Interview: Boris Bošiak about Reservio, 30 under 30 and cryptocurrencies
He started web design at the age of 14 and by the age of 30 he had managed to build a booking engine that is used by millions of people around the world. That's why we're glad that Boris Bošiak took the time to be interviewed for the Dactyl blog.
What does the Forbes 30 Under 30 ranking mean for him and how did Reservio handle the coronacrisis? Find out in a fresh interview.
How did you get into business?
When I was thirteen years old, I used to play a game, and I was terribly sorry that the Slovak and Czech communities didn't work together very well. So I thought it was a great idea to create a website where I could somehow bring these people together.
In the end, it turned out that the actual creation of the website attracted me even more than the aforementioned game.
From that point on, I became more deeply interested in technology and programming on the internet. I gradually worked my way up to my first job with the fact that practically from the beginning I was tempted to create something of my own.
What is it like to start web design as a 14 year old boy and learn on your own?
Technologies are specific in that they change dynamically and rapidly. If you are dedicated to them, probably within 5 years most of what you have learned will no longer be valid. That being said, I think the IT field is one of the ones where it's probably easiest for a fourteen year old boy.
In short, I enjoyed it, I devoted my time to it and gradually I got some first orders.
The first interesting experience for me was when I started working for Daren&Curtis, an advertising company in Bratislava. I remember I sent them my CV and they wrote to me saying that they were very grateful for my interest, but unfortunately they were looking for an adult who lived in Bratislava and wanted to work full time.
I wrote back to them at the time saying that I understood, but that they should look at my work anyway. As a student, I would work more profitably than an adult with commitments, and if they only need me for a few hours, I'd certainly be happy for that. Anyway, they invited me in for an interview and I started working for them.
What does business mean to you?
Entrepreneurship for me means freedom, in the sense that what I believe in, I can make happen. So I can change things that I don't like in the world.
I think technology has always been the best way for me to do that. I really liked the fact that even though I lived in a small town in Slovakia, what I created could be used by people on the other side of the globe.
How did the idea of Reservio come about?
My colleague František Mazuch, with whom I founded the company Reservio, and I originally met as part of a university project. At the time, we were both making websites for small businesses that are current Reservio customers.
Specifically, we also worked on a website through which a person could make a reservation through a kind of classic form - email, phone, a note and a preferred meeting time. If you were lucky, you hit a date that was available, and if not, you needed a few more emails to make the appointment.
Of course, we thought it was stupid and then we found out that there was no reservation system on the Czech or Slovak market that would solve the problem. Although we found a similar idea on the English market, we still thought it could be done better. That's why we decided to take on the project ourselves.
Reservio has to manage millions of bookings a month. What do you think that makes this system special?
The tough question. They have to handle it technologically (laughs). Technological infrastructure is probably one of the most crucial things. We provide our software in 130 countries and at any one time any one company can send hundreds of thousands of bookings. The software has to adapt to this both economically and stably.
How the localization run? Is it just a translation, or do the different mutations have their own specifics?
The translator does the actual translation first, followed by something called proofreading. We go through the entire app and its marketing content to make sure it matches the local specifics.
If you are in the Czech Republic, it is called a reservation system, but in the English market the literal translation "reservation system" is not quite appropriate, because it is used in other market segments, and for us a better name is "appointment scheduling software".
I think that the fundamental difference between markets is not so much about the language barrier, but also about how those businesses work. If we look at sports centres, in the Czech Republic, Multisport or Activepass cards are the standard today. People go to individual entrances, which they either pay for or have covered by such a card.
Fitness facilities in the US operate very differently. You pay a monthly fee and within that fee you can use all the services of a particular gym without limit.
All of this is what people have to know in order to be able to adapt to the market.
The website Reservio (zdroj: www.reservio.cz)
You recently launched a mobile app for Reservio. What makes it interesting?
Let's say you want to get a haircut tomorrow at 4:00 and your hairdresser is busy. So you can use our app to say: "I want a haircut tomorrow!" and we'll show you the 10 hairdressers in any city that are free. And if you like the service, you can simply book and pay for it.
Do you think that your age 30 is some kind of milestone in your life?
I don't think I have an answer to that isn't a cliché (laughs). I don't know, it's just a number. Now, when I celebrated my 30th birthday recently, I also somehow didn't live through it. We take it as just another day in business and we try to work on our ministry every day regardless.
You are also behind the Zachranmesluzby.cz project. How was it created?
