OpenReaktor, once a small monthly tech meetup held in a Warsaw-based mansion, gradually came out as a major IT event in Central & Eastern Europe gathering a crowd of startups, investors, IT professionals and representatives of major IT companies like Microsoft, IBM, Facebook or Google.
If entrepreneurship is a state of mind that forces you to follow your dreams no matter what, Roman Kala was a true entrepreneur, probably the biggest I know.
The story begins 84 years ago, in a small village, Miedzyrzec Korecki, Poland (now part of the Ukraine). I don’t know much of his childhood — he never talked about this period. When he was 15, the Nazis came and killed his father, along with other 1500 countrymen. He fled with his mother and the only brother to nearby Równe, but stayed there only for two years, when the Soviets came and kicked the Polish out from their homes. Thousands of people were put in a packed train and forced to head west towards Recoverred Territories (the land taken back from the Germans after the war). A few days later they reached Nakło where the remains of the family settled. A typical Polish war story.
This is a story about how I lost access to my GMail account and never got it back, losing all the data. Hope it serves as a warning prompting you to backup your emails.
It started early this month when I noticed I stopped receiving email at firstname.lastname@example.org (my free Google Apps account that I use for all the stuff related to Reaktor Warsaw, the startup mansion I founded and work at). When I tried logging in online it said:
Your account has been blocked.
“Sounds good, but… how are you going to make money?”
If you’ve ever pitched your business, asked for funding or applied to a startup contest, you’ve heard this question more than once. And unless you’re making millions in revenues there is a fair chance you don’t have a good answer to it.
Nothing to worry about! Startups are businesses in constant search of a business model, so take your time. However, it’s good that you realize it and plan for constant change from the very beginning. For my company, Filmaster, it took us 3.5 years to get to the working model followed by the first significant deal.
Here is our story.
Last week I attended Google For Entrepreneurs event in Wroclaw where I had a fireside chat on stage with Asier Rios about my career as an entrepreneur. I think I let Asier down as instead of bragging about how great Filmaster.TV is doing, I focused on my (multiple) early mistakes in running a startup, the biggest one being: not going through an incubator. The conversation inspired this post.
I did not even consider starting my first company in an incubator. Giving away some 5-10% of the firm for some ridiculous(ly small) amount of money seemed foolish to me. I chose the bootstrap path. That was the single worst decision I made and here is why.
I went to Europe’s coolest startup conference. It’s called European Pirate Summit and happens to be in Cologne, Germany
I just came back from Cologne, Germany where I spent two amazing days with Europe’s top Internet entrepreneurs and investors at European Pirate Summit, an invite-only startup conference like no other, held in Odonien, a unique artistic place on open air, held just opposite Germany’s biggest multi-store whorehouse.
With Piotr Biegun (left) and Uldis Leiters (middle), photo by Christoph Heinrich
These two days were exciting and inspiring. I listened to the crazy stories of people who “ate their teeth” on entrepreneurship, I met old friends and met new ones. I also went on stage to pitch an idea that seems more ridiculous than it really is.
- Choose the events wisely
- Set your goals
- Do your research
- Know your pitches
- Follow up!
This weekend I was mentoring at Startup Sprint, an event organized by Poznan-based investor, LMS Invest and startup accelerator, Huge Thing. It’s a bit like Startup Weekend but focused on a specific subject. This time it was culture.
Working on a new project is exciting. It’s especially exciting when the project is a result of the vision you had a long time ago but only NOW is the time it can actually come true.
It’s exciting to brainstorm an idea one day only to learn next day this is exactly what the people want. It’s exciting when you hear folks on the streets talking about, demanding exactly what you’ve been working on. And it’s also frustrating to know it will still take a few months (and sometimes years) for them to be able to use it.
But most of all it’s exciting. It’s like discovering new lands, inhabiting empty cities. I’m sure this is how Herman Cortez felt when he first came to America (before he eventually went insane, created his own little kingdom and died alone).
It’s the excitement that drives me and helps me do what I do, even though it might not entirely make sense to many of you at the very moment. I know it doesn’t make sense to any of you, yet 🙂
So let me explain.
Over the last few years millions of people in the US cancelled their cable subscription (here are the numbers) in favor or devices like Boxee, Roku or Apple TV where they can watch what they want, any time they want, straight on their huge TV screen. They watch movies on Netflix, shows on Hulu and other video content on websites like Revision3, YouTube or DailyMotion. They hated the dictatorship of cable providers, but now that thay have the freedom of choice, they realize they miss the live shows. It’s great to be able to watch what they want, but it’s equally great to watch shows together with friends, sharing the viewing experience with others.
They want live TV but without the networked programming part. They want to choose what they wanna watch but also share the experience. They want the TV to be personal and social at the same time.
People are sick of TV. Let’s change it!
For the last two years I’ve been building the best movie recommendation engine on Earth and deployed it on the mobile to help you find movies in nearby theaters, and on the web to let you discover movies and shows you’ll love. But I relized that discovering great content is more fun if you can watch it instantly on the device you’re working on. I want people to experience both live TV and VOD content and YouTube shows, and any other kind of Internet video on their TV.
We’re living in exciting times for TV. Cables are losing customers and need new ways to encourage subscribers. Great minds envision we’ll be watching TV on many devices like iPads or laptops. This is already happening in small scale. Startups around the globe work on hundreds of second-screen apps that make your viewing experience more social. I believe all these are great, especially for the geeks. But 90% of the TV viewing experience will stay on TV, anyway. That’s why I believe that the TV is the next place for Filmaster.
I think the first platform that allows us to fully experience both traditional EPG and on-demand video in a personalized way is Google TV. It integrates with your cable EPG, allows you to watch content on Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo and all other sources. It encourages interaction and is free of crazy restrictions. But it lacks one thing: a personalized guide that will know your taste and will let you discover movies and shows you’ll love and play them instantly on your TV. That’s why Google TV is the first platform we’ll be releasing Filmaster.TV on.
But this is only the beginning. I want Filmaster to be the service cables use to stop people from cancelling subscription. I want it to be the service new IPTV providers deploy to gain competitive advantage. I want it to be in millions of homes in the US and elsewhere. I want it to be what people first see when they turn on their TV and use it to choose what to watch.
That’s why I’m so excited. We’re entering a new game, we’re trying to disrupt the industry that hasn’t changed for decades. We’re trying to make TV more like the Internet, but filtering out all the stuff you’re not interested in. We want you to start your TV viewing experience with Filmaster to discover all the great content, whether it’s live or on-demand. And we’re gonna succeed because this is what the majority of the people want.
Let me know whether or not you agree with my vision in the comments!