It is worth to offer services from the Czech Republic globally

01. December 2013

„It is no difference for me whether I call a customer to Vrchlabí or to London“ notes one of the former of the company Mautilus from Brno Czech Republic. Czechs have in his opinion a big potential in global services.

Mautilus is a full service offshore software development company Based in Brno, which highlighted itself by announcing that cooperates on development “icflix” – the Arabic online video store similar to Netflix. Mautilus stands out as a specialist in multiplatform development, which besides mobile devices comprise especially Smart TVs. Among its customers belong for example Siemens, Telefonica, CME, ABB, Continental, TV App Agency, icflix from Dubai and many more. How was born within few years just from two developers the company with global reach? We talked about it with Řehoř Vykoupil, CEO and one of the founders of Mautilus s.r.o.

How and when Mautilus Software Solutions was set up?

We have been on the market for three years and the firs year was more for preparing. The company we set up together with Peter Mazanec. We are software developers. We were developing software for ten years as employees. One day we had realized that it was not exactly what we would like to do in life. It lost interest for us.

How the moment when you realize this looks like?

When you are looking for job but cannot find which would be interesting and motivating. You are always missing something – invent and implement the ideas from the beginning to the end. Work with the new technologies, do what you like and don’t be only the part of the chain in the multinational companies. Peter had excellent knowledge of Symbian and we hoped in purchases in mobile application in industry. But with Symbian was not going well so we add Android and after iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry that we gradually dominated the complete portfolio of mobile platforms. We tried a few blind paths. We tried own products but without bigger financial support and without balanced cash flow we could not go further. As software developers we were not able at the beginning to sell the product and to explain to the customers its advantages. That time we realized that the best would be to offer what we can do the best – to offer our service in developing of custom applications. The first demand from the field of Smart TV we got two years and half ago. The code for TVs is written in JavaScript and HTML5, they are usually Linux devices with web-kit. No one wanted to put himself into it but we found it interesting and decided to go for it. During the time it became for us the strategic ability because the TV applications are not so spread out commodity as applications for mobiles. You must have well equipped test-lab and you need to cover more platforms. This differs you from the main market stream. Gradually we became at least in the Middle Europa number one in development for Smart TV. Regarding Smart TV applications we evolved connections in the community and from that time we are growing. Maybe even faster than we would like, but it is because we want to satisfy all customers.

How big are you now?

We currently have twelve developers for Smart TVs. All are fully occupied. Then we have android developers and iOS developers. In total we are 25 internal employees and with external staff we have around 35 people, including accountants, designers and consultants. Last year we ended with a turnover of 12 million crowns, this year's estimate I suspect 25 million. How we are employing new colleagues, we try to keep revenue of around $ 1.5 million annually per person. We also put a lot of money into the devices and actually we play a lot with new technologies. We are trying to stay agile as a small company but at the same time we must have a rules in our everyday working – with this amount of people we can’t develop software without structure. Now we are able to prepare software for set-top-boxes, Smart TVs, Smart Phones and for the Desktop Browsers. Video stores, live steaming – that all needs development for lot of platforms and knowledge of specialized technologies. Applications must be implemented in a certain ecosystem, you have to go through the manufacturers approval procedure such as the LG, the Samsung or Toshiba and everything must be coordinated to a successful conclusion.

What makes you different from other companies?

When I look back – our greatest advantage was and still is that we do not care if we communicate with someone from Brno or someone from Dubai. If both sides have good internet connection we can develop for them.

How do you offer service abroad?

As I said it is no difference if we call a customer to London or to Vrchlabí and the whole company is up for it. It must not be an obstacle for you another legal system or other customs. If the lawyer has a problem with the fact that it's in London and not in Vrchlabí, replace the lawyer. If your accountant is not willing to issue an invoice, let's say to Kazakhstan – she cannot learn it and arrange it with them – replace the account, because otherwise it will slow you down. If you do this, then it will not mater who you are dealing with.

But how did you get the first foreign contract?

It was for the Austrian companies. We had recommendation from other Austrians. The first contracts we won thanks to knowing us as software developers according to our previous work. In the community of software developers we have been involving for long time.

How did you get customers from England?

Either the customers have found us on internet or we met them at conferences or our partners co-operated with them, or at various technical forums – they for example asked about any technical problem and we were able to give them advice. Accordingly they saw that we know how to do it and called us. This way we got our biggest partner from England. His supplier was not able to provide one application that should use special API from Samsung for communication between mobile devices and TVs. They needed make it work within 14 days and we were able to manage it. To make it work our colleagues did not stop for two weekends. That brings us to our contracts – that we are fast, agile and are able to follow it through to the end.

Do you have to meet the people from London or Dubai personally?

