StartupYard and GoodData Partner to Provide Data Platform to European Startups

Today is a Good Day for all the future StartupYard projects of 2014. We’re very excited to announce that GoodData, the leader in cloud business intelligence, has agreed to give to the teams who will be selected this year free access to their GoodData platform!

You’ve read that well.

This year, as we are focusing on Data, Search and Analytics projects this partnership is fantastic as GoodData is all about Data, Search and Analytics. Having free access to an open and flexible data platform can save our early stage startups huge amounts of time and money that would be spent on building similar technologies internally. The teams accepted to this round will benefit from a bleeding-edge platform that already serves Fortune 500 companies around the world, allowing them to focus on what they do best: innovate and grow.

This partnership includes technologies that have not yet been announced and that will be release later this year. The good people of GoodData have been working on them throughout 2013. In other words, if you apply to the StartupYard acceleration program and are selected, you will be amongst the first ones in the world to access and be able to build new products on top of this unique platform.

You can read more details in a blog post by Jaroslav Gergic, VP Operations and R&D at GoodData on the GoodData developers’ blog

Let’s see who will be the first to come up with an ambitious and unique idea to build on top of these technologies. The future is yours!  Apply to StartupYard before January 31st, 2014.


Why All Founders Should Read a 78 Year Old Book in 2014

“It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.”  – Dale Carnegie:  How To Win Friends and Influence People

Help Me, Help You 

I’m not big on self-help books. Well that’s not exactly true- I do read them, but I hate them all. I read a quit-smoking book a few years ago that explained that the key to quitting smoking was not to ever smoke again. Very enlightening stuff, to be sure, but we all know what these kinds of books are: inspirational blather that, when it isn’t telling you what you want to hear (I’m Ok, You’re Okay!), is mostly lying to you about how easy it is to do whatever the author does. And authors rarely have any valuable insights into what makes them good at whatever they do.

If it’s easy, it’s not worth writing about. And if it’s hard, it’s not fun to read about.

But I am a big reader, and I have, time and again, gone back to the well to find out what brand of bullshit is being sold this season. If it isn’t The Secret telling people that the key to success is to wish really hard for things (no seriously, it’s magic), it’s a fat guy telling you that the key to weight loss is common sense. Thanks alot, asshole.

Irony is Wasted on Evil People

There's a book listed on Amazon as "The Speed of Trust." Seriously. Look that one up.

There’s a book listed on Amazon as “The Speed of Trust.” Seriously. Look that one up.

“Talk to someone about themselves and they’ll listen for hours.” – Dale Carnegie

And people who publish books like those are evil. I mean really, how low does your self-esteem have to be to go paying for advice like that? Anyone who sells you something when you’re in that vulnerable a state, promising to make things better, is an evil bastard.

There are lots of books out there. Read a lot, it’s good for you. Read about starting a business and about psychology, and history, and whatever. But don’t buy those books. Have some self-respect.

That being said, do buy one book.

Dale Carnegie: How to Win Friends and Influence People

“Names are the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” – Dale Carnegiecarnegie03bk1

Carnegie got his start as a company leading salesman for Armour and Company, selling various items to ranchers and farmers in the American midwest at the turn of the century. Not at all shy about self-promotion, he changed his name from Carnagay to Carnegie, so as to associate himself with famous entrepreneur and millionaire Andrew Carnegie, and became a lecturer on salesmanship and soft-skills in 1911, after failed attempts to become an actor. While his “self-help,” movement has had bad press in recent years, with some justice, still the original is a classic, and as relevant as it ever was.

Carnegie was good at one thing: selling. And he had what can honestly be called a novel approach, now and then: caring about people.  Really, deeply, with a full heart, paying attention to other people, and putting yourself in their shoes. 

Why You Should Buy the Book

“You can’t win an argument. You can’t because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it.” – Dale Carnegie

Carnegie’s book, born as a companion to his lecture series, is not only brilliant, it’s an ur-text of content marketing. It employs, and shows how to employ, all of the skills Carnegie taught his students, holding back no secrets, and freely giving away the “game plan,” Carnegie sold in his courses. The book shows an incredible confidence in itself and its writer as the product; there are no “weird tricks,” or “10 secrets,” just point by point advice on how to conduct yourself in your business interactions.

What I really love about this book is how openly frank it is. It’s not in the least egotistical. It not only serves as a guide to how to lead a happy life as a professional, but also works as an example of how people should do business, making all the arguments transparent, clear, and responsive to doubts. Carnegie lives his rules, and the result is a genuine feeling that he cares about the reader: he wants people to do better for themselves and others.

Not Just Common Sense

“Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.” – Dale Carnegie
"Common sense," is code for "Because, dude!"

“Common sense,” is code for “Because, dude!”

Many modern reviews of the book twig on the old-fashioned wisdom involved. Gems like (paraphrased): “never send a letter criticizing anyone for anything,” seem broadly proscriptive. But its Carnegie’s pragmatic reasoning that is convincing. Why should you never criticize anyone? Because, he argues convincingly, it will never help you or them.

Most of us have been in office environments where “constructive criticism,” was basically just saying something nice every time you say something devastatingly harmful. Carnegie argues with a great deal of evidence, that we rarely if ever have the power to truly reform others, and that we should make business decisions on a cost/benefit basis. If telling a person they aren’t performing well helps your business, you should tell them. But find a case in which doing so has a globally positive effect on that same business, and Carnegie might be impressed. He never found any such case.

He argues instead that our instinct to criticize and control the outputs of others are only superficially justified by “the bottom line,” and that the true costs of negativity are deeper than quarterly or yearly profits. If there is even a whiff of ego involved in employee discipline or in job training and retraining, he says, it is almost sure to be counterproductive. If you aren’t on the side of your employees as much as you are on the side of your customers, you might be financially successful, but you will never be happy, and neither will your employees.

