Hello Jaroslav, first of all, thank you for your time. Last time we talked you mentioned how difficult it had been for you to get to the point you were at that time. So what were the biggest challenges?
Yes, the first kind of difficulty was the limited capacity and ability to deliver what you want or what you promised the investor. Capacity in this context means that in the Angel phase of an investment only the founders are available full-time, and there were two of us together with a limited amount of full-time people and then we had just many external supporters who believed in the vision. So it was a kind of amateur theater. With these limited resources you have to deliver everything – product development, marketing, HR, strategy, networking, sales, project management and more. Very demanding is also the constant role switching, even several times during one day. The tension between ambition or promise and the ability to deliver was very strong.
The second kind of difficulty was maintaining our direction. We always work according to principles of agile development. At the same time many inputs – reactions from the market, reactions to trends, a lot of feedback from events like TechCrunch, Startup Grind, a lot of recommendations from advisors and colleagues, competition, requests from clients – create very demanding conditions on staying on course and one must watch out in order to avoid falling into traps. And we encountered some of those, but fortunately, we were always able to come back on the right track again. It is very important to have a long term vision, to always check decisions to prevent chaos.
And the third? The moments when the money runs out…
What does Skillandia do? What is your unique value and who can benefit from it the most?
What is unique? As trainers, coaches and consultants we have deep experience with how people learn and this we transfer into our learning platform. Unique in our case is the focus on trainers, coaches, and mentors as the main target group. We want to provide them with a simple tool which enables them to do their job in a much more effective way and to increase their impact significantly. Unique is our approach in the form of a simple learning course builder, which guides trainers and coaches to build impactful quests for their groups, supporting micro-learning. Unique is our focus on development in small groups where people learn and share, overcoming challenges guided by their real life trainers and coaches. Unique is the way in which we support the so called blended solution, a combination of real life trainings and online learning, leading to real changes in both knowledge and behavior. We also provide content to our clients. We got Stevie Award 2017 in Las Vegas or our way how Skillandia Studio creates micro learning online courses.
(Skillandia at TechCrunch Disrupt)
You mentioned you took part in conferences such as Techcrunch. How was that? What were the biggest surprises for you? Is there a right moment when you should, as CEO, attend such a huge conferences?
I consider these events extremely important in early stages of a startup from several perspectives. First, you receive very direct questions about your product and idea, you really need to work on your pitch. You receive a lot of feedback and also a lot of inspiration from others people or startups. You have to start to think about how to become scalable if your ambition is to get an investor, etc. Such events are very useful for building up your long term strategy.
So I would say – just do it! But it is also very demanding and tiring – imagine three days in an old dark theatre in NY, from morning till evening, standing in front of your rollup and computer in the crowd and talking, talking from morning till evening, just the two of us.
Imagine now for a moment that you don’t have Skillandia. Would there be any area in education you would focus on? If so, why? And why, if not?
Before I was involved in Skillandia I was in the area of leadership training, management and sales, guiding large companies through changes, mainly cultural changes, dealing with how the company is managed and led top-down. Probably I would keep doing this.
And if you ask me at this point in time, I would focus on helping companies to build the most effective blended learning system as I have rich experience in both areas. Skillandia opened the door to a lot of new knowledge for me – online learning, nudging, microlearning, gamification, how to build learning platform, etc. And I can see a lot of companies struggling with exactly these things.
Is there anything you would like to add/share?
Yes, running a startup is a great experience, and it is very demanding. It is a long distance run with many obstacles. What helps is if you have a very strong vision and if the founders are friends who really trust each other and share the same set of values. In critical situations, you find out that a startup means that when you reach some milestone, like getting an investor, you start something working on something new again. You just keep starting again. And all you need to do is keep going … find good guides, advisors, supportive investor, etc.