“Try to get the absolute maximum out of your co-operation. Take the initiative – don’t wait to find out what your technology partners are planning to offer.”
Zbyněk Poulíček, founder of GINA Software
Zbyněk Poulíček, together with colleagues Boris Procházka and Petra Černá, got the idea in 2010 to create software for hiking maps. Later on, the team decided to adapt their programme to assist the emergency services. Their minds were made up after seeing on television the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.
The problem was that the threesome had no equipment, office support or know-how. They turned to the Brno University Technology, where at the time Poulíček was writing his thesis.
“The university couldn’t help, but they gave me a contact at the company Microsoft,” explains Poulíček. Startups were not very common at that time in the Czech Republic and a team of students had little idea about building a successful future.
Our partners enabled us to rapidly test the product in the field
Microsoft urged the three-member team to take their idea and present it at the student competition, the Imagine Cup. The technology presented by GINA won the national round and was even praised by Bill Gates.
“Microsoft provided us with the technology, mentoring and know-how. Moreover, they introduced us in their innovation centres all around the world.”
Through their contacts at Microsoft, the students found themselves at the door of Motorola Solutions, who invited them to join its partner programme, provided equipment and enabled them to quickly test the product out in the field.
“Motorola Solutions provided us with the equipment which we could then send out to rescue workers in Haiti. It was a generous gift, and the company helped us considerably with this gesture. We got a very strong reference.”
We learnt how to do business
While technology partners have provided equipment and PR, Poulíček readily admits GINA’s gratitude to JIC for their advice on how to run a business.
“Big companies were tackling problems different than ours. And they were doing it in areas other than crisis management. This meant that, at the beginning, we were offering our solutions to people who weren’t interested. JIC helped us turn this around.”
According to Poulíčka, JIC STARCUBE is useful for getting a company quickly up and running. The startups accepted by JIC are furthermore precisely those that are the most interesting for large technology companies. Corporations can feel confident that these startups have been vetted and do indeed have potential.
GINA stayed on at JIC, working its way through other programmes of support. The firm appreciated in particular the back-office support and the local experts willing to give advice. They also regard as an advantage and a source of inspiration the close proximity of other companies dealing with similar problems.
GINA Software is developing mapping systems for mobile devices that enable navigation in difficult terrain, team co-ordination and the effective exchange of geographical information. The GINA System, the company’s flagship product, is used by emergency services all around the world, and the company has agents working in Haiti and Japan. The system has been showered with numerous awards, the most prestigious being its victory at the national round of the Imagine Cup.
Accelerator JIC STARCUBE
Strong cooperation with partners is part of the longest running Czech accelerator JIC STARCUBE. Since 2010 more than 72 start-ups have entered the program. Teams experience three months loaded with knowledge, workshops, meetings with mentors and connecting to global technology companies. They gain benefits and financial support for testing and prototyping, legal and tax services, marketing, travel reimbursement and accommodation. Successful companies which have gone through the accelerator include, for example, GINA, Reservio and currently one of the fastest growing start-ups Kiwi (formerly Skypicker).
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