And the same goes for his advice about names. It’s not for Carnegie that you should just remember someone’s name (for which skill he gives various tips and tricks), but the why of remembering a name. It’s not manipulative, and it’s not about seizing control of the conversation or getting the upper hand, it’s about making the other person comfortable: it’s about talking to the other person with the deepest level of respect; reminding yourself, by saying the person’s name, that you are helping them- that your mission is to be of service.

Carnegie wasn’t himself a business tycoon. But for him, that was never really the point. His passion, even before he left sales as a career, was to humanize business interactions. He’s commonly cited as an inspiration by successful businessmen, including Warren Buffet, who attended his courses at the age of 20. His principles were that a truly successful businessperson not only makes money, but also makes people, him or herself included, happier in the process.

Social Media Marketing: Where We Could Use a Little 80 Year Old Wisdom

“Names are the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” -Dale Carnegie

A few weeks ago, I needed a question answered by the company that supplies my home internet connection. They’re virtually unreachable by phone: it’s a Kafkaesque tangle of extensions, computer voices, and automated messages, resulting (as I suspect is the intention) in rage-quitting and going off to search for answers on their website. Frustrated with this process, I posted the question on their Facebook page, and a real human being responded in less than an hour. He used my name and everything. It was great. His answer wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but I’m still satisfied. Why?

As conversations with your market become more public, old fashioned salesmanship is becoming more important than it has been in a long time. Ironically, as we get more and more digital, we yearn more and more for the human element in our business interactions.

Carnegie was writing in a time in which mass consumer marketing was a brand-new industry. The types of businesses that thrive online today are those that were just in their infancy in the 1930s: the sales catalogue, the publisher’s clearinghouse, the mail-order fabric company, and more. And while it might seem that he wouldn’t have much authority on the subject, quite the opposite is true: Carnegie eyed the rise of mass marketing with the eye of a seasoned salesman, and believed that the principles of good sales were no different by mail.

The insistent minority voice in marketing is that the old-fashioned, bespoke approach to customers is far from dead, and is coming back in an age where direct marketing can be humanized by leveraging new technologies. It may be that a time is soon approaching when the shifting economics of online business, push the majority of the customer care and sales focus to social media accounts and public, online interactions. Will your company be prepared for that? Will you?

I think we could all use a little more humanity in 2014. So read this book. I wish everyone would.


10 Reasons to Join StartupYard’s Accelerator Program

You have a project in Data, Search or Analytics?

Here are 10 good reasons why you should apply to StartupYard Accelerator program:

  1. We have been accelerating start-ups for 3 years already so you can expect a program that has been developed over time.
  2. You will learn how to write a financial and business plan and how to pitch it to investors.
  3. You will receive €250,000 worth of perks that will last you for months.
  4. Experienced coders will sit down with you during code review sessions to help you optimize your product.
  5. You will have access to amazing mentors who will challenge you and push you to get the best out of your idea.
  6. If you are not from Prague, we will provide you with free accommodations and office-space for the duration of the program (and we will fly you to Prague for free).
  7. You will participate in growth hacking workshops and learn ways to increase your user base.
  8. Your start-up will be exposed to the international eyes of the leading European tech journalists and bloggers.
  9. You will go from an idea to a business that investors will want to invest in and users will want to pay for in 3 months.
  10. You will meet scientists who are doing machine learning, natural language processing, maintaining Hadoop and learn how to run these technology on a mass production level.

Did we convince you? Here’s the link to submit your application.


Meet the Only Company in Europe that is Beating Google:

Full disclosure: Seznam is a major investor in StartupYard, and this piece and interview are a promotion for our accelerator candidates, who will get access to Seznam’s search technology, and will work with Seznam staff through Startupyard. Nevertheless, Seznam is a phenomenon worth reading about and being aware of, as they define what alternatives to Google can do, to the advantage of smaller local markets.

Google is the biggest search company in the world, by more than a big margin. Of course you know this, and perhaps you’ve heard that Google is so big, that it dominates search traffic not only at home in the US, but in every market in the world except Russia, China, and South Korea. That makes sense: none of these countries use the latin alphabet, and their huge online markets are fertile ground for competitors, keeping Google from reaching dominance, and even so, Google is making huge in-roads in all of those markets. And Google owns the west outright.

With one exception.

How Do you Beat Google? Give People What They Want.

Founded in 1996 by Ivo Lukačovič, has grown to become the only latin-alphabet based full-text search service in the world that is beating Google in its own market: the Czech Republic. Seznam means “List,” in Czech, but has a richer meaning: as in a catalogue or directory of information. Today Seznam employs over 1000 people, and has revenues in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

With a population of just 10.5 million (with perhaps a million Czech speakers elsewhere worldwide), the Czechs don’t seem likely candidates for a powerhouse search engine. But careful attention to the specific needs of the local market has brought Seznam to the top, with a suite of online services dominating news, advertising, local retail and exchange, maps, email, and search in the Czech Republic. Around 90% of Czechs are regular users of and its various services, and they enjoy a range of services at a quality level unmatched by local services in much larger neighboring countries, including Germany (8 times larger in population) and Poland (4 times larger).

Seznam generates 60% of all Czech page views, and a dominant position in online advertising, serving 90% of the Czech market regularly. It is synonymous with the internet for Czechs online, in the way that Google has become in many other countries.

Seznam’s local presence makes the Czech Republic fertile ground for competition, and has been a singular advantage to the Czechs, bringing Google Street View to Prague before it arrived anywhere else in Central Europe, and helping to make Czech language services on Google far more sophisticated than in neighboring Slovakia or Austria. A plethora of apps from Seznam, specialized for the Czech market and language, offer Czech consumers a set of mobile options rivalling markets many times their size, and keep the Czech Republic burning brightly as a place for cutting-edge innovation, despite its size.

