Ladislav Čapek has already founded several projects from the Geosense/Cleerio startup to Intellmaps, which celebrates its 2nd anniversary this year. All projects have one thing in common – they deal with maps. Intellmaps is dedicated to the latest map development, i.e. 3D maps. Within a few hours, it can create a so-called “digital twin” in the exact form of the original object, both from specific measurements and from the original old plans. Need to find out which way the riser goes in an old building or a huge clinic? Ladislav has acquired for Intellmaps the first in Central Europe unique technology for scanning buildings with a mobile laser scanner, which can take spherical images. These are displayed as a colored georeferenced point cloud with an accuracy of a few centimeters outside and inside the building and stored directly in the cloud. And this project and the related indoor navigation is being incubated in the European space incubator ESA BIC Czech Republic. It has also completed several months of the CzechInvest CzechStarter programme.
What is his background? Why is he so attracted to startups? What does he see as the biggest benefit of CzechInvest’s incubation programs? And what are his plans for the future? We asked Ladislav Čapek, the founder of the startup Intellmaps, which, among other things, won the 5G ideathon at the 5Gthon conference in February this year in Prague.
1) Ladislav, we mentioned your background lightly in the introduction, but there is much more. Introduce yourself.
I’ve liked maps since I was a kid, so the choice of studies was clear, from an industrial school and geodesy at the Czech Technical University and subsequent PhD studies to foreign schools in Denmark or Egypt. I then spent 5 years in the United States on internships in the field, worked for two multinational corporations and completed a Swiss MBA at an American university.
Then, when I saw how much we were selling the corporation’s geo-information software for, I thought there was a huge potential market and started Geosense. We made a simple affordable web solution for local government at the time. Everyone laughed at us at first, but we were able to change the market and win over thousands of cities and municipalities in the Czech Republic and then abroad. Through CzechInvest, we got into Silicon Valley, which was a great life experience and opened the door to investors. We were able to raise several million euros to successfully expand abroad, especially to the United States, where we had hundreds of customers. That was the point at which I sold my stake in the company and “exited”.
2) You have founded several startups. What is it about them that attracts you so much? The dynamism? Adrenaline? New ideas? And why Intellmaps?
After my last exit, I had a competitive clause for two years when I worked for a corporation. I managed to go from annual sales of under 8 million to 120 million in orders in two years, but I lacked a proper drive and innovation.
For example, now the geo industry is starting to use brand new technologies for indoor mapping, such as SLAM (Simultaneous localization and mapping), which allow 3D mapping with laser scanning to within a few centimeters. The result can be a true virtual reality building, but there is still a long way to go. Previously, for example, a file with a focused building could fit on a single floppy disk with a few MB of storage, but today it contains hundreds of GB of data. They have to figure out how to generalize it, do 3D indexing on the server, optimize it on the front end, etc. This is a huge CHALLENGE!
Of course the next challenge is to package it all into some usable product for end customers, show them the ROI (return on investment) and market everything. You need to find a new hole in the market and be the best there and expand as quickly as possible. It’s a real adrenaline rush where you have to juggle several activities at the same time, that’s what I really enjoy.
3) The CzechInvest agency has been supporting you for a long time. Can you tell us how?
We first met CzechInvest during our “ride to Silicon Valley”, it was a great experience and I can recommend it to everyone. This year we are finishing our programme in the incubator of the European Space Agency, which is under the auspices of CzechInvest. Finally, we successfully passed the CzechAccelerator programme. So my personal experience with people from CzechInvest is quite rich and I can recommend their services. Sometimes I’m not even sure if they are ordinary civil servants, because they really do go above and beyond the call of duty.
4) The last few years have been difficult for startups, also considering the current situation in the world. How do you see it?
Personally, I don’t think that ideas with good business potential have it too hard. We have both a steady flow of new orders and we are also hearing from potential investors. I would say that the last few years before last have been extremely easy for startups, and maybe investors were willing to go into more risky projects, which is just coming back to normal lately. But overall I’m optimistic and every crisis means a new opportunity for startups.
5) What are your future plans? What are you looking forward to?
We have just finished the basic Intellmaps product “Digital Twin”, so now we need to sell it mainly. We also have other technological innovations in the pipeline that I can’t talk about yet, but we already know they will be technologically unique in the world. In terms of business expansion, we have plans for the German market in the near term, which is a big demanding IT market that is a few hours drive from us.
If any readers have read to these lines and are intrigued by Intellmaps, we would be happy to refer them to new customers or collaborators. Thank you and we’d be happy to share our story again.
Have a great summer!