From Marketing Agency to Own Project- the Journey of Sloneek Co-founder Vašek Martin

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Vašek Martin is one of the founders of Sloneek. He is currently in charge of international sales activities. He gave birth to the first idea of creating an application that would help people eliminate paper leave request forms. In 2010, he designed the first version of the application- it was called iDovolenka and it was the predecessor of Sloneek. He studied economics and marketing. He is a martial art lover and convinced sportsman. 

You’ve been in Sloneek since the very beginning. Milan and you gave birth to the idea of  formation of iDovolenka which was a precursor of Sloneek. How did you get to know Milan?

We knew each other before iDovolenka. We both worked in marketing. I asked Milan if he would like to work with me on iDovolenka but he refused to cooperate. We worked in agencies- a kind of hired hand 😊 who works for a client. At some point I thought it would be great to work on something on my own, create history of my own product and leave a trace. 

What led you to take this step? Were you annoyed by paper leave request forms?

At that time, the most of administrative work was done on paper or in a system that was installed in the customer’s network. It seemed to be absurd that people were writing leave request and were still using the form that was invented in the 1960s. When I saw a stark difference between the technologies that had started to develop tremendously at that time and this paper request, I felt the business potential. The initial idea wasn’t to create the most commonly used software installed in network but that we would create a cloud app. 

And what about your beginnings?

It was really funny at the begining. My future wife with a blanket over her head, in order to have a good audio, recorded the text to a video that was supposed to show future customers how much time and money iDovolenka would save. We calculated what happens if a paper request is lost and how many man-hours it costs to write, search and classify it. We developed  argumentation about it and it’s still valid today- although in very outlaw way.

Before we struck a deal with an external company, we had a partner. I used to travel by bus to visit him in summer and winter in Plzeň to form the application. Eventually, we launched it and iDovolenka found its customers.  It worked for about three or four years.

When did you decide to make a more complex solution and come up with Sloneek?

iDovolenka, from the very beginning, had no higher ambitions than its name indicated. However, the customers let us know in a really short time that they would be interested in additional functionalities. And also, that absences are related to attendance, timetracking, etc. So, we actually started to think about expansion. 

And at that point, it couldn’t even be called iDovolenka because it would be misleading, right?

Yes,exactly. We were thinking about a new name. We were considering typically posh corporate names and then we realized that it would be better to give it a simple word that might not even mean anything. At the same time, we needed the name that would work abroad – because Milan, Filip and I wanted to present it internationally. 

Sloneek is a Czechoslovak word but it’s not a tongue twister for English- speaking customers. Of course, they have no idea what Sloneek is but they can handle it. 

There are some interesting facts about its development as well. At first, it was an elephant that looked more like a rubber duck. 😊 Terribly graphically naive. Then we asked a designer for help and he created the one we use now. 

How did you get from developing the application to business?

By chance. I started in product, then I continued in marketing and now I’m in sales. Thanks to my experience with the product, I can better explain to customers how the app works and what they can improve with Sloneek and how. In the future, I would like to focus more on analytics and integrations because I’m a maths lover. I love working with numbers and being a salesman is a challenge for me. 

There is a keen competition for Sloneek in abroad. How does it attract customers?

Competition is really wide, strong and various as are the customers’ needs. On one hand, some customers are looking for a cheap solution and have little expectations. On the other hand, some of them are looking for a highly complex and perfect solution. Our position isn’t easy. 

The advantage for us is that we’re young, dynamic start-up full of Czechoslovak minds who are interested in their work from the very beginning and have thought about flexibility and extensibility in the fundamental structure of the application. We wondered what else could work and what else the customers might need. That’s why we’re different from many competitors in Western Europe. We’re looking for the customer who can appreciate it. 

We’re definitely also far ahead in the involvement of artificial intelligence- because we don’t think that HR people are supposed to create content, advertisements, etc. But they’re supposed to be more like a decision marker – someone who makes a decision on the base of numbers given by us. 

What do you usually do in your free time? Do you have any free time?

Yes, I do. I’m a perfectionist about it. In order not to lose my free time I’d rather do something faster and more intensely. I appreciate my free time. I spend weekends with my family- my wife, my two sons and my dog. I’ve been doing martial arts since I was 16. Now I mostly train MMA and jiu jitsu.