A Q&A With Seznam

Irena Zatloukalova, Seznam spokesperson and mentor at Startupyard.

Irena Zatloukalova, Seznam spokesperson and mentor at Startupyard.

I caught up this week with Irena Zatloukalová, a spokesperson for, and a mentor in PR and communication at Startupyard to talk about Seznam’s amazing success, and their cooperation with Startupyard. Here’s our exchange:

How long have you been with Seznam? What’s it like working there (and in the Czech Republic in general)?

It will be 3 years in 2 months. is a very different place to work at. I worked for three other companies before and nowhere else was I able to find such a combination of all the attributes of my work here. People here like their jobs, and like the brand they are working for – that is why you can always expect them to want the best for the company.

By pulling from the same end of the rope, everyone is motivated to always find a solution and get the things needed to be done, done. So you don’t do purposeless work. And the atmosphere at is very informal. And I also believe that the management chooses very competent people, to whom they give responsibility for specific fields, and then listens to their expertise and trusts their opinions and knowledge. In most companies I’ve worked for, at least one of these attributes has always been missing.

That’s interesting. How does Seznam keep itself from falling into the trap that so many companies fall into, of not trusting their employee’s judgment? We’ve all worked in places where our boss didn’t want to let anyone else have a good idea. How do you overcome that instinct?

I do not know, what the trick is. I suppose it comes from our management team. Pavel Zima as well as all the other members of the management just live the values of informality. Whoever comes with a good idea, can go directly to anyone in the company. You do not need to wait in a long line, or consult 6 other people before getting to the person that can decide what you have come up with. Also, you directly know who is the one you need to see on what issue. So you just go directly to them. No matter if they are juniors or if the one you need to see is the GM. If the idea is good and viable, it will be taken and you will not be reproached if it is not. This method leads to results very fast. And as I have said, maybe seeing that what you do has a meaning and you do not have to waste your time, is the secret ingredient to overcome that suppressing instinct.

But from the perspective of someone responsible for internal communication, I have to say this environment is very challenging too – everyone feels free to tell you, they would communicate every single thing differently. But trust me, that is the smallest tax one is willing to pay in a company where informality and openness are not just phrases you say, but the values the employees live.

We did a piece recently where we argued that Prague was the next great place for “the startup life;” a place that’s perfect for young companies to grow. Do you agree with that?

Prague is full of very interesting people. On the Prague startup scene, I have met many interesting people who not only having good ideas, but are also able to bring them to life. So I would agree. And moreover, the Czech Republic has many successful IT companies that have been launched as startups, or one-man ideas, and have made their way to companies known to the Czechs and outside the Czech Republic – I mean not only but also AVG, GoodData and many others.

Seznam is famous for being one of only a few search services around the world besting Google in its own market. How did Seznam reach this position in the Czech Republic?

As our General manager Pavel Zima says, we have not given up on our products.

We have been developing our products constantly throughout the last 17 years. We have not given up on our own full-text search engine and robot, our maps or email. Within the last two years we have even sped up our innovations, so that we could introduce very simple, intuitive and as up-to-date versions of our services as possible for our users.

Also, we have stayed focused on Czech users and their needs. Our services have become an everyday part of the lives of most Czechs. We offer services for those looking for a new car, a flat, or consumer goods. At our home page we provide people with the basic service, so they know all the current info – weather forecasts, news from different fields, TV programs and so on.

The other very important thing is that our users are the starting point for us. With the services we provide, we always try to solve some problem or task one uses the internet for. And only when we are happy with the way things work (as we use our services, and try to find the best way to make them work for everyone), do we let the users try the service, and monetization comes only after that.

You mention how important Czechs and the Czech Republic is to Seznam. That’s very different from most similar companies, who are thinking globally — who are thinking that growth brings quality. Do you think Seznam’s model is conceivable in other countries, or is the size and culture of Czech Republic just right for this kind of service? 

That is hard to say. Ivo Lukačovič, the founder of, had a very good business instinct. At the time he founded he had a very good idea; he put together services people learned to use and he was brave enough to try and find a way to finance his hobby (find out more about this history). Much later, when there was more competition on the Internet, has made the deliberate and rational decision that it wanted to focus on the business and environment it knows the best.

I am not sure if it is a recipe for everyone, but it worked for We started as a small company and grew big only on one market. I suppose every company has to find its way. Copying anybody does not work in a long run. You need to have your passion and a bit of luck, which you wittily use for your aim. That is something that I suppose happened to and it does not have to necessarily be because it has happened in the Czech Republic. Yes, Czechs are specific – not many Czechs spoke English 10 years ago. But even now when English is much more common, they still use our services. We differ from our completion in many ways. Maybe diversity of business might be more important than just sole global growth. We live on Full text search and PPC advertising, display adds, yellow-pages-like on-line catalogue business and advertising at field-specific servers (Sauto, Sreality and so on). And these four legs of our business are approximately of the same size in revenues. That combined with focus on our users and innovations are the key to our stable growth, in my opinion.

 What is Seznam doing today to stay ahead of competition from the likes of Google, Facebook, or Yahoo?

We try to use our knowledge of the Czech market and Czechs to our advantage. For example: Czechs are very keen tourists, and at the weekends you can find many people with their small backpacks in the woods, following the tourist marks, going for a short hike or trip. For an international company it doesn’t make sense to come out with a special tourist map just for Czechs (as outside the CEE there are not many countries with such a sophisticated and well-maintained system of tourist markers in the countryside). made that an important part of its web maps and also built a mobile map on the touristic data we have, with an offline mode. This is something that does not make sense for Google, but it makes sense for and also wins us positive points among Czech Internet users.

Can you tell us about some other interesting projects Seznam has been working on?

