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Michał Czapracki: I Think I’m an Engineer First, Then an Entrepreneur

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Michał Czapracki

Michał Czapracki of Scramjet.

Tell us about yourself?

I’m the founder and CEO of Scramjet, a deep-tech start-up that aims to break the barriers between data environments… that sound special, but in fact, I think I’m just one of the thousands of engineers from around the world that had a problem and found a solution

. I’m an easy-going person, living in Warsaw’s city centre, passionate about not-too-serious cycling, sim-racing and dogs.

In my day to day work I mostly try just to be a person, aim just as high as my team can reach and gather around me the best people I know… and some I yet don’t. 😉

What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?

I think the biggest misconception is about “not having a boss”… You always have to report to someone – be it your cofounders, investors or other stakeholders.

Before you consider starting your own company it’s worth considering how and what information you need to convey to them all.

Soon you’ll find that, given your superior is not from one of those comic strips, the information your colleagues wanted while working in a company are very much like what you’ll be reporting in your own company.

Many of the skills that you obtained while “doing time” in a corporate job are just as at home in a start-up.

If you could go back in time to any moment from your journey, and give yourself one tip, what would it be?

That’s a tough one. In hindsight there’s so many situations that I wished I knew something. I think the most important thing for me is to be ready to test every single assumption and even while relying on data understanding that you might not be getting the full picture.

I’d tell myself to be ready to change the plans and stick to the plan at the same time – make general assumptions, test them, adapt to the results and do that repeatedly.

What makes you stand out as an entrepreneur?

I think I’m an engineer first, then an entrepreneur. The platform we’re building is an idea that back in the day would have saved me a lot of work.

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I think what makes me stand out is being able to think like my user, being familiar with where they find products like mine and knowing how to convince that user’s superior.

In general, I guess it’s just about being a professional in your area of expertise and being able to surround yourself with people that are better than you in other areas. Does that make me stand out? I don’t know really, but if it makes me succeed, I’m fine with that.

What are some of the best working habits you’ve gained over the past couple of years?

I think the most important habit I developed lately is to keep moving all day. While working in a start-up of your own there will be times you’ll be “crazy busy” – forgetting about exercise and keeping at least slightly fit will drain your energy slowly but surely.

Since I started Scramjet every day I try to ride my bicycle for 30 minutes, walk 10 floors up and move at least 5k steps. This time keeps my mind relaxed and allows me to keep my stress under control. Start-up work will be stressful, finding your way to get it under taps is a must.

Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?

Scramjet started as a simple after-hours open-source framework to base other programs on. I loved working with data, and I needed something easy and ready to use.

Soon it turned out that I’m not the only person needing something similar, and I gained a small stream of downloads each month. But when those downloads reached a 100 thousand, I started to look for similarities between programs that were based on the framework.

I found that people are connecting locations and processing data from different sources in small programs. They just needed an environment to start those programs in and a data space to connect the different environments.

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They wanted to transform the data, so I decided to offer them such a service. An end-to-end service that can obtain, process and ingest data across multiple environments, locations, companies, geographic areas and cloud providers. In essence, Transform-as-a-Service.

Where do you see your business in five years?

I believe that in 5 years Scramjet will become the industry standard for processing data in multiple locations.

We know that what we’ve built until now is a super-efficient solution which can run data processing on the smallest available cloud instances and IoT systems like Raspberry Pi.

Unlike the current solutions, we want these devices to be a part of the system, not just something feeding to it.

With our idea of Virtual Data Spaces, available in Scramjet Cloud Platform, we want to virtualize the way developers and engineers work on data.

We want to let them connect programs to programs, not programs to environments. We want to make it easy. With the current situation, nobody knows how the world will look like in 5 years. What I’d wish is that Scramjet would be a part of our everyday life, even if we don’t realise it.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you in getting there?

That’s quite an easy answer… We’re trying to make stuff simple, which means it’s going to be hard for us.

Compared to the multi-billion-dollar whale companies we can’t just brute force the ecosystem. We need to be looking for elegant solutions to complicated issues and I’m aware we’re far from done.

Talk to us about your biggest success story so far?

My biggest success story so far is my team.

Finding people who are making my dream into reality is my best find ever, convincing them to join is my best pitch so far, them staying beside me through hard times is the biggest award I ever won, seeing them put such an effort into getting better and better is the biggest success story.

There are things you won’t achieve on your own. Being a manager is just being a glorified assistant to your time. To that job well and you will thrive.

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How do clients and customers find you? Are you much of a salesperson for yourself?

To my surprise… yes! I never thought about myself as a salesperson, but I guess that in order to start your company you soon will become one.

Don’t get me wrong, you need professionals if you want to succeed, but they’ll ask questions you need answers to.

I personally have conducted over 100 interviews to know how to talk to my customers, to understand their needs and their problems. Finding repetitive issues and coming up with a solution is the base of any sales pitch.

Although Scramjet is primarily an open-source company this doesn’t mean that we don’t need to sell our products. It’s a bit different, but finding the right way to explain the value in one sentence is a tough job that makes all the sense in the world.

What one tip would you give to fellow startup founders?

Test your ideas. Every time come up with the best assumption you ever had, validate it and seek confirmation. Make mistakes! Going back to your original story after trying something new is surprisingly rewarding, now knowing for a fact you were right in the first place.

And so is discovering a new idea, a missing tile in your puzzle that turns your idea around. You started the thing, you’re a pro, you’ll be able to adapt to new concepts. Don’t worry about being wrong, worry about not knowing if you’re right.

And finally, what do you hope the future brings both you personally, and your business?

I don’t have much of an expectation personally. The work in Scramjet is the most rewarding thing I ever experienced in my life.

I hope that this will last and if it does, with this team, I know we can create the future, so we’ll be making what the future brings.

Follow Scramjet on Twitter or Linkedin.

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