October 15th, 2013 § § permalink
Proud to announce that my favorite startup community has matured to the stage, where we had to organize Internet Week – a whole week packed with events of various kinds, by several partner organizers, on multitude of topics. We are sponsored by the Digital Champion of Slovenia.
You should all take time between October 23rd-30th, and go visit at least a handful of the events, and get to know the community better. At Zemanta we will be hosting startup crawl next friday, when everyone is welcome to stop by for drinks and chats about the future of the web publishing.
I was fortunate to see how Internet Week NY developed, from it’s modest first year 2008, to an overwhelming festival of entrepreneurship it is now. I hope Ljubljana will follow a similar path, as it is the only way to the future.
Oh, and if you want to promote your event as well, give me a shout. happy to add it to the list.
Join us. Move on.
August 19th, 2013 § § permalink
Startup screen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Economic crisis is still the dominant topic in Slovenia, with worrying news and indicators popping up daily. At the same time, Zemanta has never been better, and is actually growing fast. Of course, because we are active on global market, rather than dependent on local economy. Except in one aspect – hiring.
We are looking for several new exceptional colleagues in our Ljubljana office. brilliant, smart, ambitious software developers. It’s not surprising that a lot of people are applying for the position, and I’m very happy to see that many of them actually fit the profile we are looking for.
I’m starting to call it ‘startup engineer‘, to differentiate it from other software development jobs, like traditional IT, systems integrations or website development. many students coming from the universities here are not aware of the difference, and I think we, the startups, have to be very loud about how differently we work. here is a short list of the type of differences, would love to compile a longer one with your help:
- problem-solving: we are a product company, building a product of our own. there is no external client inventing and changing the specs all the time. there is no map of where we are going. we are learning with every step what the next step will be. thus there are not many repetitive tasks. every day actually brings new challenges. some people don’t handle such uncertainties well. startup engineers thrive in the challenge.
- freedom and flexibility: to a large extend we don’t care when and how you work. we expect you to do what it takes to understand the challenge well enough, to tell the other how you will solve it. hours, days, languages, locations are up to your judgment. some people cant handle this freedom. startup engineers love the freedom and grow with the responsibility.
- curiosity: the world is changing with incredible and accelerating speed, and we need to stay a step ahead of it. we need to understand the emerging technologies before they become standards. it takes extra time and energy, that doesn’t necessarily pay off always. startup engineers experiment and learn, because they cannot not to. sometimes that’s called being brave.
- global view: even when working on local problems, startup engineers have to understand the world at large, keep in touch with global trends, and think how the flap of the butterfly in silicon valley will affect us here and now.
there are several practical challenges that we are facing when trying to communicate why working in a startup should be attractive option:
- I wish in the future, people looking to work as developers, would be aware of this difference well in advance. ideally even before high school, so that they can optimize their learning for the style of work that suits them best. we see a lot of very compelling candidates, that unfortunately end up working for banks and IT companies, simply because they don’t know that being a developer can mean very different things.
- there is a prejudice that startup jobs are not stable enough, so specially young candidates are discouraged from applying for them. I find this mentality particularly cynical and obsolete. not only have I met a lot of very stable and healthy startups over the years, also the ‘stable’ companies are laying off incredible amounts of people these days, and government jobs are less and less secure as well.
- some candidates, if they happen to know about startups, are convinced that they are not good enough to qualify. they don’t realize that what we need is first and foremost smarts and curiosity, and not PhD quality of theoretical puzzle-solving. at Zemanta, cultural fit is much more important than skills and experience. don’t negotiate with yourself.
I wish we could make this, ‘startup engineer’ a formal post-graduate university program. there are practical skills they could learn, to accelerate their growth, but these will change from year to year. more importantly, by having it as an option within formal educational system, we would be raising the awareness and actually giving some of the students a fair chance to realize their potential. creating it in collaboration with the actual companies would make sure the students end up with a bit more practically useful knowledge built on top of computer science fundamentals, and give them direct access to a pool of employers, that have been doubling every year.
August 12th, 2013 § § permalink
Slovenia (Photo credit: phault)
Statistical office of Republic of Slovenia has announced that we had a terrible brain drain in 2012. Surprise surprise, who would have known.
We have been seeing signs of it for the past 18 months. First by people temporarily living abroad, deciding they are not coming back. Later people living in Slovenia, who started seriously thinking about leaving. And finally, when we started hiring a lot of engineers, and a lot of people ‘just started’ working abroad.
Of course, a year from now, Statistical office will report that the brain drain was even higher in 2013, all the media will write about it then, and the country will have lost another 12 months when it could have done something.
I have several issues with this situation, which worries and saddens me a lot. But I want to write about just one today – opportunism vs rational thinking.
Yes, the crisis is annoying, yes the economy is still winding down, yes you lost ton of job last year or the clients you’ve been calling on for the past decade have stopped ordering or paying. All very true and solid reasons for looking to change something, in order to defend the quality of life you got used to. And I understand completely that working abroad is a rational option in this decision-making process. I’ve done that, and the decision isn’t easy.
After all, constructing a nice way of life took you a couple of decades, right?