Lately we have made a lot of product innovations. The big ones have been started within the last 3 years with (a tabloid- web-news server). We have done it totally differently than any other similar site. We have completely skipped categories on the site, just providing the users with a stream of news and photos. With a big photo leading to the main article of the day in the background. Since then we have really started to innovate and simplify our products. For the latest innovations, you can see our English press release on innovations.

And in the last 3 months we have come up with about 7 new mobile apps. See them all here. 

Seznam is a major partner of Startupyard, how did the company get interested in Startupyard, and what do you hope to gain from the partnership?

The cooperation started 3 years ago. By then we had talked to other Prague accelerators, and the Prague Hub, to find out if there were any ways to share our know-how with the companies present there. At StartupYard, the deal was the fastest and made the most sense, as it continues to do. The first year was mostly about know-how; sharing and mentoring. To add to that, we became an investor in SY last year ,and for next year, we will also provide the teams with part of our technology. We believe it can help some people with very good ideas, to make their ideas become successful and viable projects.

To see what more we plan to do in 2014 with Start ups, please see our blog post from December (in Czech) –


Calling all European Coders: What Could you Build with this Web Crawler Hadoop Database?

Last week we announced that was opening part of its search technology by providing a cluster of data. Today, we are happy to give you more details. full text search technology is based on Hadoop and Hbase. The teams will have access to a test cluster of up to 100 million documents from the Internet. All of them pre-crawled and sorted into entities such as domains, webservers and URLs. Each of these entities contains its own attributes for fast analysis and sorting of each web page in the cluster.

More specifically, the 3 entities are :

  • Domains – these are equivalent to DNS name structure, domains are organized as a tree. Root entity is special domain “.”,
  • Webservers – a “webserver” is the specialization of a “domain” (webserver = domain + port). They gather URL statistics and other attributes related to a webserver as a whole (for example content of robots.txt is Webserver relevant).
  • URLs – a URL represents a document on a webserver. “URL” is always related to some “webserver”. It contains all attributes relevant to a single web page.

Each entity has a key. The key looks like a modified URL – the hostname parts are in reverse order, the rest of the url is lowercased and cleaned up. It is possible to recognize an entity type from its key value. For example:

  • URL:
  • URL-key: cz.montkovo.!80/cenik
  • webserver-key: cz.montkovo.!80
  • domain-key: cz.montkovo.

The whole database is sorted via the key (ascending), so that all URLs on the same webserver are co-located and could be processed one after another.

Here is a list of common attributes for each entity:

Domain entity

  • Key
  • IP address of the domain (if exists)
  • Number of direct sub-domains
  • Number of all sub-domains
  • Number of all webservers in all sub-domains
  • Number of all known URLs (URLS related to all sub-domains). We call this state of URL as “key-only”.
  • Number of all downloaded URLs. State “content”.
  • Number of all processed URLs (i.e. parsed and extracted basic features). State “derivative”.
  • Number of redirects
  • Number of errors (i.e. URLs with downloading or processing error)
  • Average document download latency

Webserver entity

  • Key
  • Webserver homepage (key to that URL)
  • Content of Robots.txt (robot exclusion protocol) relevant to our crawler
  • Number of all known URLs (state key-only) related to this webserver.
  • Number of all downloaded URLS (state content) related to this webserver.
  • Number of all processed URLs (state derivative) related to this webserver.
  • Number of redirects
  • Number of errors
  • Average document download latency

URL entity

  • Key
  • URL as seen on the web
  • Last download date
  • Last HTTP status
  • Type of the URL – could be few (not downloaded, web page, redirect, error, …). Mind: type of the URL is not the same as HTTP status. For example: HTTP status is 200 OK, but URL type is redirect, because we have detected software redirect within the page content.
  • Attributes specific for different URL types:
    • Not downloaded page
      • We have no explicit information about this page. Only factors that could be predicted (for example document language) and off-page signals (like pagerank) are available.
      • Prediction of document language
      • Prediction of explicit content (porn)
      • Pagerank – classic PR value calculated from link graph
      • Link distance from webserver homepage
      • List of backward links, each contain:
        • Key of the source page
        • Anchor texts relevant to this link
        • HTML title of the source page
        • Pagerank of the source page
    • Web page (i.e. downloaded page with regular content)
      • Alternative URLs for the page – each page could be presented under multiple different URLs. This is scored list of those possibilities.
      • Detected document’s Content-Type
      • Downloaded content
      • Content version – date/time of content download. Could be different from last download date (note: 304 Not modified)
      • Major language – language identified as “most relevant” for this page – could be different from most frequent language on page (different lang for body text vs. menus)
      • Homepage – flag if this page is webserver’s homepage
      • Pagerank – classic pagerank value
      • Link distance of this page from webserver’s homepage
      • Derivative (attributes obtained by further processing):
        • Document charset
        • Detected languages on page with their frequencies
        • Explicit content flag – detected porn
        • Document title
        • Document <meta description …>
        • Document content parsed down to a DOM tree
        • Forward links found on the page
      • List of backward links. Each one have:
        • Key of the source document
        • Anchor texts (extracted from source document) relevant to this link
        • HTML title of the source page
        • Pagerank of the source page
    • Redirect
      • Target URL key
      • Homepage – flag that this redirect is part of redirect chain to a webserver’s homepage
    • Error
      • The same info as for “not downloaded page”
      • We could provide some more, for example date of last download when the page was OK, if it would be necessary for something.

With all this data at your disposal, what could you build? The cluster will be updated and new entries can be added as per team requests. We are looking for the best ideas in the area of Data, Search and Analytics.

Wherever you are in Europe, we will pay for your flight ticket and your accommodations for 3 months in Prague so that you can participate in our accelerator program. Why don’t you start your application now?


If you have any questions about the database, enter it as a comment below

Six months after Finishing StartupYard, Travelatus has been acquired.

