How She Started: Being a founder is risky. How did you decide to found Coding Bootcamp Praha?
Jana Vecerkova: There are a couple of reasons. One of them was my job, which provided me with the opportunity to engage with numerous startups. I not only worked with tech companies but also with government agencies such as the European Commission, etc.
We collaborated on projects aimed at supporting European startup founders. This involved organizing various conferences, hackathons, and projects. It was a diverse and exciting experience to witness individuals from across Europe contributing their ideas.
One pattern I saw was that many startups failed because the team lacked the necessary skillsets. I saw over and over again that a team would include individuals who were more business-minded but didn’t have a trustworthy technical co-founder. That was a downfall of so many startups because from day one they would need to pay for software development, which is quite expensive. In such cases, people could provide a wide range of price quotes and if you don't have that expertise then there’s not much you can question.
I was also able to somewhat de-risk the business by having two co-founders who complemented my knowledge- one was quite technical and the other was adept in finance and accounting.
The last thing that drew me to found Coding Bootcamp Praha is I’ve always been interested in education. I was the annoying kid questioning the teacher’s methodologies at the age of 8. Needless to say, it did not make me very popular with my teachers. When creating this coding bootcamp my aim was to invite people to think differently and bring a unique perspective.
HSS: What is your growth strategy?
JV: In terms of the Coding Bootcamp, we continue to add new types of courses. We are also agile in adapting to shifts in high-demand job roles. For example, we started a Data Science Bootcamp this year, and to meet the increased demand for data scientists we’ve been able to partner with prominent names in the industry Ernst and Young, etc. who are interested in hiring for these roles.
Regarding BrikkApp, we are consistently incorporating new features into the app while also focusing on expanding our presence regionally. We’re currently in seven countries and we hope to expand to most of Europe.
How do you compete in the market and gain/retain your market share?
JV: We specialize in coding bootcamps, and we really make an effort to have the best bootcamp on the market.
In terms of BrikkApp the investment landscape is highly competitive. We have deliberately chosen to focus on a specific niche. Our main point of differentiation is that the investments available through BrikkApp are backed by real estate. This means that you can never completely lose your investment. With the lower risk, there is a tradeoff of large gains. If people are looking for a 30 or 50% yield, our platform would not be ideal because that's not the type of investment we offer. Right now, we see roughly between 8 to 30% of the annual yield that’s backed by real estate which is less risky.
HSS: Was there a moment for each company where you felt it catapulted to the mainstream?
JV: For Coding Bootcamp Praha it’s been relatively incremental.
For BrikkApp we’ve had many great successes. During the initial launch, we experienced a remarkable surge in user growth. Then it was a little bit slower. Half a year later, it started picking up quickly again. We realized we created a trustworthy brand that people were seeing results from.
Our platform resonates particularly well with users interested in investing smaller sums. For instance, individuals can invest as little as €50. While expectations are tempered due to the small amount, users' confidence in our platform grows as they engage with it. Upon testing the product, they can see their first interest payment—although it may be just €1—and validate the platform works for them.
HSS: What are your lessons learned so far being an entrepreneur?
JV: Patience is quite crucial and it's not something that comes naturally to me. When I pursue a goal, my tendency is to give it my all, aiming for 800% effort, and I tend to anticipate the same level of commitment from those around me. It’s not realistic. Perhaps for the founding team, it is realistic, but once you have employees, they may not share the same entrepreneurial spirit. You can’t expect it from everyone, and you shouldn't.
This realization has been a personal journey for me. Many individuals excel in their roles but bring a different work approach to the table. Understanding and respecting their unique processes and harnessing the collective potential for the benefit of the entire team, has been a profound lesson.
HSS: Do you have any additional advice for female-founded businesses?
JV: I'm excited to witness a positive shift in the number of female mentors. While the progress might be gradual, it's great to see an increasing number of women assuming mentorship roles. My most significant advice for female founders would be to actively seek out mentors.
- Insight: When founding a startup ensure you have the necessary skills on your founding team. Many non-technical founders create tech-focused businesses and burn through cash quickly because of a gap in software development knowledge.
- Insight: Respond to changes in the market to reap the benefits of shifting demand.
- Insight: If you can, find partnerships that are mutually beneficial.
- Insight: Find a niche that is large enough to enter and compete, but still allows you to have valuable points of differentiation.
- Insight: Creating a trustworthy brand with low barriers to entry creates brand loyalty and evangelism.
- Insight: Recognize there are different incentives between a founding team and employees. Employees likely won’t share the same entrepreneurial spirit.
- Insight: Seek out mentors that you can relate to.
I reached out to Jana and we found that she did an exchange year at my undergraduate university, Emory in Atlanta.
I've always been passionate about women helping other women. I created this blog to tell stories of successful female-founded businesses. Hopefully, these stories will help inspire more women to found their own businesses.