WHILE some of them already have some experience, others are just setting out on their careers. But all of them see their three months in Silicon Valley as a great chance to meet investors and mentors, as well as other young entrepreneurs from around the globe. The Slovak Spectator spoke with representatives of the four companies that won the inaugural year of the Startup Awards.SK contest – Michal Truban, CEO of Nicereply; Róbert Mindžák, co-founder and CEO of CoverPage; Richard Voda, co-founder of WorkInField; and Martin Jerkovič, co-founder of Studentive – about their projects and their experiences so far –the first two companies already have representatives at Plug and Play – and their expectations for their stay in Silicon Valley.
The Slovak Spectator (TSS): Which project or service did you enter in the Startup Awards.SK contest?
Michal Truban (MT): We entered the Startup Awards.SK competition with nicereply.com, an online analytical tool used for measuring customer satisfaction.
Róbert Mindžák (RM): Monogram enrolled in the competition with its CoverPage startup project. This is a tool for digital publishing designed for individuals and small creative groups. Our solution is appealing not only for big companies but also for groups which cannot afford large investments either in people or expensive technologies. CoverPage is easy to control, with multimedia and interactive features. We are changing the view of digital publishing.
Richard Voda (RV): WorkInField is a free smartphone app and cloud-based web service that makes it easy to track work mileage, trips and jobs. It’s designed for solo workers and companies on the go. You can easily extend the app to keep track of your entire mobile workforce and vehicle fleet.
Martin Jerkovič (MJ): Studentive is a web platform that connects students and companies based on a unique way of interaction called challenge to bring valuable real work experience to students (so they get references on their CVs) and, vice versa, to bring talented students to companies. A challenge is any task that a company needs to get done or based on which a company is able to distinguish talent from mass – programming, web design, marketing strategy, case studies, business plans, etc. Studentive is a very simple hiring tool that helps reveal high-potential students, because the current way of doing that is costly and inefficient.
TSS: What does winning the main prize mean for your company?
MT: Winning first place brought the local media and investor attention to us, so our service is now a little bit better known and we have received some investment offers. Also, the prize is a confirmation that we are doing our work right.
RM: Victory in the competition means for us the confirmation of two things. The first is that we have set out on the right path, which can lead to success in the international market. The second is that a good idea with excellent realisation can be conceived here in Slovakia. We are pleased with that and simultaneously it is a huge obligation for us.
RV: It creates publicity and visibility for our startup. We could see our web traffic went up, we have more people signing up for our private beta programme and we also see more people following us on Twitter. It’s also a great emotional push and recognition for hard work that keeps the entire team going.
MJ: First of all, it is an amazing feeling to succeed in such a tough competition with many great startups from Slovakia. Our team and project was at the time only one month old after winning Startup Weekend Bratislava. Despite that we were able to successfully place among three spin-offs, i.e. projects that come from their former, previously-established companies. What we appreciate the most is the fact that these victories show that our project and our team stand for something and we want to prove that in Silicon Valley as well.
TSS: What do you expect your stay at the Plug and Play technology incubator in Silicon Valley to bring you?
MT: Our personal goal is to understand how the startup ecosystem works in Silicon Valley. We then want to be able to take this knowledge to Slovakia and improve the local startup scene that is currently concentrated around StartupCamp.sk. For nicereply.com, we want to strengthen and build new strategic partnerships with business partners from the Bay Area.
RM: The Plug and Play incubator is an excellent place to get established in the market. This is a place where one can find out how the IT business actually works and how to get an investor for the next development. It offers excellent opportunities, especially for networking. California has the biggest potential in terms of available money as well as talent on the IT market.