Entrepreneurs of Budapest: Piqniq
Entrepreneurs of Budapest is a deep-dive into some of the people and stories that are building startups (often not their first) in Budapest today. We invited local startup founders and teams to tell us about their personal entrepreneurial journeys, their thoughts, and impressions on building a company in Budapest, and their hopes and desires for the future startup scene in Hungary.
This week, meet some of the faces behind Piqniq, the go-to place to share and discuss food with friends: Tamas Kiss [CEO/CTO], Misi Szilagyi [Product], Richard Gazdik [Design], and Miklos Magyar [Dev].
Tell us a bit about Piqniq and where the inspiration came from to start a startup?
Tamas Kiss: The story of Piqniq started 3 years ago. The motivation came from the years before, just working in consulting, eating way too much in restaurants and missing homemade food, and wanting to cook more.
Basically, the whole thing came down to how many kitchens and people are around us, that we don’t have access to. The whole question was, how can we access this knowledge, how can we knock on people’s doors and ask them for a portion or ask them how they made whatever they made, and make that knowledge not just available in the community but available to everyone.
I love that, food is such an amazing topic. Why startup?
Tamas: I just got tired of corporate life and wanted to do something on my own, something that makes a difference instead of just something that management wants.
So that was my first motivation. And I knew Misi from back since we were kids, and Jani who’s not here, our other co-founder, I met him through a course, and we just decided to start working on this concept.
And the rest of the team — what were your personal reasons for joining Piqniq and being involved in the startup world?
Misi: I think part of my motivation was that very early on it was evident that the area we started to try to fix was highly complex and difficult. We met and we had this idea for something to do with food sharing. Then I went home and I was thinking about it and I just couldn’t find a hold on the problem. And then another week passed and it was still very messy. And 3 months passed and it was still messy.
But the messier it got, the more challenging and exciting it seemed to be.
Like what can you do, how can you create a digital experience that is sexy for people in Berlin, SF, and Budapest. It’s super complicated.
And probably the reason I’m still here is because we haven’t solved the challenge yet. We are making progress, and luckily every half year there’s significant progress but it’s still not completely tackled. So probably the thing that excites me the most, is trying to get to the end of the problem. And the end in our case this is a digital experience that is used by at least a hundred million people. That’s when I would first consider saying, OK we’ve done it.
What keeps you motivated? You have an overarching challenge that propels the project, but what keeps you going on a daily basis?
Startups are incredible highs and incredible lows and nothing in between.
So one day you feel like things are awesome and you remember this is why I’m doing this. As long as I keep that in mind, when you have a down day, like, ‘hey, this is one of the lows,’ I just kinda have to push through it.
Personally, what I find most energizing is talking to some of our users, and listening to how passionate they are about Piqniq, that just really gives you me energy.
Richard Gazdik: I’m going to be very honest, I hope you like it. Quickly, I’ve worked as a designer at Ustream for almost 4 years. The truth is, it wasn’t really motivating. And I wanted to look for something that was very inspiring. I’m a designer, so I need inspiration all the time, and I needed to do something that was a bit different from Ustream.
There was a chance to redesign the whole thing, which you know, it’s really good for designers. I could do something creative again, and change something and recruit new users to download the app and use it. And that was the main motivation.
Miki Magyar: I will be short and quick. I love the whole startup scene and the idea that you can change the world with a good idea and not by creating apps that nobody will use.
People who work in startup world are much more motivated than in corporate life. So, it’s always positive, and right now it’s really important for me to be in a positive team.
Tamas: I do want to give a shoutout to all the big corporations like Deutsche Telekom because they do generate a lot of people who are motivated to start working at startups and make a difference in the world instead of working for a corporate.
In general, whenever you work for these large corporations, they really demotivate you to do whatever you have to do there and really motivate you to do something else.
Misi: But on the other hand, in Miki we got a guy who used to work for these big companies, and I think that did bring some value for us.
My big pain, which I’m realizing at a late stage in my life, is how I probably should have spent a few years in bigger, strict companies. I never had, I’ve always been very entrepreneurial. But now as I’m struggling as one of the leaders in a company managing things, I’m really starting to see how it could have benefitted me.
And there is a very interesting video with one of the founders of Prezi, where he explains that he thinks young people shouldn’t do startups, they should spend a few years at big companies, because that’s where they can learn what a jerk boss is like, what a good team is like, what a bad team is like.
What about this idea of mentorship in the startup world? Learning from someone else’s experiences building a startup with a seasoned entrepreneur?
Misi: Yea but the thing is, though it doesn’t work. I mean we have the best mentor you can have in Hungary, Peter Arvai from Prezi. He’s been with us for two years, and the things he started telling us two years ago, some of them are now starting to come to fruition. So, they can tell you all their experiences, and you will listen to them, and live your life according to them, but still, my experience is
you have to commit all of the bad decisions yourself to actually learn from them.
So even with the best mentor, he told us a lot of things we should have done in the first place, and it took us two years to go through it, learn that it was a mistake and actually apply the information.
What would you say are one of the bigger challenges you’ve faced, and mistakes you’ve learned from?
