The only right moment for starting a business does not exist
Companies know that they need to invest in similar systems and their promotion. We have a better position than carmakers.
The Internet allows you to be in one place, and anywhere in the world, to communicate at any moment with anyone. And it also facilitates business. The company of Petr Palas, a FI alumnus, is based in Brno, but thanks to the Internet, its customers from all over the world use his Kentico Software products.
"Although we are operating in Brno, it does not limit our possibilities of where we get clients," says an alumnus of the Faculty of Informatics at Masaryk University, whose company works with companies such as Microsoft, McDonald's, Guinness or Audi.
The name "Palas" or the name of his business does not tell ordinary people anything. Reason? Every one of us goes through tens or hundreds of websites each day, but he has little or no chance of asking who is behind them. Palas and his company are just the answer to this question. They provide content management systems for websites of mentioned brands.
Did you belong to those who wanted to have a business since joining college?
No, I did not think I was going to start a business. But I started working during my first semester at college. I worked in Moravia IT company where I learned a lot. Later on, I started working on a marketing position, gaining insight, which then allowed me to start my own business. During my studies, I had an idea of what I wanted to do. I only founded Kentico after the studies in 2004. I already knew that I wanted to do business in the field of content management systems.
Were you able to work while studying?
It was fine. When one has the motivation to study and work, it can be combined. Besides, in the company, we are starting to hire students from the beginning. It's the easiest way for us to get good employees and not to get people elsewhere. We also used students from the first or second year, and we gradually educated them so that they could do what we need. Now we are more focused on recruiting graduates. Employing undergraduates has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, we get outstanding people before the competition notice. The disadvantage is that students are not so flexible in terms of time. It is difficult for them to stay at work longer when they have a rehearsal period.
Was the establishment of the firm simple then? I question that because Brno universities are educating a lot of young computer scientists, and there are many smaller or larger IT companies.
I did not find it difficult. Work has made me entertained from the beginning even though I started in a small attic office with my friend. I was there from morning till night, and I did not mind. I had a tremendous sense of self-realization, all of a sudden I could control everything and have everything under control. And even after six years, it makes me happy. There are still some new challenges, new things I can learn.
What exactly do you offer to companies and how does your collaboration work with them?
We offer a publishing system, a software that allows companies to manage their websites. We sell the system through a partner network, that is, we do not make websites, but we deliver the software to other companies that distribute it. Mostly, they are different marketing companies that care for their end-customers. We were paid to bet on the Microsoft platform; we are benefiting from its popularity.
Do not you meet your customers by yourselves and do not deal with them? Is everything always through the middleman?
Yes, everything works through a partner network. Today we have about a thousand partners in 80 countries.
So you are not dependent on one brokerage firm or the capabilities of one particular person.
Exactly. I have directed the company from the beginning to be international, and we will be selling software over the Internet around the world. That's why we've just picked up various partners in different countries. They found us somewhere online, tried our product, found it convenient and started offering it to our customers. The beginning was unmanaged, who came to us, he became a partner, we had no demands. But it gradually settled.
From this perspective, it seems that getting to companies like Microsoft is not so complicated for you.
Yes, we are based in Brno, but it is not important from our point of view, and it does not limit us.
At work for Microsoft, we still have to stop. How is it possible for a computer giant to use your system and not one of its own, which they for sure develop?
Microsoft has its product that is partly competing with us, but for some of their sites, they use our system. It is because some of our partners work for them. In their case, however, the situation is more complicated in that because we are talking about a colossus. Therefore, they do not insist that they only have to use their products.
Do you think if you started today, would it be starting the business more difficult?
Beginning in many disciplines can be done over and over again. It can not be said that just now is the right moment and it will not work any further. We had the advantage that we took a ride with the growth of a market that is still growing. Even today's crisis does not affect us in any particular way. But that also applies to our competitors. Companies know that they need to invest in similar systems and their promotion. We have a better position than carmakers. If the company in our business has something to offer to customers, it has a chance to push even further. There are the possibilities yet. That's why I think that even the one who starts today has the chance that his firm will take on the market. The market for publishing systems is huge, and no big player controls its half.
Do you know how your industry will evolve? Will companies focus on existing markets, or will they go to the East instead?
For us, it is still most interesting to go to the Western markets. Clients know what they want and how much they are willing to pay. There is a lot of competition, but with a relatively small effort, it is possible to reach out to a large number of buyers and, also, you always speak English. That is why the markets where we are successful today are the most interesting for us - North America, Western Europe, Australia.
So, in the East, even if you do not have competition there, none of you are ready to go?
Meanwhile, we are not focusing on these areas. In such countries, you have to build a background, have someone there who knows where to go and is well there. Especially in China or India. It's not just so easy from Brno via the internet. In the long run, it may be interesting, but not now. Even our competitors do not go to these countries.
In the East, you are troubled by the need to build a background that you do not need in more advanced countries as an internet company. Still, you have recently built a branch in the United States. Why?
Especially because we had more and more orders there, it's better that way. The United States is from beginning one of our leading countries in terms of sales, and our first customer has been from there as well. That's why we started in the US, but in the future we want to have branches in other countries as well.
Is it also that you want to be more visible and not just "virtual" from somewhere in Europe?
Yes. We have long presented ourselves as an American company, and many of our customers have only later discovered that we are not coming from the US. Thanks to our ability to provide technical support late at night, they saw us as a serious partner. The establishment of a branch has changed a lot, and the company has shifted a lot in advance, especially regarding marketing and sales. Because we are in the US, journalists and analysts are more serious about us. We managed to establish contacts with local experts from various consulting companies, and we started to make a name on the market faster. These people mention us in analyzes, which is the best advertisement for us along with the references of existing clients. We could not do it from the office in the Czech Republic. And it has a psychological impact. Even if Americans are not afraid to buy from abroad and are not particularly patriotic, when an American trader that knows the environment talk to them without an accent, it's better. It increases our credibility.