Transparent Data’s 5th birthday — company story from a 2-person startup to a stable, but still agile technological company
Exactly 5 years ago, on 29 June 2013, two men met in one of Poznań’s cafes.
One of them came up with an idea for a modern data platform that aggregates and links most relevant company data from various sources in one place to remove fragmentation and confusion. The other one had the programming skills necessary to implement this vision.
That afternoon Arek Hajduk and Łukasz Gajos laid the very foundations for what today is a dynamic and ambitious technology company called Transparent Data. Since then, inspired and driven by the founders, the business model has been consolidated and the company has grown together with its client portfolio.
Since the meeting in the cafe things unfolded quickly. In July 2013, Arek and Lukasz kicked off the project and rented their first office space. Within the next few weeks the company appeared in the National Court Register and in time was formally transformed into Transparent Data.
After 5 years of presence on the market, we are delighted to transparently tell our company story
Interview with the founders of Transparent Data — CEO, Ark Hajduk and CTO, Łukasz Gajos
Let’s go back to the roots. Arek, do you remember how the idea for the company was born?
AH .: Of course. It started with the fact that someone in the West was doing something better we did, and we thought we had the potential to start doing it even better than the guys in the West.
It was 2011. I was working as a manager in an investment fund and every day I was looking for information about companies and people who were behind them. What I could find on the Polish market (if I could find anything at all) was either disordered or given in a form so difficult to consume that each time I wanted to give up. In other cases, this information was extremely expensive. In turn, when I was searching foreign websites, I was encountering an excellent presentation of data, but it was clear to me that these data are not complete, because they process information only from a few selective data sources.
The niche appeared alone.
But the company was founded not then but two years later, in 2013 …
AH .: True. Already in 2011, I had started looking for someone with an idea for an internet platform of Polish register information in which I could have invested. Nobody, however, appeared for months. So I decided to go out with the initiative and after a quick test with a friend developer who confirmed that it is possible to download data in real time from Polish registers, I started looking for the CTO to the company. Someone who technologically will be able to realize what I had in mind.
And that’s how you met Łukasz …
AH .: Yes. He came to the meeting starting from the sentence “in my free time I downloaded the National Court Register database to my disc” although I hadn’t said earlier what the concrete plan was to create. I liked this approach — curiosity and commitment.
So you immediately started working on the Prześwietl.pl prototype?
AH .: No. Firstly we agreed to test the waters and find out whether we can actually be sat together in one room for three days and create what we called a mini service. Mind you our office at the time did not even have proper windows (laughs at the memory)
Was this an ancestor of Prześwietl.pl?
AH .: No, although the principles of data processing were similar. I was training then for the triathlon, so I asked Łukasz to create a platform that will gather the results of the competition from various sources. In 3 days we set up a website and it turned out that communication between us works as it should.
ŁG.: I remember it a little differently. For me these three days were like a job interview in the old days — you show up and they give you a massive job to do. It was not as cool as Arek says, because in practice he was coming up every now and then and instead of looking at data processing, he was throwing something over my shoulder like “maybe this line should be red?”. Even though from the beginning I told him that the front-end we will have to outsource to someone else.
But despite everything, you decided to join the company?
ŁG .: I came back home, I thought about everything and found out that the idea was still good. The future of the project was unclear, but in total I had savings, I did not have children (then), the flat loan was repaid. I would always find work as a programmer. So I thought OK Let’s give it a shot.
Any key memories from the first months of your cooperation?
ŁG .: Two. The first is that we started with Prześwietl.pl in December instead of September as we planned. The database was ready without major problems, but we encountered some difficulties with data visualization and the release of the first iteration of SaaS, which will be really user-friendly. The second memory is that me and Arek had forgotten one important thing — that once we’ve build the product, someone would have to sell it.
And how did you deal with this “oversight”?
AH .: First, we raised funds for survival with SpeedUp, and later we focused on building sales processes.
