From the dusty railway station the taxi takes you quickly far from the hot, noisy downtown. It only takes a few minutes till you slide through narrow, intertwined streets covered by green chestnut trees. You may even forget that you’re actually in Brno, the second largest city of the Czech Republic. During the last decade Brno became one of the most dynamic centers on Central Europe’s start-up and fast-growing company map. As you reach your destination, you look around in wonder. You may even ask your driver if he didn’t take you somewhere else by mistake. The common imaginary about start-ups is that they’re usually born in dark, small garages or in wide, impersonal corporate open-spaces. Well, the new address of Skypicker, a low-cost flight finder and one of the fastest-growing Brno-based emerging companies, is anything but that.
“We are one large family and I wanted to retain this feeling also through our work spaces,” says Oliver Dlouhý, the founder of Skypicker, as he shows you in the traditional villa, which is now the Skypicker headquarters. The villa is placed in a neighborhood packed with aristocratic old buildings. Looking around, you wouldn’t be surprised to see the face of one of Brno’s old, noble family members casting a glance towards from behind the wooden, flowery balconies.
All in one, it seems that Brno is set not only to offer its history to its hungry young entrepreneurs. It seems the city is decided to help its youth make history on their own.
Picking from the sky
Skypicker was born three years ago from a simple idea. “I was traveling with my girlfriend and we didn’t have a lot of money. So we looked for the cheapest version to find connected flights, but it took us a lot of time. Then I thought: if we could do the same, but faster and automatically this could save a lot of people quite a lot of time and money,” Dlouhý said.
Skypicker, which was registered in the Czech Commercial Register on April 17, 2012, initially participated in the StarCube accelerator of the South Moravian Innovation Center (JIC). The company received its first round of investment from Jiří Hlavenka, a Czech entrepreneur, already during the JIC StarCube acceleration; the investment was worth 450 000 CZK.
Skypicker took off during 2014. Its latest round of investment reached 25 million CZK (EUR 925 000) in February 2015. At the end of 2014 the company was running a turnover of 40 million CZK.
According to Lucie Brešová, the company CFO, only during the second quarter of 2015 the company doubled its number of employees.
“In 2014 we had yearly sales of 145 million CZK (5.5 mil EUR). Our June 2015 monthly sales were of 161 million CZK (5.9 million EUR). Since 2014 our team size grew tenfold and our sales fifteen times. We now need to professionalize our processes. We step into another phase with our company and we are looking forward for what’s ahead of us,” she said.
Skypicker is good for business
Till last year Oliver Dlouhý, who is now himself one of JIC’s start-up business mentors, was handling each client request personally. However, as of July 2015 Skypicker received an average of 14 000 emails a month. That’s why it needed to reach out for professional solutions for customer management and communications. “We need to be able to provide our customers with the best possible care. It is only this way that we can ensure sustainable growth,” said Zdeňek Komenda, who, at 28, is the company vice-president for business development.
“We aim to become the global number one player in travel. As we grow, we will convince more and more airlines to join our platform. Our argument is simple: we increase their sales,” he said.
Skypicker’s founder Oliver Dlouhý is aware that, in the fast world of new technologies, the company needs to retain its competitive advantage long term.
“We know of at least three companies that are trying to copy our business model. What we have, however, is the three years of experience, innovations and dedication to our business that will keep us ahead of our competitors,” he says. At the same time Dlouhý is convinced that the Skypicker headquarters need to stay in the Czech Republic. “Our brain in terms of research and strategy is here. We see no reason to move elsewhere,” he said.
On Friday afternoon, the company staff gathers on the sunny villa terrace for an ice cream party / management meeting. The company founders answer questions simply and to the point. People leave the terrace to get back to their multi-screen job posts packed together in the wooden living room, which may once have hosted fancy high society events. Light colorful dresses mix with hats, tattoos and cans of energy drinks. The hot summer afternoon atmosphere is interrupted only by people coming and going around 3 o’clock. “It’s time for the next shift,” says Dlouhý and nods looking satisfied at his team.
Take a look at Skypicker's video-story (in Czech):
Autor of the video: TDT Studio.