IWD 2021 – #choosetochallenge interview with Balazs Fogoly

Balazs, MBA ’06, is the epitome of innovative problem-solving. He set up Ember Associates 7 years ago, where he uses the game of poker to break open fixed adult mindsets in how to see and solve challenges. Balazs is also an Adjunct Professor at INSEAD. But he is no desk nerd either, having spent over 10 years mostly in the dealing rooms of several banks.

Entrepreneurship has been in his blood all the while – his first founded company was Hungary’s first online hotel reservation business in 1996. He set this up after spending his teens making his pocket money – mostly after and occasionally instead of school – writing codes for SMEs, and playing the bass in multiple rock bands.

It is my pleasure to interview Balazs Fogoly, President of the Entrepreneurship Alumni Club, for Choose To Challenge.

When you see this year’s IWD theme, what comes to mind? How does it make you think about gender diversity and inclusion matters?


Shame is the first thing that pops in my mind. 

Shame, that we still need to challenge ourselves about gender equality in 2021. 

But we still live in times when not all lives matter equally, and not all opportunities are accessible for everyone.

Can you give us some background on what experiences has created the Balazs of “now” who sees the world this way?

There are plenty of experiences that created the Balazs of “now”. But let me take out one specifically that relates to where I want to challenge fellow men. 

I played tennis as a teen, and I was considered talented. But when I competed at tournaments, I never rose to the occasion. I often just sank to the level of my competition. I needed better players to play better. 

After a while, I started noticing this as a pattern in other areas of my life. I need strong (but preferably friendly) competition to strive. So other than the morals of equal opportunity, the efficiency of cognitive diversity, I also benefit from competing with and learning from a larger pool of superstars.

Given the world that we are in right now, what would you choose to challenge and why would you choose it/them? How would you turn this into tangible changes?

Majority of men understand why women should have equal opportunities. 

Those men who do but still resist, I would challenge them to think about the benefits that more competition brings to them. 

With a growth mindset and a passion for lifelong learning, we can all leverage our increased competition, especially from people different from us. And imagine, where would science and technology be now if women had an equal chance for education and advancements from the start.

Are there collaborators and/or resources that you foresee would help you achieve this/these change(s)? How could we make this happen?

Everyone we meet needs to become our collaborator. And life is the best resource. 

We just need to learn to think like a scientist, form our hypothesis based on patterns we notice and try to prove ourselves wrong. And if we do it like good scientists, we will arrive at the same conclusion. 

We will all benefit from women having equal opportunities.

Thank you Balazs for sharing your perspectives. It gives me food for thought on what needs to be worked on so that we can collectively become a better force for good!

Li Lian Liew EMBA’13Dec – President INSEAD Alumni Club Women in Business