by Zuzana Ziaranova, Tatra banka |
In the second of three interviews, Juraj Holub, marketing director of Slido, talks about the current Slovak startup scene, tipps for running a successful startup and the dark side of success.
Slido, an application created in Slovakia makes events more interactive and has become a favourite international tool for conferences in the course of a few years. Its founders came to London as backpackers to subsequently conquer the USA, Asia and Australia. Meanwhile, even Elon Musk, famous inventor and visionary, answers questions people send via the Slido application, for example during this year´s SXSW in Austin. Slido has been cooperating with Tatra banka cooperating since 2014.
What would you advise a young person who considers setting up their own startup?
When it sets in motion, your startup will completely swallow you. That’s why it is so crucial to find an issue or area that personally grabs you so that you will be willing to sacrifice weekends, Friday nights or years without a vacation. If you succeed, you will be unable to imagine living any other way. It is amazing to have the opportunity to create and influence things around you.
When is the critical moment for a startup’s survival?
There are really a lot of such moments. As all the guides state, at the very beginning it is crucial to validate your proof of concept, to find out whether people are interested in the product. And even more important – are they willing to pay? The rule is: 100 users loving your product is better than 10,000 users who only like it. Those 100 users will become your ambassadors and will help you share and market the product.
The beginning was critical for us because Slido was tested for the first time in conference reality. We had two successful big events in the course of one week. Currently, 2,500 events are using us weekly compared to 250 events a year in 2013. But it was a big deal for us back then. It boosted our confidence that it could work.
Then the growth phases come, with their various challenges – be it product scaling, ensuring sufficient client support or building internal communication. You can compare each phase to a Super Mario level. In order to move forward you have to defeat the boss at the end of a level. The higher level you play, the more powerful the boss is.
A relatively small team grew into an international startup. Is there a dark side of this success?
As they say, overnight success takes twenty-five years. Social media usually show you only the moments of glory. However, they are ephemeral and often preceded by days and days of hard work.
I am an enthusiast of long-distance cycling and it inspires me a lot in business as well. I like explaining success as the moment when you reach the top of the hill and your reward awaits you – the ride down. You are flushed by endorphins and ride down. But sooner or later another climb will follow. One cannot exist without the other. It just does not work like that.
Later on, with things finally set in motion, the startup can completely gobble you up and strongly interfere with your personal life. You need to be ready for that. If only that were possible…
How do your business partners view you coming from Slovakia?
They do not care about it. Abroad and mainly in the U.S. the customers care whether you can fulfill their expectations and deliver the demanded service or not. Funny thing is that many Slovaks are surprised that we are a Slovak company.
What do you think about the current Slovak startup scene? Is there still a potential to generate projects of a similar success?
Yes, no doubt. There are fantastic Slovak companies with global ambitions such as Exponea, DECENT or Vectary. Personally, I am also a big fan of Crafting Plastics which has developed a bio-degradable plastic material. Such a project has the potential to help save our planet from the mountains of plastic in which we are beginning to drown.
Stay tuned for the next interview with Juraj Holub, when he gives insights into “The secrets of a top presentation”