Five years ago he left a career with Mid Europa Partners, the largest private equity company in Central and Eastern Europe, for the then relatively unknown Rockaway Capital investment group. As Robert himself often…
With Vojta Roček about data, current problem with start-ups, work for Rockaway and his most entertaining riddle.
Vojta Roček got his first experience in Creditinfo Solutions. Shortly after the financial crisis broke out, he left and founded a private rum club. He was doing that for year and a half, then he took a thirty years old Mercedes and left for Ukraine. After he decided to fully dedicate to business intelligence, he started to work for Keboola – he implemented more than 20 projects. Without any influence on the product, he left for GrowJOB where he worked as a consultant of personal development. In cooperation with Petr Ludwig he prepares courses of critical thinking which shall start next year. He came back to data in Leo Express from where Přemek Rubeš took him to Bileto. And that is the present time: Vojta goes from Bileto to Rockaway where he works as the Director of Business Intelligence.
To be produced the very next day
You have worked on several projects. Why are we doing the interview right in Rockaway?
Rockaway is engaged in 20 different companies – all of them deal with their own data. Right now, I don’t know any other organization in the Czech Republic which would provide me such a broad scale of opportunities, high-quality corporate background, and at the same time would insist on agile approach to individual projects.
What surprised you about the work for Rockaway?
How fast things happen here.
How do you mean it?
In each start-up I deal with something different. I am not bound by any bureaucracy. Things we invent one day are produced the very next day.
The number of competent people I meet on every day. It is a big privilege, not likely to happen in big companies, to meet in three months 100 different people, none of whom is an idiot. I see Rockaway as a big family – people go from one project to another and find themselves a place where they are needed most.
You originally started in Bileto. Have you found them or have they found you?
I was found by Přemek Rubeš who wanted to build a timeless data analytics for carriers, prepared e.g. for yield management or geographic data from mobile operators. However, I knew about Bileto even earlier. I knew boys from Techsquat who once started Kdyjedes.cz.
What was the reason for a change?
Přemek offered me a great amount of autonomy and gave me challenges touching the limits of my abilities. I really like disruptive projects with international ambitions.
What exactly were you doing in Bileto?
One part of Bileto develops solutions for carriers which counts yield management in real time. It is being operated by three strong analysts from the Faculty of Nuclear Sciences and I wanted to help them with evaluating specific results of segmented base connected to demographic data. My job has never had a clear job description. Through data I peeped into Bileto and started searching spheres where I could be most useful. Today, I am building Bileto´s own analytical team which would provide GoodData based reporting to all integrated carriers. I am looking forward to seeing how GoodData helps improve the situation in transport not only in our country, but in the whole world.
Currently, you are working fully for E-commerce Holding. How exactly is the work for holding with several e-shop verticals different?
For Bileto is was necessary to find the right people and set the whole process in such a way that data analytics became one of the competitive advantages of the whole start-up. E-commerce Holding is a completely different challenge. The integration of data from many different verticals is very fast, and the requirement is a truly holistic solution which is able to answer very different questions of several dozens of people across the whole organization. It is a project where I gradually use all I have available — from automatic setting of the whole project according to the signal in data to such tricks as streaming current data into watches of individual people in the company.
You are actually building your own team within Rockaway. How do you choose your co-workers?
In my opinion, it often does not matter who can do what. What is important is how fast you think. If you are clever, you can learn anything. When working with data, it is mostly a process composed of dozens of various steps. One small change at the beginning can in the end cause a mistake costing millions of CZK. The mistakes becomes evident gradually and it takes long until someone notices them. Such a problem can negatively influence every-day decision making and can even lead to very unpleasant mistakes in running the company. That is why I like people who can imagine the unimaginable, who can predict the impact of their deeds in detail, work independently and bring their own original solutions for unexpected problems. To put it simply: If you find yourself too clever for ordinary world and at the same time cannot do anything special yet, feel free to contact me. I will be happy to talk to you about this.
Once you said that people should collect data and search for money in them. In your opinion, it is something that is fading away these days. Why is it happening?
The focus is often put more on analyzing various things and creating nice graphs than on answering the question “What do I need to know to earn more money tomorrow?” Every project shall start with this question. Money is a definite matrix which helps set any analysis so that it makes sense in commercial sector.
So why don´t people collect data?
Because they cannot imagine what they could collect and how much it could change everything they have believed in so far. The true magic is in combining a small amount of information from a big amount of sources. If you observe your e-shop only through orders and conversion from Google Analytics, you will find out much less than if you apply also sources which even do not concern the e-shop itself.
What do you like most about your job?
Every day I get a few interesting problems for which I need to find the right solution pretty fast. It is nicely stimulating – it makes me think all the time.
My own head is the most entertaining riddle for me
Where do you see problems as far as start-ups are concerned?
Insufficient focus on truly disruptive thoughts. Czech cowardice, bullshit generators, lack of imagination. Actually the same thing as anywhere else – lack of courage to risk and come up with a truly original idea which would make sense.
It seems to me that the word “star-up” is getting a bit nasty connotation.
And that is why I like Rockaway. It brings focus on product and viability of the idea to the hipster environment full of school clubs built around “start-up accelerators”. Besides money for running and standard service (HR, PR, finance, law support), they are the only one on the Czech market, as far as I know, who offer fully-fledged representation in San Francisco. I find it crucial for negotiating with other investors. In recent years, I have seen a great deal of attempts to “do start-ups in the right way” and I don´t remember a single case which really succeeded. In Rockaway, I have not seen anything so far, where I would not invest money myself.
Where do you see yourself and Rockaway in a year or two?
I perceive reporting, which I create for individual start-ups right now, as first 5% necessary to be able to fully use the data and start evaluating what works and what does not. I have prepared brand new technologies e.g. from the field of machine learning which I want to try out next year for data of all start-ups. This will be experience which would be extremely difficult to get anywhere else on the market. And if I find a reasonable start-up with a product focused on data during that time, I will primarily dedicate my time to this and I would like to bind my future with it.
Two last questions: What do you like beside your job?
As you do not want me to say just “sex, sport, food and sleep”, then probably understanding why people think the way they think. My own head is for me the most interesting riddle. I really like Steven Novella, who in “Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking” nicely summarize irrationality of our daily behavior and the way we try to fool our own mind.
What company do you currently like most?
When I skip Bileto, for which I have personal feelings, it is definitely Storyous. Thanks to it, I pay my morning coffee in Kafe Karlin with my phone, which is definitely the step in right direction. I only regret that these boys cannot be in all restaurants the very next week.