ŁG .: As in all small companies at the beginning, when everyone deals with everything, we started to use what we could. I remember very well how Arek was in meetings with clients and was telling them that we have in the database companies that are not even yet MSiG (Court and Commercial Gazette where all companies news are being published by the Polish government — editorial note). Sometimes the customer was asking cleverly “Which one then?”. Arek was sending me then a text message and I quickly tossed the results from the database. And it was making “WOW!” effect.
So would you advice to people to try and sell things that are not there yet?
AH .: Absolutely not. Our advice would be: “whether it’s there yet or not if you know you can deliver it and it solves the client’s problem then that’s all that matters”.
Is this the distinguishing feature of the current Transparent Data?
AH .: I would rather say that our distinguishing feature is operational speed and providing the customer with a genuine solution, not something that seems to be the solution for the customer. Of course, I am talking about customised APIs, data integration, etc. Customers often come to us to get a box-product, and after more detailed conversations, it turns out that the economic information given in the form they want, does not solve their problems. That’s when a technology company like us — which is neither a typical credit information agency nor simply a software house, knows what to do and is able to advise the client.
Do you consider yourself scoring 10 out of 10 on expertise?
AH .: (laughs) I would never ventured that! If we are talking about registry information, I would give myself 8/10, however, five years ago, when we were starting, I assessed myself at 4/10, and today I would say that I was less than 1/10 then. Therefore I am again overestimating my abilities probably.
And you, Łukasz?
ŁG .: I do not believe in such sweeping general statements. I appreciate rather what you can actually do in concrete situations.
So can you give us an example of any concrete situation?
ŁG .: From everyday life? Eg downloading data from PARP (one of Polish business data bases — editorial note). The agency Excel file is so big (over 10 MB) and contains so many formatting that there is no chance of opening it on a normal computer. However, we as a data processing company simply have to overcome such difficulties.
Certainly over the past 5 years a lot has changed and is not just about the level of expertise. Do you remember the milestones of Transparent Data?
AH .: Public start of Prześwietl.pl website on December 5, 2013. Startup Fest in 2014 where we showed our dataplatform and heard from people on the spot that it would be useful to add “such and such data” and we did it in just 2 days, winning the second place. Obtaining the international ISO/IEC 27001 security certificate. Moving from a small office last year, where we sat in eight people, to a historic tenement right next to the Old Market Square in Poznań, where our team, currently over twenty, occupies a whole one floor and two balconies. The investment of the Kaczmarski Group. The last milestone was gigantic, as the group owns KRD BIG SA (one of the biggest credit information agencies in Poland — editorial note) and was our client for three years.
ŁG .: I would add also a moment when, for the first time, we have implemented a huge project for one of the leading Polish banks and the day when we decided to spend all the money collected as soon as we can (laugh).
It sounds interesting — “the day we decided to spend all our money”. Could you elaborate?
ŁG .: It was about two and a half years ago. We were coming back from Wroclaw from a meeting with potential investors. We were really broken then. Every day we were fighting for the company’s financial survival, and the plans to create a platform that extracts data from all over Europe were getting farther away. The people who we met wanted to give us money, but me and Arek decided to reject the offer. We did not like something about them. There were some possible scams in the future. We got on the train and we started a classic conversation about the fact that maybe it’s a high time to shut down the business and admit that it did not work out in the end. We complained a bit, and then one of us suggested: “Maybe we spend all the savings, let’s hire 5 people we need to develop, and at most after 3 months we will go with the bags!”. And so we did.
Since you’re still here does it mean it was a good decision?
ŁG .: One of the best, truth. Sometimes it is worth taking a risk and putting everything on one card.
If you were to give some advice to startups what would it be …?
AH .: Do not take the investor as long as you can and stay with the clients. Do only one thing at a time. Do not give up.
What are your strategic plans for the next months?
AH.: Of course to strengthen our new global brand on the market — DataDrill dataplatform that gives access to company register information from over 16 European countries.
Last question, what will Transparent Data look like in 5 years?
AH .: Certainly we will continue to work with data, but in a slightly different way. I am convinced that the data from the country registers will finally be fully open and everyone will be able to download them. There will be a wider scope for processing these data, combining them and extracting the most valuable information from the lagoon.