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🇬🇧 | Our Startup Story: Michal and Václav, CzechCrunch

They've interviewed the biggest players from the Czech startup scene, published over 4200 articles and created a startup love brand. Now the spotlight is on them. Find out the story behind CzechCrunch and why they decided to become the main partners of our startup community Before You Shine.

Introducing Michal Ptáček and Václav Bedřich. Could you tell us a bit more about yourselves and what you were doing before CzechCrunch?

Michal:  I have been around computers since I was a kid. Starting with Commodore64 and learning Basic programming and then moving to a game development. When I was 15, me and my friend developed an adventure game Dr. Bohus: https://www.idnes.cz/hry/plne-hry/dr-bohus-8211-paradni-ceska-adventura.A040815_064539_bw-plneHry-adventury_bw , inspired by popular Czech Games Polda and Horke Leto. In 2014 I founded CzechCrunch and very shortly after that Vaclav joined me as a co-founder (my best business decision so far). Besides that I am also a huge fan of architecture and run Officelovin.com - a worldwide magazine about office architecture and design.

Václav: In the early days, when I was around 14, I was running a couple of community and music-related websites that generated content and sold advertising. Shortly after that, I continued to pursue a career as a freelance Designer. From many Czech clients, it slowly evolved into A-list Silicon Valley-based startups. And then I met Michal and joined CzechCrunch.

Do you remember the first time you two thought of CzechCrunch? What was your vision back then?

Václav: I’ll leave this one up for Michal as I joined shortly after CzechCrunch started. But in general, we pivoted the original idea of the startup-only project into something bigger, expanded the potential target audience. That was key to the sustainability of the project.

Michal: Back then we didn’t think about it as something big. The idea was just to create a simple blog about czech startup ecoscene  - it was a small side project. After a while it started evolving into something much bigger and serious, getting traction and readers...and here we are today getting almost 1 milion visits per month and covering many topics from business and tech to education and travelling.

What were the first reactions you got from your friends about your mission to start a tech journal?

Michal: Most of them were against it. From the business standpoint it is very hard to make a profitable media company, considering the state of the Czech market. So, mostly we heard things like “You won’t earn any money” “It is and always will be just a hobby project” “Are you ready for this?”. For the first 3-4 years this prove to be correct and I have to say it was a very bumpy ride :). In 2017 it slowly started changing and CzechCrunch became something we could make a very comfortable living from and most importantly something with a big impact on Czech people. 

Václav: It seemed like it was something new and special in the startup community. I am quite sure the reason being is that we never worked in any media before, we’re not editors and it was like friends were doing news for friends. So they were quite happy but everything needs to evolve somehow once.

What were your biggest fears when starting out? Were you ever scared that you won't have enough content Czech tech-scene related content?

Václav: Our primary goal was not to make the most money at first, so you’re right, the only fear was to keep the frequency and quality of the news at a reasonable level. Then we had days when no news around the Czech scene came out and we needed to think about alternative content. My personal fear was definitely related to if I can stay motivated to do this on a daily basis, “for free”, with a strong vision of future success.

Michal: I have always known CzechCrunch will be successful. What scared me back then was the question “How long is it going to take to get to that point?”.

A lot of things changes since You first started. You now have a team of 10+ people, product your own podcasts, recently started partnering with communities like ours. Tell us what's next for CC?

Václav: We plan to expand podcasts into its own platform that allows others to promote their podcasts, launch other verticals such as events, improve CzechCrunch Jobs and also observe options with potentially paid content. The important thing to say is that we never plan to put the current content behind the paywall. It would be something extra, and more community-driven. 

Michal: As Vaclav said :).

You write about startups every day and you are a startup yourselves. Tell me what a day in CzechCrunch looks like?

Michal: I wake up very early, so I am usually the first person to be in the office. We start  with email checking and continue with content planning (this is Ondrej’s - our editor in chief domain), business calls and plannings, meetings and communicating with each other. Part of our team is remote, so Slack is a big deal for us as well.

Václav: We plan the next morning a day ahead just to make sure we have the initial content covered. Actually, most content is planned a day or multiple days before it’s released, as a part of a partnership with many agencies and startups, interviews, some paid content or just an inspiration from abroad. And then it’s mixed with the last-minute and current news. These days we have roles more split, so we have a chief editor Ondrej, many other editors and then Michal and I are focusing on the core product, development, sales, and high-level partnerships. 

Do you remember one epic mistake you made along the way? What happened?

Václav: Media space is so fragile that one major mistake could tank your entire business and credibility. But thankfully we never did such an “epic mistake”. I’d just say we should have built some of the verticals and hire the key people sooner, as well as focus on the sales. But not focusing primarily on numbers, it gave us a long shot advantage in content and readers experience. 

Michal: Exactly as Vaclav said. In media you are building your credibility for years, and if you make a one wrong step, it is gone, almost instantly .So I am glad we have never experienced something like that. Another thing is if we started CzechCrunch in 2020, I think we would split team roles more so every person can focus on the field they have the best skills in.

If you were to choose one moment in the last 6 years of CzechCrunch you are particularly proud of, what would it be?

Michal: The fact that we make a good content, inspire people, and are morally good guys, not doing any sketchy collaborations and sales techniques like we see usually see in a media industry.

Václav: I am glad we never let any investor in, nor took any significant financing. Thanks to that we are completely independent which seems like a huge advantage in the current market.

And finally, what advice would you give to all the upcoming entrepreneurs out there?

Michal: I love this term called lifestyle business. For me, it is when you have a great product which you like to work on, and it generates you enough money to live a very comfortable lifestyle, and have a great work-life balance and do things you love. In other words, not everyone has to be a new Elon Musk and try to change the world. On the other hand it is not bad if you feel like being one - as we need people like him. So to summarise it. Be yourself and do what you feel the most comfortable with.

Václav: Not everything needs to be a billion-dollar unicorn. Don’t underestimate the value of private equity businesses. While building a startup is a different game with a potentially huge outcome, it’s much harder to become profitable company and keep investors happy. The stable company as private equity could give you a steady income, then you can invest, build further and risk more in other ventures. 

Klára Horton
Passionate reader | People person | COO of CzechCrunch
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