THE ONES WHO PERSEVERED
Facing rejection is not easy, neither is going against the main stream. Fighting the constant pressure can be discouraging but success is worth the struggle.
We would like to recognize all the Czech entrepreneurs who didn't give up and followed their dream. It is difficult to reach the Golden Gates leading to the Valley but there are founders who believed it was possible. Check out the stories of those who made it and remember - you can be next!
In 2022, Productboard became the second Czech unicorn and the thousandth unicorn in the world. Founded with the vision to abandon old-fashioned and inflexible product management methods, the start-up has developed a platform enabling well-informed decision-making and prioritization for fast and accurate product placement on the market. Productboard incorporates customer feedback, team input, client correspondence, and financial results into one place and is expected to join the 'SaaS giants' such as Salesforce, Zendesk, and Workday soon.
Hubert Palan and Daniel Hejl established the company in 2014 and have reached $1.7 billion in value so far. The startup (launched at TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield in San Francisco) has gained investment from prestigious VCs such as Kleiner Perkins, Index Ventures, Credo Ventures, Dragoneer Investment Group, Tiger Global, and Sequoia Capital. The company is currently the most valuable startup in the Czech Republic.
Founded in 2010, the Czech company Avast continued in the footsteps of Alwil Software whose roots go back to 1988. The cybersecurity giant has reached its success by providing free software with the possibility to upgrade to a paid full-featured version of their antivirus. Avast provides its software to hundreds of millions of people around the globe and resides in offices in the Czech Republic, US, EU, China, and Japan. Currently, it operates as a division of NortonLifeLock after the merger in 2021.
Its founders - Pavel Baudis and Eduard Kucera - remain present in the company by being Members of the Board of Directors. The harmony of their close cooperation also led to the establishment of the Avast Foundation, which they entrusted to the hands of their spouses.
Beat Saber is a virtual reality rhythm game where you slash the beats of adrenaline-pumping music as they fly towards you, surrounded by a futuristic world. It was developed by Beat Games, an indie game studio based in Prague, Czech Republic. The game was released for Microsoft Windows and PlayStation 4 in May 2019. Later that year, Beat Games was acquired by Oculus Studios/Facebook Technologies.
Michaela Dvořáková, head of marketing, Jaroslav Beck, composer, and Vladimír Hrinčár, programmer and designer, attended the Game Developers Choice Awards held during the Game Developers Conference 2019 where Beat Games won the Best VR/AR Game Award and Beat Saber won the Audience Award. Until today, the game sold over 4 million copies.
Deepnote is a collaborative data science notebook that is shareable, Jupyter-compatible, and runs in the cloud. Jakub Jurových, the founder, created the company to allow real-time collaboration of team members through an efficient and simple to use tool. Since its foundation in 2019, Deepnote helped many data teams including Discord, Webflow or Gusto to become more productive. Their global operations are managed from headquarters in Prague and San Francisco.
At the beginning of 2022, the company raised a 20 million dollar Series A round with the help of Index Ventures, Accel, Y Combinator, and Credo Ventures. It also cooperates with educational institutions like Harvard University, MIT or UCLA that use Deepnote on their courses.
Kiwi.com is a Czech online transport searching platform creating full travel plans for its customers. The company was founded in 2012 and is considered to be the runner-up for the Czech unicorn status. Oliver Dlouhy, Founder and CEO, has achieved a competitive edge by combining flights of airlines that normally do not cooperate. The company calls this Virtual Interlining, an algorithm specially designed to look for the cheapest routes.
Mr. Dlouhy, who has been included in Forbes Czech "30 under 30", managed to lead his company through a change questioned by many skeptics. His effort to differentiate the brand from competitors with similarly sounding names proved to be a critical step, which significantly contributed to Kiwi's success.
STRV is one of the fastest-growing European companies according to Financial Times' FT 1000. This software design & engineering company, which reported 770% growth between 2014 and 2017, has successfully expanded into the American market where it operates from offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Their army of skillful software engineers and designers works on apps for startups and Fortune 500 companies.
There were four young design and tech enthusiasts - Lubo Smid, Pavel Zeifart, David Semerad and Martin Stava - at the foundation of STRV in 2004. Since then they have grown their business so much that they have landed clients like Lufthansa, Microsoft, and Tinder which had always preferred to work in-house instead of collaborating with external companies.
GoodData has developed a Platform-as-a-Service that enables decision-makers to utilize actionable insights derived from gathering and transforming data and user input. Their platform is highly scalable, secure, and elastic, and encompasses the whole process of data ingestion to insights delivery. GoodData's solutions are used by more than 50 % of Fortune 500 companies who successfully drive change and innovation thanks to their platform.
Roman Stanek, one of the 50 most powerful people in enterprise tech (Business Insider), founded GoodData in 2007. Having had founded and sold two start-ups, he had sufficient amount of experience to build one of the leading business intelligence and big data analytics companies in the world. GoodData is currently backed up by Andreessen Horowitz, General Catalyst Partners, Intel Capital, and many others.
Yieldigo is a pricing platform that lets omnichannel retailers optimize their pricing strategies and predict key performance indicators. It enables retail pricing managers to continuously calculate the right everyday prices to meet their business objectives by using their chain-specific customer behavior data and selected pricing strategies. It is used by retail chains in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, and Germany.
Founded in 2016, the company secured its first angel investment and first team members in that same year. In 2020, it closed a two million euro investment with J&T Ventures, the Hungarian VC fund PortfoLion, and the American Alchemist Accelerator (Silicon Valley). The founders, Radim Dudek, Jiri Psota, and David Klecka, continue to cooperate with experts all around the world to improve their algorithms.
Supernova has been the first Czech start-up to be admitted and graduate from Y Combinator, the most prestigious start-up accelerator on the planet. Their revolutionary idea to create an environment where coding and design are interconnected facilitates app development for all major platforms such as iOS, Android, React Native, and Flutter. Supernova enables its users to upload design prototypes from different sources (i.e. Sketch) and work on them further while testing the app directly in the editor.
Founded by Jiri Trecak and Oskar Koristka in 2018, Supernova has been backed by venture capital firms such as Credo Ventures or EQT Ventures which have invested $1.6M so far.
Cognitive Security was founded in 2008 and focused on network security research and applying artificial intelligence techniques in order to detect advanced cyber threats. The company was acquired by the American tech behemoth Cisco in 2013. Their software was incorporated into Cisco's own security intelligence.
Michal Pechoucek, a Co-Founder, has been recently announced to become the CTO of Avast, whilst Martin Rehak, a Co-Founder, has remained in the start-up scene and works in his second business venture, Bulletproof AI.