Samuel Hapák, CEO and co-founder of Vacuumlabs tells us about the role of software development for startups.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Samuel Hapák: Thank you for the kind question. My family, friends, and colleagues are healthy and doing well, which is the most important thing given the current circumstances. I am very grateful for that.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Vacuumlabs.
Samuel Hapák: I am a father of two. Hobbies, I don’t really have any—work and family take all of my time. In 2011, during our university studies, my two friends and I co-founded a software development company. Today, the company is known as Vacuumlabs and serves clients across the globe. Our engineers are building a digital bank in Hong Kong, our designers created an app to track your carbon footprint for Sweden’s startup Economy, and our data scientists help customers of one San Francisco startup with making the right financial decisions.
But it’s not only about providing services to others. We always knew we would eventually have our own products and businesses. First, we launched ReactiveConf—1500+ developers conference in Europe. Then, two years later, our legal team launched two spin-offs companies of their own: Sparring.io—a law firm with a focus on tech companies, and Tramatm.com—an online trademark protection platform. Last year we co-founded Daylight, the first LGBT+ bank in the US, AdaLite.io–a Cardano wallet, Rychlotest–covid. sk, a COVID-19 testing company, and The Spot–a co-working space based in Bratislava. Step by step, Vacuum Group has been born.
How does Vacuumlabs innovate?
Samuel Hapák: There are several beliefs that help us create cool stuff. First, we don’t take credentials seriously. Harvard diplomas or intelligently-sounding words don’t impress us. If you can’t explain your idea in a simple way, you probably don’t understand it well enough. Secondly, we are not afraid of entering new spaces. We know that with enough dedication, there are no limits. Lastly, we tell things as they are. We believe that disagreement and arguments are essential for any innovation to happen.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business growth?
Samuel Hapák: We’ve launched many new businesses over the last year. However, our main software engineering business suffered dramatically. Instead of hitting projected 100 percent year-over-year growth, we grew by a mere 20 percent. Nevertheless, we are already back on track and believe that 2021 will be a more successful year.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources? What lessons did you learn on that front?
Samuel Hapák: Last year was full of decisions that I would have never thought I’d ever had to make. The health, well-being, and comfort of our people have always been our highest priority. In March, when the first case in Slovakia was confirmed and the pandemic was at its start, we decided to close our offices (we are remote by nature anyway), work from home, and move our culture and team activities online as well.
Later, when we knew the situation was not going to end soon, we started to see how the pandemic is negatively affecting the mood and mental health of our team members. And we knew it was time to re-open our offices for their comfort. However, it was important to not endanger their safety or the safety of all other people in Slovakia. From my point of view, it’s not just about whether I get infected and get sick. It is also about our responsibility towards the whole society.
Keeping that in mind, besides meeting all of the safety procedures enforced by the state, we started with regular weekly testing of everyone entering our office. I believe that this step has been crucial in keeping our people and their families safe and sound.
Tell us about your new testing company.
Samuel Hapák: Even then, at the very beginning of the pandemic outbreak, I felt the virus would become a real issue and we came to the conclusion that it is important to help as much as possible. We started off by helping our country and government with the testing procedures, however, it was quite a challenge to change something in such a big system in a short period of time. Thanks to the huge support of scientists and experts, we moved towards opening our own testing facilities. First, we focused our testing just on our own teams and befriended companies, but later on, we opened up for the public as well. I am very grateful that we have managed to provide something valuable to our society during these difficult times.
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