During the coronavirus, most of our customers were unable to do business. A large number of them had to compulsorily close their services and this was, of course, a huge shock for us as a company. But we knew that small businesses were at great risk financially. At that time, the state was trying to save mainly large companies and keep the economy going as much as possible. Therefore, there was no time at all for these entrepreneurs at the beginning.
Then we were inspired by the Slovak project Smesvami.sk, which basically allowed these entrepreneurs to use a simple form to create a page that they could share and offer their future services. In this way, we managed to broker services worth approximately one million crowns. So we are very pleased that we have been able to help entrepreneurs in this way at least at a time when they were limited in their business.
The website ZachraňmeSlužby.cz
Do you support any other charity projects?
Rapid and high-quality testing was needed during the coronary crisis. We decided to provide all hospitals in the Czech Republic with our booking system for free so that people could easily book testing through it and thus not have to queue for hours as they did at the beginning of the coronary crisis. Because if you have to wait in line for a long time, you significantly increase the risk of someone in the vicinity getting infected.
This charity project of ours was of great importance and is still used by some of the largest hospitals in Prague, such as Bulovka, the Military Hospital and Thomayer Hospital. We have also covered teaching hospitals in Brno, Olomouc, hospitals in the Karlovy Vary Region and Agel hospitals.
What are the biggest challenges you have had to overcome in business?
I think business is all about overcoming different problems and the moment you solve them, you take your company one step further.
When I think back to the very beginning, the challenge for us was first of all that as two students who were running a business and studying at the same time, we had to explain to our parents that we were starting a business and because of that we didn't have as much time for school. It was important to raise capital so that we had enough time to get our business up and running, because it doesn't take a week or two to develop the service we have today, and it actually took us almost a year.
I think the business itself requires a primary change in how you think about your work. As I said at the beginning that entrepreneurship to me is freedom, that freedom doesn't mean that I just put my feet up and enjoy the money coming into my account.
Freedom also means the responsibility that if I make a bad decision, it can have a very negative impact not only on me, but also on all the people in the company, their families and even our customer.
How has the coronavirus and related measures affected your business?
In fact, as I mentioned earlier, we had a situation where most of our customers were unable to provide their services, and so sales of Reservio software to new customers stopped, as well as renewals of services to old customers.
At one point we had a drop in income to about 20% of what we used to earn. However, we were very fortunate that our company was financially healthy enough to weather such a period comfortably, even though it meant some change of plans.
With the time and peace of mind we gained from not necessarily having to stress or lay off half the company, we were additionally able to focus on using our product to help others. For example, through the aforementioned Zachraňmeslužby.cz project, through helping hospitals and health centres, but also schools, which at the time were dealing with registering pupils for school and children for kindergarten. We also provided them with our system free of charge so that parents did not have to travel anywhere and put themselves and their families at risk.
You are also interested in cryptocurrencies. What attracts you to them?
Cryptocurrencies are a huge technological revolution for me because it's the first time we can verifiably and without a single trusted entity (e.g. a national bank) prove that someone hasn't duplicated money on the internet. It is a digital currency that you can send to anyone in the world without anyone forbidding you to do so and saying you have no right to do so.
In addition, you are assured that no one is devaluing your money in any way, as we are seeing nowadays when banks all over the world are printing huge amounts of money and thus devaluing the money we have in our wallets.
I think that digital currencies will allow us to use money in a way that is unthinkable for us now.
How do you think it will develop in the coming years?
I wish I knew (laughs). When we talk about cryptocurrencies, I don't primarily evaluate their investment potential, and I think cryptocurrencies are still a hugely risky kind of investment. What primarily interests me about them is the technological developments, and in my opinion the next few years are going to be tremendously interesting from a cryptocurrency perspective.
A few years ago, people laughed at bitcoin, saying it was too expensive to pay for coffee, or that if just one company like Visa or Mastercard switched to bitcoin, the bitcoin network would be full for years. However, today, due to the impact of new technologies, cryptocurrencies are already getting to the stage where they are as fast as we are used to with credit card payments. They are even a safer and better alternative to card payments.
I think these technologies will become more mainstream in the next few years, precisely because they are becoming more technically stable and user-friendly.
Thank you for the interview. If you like it, share it - or read other interviews:
- Karel Souček about apps, Trinerdis and Kiwi.com
- Businessman and lover of healthy lifestyle - Karel Dytrych