Misi: I’m going to quote our mentor here.
Early on he started telling us that the single thing that will most influence your future is the dynamics of your team. And he added that in order to have good dynamics, people need to trust each other. So the number one thing we are struggling with is getting that team together that has a great dynamic. And dynamic comes from trust.
Once you have a few people who trust each other and the dynamic is good, there’s a good flow of conversations and ideas, then you have a team. If you don’t have a team you have nothing. Even with the best idea.
You know our personal story. We lost one of our co-founders in the process. Obviously, the team was not functioning, which is very sad for everyone involved.
The other thing is, it’s super complicated to create a product that answers a problem that people love and start using. Even if you just want to create a new set of eating utensils. Or if you want to create a digital product or app. It’s very very challenging, and you don’t even know what constitutes success. Like Flappybird. Flappybird became the biggest single success of the past ten years! There was exactly the same game as Flappybird three years ago, but no one heard of it.
You can only guess what the differences were, but you cannot be sure. You can do a lot to create a great concept that has a better chance of success. But the tiny details…I’ve been involved in a lot of projects and product ideas and every time it’s very difficult.
So having a good concept and a good product around it, and a good team. If those things are in place then, life is much easier.
They say to be successful at a startup you should never give up, but at the same time, the biggest mistake you can make is to never give up.
And I found this with small and big problems we have, sometimes we give things up too early instead of pushing through and testing things, and sometimes we push way too long and try to solve things that are just not in the capacity of this startup to solve.
Richard: For me it’s hardest to validate ideas because we have so many but if we could have more people using the application it would be much easier to validate the application itself. With 100k or 200k users per month, all of the ideas could be validated in days, so that’s a big problem in early stage startups especially in iOS applications because it’s hard to validate.
You can have a very useful but ugly application that people will notice. For example, there is booking.com which is ugly, but they have no competitors in that area and they are successful. They can iterate as much as they want, and make mistakes and it’s really easy to do, they don’t care about design.
When AirBnB starts to do the same thing that booking.com does at the moment, they will have a very hard stage because they’ll need to care about design at that point, like AirBnB does right now.
The CEO of AirBnB is coming from a design background, and you can notice that it’s really important for them to make a beautiful app and build a very beautiful product around it.
What are the strengths that have risen in the process?
Misi: The real strengths that have risen from the team and from the community, is that when we do something, we do it full heartedly. When we do it, we really focus and we’re able to put something honest onto the table. And it’s the same for the people who post, for them it’s just 5 minutes, they share a story, but it’s honest and intimate, and they share something real.
Richard: The other keyword is ownership. If you feel you own the product and have the power to change things, that’s what keeps you motivated in the first place. If I can do something for the application and for myself, one of my rules is, I don’t want to work for a company where I can’t be personally involved or inspired, where there is no ownership in the product or I’m not interested in the product at all. Because it just doesn’t work.
Misi: And it’s awesome that people in our team even use the product.
Tamas: Even in the US, the two people working for us in Portland, Jason was a user in the US. He’s a UX designer at Instrument, and we asked him if he would help us with UX. And our marketing support Rebecca was also a user and then decided to join us, and it helps that they’re actually daily users of the product. That’s probably going to be a theme, finding new team members within our community and trying to find people there.
Miki: For me the strength of the team is that I don’t have to think about what my teammates are doing the whole time. It doesn’t matter where the others are, I know they’re thinking about the project. They want to do the best the whole time, which is really important for me because I don’t have to manage the others, I can focus, focus, focus.
What are your thoughts about the startup ecosystem here in Budapest?
Tamas: Cost of living is a huge advantage, there’s no question about that. I think infrastructure-wise, internet and all that, obviously you have that and it’s strong, but you have that in many other places in the world too. I think know-how and experience talking to people is getting better but it’s still a bit limited.
Obviously, you can’t compare it to San Francisco. A lot of people want to build their city into the next SF and you just can’t do that, the vibe there is never gonna happen.
From an admin perspective, it does get very complex, and it doesn’t seem like the higher beings are helping you in making it any easier of a place to start a business. But once you get the admin part out it’s a good place. You can fly anywhere from here. There’s good talent, but it’s running short, it’s not as easy to find technical talent anymore.
Overall it’s good, but you do need to open up to the world. You do need to go to SF and see wheat’s going on there, you do need to go to NY and see what’s going on there or Berlin or London. if you think you can stay in Budapest and never leave the city or country and build a startup you’re mistaken, you’ll never get that done. But if you do have the knowledge and experience and you can build it here, that’s good. That’s a good way of approaching it.
Richard: What I miss in Budapest right now is that the design community is not that strong. There are some designers here like Eszter Laki, or I can count some others, so there are a few, but what I miss is where I could meet these designers and talk about new issues. It’s easy to find offline designers but it’s harder to find product designers or app designers.
Misi: actually everyone talks about the difficulty of finding iOS or android developers but now it’s even harder to find the right designer.
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This Article was written by Reka Forgach, our bubbly content creator hailing from Buffalo, NY. She enjoys tummling, 3d printers, and playing classical piano.