Slovenia (Photo credit: phault)
But moving or working abroad shouldn’t be your default answer. It doesn’t have to be. I humbly call on you to try hard to find options to work for globally focused companies in Slovenia. By relocating yourself and your family you are risking as much as you are hoping to gain, but only the ‘gain’ is visible in the offer you have on your desk.
This is one of rare situations in which I’m arguing that it’s smart to be a bit more conservative. But fact is, that if you are deciding between bad past in Slovenia and shiny one offer from somewhere else, you are comparing human fish to dolphins. Try harder to add the lynx and the salmon to the table, and then evaluate you options.
In other words, companies like Zemanta, Celtra, 3FS and similar, are amazing, global, product companies. We are unlike anything you have worked for before in Slovenia. We are all looking to hire a lot of talent. We are all paying well above average and we are all growing. Consider applying for jobs with Slovenian startups, before you decide to change everything in your life.
And dear readers, please tell your friends that as well. I know 20% of them are thinking about moving right now.
June 28th, 2013 § § permalink
Slovenia (Photo credit: phault)
I bet you’re instinctive answer was yes. how cynical of you. it seems everyone’s favorite sport last two years in Slovenia has been complaining about life and politics, without having any broad perspective on the state of the world.
Slovenians seem to live in a mental bubble, where they compare their own poor fates and lives with the imaginary paradise.
Foreign Policy actually does a proper analysis of all countries in the world every year, and ranks them from most failing to least. they even create a color-coded interactive map of failing states for all the cynics and others, who like to complain a lot.
Short answer to the question from the headline is no, Slovenia is 16th least failing in the world, based on indicators like quality of living and such. read the methodology if you care.
I love datasets like this one, if you assemble them with care and if you actually make them complete, they have the power to perform reality-check.
April 30th, 2013 § § permalink
bakery (Photo credit: Sachiho)
Slovenia is a small country. it’s a fact, but unfortunately this realization is too often used as an excuse to not do something right. In my opinion, this means two other things:
- because it’s a small country, we can have much better overview of activities, if only we choose so. our national statistics centre is able to produce monthly insights into many aspects of the society without much effort, so we actually have data available that could be used to empower better decisions easily.
- because we don’t have infinite pool of human resources, we have to be more careful on where we employ them.
I don’t see enough efforts on either part, and I’m pretty sure very few people in slovenia are actually aware of the actual distribution of human potential of the country, which results in lots of ungrounded frustrations and much ranting about “too big government sector” or “too little economic growth“, without data to back it up.
So i wanted to get better sense of what our high level structure is. here is first draft of a breakdown of slovenian population:
… every slovenian resident can find herself in exactly one of the squares. now we can observe some interesting facts, some that we have known before, and some that might be a surprise:
- government is not so big. 40.000 people work across the administration. the same for public sector – all our education and health is run by only 5% of the population
- i ventured into separating private sector into two halves – the pseudo-private sector are people employed in companies that are funded mainly from public sources. i’ll get more accurate data, but i believe this distinction is important, because those companies are not actually creating value on the market, but rather live off national budget.
- so my theory is, that until we get more people from all other buckets into the real private sector, there is little hope of solving the economic crisis. if all our growth is dependent on government projects, and only 16% of people daily work on and think about adding value to the
complete data table is:
|kids under 15
i’m imagining next steps for this visualization will be:
- make it update itself from monthly data
- add more complexity, adding ability to drill into individual sectors
- create a comparable breakdown of added-value, or contribution to GDP, or something similar, to back my thesis that we need more people in the real private sector.
thoughts? what else do you see in the chart?
April 1st, 2013 § § permalink
A map of the Slovene Land and Provinces, author Peter Kozler Hrvatski: Zemljovid slovenskih zemalja i pokrajina, autor Peter Kozler (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
every western media seems to be talking about slovenia these days…
Fears that Slovenia will become the next eurozone nation to need a bail-out have been fuelled by a sharp cut to the country’s growth forecasts by the government’s economic institute. Slovenia has become the first victim of contagion from Cyprus as its borrowing costs rocketed last week in the wake of a punishing bail-out deal.
as an ‘insider’ I feel obliged to comment:
- to all westerns: slovenia is going to be just fine. the current state of public finance is a residue of a couple of years of poor governments, that resulted in couple of months of public uprisings and a new government that feels promising. so stop panicking and pay attention to details. every crisis in EU zone in the last three years was handled completely differently, there are no patterns.
- to slovenian politicians: this is actually awesome public PR opportunity – the world is looking at us closely now, let’s keep the limelight on us as long as possible and make sure the ‘crisis’ resolves while they are paying attention. now is the time to invest in all kinds of projects
- to slovenian public: go vote next time around. and pay more attention next time. the rest of the world cares more about slovenia than you do.
March 18th, 2013 § § permalink
I gave several book interviews since starting Zemanta and moving to NYC, most of them in the last 18 months. Lots of authors are exploring the technology revolution that we were fortunate to participate in.
