Kacper Gazda, MILO: People are not a resource. People are capital
Kacper Gazda was born in Opole Lubelskie 30 years ago. When he got his first computer, he developed passion for technology. Kacper established MILO in 2010.
He started his adventure with programming in secondary school in Kraśnik. After graduation, he moved out to work to Warsaw, where he established MILO a year later. He came back to Lublin in 2015 to open a new MILO office with one of the most innovative IT companies operating currently in Lublin.
MILO was established in 2010 as a sole proprietorship and has been operating in this form for the first year. MILO specialises in developing software for multiple platforms. Even in 2014 the company opened its sales office in Warsaw. Two subsequent offices are planned to be opened: one in Germany and another one in Poland. The number of employees has increased almost tenfold in the last 3 years. ‘I made my first attempt to programming already at the beginni
ng of my secondary school. I had an excellent IT teacher, who encourage me to develop software and taught how to solve problems’, says Kacper Gazda, the founder of MILO. ‘I remember that I bought a book on the Pascal programming language. I truly hated it, but I was able to write simple algorithms with it. The next step that I took was to study C/C++ languages. It was the moment in which the passion for programming aroused. These things, however, still did not hold out against the world of commerce’.
During his studies at Lublin University of Technology, Kacper Gazda joined a small company named ViP International, where he took his first steps in the commercial world of the IT sector. Wiktor Sobieski, the head of the company, agreed to employ Kacper as a trainee. During the training, Kacper created a multi-platform tool for maritime navigation, which actually was his MA thesis. ‘A few years ago, we did not have such a number of mobile applications as we do now. When we wanted to have an application which could meet our expectations, the best solution was to write the right software ourselves’, explains Kacper Gazda. ‘Now it looks differently, because almost anyone can join the FOSS project (Free and Open Source Software) and together with software developers from around the world make up new things by means of remote cooperation’.
After graduation from the university, Kacper Gazda moved out to Warsaw and joined Samsung Poland R&D Centre. Being employed as a junior software developer for mobile platforms, he was running a number of projects, including ActiveSync for H2 Vodafone, the Calendar application, and was performing different tasks related to GUI software with the application of GTK and EFL. ‘In the beginning, I was looking for a job in Lubli but it turned out that it was easier to find a job abroad. After almost a year of a full-time job, I decided to create an ideal job position for me and for others’, says Kacper Gazda.
Kacper started to develop MILO in Lublin in 2012. The MILO software developers worked remotely in the beginning. ‘When I look at it all from the time perspective, now I would decide to set up my own business much earlier. Having cooperated with a start-up from California, I realised that companies from Silicon Valley do not develop products of better quality than we do in our country. I thought that it was high time to form a team of skilled young people, who would establish the best IT company. The plan was clear and very difficult, but not impossible’, says Kacper.
In the beginning, Kacper employed two people. The number of employees, however, grows each year. The founder of MILO still considers his company a start-up. He will change his mind as soon as he employs a hundred people. He considers his company a start-up because, as he explains, he compares it to such companies as Apple, Google, Samsung or Microsoft. ‘I know Lublin. That is why I can see a considerable human potential here. If I seek people to work, I start my research just in Lublin. Interestingly, we have many candidates from other cities and countries. During an interview we ask them if they are ready to move to Lublin’, explains Kacper Gazda. ‘Despite the fact that we have set up an office also in Warsaw and we are planning further investment in other cities and countries, we are trying to build a strong team in Lublin. Our city is somehow soothing and progressing at its own pace. It is true that Warsaw is more economically developed, but it is deprived of the peaceful ambience existing in Lublin. More and more software developers think of coming back to Lublin after they move to Warsaw’, says Kacper.
In his opinion, Lublin is still a difficult area to find new clients. ‘Approximately 10% of the city potential is used. Judging by the pace of Lublin development and investment made in the IT sector, in 2 or 3 years the company will run a number of projects for companies in Lublin. At present, about 90% of orders are placed by companies from abroad. We serve clients in Germany, the Netherlands, the US, Africa or Australia’, says Kacper Gazda.
