The trend of Location Intelligence (LI) has been increasingly emerging in the IT market reports. Analysts predict two-digit annual increase in its growth and still more money in the online advertising market is tied to the location or address of the users.
CLEVER°MAPS’ startup is dedicated to this business in the Czech Republic. We talked to one of the founders, Jan Sirotek, about what CLEVER°MAPS’ deals with, how it was found and what its future plans are.
What does CLEVER°MAPS’ do?
We create clever maps ;-). The vast majority of data is somehow tied up with the location and it is the location that makes it possible to combine and discover unexpected links. This is the main principle of all our applications. We take customer´s data, combine it with other data, sociodemographics, public registers, traffic and weather information or anything else and then we are looking for the links that would otherwise not be seen. At the same time, we use the map as a data visualization tool which supports customer´s decision making.
What you are talking about sounds like GIS. What is the difference?
Geographic Information Systems are the domain of experts. They are usually very robust and powerful analytical tools but require data conversion into proprietary formats, therefore only trained professionals can work with them. These are often expensive desktop applications. In comparison, our applications can by mastered by everyone in 5 minutes; from CEO to a small farmer. All our applications are web and cloud based and therefore have no special requirements on client´s infrastructure. Although, the basic difference is that GIS usually answers the question “Where what is“, while LI answers “Where what is“ and “Why it is there“.
You didn´t begin as a typical startup. Can you tell us more about your early days?
I met my teammate, Ondřej Tomas, in the company called GEODIS. I came back after few years, Ondřej joined as a CEO after acquisition of this company by a new investor. Together, we were building new company strategy based on the shift from commodity data business to providing complex BI solutions. Unfortunately, it showed up that the new owner´s intention with the company was slightly different and so with a bunch of enthusiastic employees, we began to shape plan B and finally decided to go our own way.
Are you doing something similar to what GEODIS was doing?
When we were coming up with CLEVER°MAPS’, of course, we were thinking about doing similar things, taking advantage of business contacts and taking on a good name. Finally, we decided to stay dedicated to Location Intelligence only.
Who are your customers?
We operate in four business fields with completely different clientele. We create systems for transport infrastructure administration, help investors and collective farmers with agricultural land purchase and administration, we develop BI platform CleverAnalytics for spatial retail and bank data analysis and deliver farm administration applications. Our customer database consists of large corporations, as well as government institutions, large construction and design companies or private land investors.
That is quite a wide range. How do you manage not to dissipate your energies?
When we started the company, it was like a fountain of ideas. We did all sorts of things and were looking for the right opportunities. Although we kept a few basic guidelines, about a year ago, we had a total of 50 independent business ideas. We had ten applications in development, sold geodata around the world, took pictures of company interiors for Google, worked on a number of pilot projects and opportunistically accepted all orders that emerged. Fortunately, we soon found out that we cannot do everything for everyone and we started to focus. It resulted in splitting the company into four separate teams each focusing on particular objectives within their areas.
What are you unique at?
I think we have a unique combination of know-how and a great team. At the same time, we work in the field with not yet big competition and we come up with truly revolutionary ideas. The true uniqueness, however, lies in the simplicity of our applications and entirely new perspective of BI domain and BIG DATA. We are not only the one of whole line of BI solutions with fast reports, graphs and tables, but we provide an entirely new view of data by means of the map. That is also why really big global players keep to us and we were invited to this year’s presentation at the world’s largest conference on Location Intelligence in Washington as one of the first companies from eastern Europe.
You mentioned partners. Who do you collaborate with?
We are trying to focus on what we are unique at and what we know. At the same time, we do not come up with things that someone else has been doing for a long time and in a better quality. Personally, I believe in fair and mutually beneficial cooperation. Our partners are e.g. SAP, with whom we do special analytic applications on the SAP HANA technology and we also collaborate with an American company SPACECURVE which delivers databases with advanced geospatial analytic functions. We have a number of partners in the field of transport applications. For the CEE region, we are an exclusive PASCO Group partner, the world’s largest company for aerial imagery. In our region, we can also provide special A3 technology imaging, which produces both vertical and oblique aerial images in high quality at a very reasonable cost.
