we were all exited to spot Steve tweeting about visiting Prague. Steve was very kind to spare his vacation time and meet with a group of around thirty startup enthusiasts.
Vojta Bednar from tyinternety.cz with a great help of Lenka Kucerova from StartupYard organized the meeting as a part of the “Ve sklepe” series. It was for the first time in English. Around thirty Prague startup fans watching twitter noticed this opportunity and rushed to meet Steve. The meeting took place in a Romanic style cellar with very quite, centuries old atmosphere in the center of Prague. At the beginning the cellar was very quite not only because the cell phones were organically shut off (no signal in the cellar), but all watched Steve with dignity and respect. Steve immediately noticed that and started asking questions provoking the audience. After a while the atmosphere became very open and friendly. At the end the viewers were firing one question after another. Steve was great, fast talking with the typically American clarity and focus on action. I really liked his formulations and statements. I engaged with him immediately. I know very well all his presentations from YouTube and I was happy to find him very energetic and practical finally in the real life too. I also admire very much Steve's motivation. He feels it is his obligation to give up his experience to the world.
At the beginning he presented a very brief cv. Then Vojta started asking questions. Steve was talking about his companies, how he got on the cover of Wired magazine, what is the role of governments supporting entrepreneurship, how he came up with the idea of teaching the art of startup. He has also mentioned the latest idea to use the methodology of the Internet or technological startup and apply it to the rest (99%) of startups growing everywhere. He also disclosed the topic of his next blogs. He will focus on the corporate innovation. I also liked his description of the democratization of the entrepreneurship: we all have equal access to information, the real problem is how to sort it. Elaborating on what is the best location for startup, he has explained how unique is Silicon Valley and how difficult it is to start global IT company elsewhere. He mentioned Singapore, Finland and Israel as the centers with talent concentration. Overall there were many topics he has touched and made many interesting statements. I am not going to details. I am sure you all will see the video on the tyinternety.cz pages real soon. Do not miss it.
We spent almost two hours in the cellar and then we have continued in a nearby pub drinking bier. This was the best opportunity for me to get signed his latest book “The Startup Owner's Manual“. For me it was great to meet Steve and get motivated for further work with my students. The biggest highlight was to realize Steve has read my last blog about the Startup Summit. Yes, maybe I am the only one blogging in English about startups in the Czech Republic ... I will end with quoting Steve: Startup is the inverse of the iq test. And I will add: therefore do not be afraid and start something …
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Cloud Computing Center (3C) is introducing two new mobile applications: nejremeslnici.cz job bidding Android application is on the Google Play. The second, czSMS enables sending free SMS and it will be available really soon for Android, iPhone, Bada, and Win.
This time time I will share with you two interesting applications resulting from baccalaurean projects.
Nejresmeslnici.cz is a startup Internet company. It helps their customers finding craftsmen companies offering household maintenance, small home improvement up to finding a construction company. So far the craftsmen were biding in the evening when they got to their computer. Martin's project was to design new Android app allowing immediate reaction. Martin went through the typical development steps for a mobile application. First he has designed the wireframes, which were extensively discussed with nejremeslinici to come to a final layout. The next step was to create Android wrappers for the portal REST API. The portal developers implemented the C2DM Android protocol allowing to send instant notification of filtered job requests. Finally the whole application was implemented and tested. The audience is limited to the companies associated with the portal. Application is offered to customers gradually to discover bugs. The current google analytics numbers are showing that 10% of the companies are already using it. 98% are returning customers and the number of sessions is climbing. I am very happy that we have managed to get it on the market and make it available for customers.
The next application is czSMS project. Jan has decided to revive his first full-featured Android application providing free texting within the Czech Republic. His czSMS was abandoned more than one year ago. He has decided to improve it and make it available again, this time for a variety of mobile platforms (Android, Windows Phone, Samsung Bada, iOS). After deep comparison of many multi platform frameworks Jan has chosen PhoneGap. The new version of czSMS allows users sending free (connectivity required) text messages enabling access to four SMS gateways provided by the local GSM operators. The gateways are written for non-mobile browsers and the whole interaction needs to be simulated, which was the biggest challenge in this project. Each of the gateways interaction sw is implemented as a separate module to allow simple modification. In addition the application manages message history and displays texting statistics. Currently it is in a pilot testing on all mentioned platforms and we expect to see it on markets in one max. two months. Stay tuned I let you know.
The Cloud Computing Center (3C) has produces two first practical applications. There are many more in preparation. I am sure the new apps will be also much more elaborate. Wait, I will soon describe our new projects.
Saturday, June 16, 2012
I attended the Startup Summit conference yesterday in Prague. This was the first event bringing together almost all startup enthusiasts from the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Everybody was there. Let me share with you some of the highlights.
I go to conferences because I like networking. People are coming relaxed and they are happy to talk to each other. The Startup Summit was no exception. I enjoyed meeting friends and it was not just me, nobody wanted to stop chatting, drinking coffee and return for presentations.