This weekend, we received word that Travelatus, one of our Alumni of StartupYard 2013,  was acquired by Munich-based Excursiopedia. I caught up with Co-Founder Valentin Dombrovsky for an interview on the deal, and his experiences with SY.

We’re excited to hear that your startup, Travelatus, has been acquired by Munich based Excursopedia. How did the acquisition come about?

Thank you Lloyd. Well, Excursiopedia and Travelatus have been following each other for a long time – it turned out that both our companies have some weight with the Russian online travel market, and we were doing some similar things. We were talking about opportunities for partnership and then it turned out it would be easier for us all to unite and to try to conquer the tours and activities market together.

We’ve known each other for quite a long time thanks to our Travel Startups group in Facebook. At Travelatus we thought about expanding our inventory; giving travellers opportunities to order more services in partnership with Excursiopedia. And we got acquainted with Excursiopedia CEO Kirill Sermyagin in person during the DEMO Europe conference, where both our projects were presented.

I hope that in one year Excursiopedia will be widely known world-wide – both among travellers and among online travel entrepreneurs. And our goal is to help it grow. I truly believe that we have skills to build a billion dollar company in 5 years time and that’s what our team is going to help in doing.

Tell us about your team. How did you meet each other, and how did you come up with the idea for Travelatus?

My cofounders Denis and Vitaliy both come from the small town of Balakovo, but they met each other randomly in Moscow in 2007. They both worked as developers, and one day decided to launch a startup devoted to sports – it was called Spogler. In February 2010 they attended Startup Weekend in Moscow, in which I participated as one of the experts helping startups on internet marketing issues (I was CEO of internet marketing consulting company Nextup Media then). It turned out that we liked each other and I became an advisor for their startup Spogler. Shortly after the SW guys left their jobs and devoted their efforts to building their project (with a bit of my help), and running their outsourced web-development company SevenQuark. But we didn’t manage to get far with Spogler and eventually stopped working on it. However, we were still in touch and worked together on some outsource development.


In October 2011 I left Nextup Media (sold my share to my partner) and began to search for something to work on. Eventually I came to the idea of Travelatus as something that was called “An Amazon for Travel” (we got the pitch with the initial idea here). So I turned to the guys to help me with the development and we became co-founders. I also joined SevenQuark as CMO to help them get clients to have something to live on. So in fact, the work on the project started part-time in the beginning of 2012. We tried to work on the back-end, exploring thoroughly the process of integration with Expedia API and that took quite a lot of time and effort (considering again that we had to work on clients’ projects as well). In November 2012 we turned to the new idea of focusing on event travel.

See more info on Travelatus here

 How did you find StartupYard in 2013, and how did being part of an accelerator affect your company’s trajectory in the past 8 months?

I strongly believed that an accelerator was the right choice for our company. We didn’t think of StartupYard as of the only opportunity for us, but we applied to it at the right time, I think. This was exactly the time when the project began to be something more than an idea and got its 1st prototype (it was very different from what we have at the moment but still). And StartupYard was not the only accelerator to accept us, but again they were the 1st and did it at the right time. And I’m glad that it turned out this way.

 Joining StartupYard had a great impact on our project. We got valuable advice, and living in Prague itself was mind-blowing experience. We didn’t manage to raise funding after the accelerator programme as we’d planned, but nevertheless the whole 3-month trip was great.

[SY Mentors] Ondrej Bartos and Damian Brhel influenced us most of all, I think. During talks with Ondrej the new UX-concept of Travelatus was born in fact, and Damian helped to look at the service from the point of view of a professional who is really interested in what we’re doing and looks forward to using our service.

I’m a big Prague fan as well. What about the city made your experience special?

You had a great blog post about “hacking Prague life” – some of the things that I liked about the city were mentioned there. When we speak about Prague, it’s hard for me to tell about something special – the whole city is very different from what we have in Moscow and I can’t even tell what I liked more: the central historical part of the city or Jinonice, Nove Butovice or parts around Smichovske Nadrazi. It may sound strange, but parts of the city that are not so “touristy” make you feel the real atmosphere of the city – feel that you’re part of it too.

Besides general atmosphere, it’s great to feel yourself as part of a European startup community. We have big and active startup community in Russia. However, I feel that it is a bit “closed;” too few foreigners visit Russia and we don’t have as many opportunities to visit European countries as Czech people do.

What would you say has been most responsible for your company’s growth in this short period?

I should say that we made some mistakes in regards to gaining traction for our project. As always, we thought that getting customers would be easier than in turned out to be. And getting customers was vital to getting further investments. So these mistakes did cost us a lot (as they do for many startups). Everything else was fine- the media liked us, our design and UX were called “wonderful.” But we didn’t have customers, so that all was a bit useless.

That’s such a common story. What would you do differently today to bring customers on board earlier?

When I talked with different online travel entrepreneurs (for example, with Diego Saez-Gill of Wehostels), they told me that it would have been better to start not with the service “for everyone who likes traveling to events,” but with some focus. For example, a service for people who like to travel to see events in London, or for people who are rock fans and like to travel to rock concerts. One of our competitors – Festicket – started with kind of a small niche, and rather small range of events, but then managed to grow into quite a large service offering more than 100 of festivals to travel to. I didn’t like their approach when I first saw it, but now I know that they did it right.

And that was the kind of pivot that we were thinking about before starting talks with Excursiopedia.

So it sounds like this acquisition was not your original goal.

No,  we didn’t have this as a goal. […] But then Excursiopedia offer came in and, I think, it was the right time for us to accept it in order to join a growing company (whose team, by the way, was named in top-10 among Russian startups according to rating made by Pruffi HR-agency).

One of the goals in joining an accelerator is usually to prepare for and court investors. What about your approach, or the accelerator made this goal tough for your team? What could SY do better?

I think that SY needs to work more on attracting investors from outside of Czech Republic, and making them interested in what teams in the accelerator are doing. Same for mentors, too.

