Jakub Kozak, co-founder & head of technology at Smultron Software Lab tells us about web applications and Covid-19.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Jakub Kozak: Thank you for asking. We are doing quite well. I am aware that the epidemic has affected many people very badly, both health-wise and professionally. I only have to walk around wearing a mask and carry my sprayer everywhere. The home office work and general social isolation are most distressing, but I hope it won’t last much longer.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Smultron Software Lab.
Jakub Kozak: My first job was programming web applications during my studies at Technical University. Freelancing, smaller and larger websites in the days when one person could do everything. I founded Smultron in 2010 with three people and since then we’ve been growing the company. Our team changed, we started hiring new people and we specialized as a front-end software house.
How does Smultron Software Lab innovate?
Jakub Kozak: Innovation in its broadest sense is inherent in the nature of work in a software house. We are constantly dealing with new customer ideas, new solutions, libraries, or updates. In other words: we cannot stop progressing if we want to remain competitive. But we don’t create innovation in the strict sense. We do not develop new technologies or methodologies. Many companies describe themselves as innovative, but in fact, it is mostly learning new things.
With COVID-19, we did two things that were new from our perspective. In the early days of the pandemic, we created a service that aggregates local food outlets and made it available to restaurant owners at no charge. The second internal innovation is to change our hiring model. Until now, remote hiring was more of an exception, but now we’ve realized that this model doesn’t have to come with a decrease in productivity.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Jakub Kozak: We are fortunate to work in an industry that has not been drastically affected by the pandemic. The amount of work hasn’t changed, nor has the way we complete assignments. The only noticeable and abrupt change for us was the move to remote working. Previously, we were working on site, in an office, and had concerns about how it would all work remotely. We knew there were companies like Basecamp that were entirely organized in a remote model. It looks like it could work for us as well. We work for clients from all over the world so we were used to communicating via email, Google Meet, or Skype. This is probably why remote working is painless for us.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Jakub Kozak: Again, we seem to have been lucky. We have not had to downsize or make any difficult decisions. On the contrary, we’re excited for the opportunity to look for new employees across the country and then maybe from overseas.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Jakub Kozak: We use a lot of tools and keep testing new ones. If something proves to be effective then we start using it or replace the tools. We use Google Suite, Google Drive, Basecamp, Slack, Jira, and Gitlab. This is enough for us, depending on the type of project and the level of technical involvement of customers we compose the appropriate set individually. When it comes to communication, recently Google Meet, Zoom, Slack, Teams are obviously dominating. Before, we had more meetings. Now all meetings are online, and I think everyone is used to it. Such meetings are easier to organize, faster, and in my opinion, it is often a more effective method than physical meetings.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Jakub Kozak: We benefited from funding from the first pool of government aid, but it was relatively small. The crisis did not affect us so much that we could apply for larger amounts.
Your final thoughts?
Jakub Kozak: Thank you for the invitation. I wish all entrepreneurs that the difficulties resulting from the pandemic are also opportunities to do something interesting and unexpected.