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Hello John! Thank you for your time to share a piece of the latest info.  At the last Startup Weekend in Prague, your team managed to knock the judges’ socks off with an application dubbed “Typo App,” which aims to teach people foreign languages in a very practical and entertaining way while putting emphasis on mastering the given language’s script. What exactly does lie behind this success?

Hi! I think the judges liked us because we reminded them right at the beginning of our presentation how boring it was in primary school to write the same letter over and over again until one knew how to do it. Everyone has been through this and so we were able to make the problem tangible. In the next slides we managed to step up our game by showing that Chinese or Japanese signs are a lot more complicated.

Our solution was easy – the Typo App teaches you to write in and interactive and fun way. An important factor was also the fact that we gave an iPad with a demo version to the judges so they can try it out themselves. The other presentations had only a passive audiovisual concept. We actively engaged them. I think that helped us to stand out.

Also, we had a pretty clear idea about what we wanted to do and we started working on it as early as Friday evening. That gave us a lot of room for validation and development on Saturday and the presentation prep on Sunday. If we pivoted on Saturday evening like some teams in the course of such weekends do, we would not have had the time to finish.

On your official website it is stated that you are launching the app soon; when can we actually expect the official release? Alternatively, what stage of the development process are you currently at?

I think May or June 2018 is pretty realistic. We have the design, development is at about 60 %.

What phase of the development process do you personally find the most challenging?

I cannot say much about the technical aspect because Swift, where we do the app’s programming, is pure magic to me. The product itself is relatively straightforward. We had an idea, iterated quickly and came up with a, in my opinion, nice design. The real challenge will be the release of the project and getting the product to the target audience.

Apart from Typo App, you also work as a designer in Spaceknow, which is a company focusing on obtaining info from satellite pictures.  Tell me, how did such a young person as you manage to get this position?

I had to fight for it 😀 SpaceKnow hired me two years ago, that was when I had just turned twenty. When I saw that they are looking for someone for user experience, I knew that I did not have good odds to get in but it would be a pity to not to try anyway. I told myself that I need to attract their attention, because my portfolio consisted at that time only of a couple of smaller web pages and two somewhat well-known clients. Normally, they would not give someone like me a second thought.

I sat down in front of a camera and shot a five minute video where I talked super-passionately about why I wanted to work with them on their space technology. It was a bit awkward but it demonstrated my enthusiasm that cannot be conveyed in an email. That opened the door to an interview where I got a test task – redesigning a part of a web app.

I spent a whole weekend on it. I tried to produce the best possible result. In the end, I redesigned part of the app and also made an interactive prototype, where I redesigned the app completely. They liked the redesign and gave me a chance, and I have been working there ever since.

How did you profit from participating at the last Startup Weekend in Prague?

I learned how to better structure the workload in a smaller team when there is an aggressive deadline. Also, starting to work with Ondra Gonzor was awesome. He is much younger than me but unbelievably intelligent and talented. He is programming the Typo App. He also worked with Honza Sláma on a project called Don’t let it be (Nenech to být) that focuses on fighting bullying. Moreover, we now have contact information on interesting and experienced people from EdTech.

Overall it was a pleasant experience. SWP had a great venue, amazing mentors (shoutout to Pavlína Louženská) and a good, intensive feel to it.

Jakub Zelina