The Czech market is small, and Czech investors are a bit too cautious.

I think that investor sessions should be held while teams are still in the accelerator – investors then can give their feedback and at least start following some teams. This will help them to understand their potential on Demo Day, as they’ll see what was done during the 3 months of acceleration. I don’t want to boast, but I think that we did a huge amount of work! But it wasn’t too much appreciated, as people didn’t know that it in fact took us 3 months to reinvent the UX-concept and to build the service practically from scratch.

It’s very important for startups to build their reputations in the professional community, and that it may be the way to find investments or even exits. We didn’t plan to make an exit so early, and in fact I’ll call this exit “an enter.” We’re entering Excursiopedia to help it grow into a great company. And our reputation in the online travel sphere helped us to do it (and will help us further on, of course).

We hear that this acquisition is more than a buy-out. It sounds more like a partnership. You’re becoming part of the Excursopedia team, and even moving to Munich. What do you think Excursopedia saw in your team and your service that they liked so much?

Firstly, we’ve got experience in this market that is a bit different from “activities,” which are presented at Excursiopedia at the moment. The 2nd thing was experience that is not correlated with the event tickets product itself. I have experience in building relations in the online travel and startup community, both in Russia and abroad, and this is very valuable for Excursiopedia, as it plans to expand its presence in the domestic and international market. Denis and Vitaliy are experienced developers. I should even say that they’re not just developers, but great technical teams leaders, and they’ll have the opportunity to use their skills at Excursiopedia as well (unfortunately, they didn’t have such opportunities in Travelatus).

And finally Excursiopedia is interested in developing the Travelatus project as part of the company. They like our idea of event travel and travelling with some goal in general. That’s why they’re interested in helping us to bring our service to the new level.

Would you recommend this (launching a startup) as a strategy for seeking employment? It must have been a lot of stress

I definitely won’t! And we were not seeking the job. It just happened that Excursiopedia got right positions for us and managed to offer them at the right time.

Money is not a subject a lot of founders are as comfortable with as they’d like to be. Any advice for others in the same situation?

Well, my position is that you should seek opportunities – not money – when you build your first project. We gave up 10 % of our project to SY without thinking that it was a bad deal, for example – because we gained a lot of opportunities. The main thing is that you should think about yourself  as one big “startup” – even if your project fails or you manage to make not so much money out of it. You gain experience and connections which are much more valuable. So if you see investment or selling a company as a good deal in those terms, then you should not hesitate.

What was the most valuable thing you learned at StartupYard? Something you’d want future groups to get out of an accelerator.

I see things have changed [at StartupYard}. You got a new CEO and are focusing on a smaller niche, and I think that it’s the right thing to do. So I think later groups will get even more value from the accelerator than we did.

The things that you should think of when you get into an accelerator with your project is how you will approach customers once the project is done. At StartupYard they teach lean startup concepts, but I think that it’s better to get into them before you apply, to find ways to make your application to stand out. If you write “We had talks with 100 prospective customers and 50 are ready to buy our product once it’s done”, it will certainly make you stand out, for example. For us, the most valuable things were the mistakes that we didn’t manage to avoid, but we understood their reasons and we managed to learn from them, thanks to what we learned at StartupYard.


Why I Agreed to be CEO of StartupYard

I did not hesitate long. But I did hesitate.

 The Challenge

An accelerator’s success depends first and foremost on the potential of the companies it helps to grow. We’ll either find amazing teams or we will not. The main parameter here is that our application forms are opening for 6 weeks starting…. Today. This means I had 3 weeks to get settled into this position, and will have 6 weeks, starting now, to recruit the best candidates for the accelerator. One thing’s for sure, if we find those hands-on entrepreneurs who combine business sense with uniquely great ideas, they will gain some fantastic knowledge during our 3 Months Acceleration Program. Still, 9 weeks (including 2 weeks of holidays), is an insanely short period of time in which to accomplish anything like this.

The Plan

However, when the Board of StartupYard told me that was opening part of its proprietary search technology for the future teams, they piqued my interest even more. Suddenly we have one of the only companies in the world that is still #1 in search in its home country against Google, and they’re going to let founders build products on top of processed web data that they will collect and prepare. By providing this level of abstraction, new connections and services can be imagined within these data. It’s all down to the creativity of the founders to come up with some kick-ass business ideas. Who could say no? The second thing that interest me was that StartupYard had decided to become a specialized accelerator. From now on, every new batch of companies will all belong to a vertical segment of the IT industry. This year, thanks to, it will be Data (with Search and Analytics underlying Data). That’s why this data sandbox they will make available is so interesting if you are working in these fields. Future rounds will include mobile games, payments, etc…

The Name of the Game: Data


By specializing, we aim at bringing together European teams all working on similar Data problems. Our mentors work or have worked on Data projects in companies like GoodData, Google, Yahoo, IBM, Ericsson or Seznam. We see  this as a tremendous opportunity for the selected founders to learn from talented specialists. By specialising, we also hope to foster cooperation between the teams. For this reason I wanted to make sure it will be an easy decision for anybody not living in Prague to join the program. Therefore, StartupYard will offer, for the first time:

  • 3 months of free accommodations in Prague
  • Free lunch

This is important to me. It should not cost founders money to join an accelerator. Period.  If he has cash, he should use it to sustain himself while he is developing his business, or invest it directly in his company. I moved to Prague to start a business 9 years ago and I never regretted it. I want to make that decision an easy one for the next generation.

