Should I stay or should I go?
Sitting with Lukas Haraga at Techsquare in Smichov, Prague, he is relaxed, happy and emanates the energy of a really nice guy… and he is. He is unassuming and the only time he gets more passionate than talking tech is when he talks about his latest purchase of a convertible Smartcar.
Haraga’s current project, working alongside his co-founders Jiri Otahal and Michal Pustka, is Aircharts and it is about to start beta testing. According to their site, www.aircharts.co, the team intend to “bring to Google Analytics what Apple has brought to the user experience” – hopefully without the price tag. A good sign of this project is that the developer can explain it simply and succinctly, “Aircharts is a GPS for web analysis, you get to see all the in-page analytics in the context of the actual web page”.
Aircharts.co – making web analysts obsolete?
Utilising Google Analytics and a clean dashboard design that literally sits on top of a website, the software aims to significantly reduce the time and processes required for website optimisation. Haraga hopes that over time his team will add other unique functionality not offered by Google to help create a more unique and useful experience.
Web analysts beware, Aircharts seeks to make it simple to measure, collect, analyse and report the usage data of a website through a simple graphical interface. Product managers will gain access to traffic and trend data by simply holding the pointer over a section of the page. This will allow them to track how users interact with a website providing real time market research data and optimisation opportunities without having to go through the full analytics cycle of the company or outsourcing the task.
The key is that the software is able to present a wide array of data simply. By holding the pointer over any part of a site a graphical representation of usage is displayed, the product manager doesn’t have to learn any new skills. A big bubble on a link means more people are clicking on it than if it has a small bubble. Easy. Haraga comments, “Web analysts can still exist to interpret the data but Aircharts makes it so obvious that now everyone can do it”.
The entrepreneurial journey: realising when something’s good but not great
Born, raised and educated in the Czech Republic, Haraga began his startup journey working on howdoitutorials, a site that set out to help its users create interactive tutorials for their own apps and websites. On paper, it’s a simple and creative idea, and one that Haraga and his team spent thousands of hours creating and developing until that one moment many startups ultimately reach – it’s a good idea, but it isn’t great.
Haraga is critical of howdoitutorials very succinctly, “Ultimately we realised that users want website design so good that they don’t need tutorials.” He says this with a wry smile, suggesting that this critique seems so obvious now. Like most developers he is pragmatic about the time spent on abandoned projects, knowing that what he got out of the experience was more important than pursuing it with dogged determination. So how did he know it was time to move on?
According to Haraga, talking to people and sharing his idea was the quickest way to determine its value. That’s what he now does continually, a kind of beta testing of your idea as a process of its development.
It was talking to mentors that helped him gain focus and perspective, ultimately pointing him away from howdoitutorials and towards his idea for Aircharts. The type of mentorship is also important, feedback and opinions need to be garnered from multiple sources with multiple experiences. “Originally it was puzzling to get so many conflicting opinions until I looked at the backgrounds of who was giving it.” It isn’t constructive to take on advice without looking critically at who is providing it.
“It is much easier to be disappointed in the first month than the second year”
And he should know, after two years, he and his team turned their backs on howdoitutorials (though no founder ever says they have abandoned a project, instead they merely shelve it for the time being). Changing projects is difficult, seeing hours of work without achieving a saleable product is frustrating but it has to be seen pragmatically as a part of the creative side of the startup process.
“You have to look long term”, staying with howdoitutorials wouldn’t have bought the financial security and ability to only work a few hours a week that he craves. He couldn’t sell that, Aircharts he can. Haraga reminds me that it is easy for someone to say something is a great idea, but it is a whole different ball game to get them to pay for it.
One of the most significant parts of the development of Aircharts is that, unlike previous projects, Haraga is focussing on the business part simultaneously; an aspect he admits was lacking in his previous startup. “Technical people are so passionate about technology and ideas but they need to be just as passionate about the business – you need to care about how you are going to survive.”
To do this effectively he took the brave move and quit the security of his full time job as the head of the development department at StorageCraft Europe. He admits it was a tough decision but he knew that the only way to focus on making money from Aircharts was to make it an absolute necessity.
Haraga’s mantra is “How do I make money now?” This never used to be his thinking but now it is essential for success. His answer has been to go for a subscription model for a slick piece of working software on the market as soon as possible. Haraga knows that not only does he need to be a tech head but a salesperson, he needed to change the way he thought about what he did.
Currently Aircharts is at a fork in the road as to which demographic will prove to be the best customer – smaller corporates with small sites that don’t have the resources or access to web analysts, or the big corporates who can streamline their web analytical processes significantly. Time to call the mentors!
Haraga loves prophetic little sayings as he smiles out several of them throughout our conversation, another one he espouses as he gets philosophical of his tech career: “Change your thought process from ‘I think, to I know’.” I asked how he felt about leaving one project for another and in his typically positive style he likens it to going from a screwdriver to an electric screwdriver, going from one idea to a better one.
Read more on the Czech startup scene: