Pipette & Chart First Anniversary| Michaela Mrázková
The past year has flashed by and here we are celebrating our first anniversary. We’ve packed rather a lot into this year and have got plenty more up our sleeves for the future. How did all come together, what were the challenges we faced and what are our plans for the next year? Find the answers to all of these questions in this frank interview with our co-founders Lili Berezkinová and Vladimir Rassushin.
1. What was the biggest challenge of your company’s first year?
Lili: The biggest challenge for me was accepting the fact that in order to start this company the way Vladimir and I envisioned, we had to cut ties with all of our previous work and accomplishments and reintroduce ourselves in terms of where we were headed in the future. Once I did that, things fell into place really quickly.
Vladimir: Starting something new is hard not only because of the sheer amount of work you have to put in, but also because of the very specific pace certain actions require. At one point in time you should be fully dedicated to strategic planning and overall strategy, with an almost panoramic view of the whole activity, and the next day you’re expected to rush into micro management, deal with all kinds of everyday tasks from accounting to team building. And everything’s always really important. Even though I worked as a Chief Scientific Officer for quite some time, and managed to build an efficient R&D department, this level of task diversity was still new to me. My quest for the perfect balance between macro and micro management was the hardest challenge during this first year.
2. What were the biggest milestones during the first year?
Vladimir: There were several milestones. The first one was registering our first ever client. This was followed by securing a certain level of company income. After this I’d say it was about identifying and solidifying points of common ground for the team. But one of the biggest milestones, in my opinion, was finalizing the vision and strategy for the forthcoming year.
3. What is the most important advantage of being a new company on the market?
Lili: Firstly, as a newcomer, you get to position yourself in a really unique way. There are always unmet or newly emerging needs that are great opportunities to seize upon. We find this investigative phase really exciting.
4. In which areas do you think you complement each other as co-founders and when do you have passionate discussions?
Lili: Vladimir and I have quite a history working together and we know what to expect from one another. Our relationship is built on mutual respect and empathy. We complement one another on both the hard and soft skills spectrum. Even more importantly, we share the same values and we enjoy taking on big challenges. We have good ways of resolving disagreements and we never make a move that we both don’t approve of.
Vladimir: A scientist by background, I am still very interested in business processes and management, while Lili is a hard-core business professional, who is passionate about technology and innovation. Of course, we have our strong personal opinions on a variety of topics, and that leads to discussions. But the important thing is that we always favour a knowledge exchange and learning to win an argument.
5. What kind of culture would you like to set up in your company and to what extent would you say you’ve succeeded in this area over the past year?
Lili: If I were to describe our culture in one word, it would be human. Simple as that. We put authenticity, impact and ethics above performance. I feel responsible for making the company a place where our team can evolve, grow and learn from each other so that one day, when they remember working with Vladimir and me, they feel proud.
Vladimir: I’m keen to implement different mechanisms of internal communication which weren't there for me when I was a scientist. I consider a mix of healthy corporate structure elements with a touch of personal connection to be the perfect environment.
6. How far has the direction of your company shifted from your initial ideas?
Lili: It has certainly shifted. In the beginning, we anticipated working with companies founded by scientists and building business cases around their inventions. However, very early into operations we were approached by businesses and entrepreneurs with requests to help them with their product innovation projects. We realized that the demand for R&D and technology enabling services is much higher and companies find it difficult to find a one-stop partner for these very complex and strategic tasks that are critical to their competitive edge and growth.
Vladimir: Well, the idea was to utilize our experience and network and create a useful and unique business in the area of technology & innovation development and transfer. That is what we wanted to do, and this is what we are doing at the moment. Of course, there are many levels to that, and we have a long and potentially bumpy road ahead of us, but we are flexible, and we keep our eyes peeled for any shifts in the business environment. And I think, even though our approach and services might change in the future, the general direction will always be the same - helping various innovations in finding their path to consumers.
7. How much has the crisis changed your plans for the future?
Lili: We are hoping that companies don’t lose the courage to push through these uncertain times with bold and original ideas. Businesses need to keep reinventing themselves regardless of pandemics. We see COVID-19 as an unexpected catalyst for faster adoption of digitization and virtualization, a trigger for prioritizing local interdisciplinary manufacturing capacities and human-centric themes such as mental health. We know from the past that times like these have always been a source of radical progress and we are ready to be a part of that.
Vladimir: In fact, the crisis has inspired us to develop several very promising ideas, which we will bring to life within the next few months. So, stay tuned!
8. You’re based in the Czech Republic, a small country in the centre of Europe. Do you see it is a benefit or a barrier?
Lili: One of the reasons why we started Pipette & Chart was to make it easier for science-driven companies to develop and scale from here. In my previous role as a CEO of a nanotechnology start-up, I definitely felt slowed down and discouraged by the lack of good quality advice and expert services, limited possibilities for peer learning and little understanding for R&D-driven businesses by local investors. For this reason, I made it my mission to contribute to such an ecosystem that can help similar projects to flourish in the very early and high-risk stages of development. I am convinced that once we have the full infrastructure in place, we can also achieve the critical mass of companies that can support and inspire each other and put Prague and the Czech Republic on the radar of investors, entrepreneurs, companies, technology scouts and, more importantly, talents. Are we there yet? We’re not and it might take decades to accomplish. Until then, we’re taking baby steps as an underdog that enjoys making appearances on the global scene every now and then to blow everybody’s mind with amazing tech, cures, devices and everything in between. I am pleased that Pipette & Chart has partnered with like-minded projects such as Pragovka and Future Port Prague and I feel that there is a solid foundation for a long-lasting bottom-up initiative in this field.
Vladimir: Personally, I see it as a benefit. There are many brilliant developers and scientists in the Czech Republic, and it's great to have an opportunity to work with them. There are, for sure, several disadvantages related to investment and innovation culture, but we’re keen to overcome those by utilizing our network and building at first international partnerships, and then a true innovation culture and environment.
9. What are your plans for the next year?
Lili: I’m very excited about the year to come. Not only will we drive the formation of the first Prague innovation cluster based in the very unique setting of Pragovka’s E Factory, but we also plan to internationalize our activities and build powerful project consortia implementing new service and product concepts across industry, healthcare and consumer markets. We want to focus on active content creation and raise awareness about topics which we feel are underrepresented in the Czech media space and are important to us.
Vladimir: In addition to our core activities and services, we’re planning to introduce new educational courses and workshops for businesses. Several partnerships are also in the pipeline, which we consider quite impactful and interesting. We have plenty of plans and ideas. So, as I said, stay tuned for more.
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