We’ll See You in Prague

I’ve been mentoring at StartupYard for 2 years now. Not all years were equal, but it is a great start-up in itself, and Prague is the best capital city in Europe. Bar none. I hope we will be able to attract some fantastic founders with brilliant ideas and give them all the knowledge and support they need to thrive. I know how exhilarating growth and success is, and how hard failure can be. I have experienced a lot working 17 years as a start-up founder and CEO. I will make sure they are ready for all of it. Applications are now open, and will stay open until January 31st, 2014. If you are working on anything related to Data, Search or Analytics, you should really check us out! We look forward to seeing you in Prague this spring.


About Cedric Maloux

Cedric Maloux director startupyard

Cedric Maloux, originally of Paris, has been in the startup world for nearly 20 years. He sold his first company in 2000, and has raised capital from the top VCs in Europe. He served as CEO of Geewa, a struggling Czech gaming company, and turned it into one of the top 10 developers for Facebook, with Pool Live Tour. He’s an avid poker player and recently launched an app for poker bankroll management. He has lived in Prague for nearly a decade. Cedric has been a mentor at StartupYard for over two years, and was invited by the Board of Directors this past fall to take the reins as CEO.

Can we get 200 Applications, 10 Finalists and 6 Winning Startups in 6 Weeks?

We need to attract 6 of the best Startups in Europe in just 6 Weeks, and we’ll be sharing the whole excruciating, beautiful process on this Blog.

Welcome to the New StartUp Yard Blog. Getting here wasn’t easy. Why is there a dragon in the lobby anyway?

We’re Going to Have an Insane 6 Weeks.

That’s putting it mildly. Recent conversations with friends go something like this:

-Hey, we’re redesigning our website and expanding our focus to all of Europe, recruiting at least 200 applicants, and we’ll select 10 finalists and 6 teams to enter our 3 Month Acceleration Program in Prague.

-Great! Sounds like a challenge. When do you launch? Q3 2014?

-Huh, what? We launch next week.

– Oh… ok. How long do you have to get the applications?

– Six weeks.

– Oh… Are you sure this is a good idea?

– The Board says it’s fine…

– Ok…. good… luck.

We’re a StartUp Seed Accelerator that is actually being run like a startup. It’s going to be great.

Is This a Bad Idea?

Not necessarily. Our feeling is that a startup Accelerator should be run a lot like a startup. Experiment, take risks, grow into new spaces, and never lose the edge that made us entrepreneurs and inventors in the first place. We’ve done this before, so while it can be scary, we know it’s actually supposed to be. That’s how you know you’re doing something really unique.

Blue Screen of Total Panic


0x00000000D1… Of Course!

Is 200 applications a lot? Yeah, it is. And worse yet, we know the bulk of the applications for the next Acceleration round won’t come in until the final week. According to TechStars, a whole 25% of applications come on the very last day. We’ll have 2 months to review, vet, select and invite 6 teams to Prague. Even if we just spent the 2 months reading, there would only be time to review each application for a few hours at most, but we will have to have most of the teams selected within a month, in time to prepare their accommodation, their travel arrangements, and the logistics of a 3 months stay in the heart of Europe. More importantly, we’ll have to prepare a huge team of mentors, investors, and others who will work directly with the teams, according to their needs and various stages of development.

The Stakes are Rather High

We’re making decisions that affect a lot of people’s lives, including our own. We’re going to be working with the teams we choose for 6 months (3 months in Prague, 3 months back home), and those teams are going to be building products and services from scratch. And we’re going to be making a largish investment in the ideas that get those teams to our offices in Prague, not only in money, but in time; the time and attention of some very important people we’d rather not let down.


Tom Gets Us

Which is good news for you, denizens of the startosphere: because we’re going to lay it all out here.

But This is Exactly Where We Live

If there are 6 teams of startups in our program, we’re the 7th startup. That’s our ethos. That’s why this Blog won’t be a PR Machine. For the next half year, we’re going to share every gritty detail of life at StartUp Yard, as we cull and cultivate 6 of the most promising startups in Europe,  and put them through one of the toughest and most rewarding experiences of their professional lives.

The idea will be to build, in breadth and depth, a vision of the process through which our startups get funding, achieve success, crash and burn, and maybe even become profitable. We are admirers of the work of such notorious Blogs and Bloggers as Agent of Truth, Paul Graham, ViperChill and Unicorn Free, and we intend to laugh and cry together, as we build something we’re proud of.

Our Homebase at Tech Square, Prague.

Our Homebase at Tech Square, Prague.

Why do this? Well dear friends, because our purpose on this Earth is not to make starting a new business pleasant or even necessarily easy, but to make it comprehensible; to make it possible. Because while some would have you believe they’ve got a secret sauce, and can sell you the formula for $99, we don’t use any sauce at all. We just work hard and well, and we think you should to. And that’s not a formula that is for sale anywhere, because good ideas are easy, but making them work is hard (and way more fun).

Does your office have a pillow room? Ours does.

Does your office have a pillow room? Ours does.

And while we can’t make you work hard (if the promise of doing great work isn’t enough, nothing is), we can help you to work well, and that’s what we are going to try to do here. You can call it a public service, but the public includes us: this Blog will be a platform for our attempts to positively affect the ecosystem we work in.

Why Quality Matters

We hear big numbers a lot when we talk about “growth hacking” and data. But focusing on those numbers, as entrepreneurs, often leads us to forget what they mean. Startups define their successes in numbers: a market cap, a number of users, a CTR or a retention rate, but these numbers are the result of two things: the quality of the product that is being offered, be it represented in the marketing or the website, or in a piece of software or hardware itself, and the quality of the process that the company follows in getting from the first user, to the hundred thousandth. These are the factors that will matter to us here: the things that lend a product or a service real value: that they work well, and that they are put in the hands of people who need them.

But Please, What’s Your Pitch?

Hang on, let me get a copywriter.

