to have been wrong for five years only – they predicted 2015, but by the end of our decade, the flying car could actually go into mass production.
Aeromobil has been slowly planned for 20 years, and the project has sped up in recent years. Five years ago, a prototype first went on a test drive, and this year, ordering will begin, with mass production set to begin soon. The engine of the project is Juraj Vaculik, a successful advertising specialist and investor, who has already successfully paved the way for the project by providing a team of professionals and funding. The Hungarian billionaire also came to Bratislava from the largest car and aircraft manufacturers in terms of financial background, now in the penultimate round.
“After a conference, we were seated next to each other at dinner, where we started talking,” says Zoltán Varga about the beginnings of the business. Vaculik also performed at the event, so the Hungarian businessman knew what it was all about, but they soon realized that they were on a wavelength. “It turns out that we think very similarly, we are open, our vision is similar, we have been moving forward together ever since.”
The third character in the story is IPM (InfraPartners Management), an asset management, capital investment and consulting company that, although founded only in 2014, is playing an increasingly important role in the region. They also gave Aeromobil the first serious money seed back in 2016. The leaders of the IPM had previously met at various conferences with the Hungarian billionaire, who after a few weeks already knew that he wanted to take part in this story, and in a few months they agreed on all the conditions.
How much Zoltán Varga acquired in Aeromobil and for how much is a trade secret. But the businessman was happy to talk to Forbes about his motivations.
“It will be a big return in two years or zero – we race with mammoths”
– he says and definitely expects a technology-based exit to come in a few years, meaning a major car manufacturer can buy Aeromobil.
The company may have an advantage in the development, it really looks like Aeromobil will be the first to launch a vehicle that its owner can use as a plane and car with a few minutes of conversion. However, the competition is high. The first drone taxi will be launched in Dubai and traditional large car manufacturers are also paying close attention to this market, BMW and Mercedes, for example, are developing jointly.
But there were two other aspects to Zoltán Varga’s investment decision. One is how the investment fits into the three-year strategy of the Central Media Group. An important element of this is the expansion in the Central European countries with the highest purchasing power. It helps a lot to make your planned investments in the media market if you can build the right network in the target countries. “My network of contacts is quite extensive, but with Slovakia and the Czech Republic, the intersection has been relatively small so far,” he explains why it is important to move in the investor environment of the target countries. “In order to buy media, it is inevitable that we will get into the investment environment of that country, we need to be socio-culturally connected.” With Aeromobil, this can work, the company includes several well-known Slovak investors and it is also important that the Slovak state also supports it with full breast width.
The broadening of entrepreneurial relations between countries is the third factor that has encouraged investment. Despite the neighborhood, the Hungarian and Slovak investment communities are relatively far apart, with almost no entrepreneurs from the other countries investing on the other side, they now want to change this together. They are building a kind of Danube bridge, promoting each other in their countries, “I have been invited to several events in Bratislava, the development and openness there is amazing. And IPM is coming to Hungary, where I host them. ” This was also confirmed to our question by IPM, adding: “Technological innovations in the Danube Valley can only compete with those from Silicon Valley if the two countries work closely together.” We also asked IPM about the investment horizon, they replied that they are not planning an early exit but an optimal one. They do not have a specific target date, they plan to exit following the development of the product and the fulfillment of the potential in the company and they also added that they see themselves not as a financial investor but as a strategic partner.
Zoltán Varga was slowly on the cover of Hungarian Forbes for four years, in October 2014. He then recounted how, after double zeroing, he built his company empire, the jewel of which was the Wizz Air investment. Since then, he has left the Hungarian-founded airline, which has become the most successful in the region, with a multi-billion-dollar profit. It is also realizing its current vision from the resources released by the Wizz investment, on which the Central Group’s regional expansion is based, the most successful step of which has so far been a Polish alternative telecommunications provider, Premium Mobile. Proud to expand entirely from the return on its own past investments, “I don’t have EU funds either, it’s not a question of representing business logic”.
And when it comes to the airplane adventure, Aeromobil is planned to need another big round of financing to get to production, to market, and that is already on the verge. It is still known that investors are mainly coming from the East, in the words of Zoltán Varga now
“Asia is very bubbly now. The first commercially available limited series Aeromobil is expected to open a whole new segment in the passenger aviation sector in the coming years. ”