You must have heard about them. You saw them in other people's mailboxes, or you use them yourself. We are talking about the Avast and AVG antiviruses, the industry’s global leaders from small country in central Europe. How did Czech companies manage to surpass their worldwide competition? Where does their uniqueness come from?
Czechoslovakia ceased to exist as a country on New Year’s Eve 1992. Ten months after the Internet was introduced in the small country. Despite the relative novelty of both the country and its connection to modern technology, it became the birthplace of companies protecting hundreds of thousands of Internet users, and which rule the world markets in their fields. According to Metadefender , a whole third of Windows users in the world protect their computers against malware with the help of Czech and Slovak companies. These “Czechoslovak” antivirus companies are even more dominant in other statistics and indexes.
The history of Avast, the largest one, begins in 1988, when Pavel Baudiš, then an employee of the Institute for Mathematical Machines, wrote a programme which laid the foundations of many security solutions of the future company. He and his colleague, Eduard Kučera, named the antivirus Avast, an acronym. At the time they had no idea that it also was a nautical (and pirate) expression for “attention” or “stop”.
It was only at the beginning of the 90s, that computers found their way into common
people´s living rooms. As western software was rolling to the east, Avast took the opposite direction -- and charged westwards. And it succeeded. Its key product, Avast Free Antivirus, was offered to people, eponymically, for free. “It was a paradox but we really started to make money after we started offering Avast for free,” founding members of the company have summed up in an interview for Český rozhlas. They built up their business plan on a freely spreading antivirus for the end users, and additional products, mainly for companies.
At the beginning of the last decade, Avast became one ofthe biggest players in the industry, and, later, its leader. Last year, what seemed the next logical step for Avast was finally announced officially -- the acquisition of the company’s childhood rival, another Czech company, AVG from Brno. Their stories are quite similar. The rivalry, like the companies, started almost three decades ago.
AVG also became successful due to offering its product free, with the AVG AntiVirus Free Edition. There is one major difference between the two though: AVG went to the stock exchange, and their entering NASDAQ in 2012 was the first time a Czech IPO had a presence on a big foreign market.
400 + MILLION USERS
The AVG sticker is on Wall Street no more, a result of their merger with Avast.
“We thought we would be in a stronger positions against the new Chinese competitors, and Microsoft,” explained the boss of the “new” Avast, Vince Steckler. The merger created a company with 714 million dollars in income and 353 million dollars of profit.
130 MILLION ATTACKS
Other numbers from 2016 are interesting too: Avast products have prevented 130 million blackmailing attacks, saving users 64 billions dollars.
Both the Avast founders are now among the richest Czechs, but they don’t rest on their laurels. They dedicate their time to new startups now. Besides buying a few of them for Avast, ( the Czech Inmite, the American Remotium, Secure.me or Jumpshot) they also invest as through Credo Ventures fund.
The biggest hit created via Credo was Cognitive Security, a company which develops artificial intelligence, monitoring security threats in networks as a whole. In 2013 it was bought by Cisco.
A LOT OF BIG COMPANIES HAVE THEIR RESEARCH CENTRES HERE.
WHICH ONES? WHAT DO THEY DO HERE? AND WHY ARE THEY HERE?
The third biggest centre for research and construction of modern vehicles (railway and city public transport)
Countrywide: research and developmepment for Siemens 600 experts (Prague, Brno, Pilsen, Ostrava)
Research, development and production of technologies for ignition and diesel engines.
The biggest R&D centre of Bosch in Europe and a world competitive centre.
Research, development and production of technologies for ignition and diesel engines.
Prague & Hradec Králové: thinking about testing engines at the HK airport: only 5 existing centres like that in the world.
Development center for Skype.
Prague - 250 developers
Development and creation of software for industrial automatization, industry 4.0, artificial inteligence and cyber safety.
Prague: centre for research and development in eastern Europe
Development of web and mobile applications for control and intervention of communication with the user.
Prague: building up research and development centre, new products and smart solutions for Smart Home, Start Cities, Smart Energy, Automotive - one of a kind in Europe.
Business, localizing and technological centre, expansion of cloud technologies.
Prague: local development centre for Java. Brno: NetSuite: development centre of cloud technologies for companies.
Research and development of medical treatment for breast cancer, using IBM Watson technology for data analysis.
Prague: one of the five IT service centres in the world, 500 employees.
02. WORLDWIDE SUCCESS OF NEW COMPANIES
WHAT DO THEY DO AND WHY ARE THEY SO SPECIAL?
You know them, and if not, you will get to know them soon. These are the four most successful young companies from the Czech Republic which give the scare even toworld leaders. Please meet them.
USE: AIRTICKET BROWSER
FOUNDER: OLIVER DLOUHÝ
He was confident. Oliver Dlouhý believed from the beginning that his company had a chance to succeed all over the world. Today - just five years later - it already is among the biggest browsers and vendors of air tickets in the world. And it is not enough for Oliver. His Kiwi (formerly SkyPicker) aims at becoming a global player in the tourist trade. Everything started very furtively: with a trip to Portugal.
