Asking the CEO #2: Teleconference as a bridge to the new company
How did you come to this topic? Still in school, I suppose…
Yes, I studied at the Faculty of Informatics at Masaryk University and started my second year working in the Laboratory of Advanced Network Technologies, which was an interesting topic for me. I joined a group led by Petr Holub, one of the Comprimato founders, and he dealt with the issue of video transmissions in high quality in real-time.
Back then, it was a novelty; today Zoom and Teams offer such services. In 2005, we made teleconferences in full HD quality with minimal time latency. But they were uncompressed, which could be done in an academic environment thanks to a very good internet connection. But we wanted to break out of the academic environment; we discovered that the commercial sphere is far from having such a good internet connection. For instance, we aimed to utilize our uncompressed video streaming technology for remote consulting during a surgical procedure at the Hradec Králové hospital. Although we required a 10-gigabit internet connection for the consultation, we discovered that the entire hospital’s capacity was limited to just 1 gigabit.
And that’s when we started thinking about how to compress the image, to make it of high quality, and how to make this software solution available to customers sensibly.
At the beginning of my master’s degree, I was given a task to solve how to implement an already existing compression JPEG2000 mechanism and accelerate it with graphics cards. They use graphics cards today, for example, for artificial intelligence or hydrometeorological models, but it was a revolutionary innovation at that time. So, I had to understand the working of graphics cards and video compression, which I knew nothing about at that point.
What was the transformation from a master’s student learning video compression to a CEO of a newly established company?
Well, it was also completely unplanned. For example, my father encouraged me to work for IBM rather than start my own company. However, the company was founded only in the second or the third year of my Ph.D. Studies when I developed a very similar topic. With my co-founder Martin Jirman, we brought our algorithms to a very good and fast solution.
We achieved what many deemed impossible: offering real-time compression through a software solution and facilitating 4K transmissions during an era when 4K was scarcely recognized. Many were skeptical that such feats could be accomplished using graphics cards. Armed with our portable “showroom”, we showcased our technology internationally and garnered overwhelmingly positive feedback. This reception propelled us to venture into the commercial domain.
How long was the journey from that decision to the first customer?
We started the company with excellent algorithms, but it was not a product, and the first version of the product, including the API and documentation, was ready in half a year. However, we still only had the technology; we just licensed the library to other SW companies who built their own products on it.
The way I see it today is that we should have headed straight for our own end product that we could have sold to end-users. The whole thing was a huge adventure, I knew nothing about business, much less international business, but our first serious order happened roughly three to four months after the company was founded, and it was an order worth a million crowns. That was a great starting push.
The “Asking the CEO” series (#3) will continue soon.
Read the previous part of the series, “Asking the CEO #1″.