START-UP STORIES

                         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!


Founded in 1988, Avast is the first Czech company to become a Unicorn. 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 currently provides its software to hundreds of millions people around the globe and resides in offices in the Czech Republic, US, EU, China and Japan. 

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 Avast Foundation, which they entrusted in the hands of their spouses.

Kiwi.com is a Czech online transport searching platform creating full travel plans for their 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.

Productboard is the rising star of the Czech start-up scene at the moment. 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 prioritising 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 raised $18M in Series A Round so far. The startup (launched at TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield in San Francisco) has gained investment from prestigious VCs such as Kleiner Perkins (US), Index Ventures (UK/US), Credo Ventures, Rockaway Capital and Reflex Capital (Czechia).

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 skilful 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 or 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 utilise actionable insights derived from gathering and transformation of 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.

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, who 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 in Cisco's own security intelligence. 

Michal Pechoucek, Co-Founder, has been recently announced to become the CTO of Avast, whilst Martin Rehak, Co-Founder, has remained in the start-up scene and works in his second business venture, Bulletproof AI.

Stories was a business data analytics company founded in 2015 and acquired by Workday in 2018. The cloud ERP system provider has incorporated Stories' technology combining AI and machine learning automating the process of data analysis into their existing products. The Czech start-up managed to create a tool that delivered 50 times faster results and personalised insights contributing to higher revenues of customers across all industries.

Filip Rousek, Vojta Rocek and Peter Fedorocko, Founders, have been assigned to build a development centre for Workday in Prague, Czech Republic.

Brand Embassy was a Prague-founded digital customer service platform providing scalable integration of more than 35 social media channels. Brand Embassy integrated and analysed incoming requests from customers from multiple sources, which made it possible for companies to accommodate the tech-savvy part of population preferring chatting over phoning. 

Vit Horky and Damian Brhel, Founders of Brand Embassy, accompanied by their investors from Rockaway Capital and Reflex Capital, sold their shares of the eight year old company to the world's leader in digitised customer care, Israeli NICE.

Apiary was founded in 2011 and acquired by Oracle six years later. It was a front-end solutions provider that enabled its users to create API (application programming interface), share it with colleagues and clients and test it without writing any code. Its pioneering idea started with API creation and encompassed stages like design, governance, testing and documentation. Together with Oracle, the two have created the most complete API creation and management platform in the cloud.

Jakub Nesetril, Founder and CEO of Apiary, has ventured into the start-up world again by founding Cesko.Digital in 2019.

Klarity is a textbook example of fusing law and technology. Its founder Andrew Antos, a tech-savvy Harvard lawyer with a great passion for innovation, has recognised the need to introduce automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning into the paperwork-strained legal environment. He and Nischal Nadhamuni, an MIT Computer Science graduate, have developed a tool for law firms to screen sales contracts under clients' policies. The output is a document underlining problematic parts along with annotations and a summary.

More interactiveness and better exam results. Those are the main selling points of Lifeliqe, the first digital science curriculum. Supplementing textbooks with 3D models for better imagination and understanding, Lifeliqe transports middle and high school education into the digital era. More than 700 lesson plans and 1,300 3D and AR models engage pupils to the extent of scoring higher on tests and finding joy in learning.

Marc Andersen and Ondrej Homola co-founded the company in 2015 and chose San Francisco as the place for their headquarters.