When the company started to develop and expand, first problems appeared. ‘When you work in somebody’s company on a technical position, then you can see the company’s strengths and weaknesses. You think that nobody works but you – neither your employer, nor marketing, nor the sales department. The only one who works is the technical department. When you set up your own company, you quickly realise that running a business is not just programming. Moreover, programming becomes a minor element of work. I gave up programming almost two years ago. The most difficult element is to go through this stage. Everyone is a technician, entrepreneur and manager to some extent, although the proportions are individual. You have to be conscious of your drawbacks and you should increase your marketing, sales and management knowledge. These things are as difficult as programming’, reckons Kacper Gazda. Another problem was the lack of payments from contractors, as it hampered the company’s development. ‘We could be a much bigger company, if we got all our money. However, I don’t consider my clients bad people. Decisions which I made on different stages weren’t always the right ones. Now I know that each payment which I didn’t receive might have been avoided. I don’t understand those entrepreneurs who blame their clients for their failures or those who complain about Polish contractors. The main reason for all problems, including the financial ones, is always an entrepreneur. It is particularly noticeable in the beginning of the business career. The problems are valuable in gaining experience, because running a business is connected with making mistakes, which you should draw conclusions from. Now, however, the time for learning from my mistakes is up for me and MILO’, says Kacper. ‘We use knowledge and experience of other companies, because there’s not enough time in life to make all mistakes.’
Thanks to its idea, Foody, MILO won a competition for the best start-up. Despite the fact that the project wasn’t fully completed, it resulted in increasing the company’s popularity and secured its victory. As Kacper says, the team wasn’t even fully engaged in the works over the project. “I don’t like when people say that something is not possible to be done. They say so, even though they haven’t tried to do it. In my opinion, we should try to do it and learn. If it turns out that the thing is beyond our reach, we draw conclusions and go further. When I employed the first person, I believed that we could become the best company in the world in our business area. I am sure that we will achieve the goal because we are an excellent team focused on development of the company and our own. We have high aspirations. Where are we going to be in a few years? Looking at the company’s growth, at me and my employees, I suppose we can achieve much more than now.”
The number of IT and ICT companies is constantly growing in Lublin. Large international companies are being encouraged by our city authorities to establish their offices in Lublin. “Many entrepreneurs complain about ‘cannibalism’ among employees and high turnover. I believe that employers should focus on encouraging their employees to stay, not on conceiving ways how to tear them out from other employers. At last, who knows better the employee than their employer? If a candidate comes to MILO from a rival company, I always ask them whether they have talked to their employer about leaving the company or whether they asked about a pay rise. I also ask if they say what they liked in the company and what they didn’t. I would like to be treated like this by my employees and I suggest others to do that. I think this is the only reasonable approach,” admits Kacper Gazda.
Kacper hopes that major players, e.g. Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung will open their offices in Lublin in the near future. “Some of my employees would surely think about transferring to more recognisable brands but I am sure that they would come back to MILO within 1 or 2 years. Why? Work environment in MILO is second to none! Also, the IT and ICT market is large, so companies seldom vie for the same projects. I would really like companies in Lublin to join and fight together for the largest projects, e.g. in Silicon Valley, instead of competing with each other,” says the founder of MILO.
Experienced employees are needed for implementing increasingly large projects. There is an open day at MILO all the time. “An ideal employee is motivated, willing to work and accepts constructive remarks. Maybe it sounds like a cliché, but such people are difficult to find. We look for young people who just start their career, but we notice their potential and we can see that they want to develop and accept our help. However, we also look for experienced people. For instance, recently, I’ve talked to a friend from Ukraine who would like to work for us. Every day I can see a lot of motivated people in Poland too. For various reasons, we could offer him a job only in a month. He asked what he could learn for the month before he started working in order to be more effective. We look for just such people who won’t consider us a trademark which they can change, but a family which they can join. We work with people every day, not with brands,” admits Kacper Gazda.
Over the last 5 years, i.e. since the establishment of MILO, Kacper Gazda has changed as well. He explains that for most of the period he hasn’t had enough time for his family. The company absorbed most of his free time. Kacper admits that he learns a lot each day, but there is still a room for improvement. It is, however, much easier to learn if you are surrounded by amazing team members. “What piece of advice can I give to people who just begin to work in this sector? Recently, I have been asked whether it is worth studying IT, if at the age of 15 you can start programming and five years later, earn as much as a 30-year-old IT developer. Of course, you can choose such a path to go, but the term start-uprefers also to craziness and danger. I’m afraid that inappropriate people will try to run business for big money soon in Poland. Malicious people would say that such a situation already exists. A lot of people obtain funds for projects, which are doomed to failure in the commercial world. Multiple companies will be established and many of them will go bankrupt in the coming years. As a result, a significant number of people may burn out. What piece of advice can I give? You should be very careful when you run your own business and you should carefully select people who can share their experience. In the beginning, I had nobody to advise me and I made a lot of mistakes. My company, however, survived thanks to my perseverance, hard work, and faith in success. Many people who do technical kinds of work think that they can equally well run businesses. At the beginning, I took exactly the same approach, which was wrong and very dangerous. It is a warning which, I hope, will help a lot of people avoid serious mistakes. Each novice entrepreneur should know that,” says Kacper Gazda.