It depends. The company must always trust us. It's just a question of how to get it. Maybe they meet us, see us somewhere or got some recommendations, which they believe. For example when we started the cooperation with icflix, firstly we connected through LinkedIn – they needed development and we were able to offer great recommendation. Within 3 or 4 days we made demo for them. They like this approach, came to visit us, we showed demo in live and agreed about cooperation, one month later we flew to Dubai sign the contracts. But then we discovered that these particular people from Dubai already had very good experience with the Czechs. Some previously traded with glass or porcelain and they've been here many times. They knew the local business partners and knew how to deal with them. When they were communicating with us already knew what they can or cannot expect. And it was actually the foundation of our success, not just our recommendations but also the fact that they have had good experiences with the Czechs. Czech people have great potential in how they think and how they communicate. Others can easily with them find agreement. For example when Brit will be choosing where to outsource, then even though the Indians understand him there are good reasons why to outsource to the Czech Republic – because when we say 'yes', it means 'yes' when we say 'no' it means 'no.' With us it is clear to them, they know where they are. This is very important in the services. There is a great potential to offer services globally, not just products – rather than building just AVG and Avast, when I give you an example of successful global products. The world is willing to accept from us also the services.

Did happen that something got wrong with the customer?

Risk can be easily also in the Czech Republic – with a company that is humanly not transparent. Then you do not know what to expect from them. And then you make a good business for example in Caracas.

Why do you reside in the South Moravian Innovation Centre?

As a company we need somewhere some premises. So at the beginning we thought: Why not in the JIC? Why be somewhere else alone? Although we have here only offices and we do not use other services. We wanted to stay in an innovative environment. There's a lot of young people and are held different inspirational workshops. It is comfortable to go to see them just a few floors down. Every business needs for the success to have around specific ecosystem. We need around us inspiring people and other developers with different expertise. In Brno it is the JIC which helps to build such an environment.

How big is the market for Smart TVs?

In the United States was in 2012 the proportion of Smart TVs around twenty five percent. In some markets in Europe it was up to 40 percent. But not every owner of a Smart TV actually connects it to the Internet. It will do just about three quarters and not everyone will run applications on a regular basis. The problem is in poor control and low performance. It takes time. So far we work mostly for the market leaders. Those don’t think of penetration. They must push the new technologies, even if they are not cost-effective, because it is about their market position.

Have Smart TV applications some specifics?

That they are controlled by a remote control. The user’s experience is therefore completely different from the touch devices. To control applications this was is difficult so far. The producers are therefore trying to come up with new types of controllers, such as the kinetic controllers or control through mobile applications. Looking for more user-friendly ways to make people accept it in mass. Because it's interesting. If I have in the living room a television why not use it for example for Skype? Essential is that when a user turns on the TV he wants everything immediately. Wants to watch his favorite movie in a few seconds.

How will we control televisions in five years?

There are two basic directions. One relies on the mobile devices. You come into the living room with a cell phone choose on it your movie and release it on the big screen. The second direction is independent on the mobile devices. Somebody comes home, puts away the phone and doesn't want to be contacted, have duties and be worried. He wants rather to watch his favorite film. And in that case there must be some universal device in the living room or he must be able to control the TV remotely other way: perhaps with a voice or movements, but the first attempts in this direction are still insufficient. In two or three years it might be something else, but we still need controllers. At IBC in Amsterdam were showed kinetic remote controllers with which was possible nicely and precisely direct the cursor from a relatively large distance. Kinetic controller senses motion differences. If the cursor is on the screen then the kinetic control is calibrating with the position of the cursor, but when you move it the cursor on the screen moves on that piece. So simply you get the cursor where you need it. There are also ideas that would be something like a mobile phone directly inside the remote control. The possibilities are many, still looking for what will be the easiest and especially the fastest for users.

Except the controlling is something slowing down the Smart TVs?

Speed itself. Applications are still usually quite slow.

Why is it that?

There are TVs cheaper and more expensive and inside the TV for twelve thousand crowns you cannot expect performance to go through the video store fast and also with some effects. There must be some change in TV processors. All this is the question of the development in next years.

What was your biggest project you were working on?

Unfortunately I may not name our current biggest project. Generally we cannot publish up to sixty percent of what we are developing. We often provide partial solutions to the partners who give the customer a whole project under their names. Now we are the busiest with the project of video store, which will some technology company supply to one of the major Arabic mobile operator.

How will Mautilus look like in three years?

I suppose we be twice bigger and around Mautilus will grow several start-ups related to it. Mautilus will be financially linked to them and will be develop for them. At the beginning of the business we didn't know how to offer a product and didn't understand the importance of early cash flow, but now we have enough experience to dared develop own products. We know that the initial activity should be minimized and have as soon as possible the customers, to bring it as soon as possible to any sales. Furthermore we ourselves gradually come up with innovations that we offer to our customers. We just do not do for them only what they order. For example we have developed and successfully offered to launch applications from the "stick" inserted into the HDMI using our SDK for Smart TV. But the greatest reward for me will be if we all in Mautilus will still do after three years what we enjoy and what motivates us. Translation from