Roman Stanek - The Serial Entrepreneur Taking Ideas to the Clouds
Roman Stanek, one of the founding Ariadne Capital investing members, was born during the Communist regime in former Czechslovakia. His entrepreneurial streak started early - shortly after graduating from the Czech Technical University in Prague, he began building businesses. Despite not having access to a computer at school, he distributed U.S. software in Eastern Europe – but with the rise of the internet and the ability to download software online, his business vanished. However the idea that trade links between Eastern Europe and the US were strengthening inspired Roman to pursue this line of business again.
Image: Roman Stanek - Founder of GoodData
Roman started his first software company, NetBeans, in Prague in 1997. In just 18 months, they had 100,000 software downloads and Sun Microsystems soon bought the company for just over $10 million. Roman was quickly establishing another company, Systinet, based on web services. It grew to be a leading SOA governance platform and another of Roman's companies were acquired – this time by HP for $105 million.
Following a stint working for HP, Roman founded GoodData in 2008 to focus on an area that Roman strongly believes to be the most important emerging sector for businesses: cloud computing. GoodData provides a unique cloud analytics platform that drives business-changing understandings – allowing for business agility and improvement. Roman spoke to EntrepreneurCountry about his journey and gave insights into an expanding and emergent industry.
Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?
"Surprisingly, I started out interested in pursuing a degree in accounting. However, as I was introduced to technology, I saw the promise it held and the opportunities it afforded for international collaboration. I was convinced that the move to the digital sphere would accelerate world business growth. Once I began working in the technology sector, I was sucked in. The validation for successfully selling a product that carries significant business value is tremendous, so my approach has focused on maximizing that value for business users."
You are originally from the Czech Republic, what is the entrepreneurial ecosystem like?
"The age of the internet has created the possibility for those hard-working people with the right vision, execution, and team to become internationally successful entrepreneurs. This is true in the Czech Republic and the rest of Europe, South America, Asia, Australia and everywhere else. While in the Czech Republic it is a challenge to break out globally, the possibility of success is still apparent, with companies like GoodData, AVG, Avast and Seznam sticking out as key examples. Czech entrepreneurs and technologists work incredibly hard."
'Cloud' has become a buzzword recently and is becoming more and more prevalent in everyday lives - how do you think it is going to evolve over the next few years?
"The buzz around cloud technology is like that which developed around the invention of electricity as it transitioned from an individual endeavour to a community-wide service. At first, each company produced its own electricity by purchasing and maintaining generators that had to be kept up and serviced on a regular basis. The technology continued to evolve and the generators provided unreliable and expensive service. The move to relying on the public grid changed all that. People and companies no longer needed to rely on personal generators because instead they could pay a fee for more reliable electricity service from the grid.
This is the ideal analogy to illustrate the cloud. Until recently, people have relied on their own unreliable data centres which they have needed to maintain and upgrade regularly. This approach is time consuming, resource-intensive and rudimentary. Privacy and security are of constant concern. Today we see the transition to mobile and slowly it is becoming apparent that the concept that everyone needs a data centre is as foreign as the idea that every company needs its own electricity generator. The transition to the public grid took about five years. Even if the transition to the cloud takes ten years, that will be phenomenally fast."
Incidents like the Apple hack this year heighten concerns with new technology, how would you respond to security fears?
"Let's take a look at one of the most recent security incidents, the Sony Pictures hack that released proprietary information and leaked embarrassing emails. Imagine what might have occurred had Sony leveraged the email services of a platform like Google for their internal email as opposed to building and maintaining their own systems. The team at Gmail focuses significant efforts on immediately reacting to any security or privacy concern. They monitor constantly and employ experts to combat and alleviate any concerns in order to maintain data integrity and privacy. Ultimately, cloud services are more secure than their on-premises counterparts, a fact that is illustrated by the fact that every year, on-premises environment users experience on average more attacks than service provider environment customers."
Cloud and big data is a rather crowded market. How do you stay ahead of the competition?
"The most important way to stay ahead of the competition is to have the best people on your team. At GoodData, our commitment to excellence persists in every aspect of the organization and every stage of the employee lifecycle. From the recruitment process onward, we seek out the most talented individuals from a diverse set of backgrounds. Our people are goal-driven, team-oriented and unafraid of tackling the complex problems of the cloud computing and analytics space. At the end of the day, our enduring competitiveness is defined by our team."
What are your future plans for GoodData?
"I am focused entirely on the growth and success of the company. We will continue to differentiate the platform and deliver the highest quality of service to our customers. I have never had an exit strategy for any of my startups. It's just wrong perspective on building a business. Rather, I am entirely engaged with ensuring the happiness of our customers, employees and investors, which is a key indicator of GoodData's business trajectory."
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs?
"Life as an entrepreneur is extremely challenging. I recommend that you look to mentors and trusted sources, such as entrepreneurcountry. The experience you gain in learning to accelerate your business must be organic. However, trusted parties will be invaluable in the process of developing, building and scaling your vision. And if you have the best team and the right support, you can take your ideas into the clouds."
Roman was speaking to Dan Ginger - you can find out more about GoodData here.