Vivien Szalai | March 19, 2019
6 Minutes Read
My family belonged to a tight-knit minority group and I had always wanted to be a valuable member of this supportive community. My aspiration was proving the world that we are smart and successful. It was evident that I should go to university. However, after the Romanian revolution, my desire was to break free from the system – it became clear that I had to create something on my own.
I was keen on innovation and ambitious to build something unique, which coincided nicely with the IT hype of the 1980s. The theoretical education wasn’t satisfying to me, I wanted the real experience. There weren’t many opportunities at the time so I founded a company with two friends during my student years. We took on all sorts of projects from system administration to support activities. It was fun while it lasted but we took different paths after receiving our degree in IT.
I had been thirsty for international experience and wanted to learn from the best, so I decided to go to Germany. I have come to love the Bavarian community and maintain a great professional relationship with them. After spending six years there, I moved back to Hungary because of my son’s birth.
Being part of a community has always been a cornerstone of my life. Now, as a CEO, my goal is to build a valuable community that is founded on professional excellence and credibility.
I continued to work remotely for German clients as a contractor and also took on some Hungarian projects with some friends. Back then, the business owners in the region weren’t open to innovative tech and their company culture wasn’t attractive either. My friends and I came to the conclusion that we could do it better. So, we decided to start our own company – initially, we did IT outsourcing.
We needed to adopt a whole new mindset as we weren’t working for someone else anymore but for ourselves. We needed to define our values and discover how to differentiate ourselves from others.
Brainstorming on how to become the number one supplier to big companies became part of our daily routine. Our main challenge was that all of us had a background in engineering and we lacked the necessary sales and HR management skills. Everyone took on all sorts of responsibilities which lead to chaos. We spent lots of time on self-development, acquiring essential business development and management skills. Then we defined the roles clearly and split the responsibilities accordingly.
Our biggest struggle as a service company was to maintain a stable sales pipeline. We always needed the next qualified lead lined up by the time we had finished the one we were working on. There were years when we drew very little money from the company and times when we had to work on projects that we didn’t find interesting. The fight wasn’t only fierce for the best clients but also for top talent. We didn’t have any major failures, but many minor ones such as key founders exiting at the worst time and clients not paying their bills. There were tough periods, but our unfailing faith in our mission helped us to keep going.
We devoted a lot of time to develop ourselves both personally and professionally. Reading business books was extremely useful. The ones which shaped my mindset the most were Dave Logan and John King’s Tribal Leadership; Brian Robertston’s Holacracy; and Renée Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim’s Blue Ocean Strategy. We kept making the same mistake: we moved forward too quickly without establishing a solid base and having the whole team on board. Despite this, we managed to continuously scale up the business. We conquered the Singaporean market, reached the EUR 3,000,000 income and negotiated better subcontractor positions.
Navigating the road to success
The secret to our ongoing success is the ability to change and grow rapidly. We started as a simple outsourcing company with high ambitions and an innate motivation to become better. We successfully changed directions many times – we introduced open-source software development and switched to the cloud (first as consultants, then as partners). Afterward, we jumped into the world of big data and machine learning. We learned as we went. We started learning Google BigQuery on our way to the client and by the time our plane landed we had become experts in the domain.
The bigger the company grew, the more difficult it became to change direction. We had more to risk if we wanted to give up certain income for more appealing, but uncertain projects. We had to master the skill of decision making, to never risk too much or too little, and always be determined and consistent. It’s never easy but absolutely worth it! One of our greatest success stories is our Singapore office.
What I consider success today is solving exciting business problems with inspiring people. It’s amazing to be pioneers among innovative tech industries and provide unique value to our customers. I’m also proud of the work-life balance we can maintain and the stability we can provide for our families.
The power of data
It’s a fact that the world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data. However, companies still don’t understand that they have to collect data and use it smartly. They face many challenges as customers’ expectations constantly grow – they have to provide excellent customer service at their contact centers, be wise with pricing policy, manage their supply chains efficiently and so on. They generate zettabytes of data that they not only have to store and use well but also access in real-time. There are countless opportunities to leverage the possibilities of cloud computing and big data solutions to generate growth.
Besides all the cutting-edge advances, there are also some concerning issues in the market such as the overwhelming amount of information. It makes every simple decision harder and more stressful to make. People are constantly in a tough situation when they have to decide how much data they share about themselves. It’s natural that the respect for our privacy is important. On the other hand, personalization makes our lives easier, because we like receiving relevant information and personal offers. Customer care is faster if the other side knows our background and needs. It’s frustrating when we have to repeat our data and explain our problem again. We’re impatient if something doesn’t work automatically and robs our precious time.
It’s not that we don’t have time, it’s that we prefer spending it on other things. When we do things we enjoy, we want to enjoy them to the fullest and skip the tedious researching and waiting. However, if we expect the system to read our minds and run smoothly, we have to give up some of our privacy. We know what we want, and we want it immediately, and AI is the perfect remedy for that.
Exciting times ahead
As the world is full of opportunities, we are eager to expand our services to new markets. After conquering Singapore, we are planning to establish a stronger presence in Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur as well. Meanwhile, we’re exploring the DACH region. Although we are proud of our diverse portfolio and the story of the community as well as the company, we would also like to become experts in certain domains, such as aviation, travel, and e-commerce.
We live in interesting times. Never before in history have things moved so quickly. There are huge opportunities out there for those brave enough to take the risk. It’s always a pleasure to have a friendly conversation with fellow business owners as I’m an advocate for exchanging good case practices. Lots of people don’t get how many possibilities there are in the market and that there is room for all of us. We can achieve a lot more if we collaborate. It’s been an exciting journey so far, and I’m looking forward to the road ahead.
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