It’s all about corporate culture and common values
“We don’t do it because we have to, but because we are interested in it” – Zoltán Lukács, CEO of Tappointment Ltd. said. We asked him about the launch of the development company, the operation of startups, the TrustChain project and corporate culture.
What is the spirit of Tappointment and how did the company start?
We started with determining the big unknown, the „how”, like so many others. I met the spirit of Google in 2010 for the first time, when a good friend of mine working there guided me around in the Google Plex, Mountain View. It was shocking to see how this organization works, the nature of people work there and the working conditions.
At that time in Hungary we had no idea about how this model looks like from the inside and whether it is feasible here or not. At Google, a kind of startup culture is present, i.e. employees work there because they enjoy what they do and they are good at it also. They keep inspiring each other, there is no limit, and everything is embraced by the feeling of freedom. I was really excited about this thought and I knew I would like to establish an organization like this.
One of my friends had the idea of a genius – an appointment booking application. I saw a huge opportunity in this to create something new. We gathered the team and started to develop the product in 2013. We managed to employ a very experienced CTO, Gábor Barta, with whom we have been good friends since secondary school.
Thanks to a Hungarian business angel we received an investment, which helped us with the first steps. After we finished the prototype, we received one round of Jeremie (Joint European Resources for Micro to Medium Enterprises) from PBG FMC Plc. venture capital fund management company, via TractionTribe in 2014. Then we started a roadshow with our story in the US as well. Since the investors noticed the business potential in our team and our project, in 2015 we were granted another round of Jeremie from PBG FMC.
Were companies open to this unusual, paperless operation at that time?
Although service providers really liked our product, we experienced that Hungarian companies were scared to leave behind the traditional paper-based administration, while US business entities were much more open. In their case we faced the challenge that they didn’t want to purchase a European product, considering that there was a US one available, too.
By now you operate with a profile totally different from the one you used to have at the launch.
Given the fact that at the end of 2015 we couldn’t get another round of resources, we had to decide about the future of our talented team. One opportunity was to simply shut down and let everyone follow their own paths. Since we didn’t want to say goodbye to them, we considered the other opportunity, to transform our operation and deliver unique developments and software solutions as a service to our clients. This idea proved to be right subsequently.
We reacted to the new market situation fast and therefore we could acquire external orders relatively soon. In some time, we could acquire more and more orders, bigger and bigger ones. In the meantime we were improving our processes and extending our team, moving to a new office.
There is one thing which didn’t change: for us, deadlines and quality are the most important factors and not the working hours.
This was one of the things really impressing me at Google. However, I couldn’t even imagine how it can work in Hungary. The members of the team have an internal motivation to be engaged with their work, to be even better at what they do.
Software development is not a traditional 8-hour work, which can be done with a strict timing. Excellent time management is essential. I wouldn’t like to build up a company where the time spent in the office is measured by a timer. Work-life balance is essential and it can be reached step by step. If you perform well in your job and you are motivated, you go home with a good feeling, you are not stressed about what you haven’t done yet.
Do you have long-term project plans?
Yes, in order to ensure that our initial goals are achieved, we definitely need to plan for the long-term. We cannot get scattered. At the moment we have 18 people in the team and we have a number of open positions to fulfill. In 3-5 years we visualize a 40-member team and for this we need more cooperation as big as the one with TrustChain.
What does it mean to be involved in a project like this in the developer’s role?
It is an enormous challenge and a significant responsibility at the same time, since our partner relies on our expertise and observations. In this role there is really no space for making mistakes. It requires focused attention and coordination. Győző Markovics product owner manages the course of events and leads this cooperation. Developing the TrustChain Platform is the biggest project we ever had in terms of the number of employees involved. There were times when we were working on it with 9 people at one time and we found this was an efficient and sustainable operating model for us.
What is special about this cooperation is that we are developing and building the system not based on an end-to-end specification but our ideas and experiences are also integrated into it. Our opinion matters. After an idea appears on the scene, TrustChain gives us creative freedom to implement.
What I like the most is that we can create, we can invent new and exciting things.
TrustChain can expect considerable success in the international market and we are going to do our best to help this. I personally really like the fintech-regtech segment, I believe there is a significant business potential in it.
How did the cooperation with TrustChain start?
Three years ago a common friend of us introduced us to each other with Gergő Romhány, about whom I only knew that he had a good story at that time and no developer team to bring it into existence. We met by a coffee, where he was sharing his idea with me. It seemed very exciting at first sight, so we didn’t spend too much time thinking about it. We soon said yes.
The basic idea was to make it possible for companies to meet on a platform beyond continents and countries, they make contracts and conclude the whole process of commercial transactions right there, while the contract price is blocked until the performance is certified. Since then many things have changed for sure, but the essence remained the same in the evolution of TrustChain.
How did Tappointment’s corporate culture evolve in the meantime?
We have been developing a lot in this respect, too. We needed those pillars to build the company on. We are working on developing a corporate image and corporate culture showing to our employees, why it is good to be a part of the Tappointment team, why it is good to work here. This is a long process, for which we need proper partners. I believe we are on the right path, we have a good team, with amazing opportunities. We don’t do it because we have to but because we are keen on it.
We would like to achieve that people love and enjoy what they do, rather than considering our company as a „workplace only”.
How do you feel, is there a startup culture evolving in Hungary?
It is a difficult question. At the launch of Tappointment there were much less investors in the market and it was so much more of a challenge to reach out to them. Most of them were bank leaders previously, with a very limited understanding of the market. They didn’t really get the story, they were only interested in the business plan. Everyone knows how much the business plan is worth at a startup in the beginning….When we started, we had no idea who we can turn to, how we can get financial resources. There were those remote VCs, to whom it was almost impossible to reach out without proper networking.
We were extremely lucky, and can be very grateful for Dr. Péter Kádas, who was helping us a lot, supporting us to believe in our dreams. I believe that without him and our angel investor we couldn’t have reached anything. By now it is all easier, there are direct searches, open tenders, there is a good chance that one can reach out to the VCs, at least for an interview.
Are the opportunities lying in startups still underestimated?
Hungary is in the strange situation that it has been still not recognized that
startup as a phenomenon can considerably contribute to GDP.
These companies create workplaces and numerous values, which may attract not only good reputation but even additional revenues to the country. There is a stereotypical misunderstanding of startups anyhow. The programmer doesn’t sleep on a pizza box under the table in a garage, it is not about that. There are a number of talented Hungarian entrepreneurs with excellent ideas, who can never become known. Fortunately, recently more and more mentor programs have been launched to save these excellent ideas from vanishing.
Is it realistic that a CEO is satisfied with its company’s performance?
I would like to believe that yes. Basically I am a maximalist, I endeavor to see the good aspects, but I also notice the negative ones, which I would like to change. I would like to find the appropriate people for the appropriate positions and build an organization where everyone does what they master, in what they are the best and in what they can feel complete. I hope this philosophy will prove to be profitable on the long term.