Interview with Tomáš Šalamon, co-founder of the start-up Incomaker, developer of a marketing platform with artificial intelligence

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Tomáš Šalamon is one of the Czech entrepreneurs who took part in Czech Start-Up Week in New York and his start-up was part of the Czech pavilion at the TechCrunch Disrupt international conference.

Tomáš established his first firm at the age of 16 and has years of experience on the boards of various companies. His firm Incomaker is one of the few Czech entities to obtain a prestigious grant from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme in the amount of CZK 1.35 million.

As we promised in previous articles, we are bringing you another interview with a member of the Czech delegation that participated not only in TechCrunch in mid-May, but also in the accompanying programme in New York City.

Q1: Tomáš, all of the Czech start-ups were in New York thanks to the EU’s CzechDemo programme, which helps Czech start-up companies attend major internationally recognised events. Looking back, how do you rate the process that you had to go through in order to be selected?

Today’s start-ups have it relatively easy. If I compare it to the 1990s, there are a lot of opportunities for the current young firms. Every week, we get several invitations to various start-up events and competitions, to pitch to various funds, accelerators, etc. There are so many that we have to be a bit selective due to capacity reasons. I don’t want to sound conceited: it’s great – despite the dogged resistance of the past few Czech governments, it has never been easier to start doing business. Getting selected for CzechDemo doesn’t really differ much from a “commercial” pitch. It’s about convincing the jury that our team is the right one, that our product is the right one, that our firm is the right one. And perhaps that you know English. The CzechDemo concept made sense in the context of our strategy, so we decided to try our luck and Incomaker obviously made sense to the evaluators, which of course made us very happy and the result was great.


Q2: New York offers an infinite number of opportunities, contacts, events. What is most important for you, for an IT company? Why are you targeting the American market in particular?

Incomaker has had global ambitions since the beginning. With such a product, there is perhaps no other way. Therefore, we are presenting it at foreign events, which simply can’t be done by taking a blind shot in the dark. You get contacts, customers and partners, and see new ideas and trends, and you are very quickly confronted with reality, which is extremely important, whatever it may be. In that case, I am satisfied. On the one hand, we received very positive responses and gained contacts, which of course gives you a push. After a number of meetings and discussions, on the other hand, we refined our foreign-expansion tactics, which took on tangible contours. It may sound like a cliché, but I saw so many firms that failed because they didn’t know what they wanted or they had absolutely senseless ideas, that I would personally consider that to be one of the biggest benefits of the whole event for Incomaker.


Q3: Your firm is not a purely Czech start-up. It is a Czech-Portuguese firm that has part of its team in Portugal. Do you see that as a benefit? A firm with international reach that isn’t bound only to the Czech market.

It is a huge advantage in almost every conceivable aspect, with the possible exception of distance. But in the age of Skype and cheap airline tickets, that’s not such a problem. As much as the adjective “multicultural” makes my skin crawl, the fact is that the necessity to adapt literally thousands of details of the firm and product operating on an international foundation is extremely helpful to us. You break away from the constricted horizon of the problems of the Czech environment, which is obvious in everything, starting with technicalities such as the different address format and bank holidays that are celebrated there, to the different problems that are dealt with. For example, unemployment, which is practically non-existent in the Czech Republic, but is one of the principal macroeconomic problems there, etc. And then of course there is the advantage of easier access to a huge market. Portuguese is the seventh most widespread language and Portugal is still close to the markets of its former colonies, which altogether comprise roughly 200 million people. We were unlucky, the golden age of colonialism passed us by, but at least we have these golden Czech hands.


Q4: Can you tell us what your biggest challenge is right now?

To scale up the business. We developed the product, then tested it with the help of an EU grant and now we are selling it. And it’s going well for us. Which means that the market and the product have been validated, and we know that we haven’t been playing around nonsense. There is demand and we have paying customers. The main milestone for the rest of 2017 will be the transformation of the firm from the early phase of relatively immature, “guerrilla” processes to a state in which we’re functioning like a well-oiled machine. For that purpose, we are also currently seeking outside investment.


Thank you very much. We wish you luck and much success.