We talked to Grega Milcinski, cofounder of Sinergise about satellite imagery service and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Grega Milcinski: We are lucky to have such a nature of work that can be fully done from a home office, a decent place to shelter and that we are healthy. It is obviously not fun, but many are much worse than us, so it is not appropriate to complain.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Sinergise.
Grega Milcinski: Born in 1980 in Slovenia, I studied Physics and co-founded Cosylab. At age 21, a company developing control systems for particle accelerators. In 2008 I moved to become CEO and cofounder of Sinergise, specializing advanced geospatial software. With our colleagues, we recognized the potential of open Copernicus EO data early but hit a wall trying to use existing technologies to work with these large datasets. We decided to do something about it and Sentinel Hub was born. A Copernicus Masters award-winning service for processing and distributing satellite data is exploiting cloud technology to provide seamless access to the data to more than 100.000 registered ML experts and application developers, processing more than a quarter of a billion requests every month.
How does Sinergise innovate?
Grega Milcinski: In most cases, innovation is a long and grinding work. The main novelty of the Sentinel Hub is not that it is able to process the satellite data in some super fancy way. The main thing is that it really works and that it does this in a sustainable manner, cost-wise. The satellite imagery field is full of mock-ups and prototypes, but most of the things never come to be really stable. Sentinel Hub is, which is why it is so loved by users around the world, who build their solutions on top of it. We do all the hard work in processing the petabytes of data in various formats so that our users do not need to do that. And we make it so that we can price our service less than what it would have cost our users to do it themselves. Therefore, our innovation is a long and grinding work, which allows others to be innovative as well.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Grega Milcinski: At this moment, there is no significant impact on the finances yet. The negative impact will show towards the end of this year and in the coming years when various governmental rescue funds will dry off.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Grega Milcinski: Not at all. Sinergise’s employees are the core asset of our company. We have spent an enormous amount of effort and money to find the best possible ones, on-board them and integrate them into our team. Once the downturn of the economy happens, we will make sure we can support them, each and everyone, as it would simply not make sense to get rid of our past investment.
Our company is also lucky to be self-funded and profitable from the start. Therefore, we have enough cash reserves and no external actor to push us into “optimizing costs”. We can work toward long-term success.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Grega Milcinski: Teleconferences replaced personal meetings. This is actually even more efficient than before, due to lack of travel and as the meetings can remain focused on the topic. However, this efficiency and personal disconnect are slowly degrading the ties between the people. We are all becoming more and more “robotic”, which will impact the overall innovation of society. There is some value in the “coffee chit-chat” and dinner talk, even though it is impossible to measure it.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Grega Milcinski: In terms of COVID-19, we did not use (or need) any governmental grants.
Your final thoughts?
Grega Milcinski: The pandemic significantly changed the way how we work and cooperate. Some changes are for sure to the better. That said, we should not forget about personal connections that have suffered in this period. And I am confident that these things will ramp-up again after we can meet again, regardless of the efficient of remote work and meetings.