Because of networking I have missed the opening keynotes, but I came on time for the two Ondrej's Bartos (Credo Ventures) and Raska (Miton) conversation moderated by Zdenek Cedra. The discussion or dispute was about creating global or local startups. Both made strong statements, such as “if you did not sell anythig in the age of 15 do not create startup, work for McKinsey”. Raska is successfully running local companies, but I am more on the Bartos’s side. He defines a startup as a global company, scalable and capable of growing. On the other hand there are many businesses, which are by nature local and there is nothing wrong about them. Both agreed that the local market is in many ways different then global market. During the discussion they have asked the audience an interesting question: How long will the Czech market exist? The major global labels are penetrating, creating local versions of the global products. Good question but we still like portals such as seznam.cz …
Rastislav Turek, (synopsi.tv) and Jakub Mach (zoomsphere.com) were the next discussing about the local versus global. Jakub was the most controversial speaker of the day with a very unique insight. He was criticizing developers for shooting for trendy apps and surfing on waves of currently cool trends. His advice: ask the countryman to discover real problems. He also questioned the number of unique users as the only criteria of success. He also criticized the local mentors for seeking too much social credit. He also criticized them for trying to advice but having nothing new to contribute, their last Internet victory is ten years old. Yes, he was negative and controversial, but in some sense he raised good points.
Game developers have shown a strong presence. Milos Enderle was representing a very successful company Geewa. His thoughts were interesting for me, since I have no idea about games. His company creates so called casual games, easy to enter, hard to master and difficult to stay on top. Games last between 5 to 20 min. The company has 28 people and subsidiary in Berlin. Geewa is very player focused. The most interesting statement: we have shortened the update cycle to one day. It takes MS one year, Google one month, but we update or improve our products everyday.
Jakub Dvorsky is another star on the gaming sky. He is an artist developing aesthetic creations of new worlds. His games are graphically very unique. He enjoyes his job, he has no special market strategy, he is just developing what he and his friends like. So far it works for his company Amanita Design very well. They are very successful and have lot of fans, Check them up!
In the afternoon before the end of the conference we have seen some of the best startups followed by presentations of incubators and events helping to the startup folks. I must not forget, I have pitched the eClub and I have also been on the stage for the startup and university block discussion, but I’ll try to report about this other time. Check the Startup Summit pages for more info.
The startup movement is getting stronger and more and more new companies are emerging in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the Central Europe. We need more of these events to create new connections and help each other. Great event, I'll join next year again.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
This is the second part describing the next batch of theses in the 3C. Many interesting and practical projects emerged. All are bringing up new applications or research opportunities. I also have to proudly report: all my master students defended the theses successfully.
"Mobile sales support applications" proposed by Vratislav Zima is designing a nice application for Android cell phones. The idea is simple. Teenage girls, based on Vrata’s market research, rely very much on others opinion when shopping for new fashion. The application allows them to take a picture of a new shirt or skirt and place it on Facebook. Real experiments show that the outfits collect the “likes” very fast and help girls to make the purchase decision. In return for placing their snaps on the net they get discount QR codes. The app also takes advantage of the location services. The theses is describing all the implementation detail. Are you interested? Let me know.
"Interfacing an Android native app t"o PHP web server" (in Czech) is another theses with the Internet focus. Martin Falta, designed Android application for young parents. The Babywebik app is offering a simple system for collecting and placing kids pictures on the Internet and share them with friends or family. The app is interfacing to an existing portal babywebik.cz and it shows how to connect mobile client to an existing PHP based portal. Since the REST architecture is popular in our lab I have insisted on creating a server wrapper, which is converting a PHP based server to REST architecture. Native Android client communicates with the server and implements simple functionality: photo collection, creating comments etc. Testing and UI optimization are explained in the theses too. I am looking forward to see the application running and I wish the babywebik team lot of users.
Ludvík Haltuf is one of the shining students, he achieved a top ranking - triple A in the state exam, congratulations! His thesis "REST API testing" analyses the REST architectural style and designs a testing and compliance tool. The idea for the project has been originally suggested by Filip who is the author a very successful Dev HTTP client app. There is a lot of controversies these days about REST API compliance. Many APIs claim to be RESTful but missing some of the essential details. Here comes the Ludviks’s application, use it to analyze your API and learn how to fix the problems. I hope, these two apps will merge and bring to the market the best HTTP analyzing tool.
Tomáš Lucovič works in a small startup offering Internet apps development and services. They use lot of students and contractors. What is the typical problem? How to track the cost, how to predict the project duration? The company uses Pivotal Tracker but the duration and cost tracking functionality is missing. In his “Time tickets” (in Czech) theses he has designed an add-on application for Pivotal Tracker. It implements user-friendly and easy to use UI for time tracking with minimum users requirements. In the development process a programmer is picking new and reporting finished tasks through the Pivotal Tracker. Once a task is completed the add-on generates an email or IM and the programmer replies by clicking on predefined task duration. It typically costs two clicks only. The add-on generates reports for the developer and the project manager. The cost is simply derived as a product of worked hours and the cost of an hour. The application is designed and implemented in RoR and hosted on Heroku.
Some more baccalaurean theses next time, stay tuned.