Hey, all you geeks out there from the ’80s and early ’90s: do you remember this?
The ‘Back to the Future‘ trilogy is indeed one of my all time favourites, I was watching them hundreds of times when I was a kid, that’s why I was super impressed when I first met David Ottlik, CEO and co-founder of Synetiq a few years ago. Doc’s brain-wave analyzer, made by some Hungarian guys! 🙂
Synetiq has been the national winner of the “Startup of the Year” category in Hungary at Central European Startup Awards, for the second year in a row, helping brands and media producers create high performing ads and videos, based on biometric emotional insights from their target audience.
So I had my questions asked from David, to learn more about what this company and its product and services are really about.
What is your personal background?
I was born in Budapest and graduated from a French high-school, later went to Paris to study architecture and design. Then I moved to Hongkong and then back to Paris again. During my studies I had the chance to work in China and India as well. I have always wanted to do business and I always did so, I founded my first “company” at the age of 14 in highschool, we were creating and selling design products to different design shops and markets. Later I launched a media consulting firm with with a German friend I met in Hong Kong, who lived in the US, providing custom branding services for mobile and web products, to SMEs, from Hong Kong to San Francisco. I also participated at the launch of an e-commerce business which was later closed down. Then, I met with neuro-technology at a workshop in Paris, that has changed everything.
The next frontier in tech is understanding human nature, ourselves. That’s our mission statement, too And we want to be pioneers in this field.
What makes you different from your competitors? Who are your competitors at all?
In the last decade there were a few neuro-marketing startups popping up, many of them got bankrupt or acquired, our competition can be presented between 2 extremes: fMRI studies, which provide excellent data quality, but are very complex and expensive to do. The other extreme is facial coding tests, that use your face image using your webcam, which can determine basic emotional states that are visible on your face. At Synetiq, we are in the middle as we use various bio-sensors but are working on a scalable way to use them.
What were the main stumbling blocks for your startup, especially during the first year, and what would you do differently from today’s perspective?
To remain diplomatic: during the first year of the existence of your startup, everyday is a roller coster. 🙂 It’s very challenging both cognitively and emotionally and after a certain point you’ll realise: it’s not a sprint but a marathon.
I think one of the hardest things is to sell your idea and yourself to your first teammates, the early investors and clients, without any or with a very limited track record. My advice is to get prepared for the fact that it will be harder and longer than you would ever think. Some people say the overnight success comes in 10 years.
Who are the founders? What is their background?
It’s just the 2 of us: Ádám Divák and myself. Ádám’s background is SW engineering, specialized in neural applications.
How does the team look like? What is the size and the setup?
We are around 10 people at the moment, composed of data engineers, data scientists, SW engineers, psychologists and media / market researchers.
It’s a growing team, you may check us out on our website, and certainly, we are always hiring. We are all based in downtown Budapest, serving clients mostly outside of the region.
Can you tell a bit more about the business model?
It has been revisited throughout our life, right now what we are focusing on is to build a subscription based report-service, in which advertisers can follow their own campaigns benchmarked to the competition, and pre-test their future campaign to predict its effectiveness and fine-tune it.
Only this year we have tested and analysed over 1.000 tv and online ads so we have a huge database containing insights about the performance of these ads both on an emotional and cognitive level.
Can you please mention some companies you are working for?
Our clients include TV companies such as the BBC, HBO, RTL, VIACOM, AMC, or advertisers such as Telekom, Vodafone, Telenor, TESCO, Spar or Merck.
Have you raised money? How does your financial background look like?
Yes, indeed We have raised 3 rounds: the first one from a Silicon Valley based private investor, the second one from a Hungarian VC, DayOne Capital (Hungarian national winners of the “Investor of the Year” category, also for the second year), and just recently from a group of private investors who are successful entrepreneurs themselves (Andgo Partners)
What channels do you use for marketing?
Being a B2B company, we heavily rely on LinkedIn Ads and cold calls and emails, Facebook Ads and we use more and more content marketing. Fortunately, our happy clients talk about us too.
How do you see the CEE region for startups?
Our region has a great human potential, but the big deals are still happening elsewhere. So ideally a startup like us would benefit from the human potential to serve international clients but to be there where decisions are made is a must.
What are your growth plans?
We plan to focus on the revenue side of things and grow our business in the UK where we have opened an office last year, while still serving clients from the CEE region. Learn more about Synetiq at http://synetiq.net