Title : Rising Star: Ján Žižka, Photoneo
Date : 2 October 2015
LA catches up with Ján Žižka, CEO of Photoneo, a Slovak start-up that specializes in 3D vision technology. Cooperating with leading industrial suppliers, Photoneo delivers sensoric performance to drive future autonomous systems ranging from collaborative robots, drones, self-driving vehicles to face-recognition and enhancing human vision in augmented reality applications.
LA Report: What education or training did you have?
Ján Žižka: I have a PhD in Computer Vision, Computer Science. I have spent some time in MIT’s Media Lab, specifically in the Camera Culture group – really motivating and inspiring for me and Photoneo too.
LA Report: Who has been your greatest inspiration?
Ján Žižka : Smart and impactful people. People who can not only see the big picture, but can paint it.
LA Report: Why did you set up your company?
Ján Žižka: I believe we can do much better than our competitors. We have believed, that from plenty of ideas we had, this one will be game changing. Now we are much closer to that.
LA Report: What is the specific benefit that distinguishes your product or service from its competitors?
Ján Žižka: We have a very good quality of output, which opens new areas of use. Our 3D camera will be the first one to provide resolution necessary for good image processing, thus making it possible to achieve tasks like quality inspection, robot navigation, etc. Our product is also very compact and lightweight.
LA Report: How does your company change people’s lives for the better?
Ján Žižka: Every robot arm and majority of automation systems are blind, they are simply hardcoded. Giving eyes to robots and ability to understand the world is the next industrial revolution. It is one of the essentials to build so-called "Industry 4.0".
LA Report: How long did it take you to set up your business?
Ján Žižka: 2 months.
LA Report: Where did you get funding to set up your business?
Ján Žižka: Angels and VCs - we’ve recently raised 2.1 MM seed investment led by venture capital firm Credo Ventures with participation of several notable co-investors including the investment arm of RSJ, one of the largest algorithmic trading companies in the world.
LA Report: How would you describe your progress so far?
Ján Žižka: I would say we are doing great, but many challenges are still in front of us.
LA Report: How long did it take you to break into new markets?
Ján Žižka: We have just started with pre-orders, time will show.
LA Report: How are you planning to grow your business?
Ján Žižka: Technological advance will help us to strengthen our position and also to enter new areas, good marketing will help us to reach new customers. We also want to provide a very good customer care (warranty, SDK libraries) to help our customers with using our product conveniently and efficiently.
LA Report: What are the main barriers to its growth (if any)?
Ján Žižka: Hardware is tough. Scaling is more challenging compared to pure software company. Technology is always dynamic and evolving, we need to adapt, innovate.
Were there any EU, national, regional, or local business support services, programmes or funding that helped you set up? And grow? If so please identify and describe briefly.
Ján Žižka: No. I would say the best help for start-ups is lowering the regulatory requirement. Nowadays, any new company has to cover so many legal, tax, accounting issues instead of focusing on the core business.
LA Report: With hindsight, which would have been the most valuable knowledge base or skill set to have before setting up your business?
Ján Žižka: Be less of a perfectionist. Just a little.
LA Report: Do you have a mentor/s?
Ján Žižka: Sure. The more challenges we face, the stronger we get.
LA Report: If you were in charge of the government ministry for SMEs and start-ups what would be the three most important changes you would make to help them grow?
Ján Žižka: There should be no obstacles for creative people to found and run a company.
1. It must be very easy to found a company.
2. Make accounting and taxes easy, logical and understandable.
3. Make it easy to employ people: reduce bureaucracy and taxation.
LA Report: Entrepreneurs are important to society because …
Ján Žižka: Entrepreneurs set the vision, and together with the market, the new trends and directions society will take.
LA Report: The best thing about being an entrepreneur is …
Ján Žižka: Freedom and impact. Doing the right thing and making it big.
LA Report: If you could go back in time to when you were just about to start your company and tell yourself something useful, what would it be?
Ján Žižka: To make some decisions faster.
LA Report: Thank you very much; and the best of luck for the future of your business.
Ján Žižka: Thank you.
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