How Content, Community, and Dad’s Workshop Sparked an Ecommerce Platform
Homepix founder Martin Banas talks about starting the site, working with Sleighdogs, and future of AI
Two years ago, a few Sleighdogs approached Martin Banas about freelancing on an e-shop project we had. We haven’t been able to get rid of him since.
“I like that there are smart people here. Because it’s not that easy to be around a group with a high ratio of smart people, where I can ask question and others add some new information. That’s really rare, somehow. I like that when I say something to [a develeoper like] Jakub, he actually thinks about it and asks related questions.”
Martin is a co-worker at the Prague office, balancing his time managing Homepix and sharing insights on digital marketing, branding, and developing. Homepix is more than a one stop shop for interior decorators — it’s about community, commerce, and content.
How did you come up with the idea for Homepix?
My father started his first business in his early twenties and it specializes in construction and home remodeling. He still owns the company and has never done anything else. My background in home design is pretty strong and I have been growing up in this field since I was a child.
Homepix is a platform that connects homeowners with companies that offer remodeling or construction services. It consists of three parts. The first part is content — content which includes 1000s of inspirational pictures about home design, curated and categorized by our team. Second part is the community of home design lovers sharing their thoughts and inspiration throughout the site. The last part is commerce that enables small and big retailers to tag their products on the pictures and sell them to consumers.
Homepix just made sense to me, as I always wanted to do something in this field. It is a market with nice margins. Basically anybody can relate to it and I thought that the marketing part of the business would be pretty straightforward.
What stage is Homepix in right now?
I’m pretty satisfied with the content side of Homepix. We spent a long time curating all the amazing pictures and getting companies to work with us. Right now we are focusing on building community and optimizing eCommerce processes.
What about you and Sleighdogs?
That’s an interesting question. First of all, I have to thank the King of Ping Pong, aka Karl, for letting me stay in the office. We are always thinking of new ways for how to improve stuff, not just in a business sense but also how to leave some legacy behind us. From all the projects we’ve come up with, [this secret education project] seems like something I would really like to get more involved with. I cannot say very much about it, but what I can say is that we want to fix one major problem in the IT industry — helping to create highly motivated and professional developers and connect them to companies that seek their help.
You’ve got a reputation for AI talk in the office. How did you originally get into it?
Ray Kurzweil has written many books about it. He’s the head of AI at Google. And then you have Nick Bostrom from Sweden who’s teaching at Oxford. And all these other scientists talking about the same thing. Predicting time is one thing, but we all know that it will happen. So it might not be 2040, but eventually it will happen. And it’s kind of a scary thought because we will look like monkeys to them. Monkeys can’t really speak, they can do all this primitive stuff — that’s how we will be to this AI.
Do you have a specific interest in AI?
AI is super interesting because it’s likely that we will witness this change in our lifetime: people will not be no. 1 on the evolution scale, but we will be no. 2. This new type of life will come to life and we will be no. 2.
The Industrial Revolution started 200 years ago and it was all about making the process of creating products faster. For example, this tape dispenser: people had to mine the materials to make it, then other people had to manufacture it, other people had to sell it, and then you can use it. There are so many lines in between. Before the Industrial Revolution, you had guys who were creating the whole thing.
With the Industrial Revolution you got this faster manufacturing of products. With computers, 50 years ago, it wasn’t about manual labor being replaced by machines but minds being replaced by computers. It’s all about making it faster and more affordable.
The thing is it will not be as slow as, let’s say, the transformation from horses to cars. People say it will happen in the next thirty years. Gordon Moore has this law that the computation power of microchips, the transistors, is doubling every one and a half year. And this has been in place since the ’60s or ’70s. By that they calculated that by 2040 the computer will be at the level of what humans are.
In relation to Homepix and this idea of making life easier for the consumer — is this something you’re interested in exploring with AI in the future?
All these companies like Facebook and Google are focusing on Narrow Artificial Intelligence and I would probably start with that as well and maybe even do some product recognition software that you could license to other companies that could use it. That’s one thing.
But I would really love to focus on creating that General Artificial Intelligence that would be good in all different kinds of fields. But it’s much harder. Right now, people are mostly trying to replicate how the brain works because we don’t fully understand how it works. We have some clues but we don’t know 100 percent. All these different kinds of machinery that we need for that. So I think I would need to go to some kind of college and just get into the space.
Do you think it can be a positive influence in the future?
Definitely. If we can be very careful I think we can build a world without scarcity. It can be a world where one doesn’t need to go to work every day to pay rent, but rather because you enjoy going there. It can be a world where technology can satisfy all our basic needs so we can focus on more important things in life like family or friends. It can be a world where most of the diseases won’t exist anymore. In the end, it’s all about us.