StartUp Yard is a seed accelerator for technology startups. For 3 years, we’ve been working with teams from all over Europe with great ideas, helping them to turn those great ideas into great companies. And so far we’ve done well.

startupyard-3-years-infographicsThe Accelerator Program

The life of StartUp Yard revolves around the Accelerator Program, a 3 month intensive residency at our offices in Prague, Capital City of the Czech Republic. Here you’ll be mentored and coached by scores of entrepreneurs with combined decades of experience doing what you’re trying to do: building and launching a tech startup from scratch. Our mentors have worked with Google, IBM,, and Yahoo, to name a few; we have angel investors, tech directors, PR managers, a pro native English copywriter, and more.

European teams chosen for this program get free lodging and food for the 3 month program, return flights to one of the most beautiful cities in the world, as well as over $300,000 dollars worth of perks from Microsoft, Google, and our other partners.

Better than all that, you’ll get hands-on training from a dynamic team of mentors, walking you through every step necessary to make your company a success, from legal, to finance, to hiring, to site design, and giving you the chance to perfect your pitch and see what’s possible. We don’t just tell you: we work with you to get these processes moving. The grueling first 3 months ends on Demo Day, when you get a chance to shine like it’s 1979, and you’re Steve Jobs (or maybe you’re Woz, that’s fine too).

Following the 3 month in-house program, teams return home to launch their companies for another 12 weeks, remaining in constant touch with mentors and the StartUp Yard team, as your company grows and matures, culminating after another 3 months in Investor Day- a conference in which you’ll get the opportunity to to be judged by highly qualified investors.

We forge connections, build relationships, reinforce good organizational habits, and work our teams down to the last detail. That what we love doing: helping you work well, and encouraging you to work hard.

Because we’re good enough, we’re smart enough, and gosh-darnit, people like us.

Thus ends “PR” in this Blog, in a traditional sense. And thus begins our real purpose:

We will attempt be to lay out transparently, and in detail, from all the pretty and not-so-pretty angles, what starting a company with us really looks like. We want to learn something, and we hope you do to. Everything will be fair game in these pages. Anything can happen (and probably will).

What can you expect along the way? We’ll be posting interviews with Entrepreneurs, mentors, founders, angels, and even copywriters. We’ll be going into detail on the nitty gritty, funky little details that make the difference between life and death for a startup that’s working with us. And we’ll be addressing the big questions too: why start a business, how to build a company culture, and how to deal with success and failure. If we think it, and it isn’t too stupid to live, we’ll tell you about it.

Trying to Live by Our Principles

“When Cortez reached the New World, he burned his ships. As a result, his men were well motivated. Personally, I give us 1 chance in 3” – Sean Connery, The Hunt For Red October

This blog will also be a place where we attempt to live by our principles. So when we tell a young company that a boring PR Blog is a very bad thing, we have to sort of mean it, and not have a boring PR Blog. If we say take risks, we have to take risks. Beyond that, we’re going to push ourselves here to engage you, by giving you content that actually matters- something in which you’ll find real value. If we can learn from our mistakes, so can you. If we can learn from our successes, so much the better that you do too.


Data and Search now the heart of StartupYard for 2014

Are you ready? We are accepting applications starting today for our April 2014 round!

This round will focus exclusively on teams working in Data, Search and Analytics.

We will be setting our sights on the best teams in these areas from all over Europe; selecting only 6 from 10 finalists for our 3 month, English-language only Acceleration Program. Teams from outside the Czech Republic will receive free accommodations in Prague, and one payed return flight from anywhere in Europe.

The comprehensive program will cover all aspects of creating and growing a business, from legal and accounting, to hiring, code review and company culture, with access to 90 specialised mentors, media trainers, a professional native English copywriter and blogger, and perks worth €250,000.

Prague attracts many data companies, so we felt it would be to the benefit of our upcoming class if we specialised. We have a very clear objective: to attract the most ambitious projects from all across Europe in the fields of Data, Search or Analytics. To achieve that, we have put together a package we hope no entrepreneur in Europe could refuse. If you are working on any project related to Data, Search or Analytics, you have until Jan 31st, 2014 at Midnight to apply.


Seznam Opens Part of Its Full Text Search Technology for StartupYard 2014

Today is a great day for the future startups of StartupYard 2014! has decided to open part of its full text search technology to the teams that apply for the 2014 round, to help them with their large data projects that need extracted data from the Internet. started as a one-man band and during the past 17 years has become a major Czech influential technological company and a media house in one, which is preventing Google from gaining the majority or monopoly on the Czech market. full text search technology is based on Hadoop and Hbase. The 2014 StartupYard teams will have access to a test cluster of up to 100 million documents from the Internet. All of them pre-crawled and sorted into entities such as domains, webservers and URLs. Each of these entities contains its own attributes for fast analysis and sorting of each web page in the cluster.


“We have made a basic analysis for each webpage in the cluster so the teams know its content as a derivate with many parameters such as the language used and meta-descriptions. All of the documents in the cluster are regularly updated and more parameters and content can be added if the teams need and request them,” 

Marek Nový, Head of Business Development at

Good news comes in pairs. Today StartupYard is accepting applications for our April 2014 round. This round will focus exclusively on teams working in Data, Search and Analytics.

Teams will receive free accommodations in Prague, free lunch and one payed return flight from anywhere in Europe.

We will be setting our sights on the best teams in these areas from all over Europe; selecting only 6 from 10 finalists for its 3 month, English-language only Acceleration Program. The comprehensive program will cover all aspects of creating and growing a business, from legal and accounting, to hiring, code review and company culture, with access to 90 specialised mentors, media trainers, a professional native English copywriter and blogger, and perks worth €250,000.

Prague attracts many data companies, so we felt it would be to the benefit of our upcoming class if we specialised. We have a very clear objective: to attract the most ambitious projects from all across Europe in the fields of Data, Search or Analytics. To achieve that, we have put together a package we hope no entrepreneur in Europe could refuse.

The application closes at the end of January. Please help us spread the news by sharing this article!