Oliver, who is only 28 years old, found a connection himself and paid only a fraction of the usual internet prices. This experience was a foundation for the birth of a company with an estimated turnover of roughly 1 bln. CZK this year, making it the fastest growing technological company in Europe.
What is different about Kiwi? In contrast to its competitors, Kiwi´s unique algorithm is able to combine flights from companies that do not . That’s why the service is most valuable when one has to do transfer flights. The most prominent markets for Kiwi are North America, Asia and Europe these days. Due to its fast expansion, the company will have branches in the Philippines, South Africa and China. A Barcelona branch is already open and a new development centre is being built in Prague, where artificial intelligence for communication with customers should be developed.
USE: SOCIAL NETWORKS ANALYSIS
FOUNDER: JAN ŘEŽÁB, LUKÁŠ MAIXNER, MARTIN HOMOLKA
Talking to the wall is worth nothing. Every company trying to communicate with customers knows this. What they might not know is where these people actually are and what is it that they want. After all, a garden pool commercial only makes your life in a tiny flat bitter.
SocialBakers, one of the most successful European startups, is here to help to solve this kind of a problem. It analyses data from social networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google+, VK.dom and others, and offers recommendations to companies as to how and where to address customers. For example, they watch how people talk about different products or services on the Internet and they create precise marketing tools. There is huge load of information SocialBakers are able to analyse.
Their services are used by big global players like Nestlé, Lenovo, Samsung, Microsoft or Toyota. SocialBakers have thousands of customers all over the world and branches in New York, London, Singapore, Munich or Sao Paolo. The company gained big investments for its development and this year finally started to run on profit.
USE: BIG DATA MONITORING AND ANALYSIS
FOUNDER: ROMAN STANĚK
We are right at the beginning. Big data will become really BIG in a few years, and will become the heart of new companies. GoodData, established and still being developed in Czechia, counts on that. They have dozens of thousands of customers, mostly in the US, but they keep on growing in Latin America and have big ambitions in Europe too.
GoodData, seated in San Francisco, discovered the charm of cloud on time, and offer their solutions in cloud model. They create analysis, visualisations and other ways of processing data from different sources and applications. On the list of their clients is for example Mastercard and many other global and smaller companies from different fields. In the latest global chart CRN 40, the list of the coolest companies in business analytics, GoodData was listed on the the 15th place.
The visionaire Roman Staněk, who stood, at the birth of the most widespread programming platform for Java NetBeans (bought by Sun Microsystems), before creating GoodData, is more than sure that we are just at the beginning of a Big Data age. As Internet of Things develops and everything will be communicating with everything in the nearest future, even more and more data - and the need for their analysis - will be created.
FOUNDER: MARTIN PEJŠA
CreativeDock started as a passion project for a group of managers from Vodafone Czech Republic. After almost ten years of existence it not only maintains a blinding tempo in growth, but also its position on the edge of different markets across Europe.
CreativeDock is a startup generator, essentially a startup manufacture, helping large corporations and other institutions disrupt the market with projects based on bleedingedge technology, a flat managerial structure, and a unique and streamlined process which allows immediately testing potentially viable ideas on the market, later scaling those ideas, which have proven themselves, to size.
The projects CreativeDock does are as varied as shared economybased lending services in the form of Zonky, a carsharing service called HoppyGo, an accounting startup Sečteno, or a service CareDriver which takes care of children and elderly. The company is expanding massively and apart from its home base in Prague, it also operates in Hungary, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, and also across the ocean, in Canada.
HANDED OVER TO THE CLIENT
03. WHAT NAMES WE SHOULD REMEMBER?
04. WHO SUPPORTS STARTUPS AND INNOVATIONS?
WHERE THE MYCELIUM FROM THEIR BIRTH IS BEING CREATED?
SOUTH MORAVIAN INNOVATION CENTER (JIC)
A collective project of the region of South Moravia, the city of Brno and the local universities, it chooses interesting projects for its incubator, and at the same time accelerates the development of couple of other in the prestigious acceleration competition Star Cube. During this time Brno becomes - when it comes to startups - the capital of the Czech Republic for a day. Through JIC went since it foundation in 2003 more that 230 companies including printing solutions Y Soft, browser Kiwi.com or navigation systems GINA.
Besides technological schools even Prague’s University of Economics is educating young entrepreneurs and has its own startup program. It offers incubation time, acceleration and every year show together with a competition. In the school building the starting projects can your its shared open space and services of experienced mentors.
One of the best rated Czech universities, the Czech Technical University chooses projects for the incubator twice a year. Besides a coworking center and a classical administrative help it offers a transmission of experts experiences or support to young companies , with creating so called spin offs - or commercialization of outcomes from originally scientific projects.
An agency of the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade prepares a couple of interesting programs for startups. CzechStarter is a couple of month long incubator, CzechDemo provides attendances on events like TechCrunch Disrupt. CzechMatch helps to search for suitable investors and popular CzechAccelerator offer internships for couple of months in global startups centres like Silicon Valley, east coast of USA or Singapore.