What has been your largest success?
What I consider success above all is being able to form a great team in first eight months, verifying the viability of our ideas, getting our company to black numbers and achieving a turnover approaching 1 million EUR. I am happy to see some brands on our customer list, but most of all, I am delighted to bring our customers pleasure from decision-making based on our applications. I was very pleased to hear from one of our customers from the field of agricultural land investments that what he had been struggling with for five years, we achieved in one month. Moreover, I am glad that big global players perceive us positively. I can mention, for example, the victory at last year’s start-up SAP forum, where we were awarded for the best Big Data solution.
How big is your team?
Still bigger and bigger. About 25 people, currently. In addition to the core, consisting mostly of surveyors, cadastre and geoinformatics experts, we have expanded our team mainly by developers, analysts, and database specialists. The backbone of CleverAnalytics team is Jiří Žaloudek who previously worked as a Director of Engineering in GoodData. Thanks to him and his experience, we have saved a lot of wandering in blind alleys. Katarina Cienikova, who has already conducted a successful mega startup in Slovakia, helps us discover experience with startups.
What are your plans?
There are always lots of ideas. By conducting also consulting services, we constantly receive new and fresh ideas from our customers that we then apply in our applications. In CleverAnalytics, we are preparing an interesting set of tools for banking and financial sector aimed mainly at risk assessment of applicants for funding. In autumn, we are going to launch CLEVER°ASSETS’ application for property administration, targeted at farmers but also major investors in agricultural land. We are finalizing the adaptation of application for farm management - CLEVER°FARM’ - for the Czech market and in the next 2-3 months, we are going to introduce a new tool within CLEVER°ROADS’ package, offering a revolutionary approach to construction preparations from the property rights point of view.
You promote the idea of free companies. How does it look like in your company?
I would rather use the term “conscious company”. Personally, I believe that companies in the SMB segment may significantly influence what is happening around them and it is up to their leaders in what way they shape their colleagues. Our people have maximum freedom, but at the same time, we teach them to be responsible and not to restrict freedom of others. Besides having completely flexible working hours, the essential issues are to be decided by the teams themselves, we play minigolf or ping-pong at work and so we devote a lot of time to individuals´ personal development. Everyone is looking for their greatest gifts and talents and we are then trying to help them grow. Anyone can come at any time and if successful in convincing others, they can start to realize their innovative ideas. At the same time, we are trying to positively motivate people to focus on what they are good at and what they do the best.
CLEVER°MAPS’ is a startup operating in the field of Location Intelligence. In their four branches in Brno, Prague, Sibiu and Ljubljana, they employ 25 experts on survey, cartography, marketing, BI and SW development. They create cloud solutions and web applications for property administration, transport infrastructure and agricultural companies. There is a separate team creating revolutionary BI platform CleverAnalytics.
CleverAnalytics is a cloud platform for LOCATION INTELLIGENCE. It shows individual business phenomena on the map as layers which are in mutual relation through their location in space. It enables linking non-structured data sources with company data, run ad-hoc analyses and predictions. It creates intuitive analytic views – „clever maps“ which support users´ important decisions.
He found his first company FRIENDLY MARKET as the second grade university student and it dealt with IT market research. He worked in various positions in GEODIS over ten years, from an ordinary surveyor, through GIS department manager to the Director of foreign trade. In 2009-2012 he was the head of international projects and directed branches in CEE region for Norwegian company BLOM ASA. Together with his wife Veronika, they manage a company that helps international companies with their investments in Balkans. Since 2013, his chief activity is building CLEVER°MAPS’ company which has an ambition of becoming a global leader in Location Intelligence. In addition, he spends a lot of time with his wife, two children, a dog and he still has time to explore caves on land or under water all aross the world.
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