MyQ Company Profile
Proof That There’s More to the Czech Export Market than Pork Dumplings and Pilsner
History in Brief: The company sold its first solution in 1999 to the Czech Ministry of Environment, and from there identified trends and gaps in the market that would lead to the release of MyQ
Headquarters: Prague, Czech Republic
Locations: 6 (Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, UAE, United Kingdom, United States)
When MyQ was first released, it entered a market already saturated with print solutions. Many of them good but, according to MyQ CEO Martin Janus, none of them provided the ease of use and hardware interoperability that he knew the company's customers demanded.
After much thought and hard work, MyQ—a universal print solution that lets organizations implement print policies, dictate print costs, route scans to disk and email, account for jobs, manage users and keep tabs on the counters and condition of a print fleet—was born. This is on top of allowing follow-me printing and the use of dedicated print queues. Fleet administrators can also restrict access to printers and MFPs via add-on hardware, from a basic PIN keypad to a card reader, an Android-based terminal and a full-fledged coin-operated terminal. Even better, it’s possible to embed MyQ in compatible MFPs from popular vendors such as Kyocera (Copystar, Triumph-Adler, UTAX), Olivetti, Ricoh (Gestetner, Lanier, Nashuatec, Rex Rotary), Samsung, Sharp, Toshiba, and Xerox.
Prague is one of Europe’s best cities, with a rustic cuisine that’s guaranteed to warm the coldest heart and architecture so exciting and imaginative it’d shame the efforts of a Walt Disney set designer. However, unlike busy metropolises such as London and Paris, Prague is small enough to feel relaxed, and this can be seen in the friendliness of its residents. It’s therefore no surprise to hear that MyQ started life as the spare-time project of five good friends.
The company came into being when Martin Janus analysed, programmed and implemented a secure printing solution for the Czech Ministry of Environment in 1999. Eight years later, the core MyQ team came together. As Janus said, “We started as a small team with only five members, but we were like one big family with all of us having been good friends for many years. I even studied with two of our current partners in high school!”
The team consisted of Radek Tetik (core server programmer), Jakub Ahmadyar (hardware designer), Petr Hacmac (product manager), Jiri Hubeny (managing director) and Janus, who was responsible for MILADA (marketing, investing, leading, analysing, dreaming and anything else). “At that time, the business was more of a hobby or part-time job,” Janus said. “Our strong relationships were crystallised in 2014 when we all became partners, along with our friend and sales director Ondrej Lutovsky.”
The team may have been pals, but that isn’t enough to guarantee success and the smooth delivery and evolution of a product. What challenges did MyQ have to overcome to make it the global brand it is now? “Our first was to finish the development of our terminals, including the security features, on time and at a cheaper price than our competitors,” Martin said. “The next challenge was a business decision on how and when to expand abroad. Originally, we’d planned to launch the product only in the Czech Republic and to develop the market there for a few years to fine tune all aspects of the product and business. However, demand soon put an extra strain on our small but talented team.”
Demand for the software outside Prague meant dealing with issues such as the translation of software and manuals from Czech to other languages, and exporting hardware outside the Czech Republic. One problem involved resolving a network issue for a big customer in Slovakia, which involved MyQ having to rewrite the firmware in its terminals in assembly, a programming language that is as close to native machine code as it’s possible to get. “We coped well,” Martin claims.
Form an Orderly Queue
MyQ opened its first branch in Austria in 2009. “Having created more demand and interest, we looked to add another branch, which opened two years later in Dubai,” Janus said. “The business grew fast, but with the growth came new issues, such as dealing with the Russian alphabet. As soon as we’d overcome that, the Japanese and Chinese markets became very interested and wanted us to get involved. That’s when we felt MyQ had a real global reach.”
What does Janus think are the reasons behind MyQ’s success? “We started very late, where markets had already been penetrated by many competitors with existing solutions,” he said. “Strangely, this helped us better understand our customers’ needs, helping us shape a complete solution with hardware development and professional support planning.
“At first, we wanted to distribute and sell this type of software rather than create it from scratch, as this seemed to be the most cost effective and easiest route to market,” he continued. “We tried to adopt a very popular product in the United States, but they wouldn’t translate it into Czech. Soon after, we came close to signing a contract with a local solution, but the producer had other priorities and we lost patience with it.”
Janus and the team didn’t give up, though. “Our last attempt ended in Germany where we had a meeting with a hardware producer, and we explained that we planned to develop the software within 12 months and combine our software with their reworked OEM hardware,” he said. “After much laughter they told us we were really crazy because they’d been developing the software for years, and they felt they knew what was best.
“Something didn’t feel right, and after many meetings, late nights and large amounts of coffee, we decided to develop it by ourselves,” Janus continued. “We’d identified a huge gap in the market: there wasn’t a suitable solution for small and medium-sized companies. All the other solutions were expensive and very complicated to install, use and maintain. We had one definitive vision—to produce a simple and cost-effective solution.”
The rest is history, but if Janus could rewrite it, he probably wouldn’t change a thing, as everything that has happened has led the company to where it is today. “Maybe we would have invested sooner in more marketing activities,” he says, “maybe expanded our team sooner and signed contracts more quickly with more concrete targets and commitment.”
Invitation to Success
It may have started with the hard work of just five people, but MyQ is now a company with just under 50 people working for it, with around half having joined since the end of 2014. Janus plans to increase the team to 70 people within one year and to 120 people within five. Recruiting people doesn’t seem to have been a problem, but how easy or difficult was it for MyQ to hire people with the right skills, experience and talent?
“As I mentioned earlier, the team largely consisted of friends,” he said. “The first expansion came mainly from other friends, or friends of my colleagues, joining mainly from personal invitation. Thanks to this, we intuitively solved one key issue which every company finds difficult to create: team loyalty. It also helped us to have a relaxed work atmosphere supported with an unquenchable enthusiasm for our work.” To this day, 80 percent of MyQ’s staff has been recruited through recommendations and friends rather than outside agencies.
“We had one definitive vision—to produce a simple and cost-effective solution.” –Martin Janus
As for competitors, MyQ isn’t too concerned with battling the big players and would rather evangelise its own software. According to Janus, that’s because MyQ does the job of three or four solutions, so it’s difficult to pick out a main competitor. “The fact is we don’t have any internal analysts comparing our solution with alternatives,” he said. “We believe in long-term relationships and are inspired by our customers and partners to constantly push the boundaries, helping us to adapt and enhance our solution.”
Follow Me to the Future
Janus plans to improve MyQ over the next few years by unifying the platform’s front-end across all devices, whether they are touchscreen-based or used with a keyboard and mouse. “Our overall vision is to create compatible devices and software wherever we can, and apply our knowledge and expertise to automate or simplify task management,” he said.
Version 5.3 of MyQ is up for imminent release, and with it comes new features such as embedded terminals for two new vendors: Samsung and Toshiba. There will be new external terminals for use with older printer models too, and according to Janus these new terminals promise extra modularity and flexibility. Further in the future, Janus says the company will, “offer an integrated way of working with documents in the cloud. All of these steps go hand in hand with our short-term strategy for using cloud facilities without a fixed installation and time-consuming maintenance. Last but by no means least, we’re going to launch a new product covering functions such as helpdesk, social collaboration, intranet and communications, all of which will dovetail perfectly into the MyQ ecosystem.”
There’s a tremendous amount of talent in Europe that is more than capable of competing with the rest of the world, and MyQ is proof of that.