EEA has been on the market for almost three decades. Do you even remember your beginnings?
The core of the company was formed before 1990, so I cannot even remember the very beginnings. While a team was forming on the scene of the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, surrounding our CFO and co-owner, Erich Šašinka, I was only just discovering computer science in high school. Erich likes to remember that period as a wonderful time when they felt like knights, discovering new worlds. It was the beginning of a new era – IT culture was being formed, and competition was virtually nonexistent.
How have you developed as a company since then? Where did you begin and what do you work on now?
We began with developing specialised communication solutions. We were developing a telecommunication system for the army, for example, on the QNX operating system. To date, our main sphere of business is supplying tailor-made solutions. We have expanded our portfolio over the years, to include research and the application of new IT technologies. Simultaneously, we started cooperating with multinational IT companies, whereby we’ve been able to supply solutions throughout Slovakia and abroad. We work closely with the Australian company Atlassian. At present, we focus on Business Intelligence solutions, data mining and consolidation from various systems, as well as machine data processing and artificial intelligence.
How has the business environment in Slovakia changed over the last 30 years?
The close connection between policy and market significantly distorts the environment. Pouring state and European funds into purpose-built IT companies literally cannibalizes the IT industry. It is important that decent employers are not at a disadvantage, and that IT professionals don’t have to leave the country. The ethical dimension of the IT market and the lack of progress in state computerization were the reasons why we as a company, and I as a person, decided to support the activities of the civic association Slovensko Digital. Positive changes are already visible. They’re small and usually slow, but one of the roles of the next generation is to change the world according to their ideals, and I have a feeling that a new generation is starting to dominate the Slovak IT sphere, which will significantly transform the current conditions.
What would be your advice to start-ups and new IT companies, who would like to remain in business as long as you?
Courage is important, and knowledge and experience in the given domain, a realistic business plan, sound financing and building relationships. Doing business is about the interaction of partners, within and outside of the organization. These interactions must be fair, balanced, beneficial for all parties involved and, in my opinion, it helps to strive to make them pleasant. Once the interactions start to repeat themselves, that can be considered a success. A company needs people who can stay on top of things, who have expertise and who are bold enough to venture into the unknown.
You’re the only Slovak company who has achieved the highest level of partnership with Atlassian. What is this cooperation about?
Atlassian is a developer of software products that support project and process management, and information sharing within teams. We integrate their products such as Jira, Confluence, Jira Service Desk and others into our solutions and provide our clients with consulting, sales and technical services. Being a software developer, we also program tailor-made Atlassian products for our customers, giving us a great competitive advantage.
What does it take to maintain a partnership with a billion-dollar company?
Becoming an Atlassian Solution Platinum Partner means going through a demanding training program and sophisticated certification, which we regularly renew. Sales of licenses and services must reach given quotas. Atlassian also regularly verifies the satisfaction of our clients with our services.
How have customers’ expectations in the IT sector changed over the years?
In the past, they were looking for a primary supplier of one large solution, that encompassed the entire organization, it lasted for years, and could consume hundreds of local IT experts, including ourselves. The advent of open-source software and hybrid solution operation models has made it possible to combine solutions from a large number of services operating at different locations and different suppliers. Thus, there was a requirement to gradually replace parts of old systems with smaller components whose operation would be scalable, with minimal licensing dependency.
You announced that you are planning a merger in the near future, with BootIQ, one of the InTeFi Capital investment group’s portfolio. What are you expecting from this move?
Strong personnel and financial background. Another reason is to enter new markets where members of the group being formed are active. BootIQ has twelve branches in three countries and has invested more than € 4 million in its expansion over the past year alone. With the acquisition of EEA, the BootIQ team will grow to more than 300 software developers, and the group’s annual revenue will exceed € 16 million. EEA branches in Bratislava, Prague, Nitra, Trenčín and Košice will join the group.
Gabriel Lachmann and Erich Šašinka
Photo: Forbes, Marek Mucha