Updated: Nov 27, 2020
Creative Dock has a new CEO: IT specialist, manager and strategist Max Vrána. What brought him to the company and in which direction does he want to take Creative Dock? What does he want to change? Conversely, what does he want to learn? Why does the future lie in fintech, and where does he see the company in two years? What are the biggest obstacles to the rapid growth of the firm?
You’re 38, but your career story reads like that of somebody 10 years older. How do you explain this?
At university I studied at nuclear engineering and physics, in the software field, particularly mathematics and software. Well, instead of an easy job at McDonalds I wanted a temporary job in the industry I studied. So, I went straight to Unicorn Systems as a developer.
But you didn’t stay there long.
That’s true [laughs]. I was a rather average developer and didn’t really enjoy the work. So, I was a bit cheeky and managed to persuade my boss that I’d rather prefer to look at analysis. You know what it’s like, a student, and you get cocky. But it worked out and the change was a big kick up the backside. Then I became a business architect for banking and insurance. I worked on many projects for Česká spořitelna, Česká pojišťovna, Komerční banka, GE Money Bank, and Raiffeisenbank. There were lots of them. I did that for about two years, and I was also finishing university. It was absolutely crazy. I slept sometimes on the floor in my sleeping bag. Well, somehow it caught my imagination, and I stayed as a project manager after university.
Wait – but I read that you were a dealer, and you attracted loads of clients, so you were made a director for banking, insurance and then the car industry.
Yes, that’s true too. As the years went on. I wanted a change again and threw myself into sales. Then I spent loads of time at the clients, and it was a fantastic job. But lasted a long time. And I said to myself that after these 17 years I was tired anyway and I took a six-month break. A break from business.
And by chance you met Martin Pejša, the founder of Dock and your predecessor.
We’ll, it wasn’t a complete coincidence. I’ve known Martin for a long time and have been following Dock for several years. I was interested in what was happening there. But I had no idea that Dock now has so many branches abroad, so I was really excited about the idea that I could help building international sales. I spent hundreds of hours having animated discussions with Martin. The outcome was that we agreed that I would take on the role of Czech CEO, to free Martin up for international projects.
What are you getting involved in first?
I want to have status with every project and the whole team that’s working on it. I want to look at where we need to move in these projects and how to do so. But I want to spend a third of the time doing business. I think that every CEO should also be a salesperson. Otherwise, I don’t think things work very well. But Dock is quite a large company. So, my main goal for the next few weeks is to have the management in place so that under the current phenomenal growth we’ll have enough people in the right places, and good customer service. I also want to keep the atmosphere and spirit of Dock as we have now. Corporate culture is very important for people. But of course, it’s crucial for launching other successful great projects that in a particular sector change the world for the better. I’m thinking of Zonka, Lymet, and Virtuálni baterie from E.ON. That’s key.
When did you start with this long-term perspective? Say two to three years?
I’ll mention four things. First, build innovative firms for clients. I want it to be the case that when you say “Company Builder” to people anywhere in the EU Creative Dock comes to mind. Secondly, focus even more on the area we recently started with. Reconstruction of entire companies from the point of view of products, processes, customer relations, and such like. Thirdly, invest in own projects and not build new businesses just for contractors. And fourthly, more intensively support and with synergies connect our foreign affiliates. And thus, establish a presence in countries of interest where Dock has no presence yet.
Dock is now really building a name for itself in fintech. What is making it so interesting?
Fintech is an enormous business tool. Thanks to our current fintech projects, we’re building tools and procedures that we can then replicate and refine with more and more business propositions, anywhere in the world. Today, everybody is talking about blockchain, artificial intelligence, chatbots, virtual or augmented reality, and so on. But in most cases, they can’t even imagine life under it. But we’re now building on these technologies, and for us it’s kind of like of a conveyor belt in a factory. Like daily bread.
Is everything now about technology? You talk about artificial intelligence. Does that really mean that in a couple of years there will almost be no need for human input?
Nonsense. The essence of the company, its spirit, potential and greatest credit are, of course, people. Innovations don’t come about by running a computer iteration and an idea eventually emerging from it. You need to put together a great developer, an expert from a bank, an evangelist from an innovation team, then a practitioner who understands the implementation. Then of course there is the visionary leader. And all of them then will keep the rational project manager [laughter] in his or her place. And the team must be enthusiastic about the project, have a desire to change something and to prove ... In short, innovation and successful new startups aren’t an easy recipe. It’s work, work and more work. Human work, which no robot can do for us.
What do you think is most important for the future of Dock? What does it have in store for you?
I’ll just summarise what I said. An agile approach, cutting-edge technology, essential innovation and managing growth. That means keeping our approach and driving forward, but with a down-to-earth humility and doing so by following the strategic rules. That must be our long-term vision. I myself really appreciate now the opportunities to be here. I’m originally an IT guy, and the level of collaboration between all the departments amazes me at Dock. What is also great is seeing how original ideas are being implemented immediately. This is completely new to me. And when I add to this an incredibly inspiring international environment, it’s simply amazing.
Dock needs to recruit around 60 people mostly in IT positions. Why should they choose you?
The answer is simple. Because it will be a huge shift for them. I’m not joking. I’m also from IT and I haven’t seen such a creative atmosphere like this, and space for new ideas, for years. In my opinion, the IT market today is ruined to all intents and purposes. People are overpaid and have loads of choices, but they’re often doing tedious work. With us, they have a chance to work with the latest technologies on world-changing projects. You don’t waste any time here. In addition, they can become co-owners of the companies they are building. This is how it works, for example, with our new Mutumutu insurance. It’s one such 2.0. startup. For people who are willing to take risks and aren’t pampered. None of us, of course, works for free, but I want to reach out to people who have ambitions and enjoy seeing results. What interests them is doing things with purpose. And they want to have a share in them, not only in terms of work, but because they believe in them. I’m the same. And no one else will offer you something like this.