“The saying “golden Czech hands” (and heads) remains true. Here we have a breeding ground for very skilful people who get enthused about solving all kinds of technological problems. We’re so inventive, and this is really something that really makes us unique. I notice this fact especially when travelling abroad, where we solve problems our customers regard as unsolvable. We show them that an ideal and functional solution does exist, and that they only need to apply a different method or different data, and hey presto – it works!”
Fans of Arthur Conan Doyle are right to connect the company’s name with Mycroft, the older brother of Sherlock Holmes. Although he’s only mentioned briefly in a few stories, he appears to have a brilliant brain, capable of storing vast quantities of sundry information, which makes him a great guru when it comes to finding hidden connections. Filip Procházka wanted to materialise a being exactly like him in cyberspace, so in 2007 he established Mycroft Mind with this objective. This similarly smart ‘being’ was also intended to be able (and indeed is today perfectly able) to gather information from various sensors and systems and, based on such information, to report on how the network is functioning, draw attention to problems, or even take evasive action if any trouble appears on the horizon.
As soon as the smart system was fully ready, the company started to search for a field in which it could be best and most meaningfully applied. The number of possibilities is virtually infinite. Simply teach the basic system the specifics of the given sphere, and it will serve all kinds of purposes. “We tested the system, for example, in the sphere of computer security, as well as in precision farming, where satellite data and various sensors in the field are used by the system to help farmers achieve better yields,” says Filip Procházka about how the company got started. Ultimately, all his ideas for creating a meaningful business led towards power engineering. However, he faced a tricky challenge. “If you want to carry out a project for a large power-engineering company, you must first show them some testimonials stating that you’ve already carried out something on that level. But how can you carry out something on that level if you still don’t have any such testimonials and cannot get to the data you need? It’s Catch 22,” says Filip Procházka, describing the initial barriers.
So he and his colleagues started attending technical conferences and gradually learned what problems were being tackled in power engineering. They got their first order from ČEZ (as well as the necessary data) owing to their cooperation with system integrators who carry out large-scale projects for power-engineering companies. They chose Filip Procházka’s company because he didn’t want to “just” sell the licence of his smart program, like other contractors. The approach of Mycroft Mind was built, from the very beginning, on understanding the customer’s needs and creating customised solutions. After four years of minor successes, the company had definitively broken through the barriers and gradually started to provide advanced data processing methods to all three power distributors operating in the Czech Republic – ČEZ, E.ON and Pražská energetika.
Future at home and abroad
Unlike companies with a similar specialisation, Filip Procházka never planned to build a company just in order to sell for a huge profit later on. He wants to be the leader in his field in the Czech Republic and a reliable partner for his current customers. However, he admits that he’s been itching to break through abroad as well. The company has recently been successful in this endeavour – providing its services to the Spanish power-engineering giant Iberdrola, while also cooperating with the Canadian company Clevest. The company’s trading partners now include companies of really high repute, such as KPMG and Deloitte.
The company also cooperates with experts and researchers in the field of data visualisation by means of holographic displays. In future these could display all network reports in 3D, i.e. in a form that’s simpler and easier to grasp than ordinary graphs. Filip Procházka will also be responding to changes in power engineering. The introduction of new renewable energy sources must go hand-in-hand with smart systems – like those offered by his company which have prediction and control capabilities. “The system must secure a stable supply of the required energy to the customer. In other words, it must ensure that we don’t live like ants that stop moving after sunset and wait until the sun comes up again,” says Filip Procházka, explaining that adapting his smart ‘being’ to this field will only require, in his words, “powdering its nose”, i.e. a few cosmetic adjustments are sufficient to tailor it to the new generation of grids.
A jinn from a magic lamp
Only twelve years ago, calling a platform ‘an intelligent being’ was very daring, and most clients of Filip Procházka found the term a little too sci-fi. So he gave up the poetic image and replaced it with the more prosaic ‘system’. However, since modern life clearly welcomes the abundance of artificial intelligence with open arms, he’s started to talk more creatively again about the subject of his business. This way he’s able to better explain to a layman (and client) how his smart system could be useful for them. “Naturally, it’s very easy to ply someone with technical terms and create the impression that we’re soaring in the ethereal realms of pure mathematics, which they’ve no chance of understanding. But that’s not what we’re about at all,” says Filip Procházka with a smile, adding that for this reason he’s started to use the fairy-tale character of the jinn from Aladdin and the Magic Lamp. “Our system is basically a sort of a jinn from a magic lamp, who lives in the power grid, fulfils wishes and arranges everything to be as it should.”
Hand-in-hand with JIC – right from the outset
The company has had ties to JIC since its very beginning. The cooperation resulted naturally from the links between JIC and Masaryk University, in whose Science and Technology Park Mycroft Mind is based. “What we found very beneficial were the innovation vouchers organised by JIC. This way we addressed our marketing, in particular. The networking and excellent consultancy in the field of subsidies were also a great help. We’re better versed when it comes to projects at the European and Czech level, and we know what areas we could profitably expand into. Even as we speak, we’ve got an iron in the fire – something we’ve been able to work on with help from JIC,” says Filip Procházka about the cooperation.
Mycroft Mind has a total of 25 employees. “Our corporate culture is not overly bound up in conventions and rules. On the other hand – to be able to make such complicated systems, we need to work systematically,” says Filip Procházka about how the company works, adding that he always gives his colleagues enough room for creativity. After all, creativity plays a very important role in his life. When he’s not creating computer systems in his office, he’s composing music and playing in several groups. Filip Procházka does not come across as a boss or coach who leads, manages and evaluates his team. “I’m more like a player captain. I play my own game, and whoever likes it can come and play with me,” he says with a smile.
measurements processed by Mycroft Mind
largest Czech energy distributors are clients of Mycroft Mind
is the current number of pages for the technical specifications of the system’s 3rd generation
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