Books are coming this year, discussing it from various angles – comparatively with .com boom, the rise of entrepreneurship Europe, new entrepreneurship as a lifestyle, … It is no surprise to me, that the first book to actually publish is the one specifically celebrating NY tech community and agility and resilience.
Tech and the City became available on Kindle two days ago, and hardcopies are coming in April. I received the notification from the authors this morning, and already I’m half way trough it. It’s that good.
It starts with an amazingly inspiring foreword by Fred Wilson, which alone is worth the $2.99, as it perfectly outlines the mental model of the greatest city on the planet. After that, the book only gets better, weaving the story trough fragments of conversations with participants in the ecosystem, rather than lazily throwing together yet another series of interviews. This enables the book to read like a travel diary, rather than a self-hype-help business manual.
For the finish, the authors have collected a very comprehensive list of the NY tech ecosystem institutions – vc’s, events, co-working spaces and competitions. They have also published them on the official blog of the book.
It’s cheap and it’s short, and it’s awesome. Go read it and learn how you should be thinking about helping entrepreneurs in your cities / countries.
January 21st, 2013 § § permalink
first, a disclaimer. in light of recent political events and unrests in slovenia, i’d like to stress that this post is not meant to take any sides. i’ll merely try to point out to a project that might otherwise go unnoticed.
English: Detail from Government. Mural by Elihu Vedder. Lobby to Main Reading Room, Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
last year, i’ve spend a couple of days reading our national budget. the purpose of the exercise was to find ways to create something not unlike the famous ‘death and taxes’ infographic. i was pleasantly surprised with the fact, that our budget is actually very well designed, with fascinating inherent structure of programs and spenders, but unpleasantly not-surprised, that it was published as PDF.
to create an infographic with such complex data, that should be rebuilt every year, one needs programmatic ways to process it. so i ended up parsing the pdf, with many silly problems on the way. but it worked, and i’ve published the broken-down version for the years 2010-2012.
that was in spring, and ever since i’ve been waiting for the new government to finally publish the budget that was supposed to govern us this year, so i could compare it with the old ones. i really resent the fact that the budget was kept unpublished all throughout the legislative process. i really feel it’s an insult to the citizens.
but, they finally published it last week, and to my great surprise, they’ve really made an effort – they published detailed explanations of each section, and, ta-da-da-da, we have machine-parsable CSV files as well!
i realize it’s not perfect, but it’s light years ahead of what we used to have to deal with. so, who’s up for some info-charting now?
December 3rd, 2012 § § permalink
serious large scale demonstrations are going on in my home town last few days. the last time so many people gathered in protest was before we joined nato, in the height of anti-globalism movements of 2001. unfortunately it’s not that simple this time.
Bob at Piran Café blog in Slovenia shares this photograph in the Boing Boing Flickr Pool. On his blog, he explains: This [photograph of a policeman behind a riot shield] was taken at about 6 pm last night, shortly after protesters were giving carnations to police officers stationed in front of Parliament.
these demonstrations have nothing to do with neo-nazi’s, political disagreements or economic recession. they are just about people finally understanding that disillusionment is nothing without action. so far we assumed that politicians are paid to do a job of managing the country, just like profesional managers.
one thing that foreigners can’t understand from reports about neo-nazi groups in the otherwise quite city is that slovenians are normally very serious about in-activity. they should have protested any number of times in the last decade, or at least vote for different people the last 5 times they had a chance.
but they didn’t. they know the democracy doesn’t work, so they don’t bother with elections. neither they would bother with coming forth with plans to improve parts of it. instead they would complain a lot, and look at the most promising new european country flounder. slovenians have proven to be very good at feeling helpless.
we didn’t have corrupt elections yet, people actually voted for corrupt majors. some voted for them because they don’t know better. the others didn’t bother going to elections, or engaging in actions / conversations that would raise the profile of counter-candidates. it’s a pattern we have seen over and over again in our history of elections – rule of thumb is 30% voters turn-up is guaranteed, and 60% of them will vote for the commonly recognized worst option. dare to count how many times this was deemed ‘majority’ ? dare to guess how representative this sample is?
so getting 10k people on the streets is a great success, and hopefully a sign of changes to come. this post is more intended for fellow readers in slovenia, who are very good at amplifying opinions, but i’d like to provoke you to actually fucking do something. vote, vote more carefully, talk about issues when there is time to do something about them.
i wouldn’t even ask the next complaining slovenian: “and what did you do to make things better?” – they wouldn’t get it. the right questions is: “and what have you not done to contribute to this mess?”
August 23rd, 2012 § § permalink
I actually like this article, in spite of the new-age-y feeling to it.. something to keep in mind all the time, but know that there is no truth. I often get too worried about finding out the truth, when all is needed is just a decision. It’s a Slovenian thing…
7 modern workplace myths Here are 13 counterintuitive business truths I’ve come to know, even if I can’t exactly explain why they make sense. The first truth actually relates to that very subject: the how and why of things. To understand how things work, just observe; don’t ask why. This is more or less the Tao Te Ching in a nutshell.
- Embrace the counterintuitive (davidhieatt.typepad.com)
- Frustration; Truth is in the calm (bbroseproductions.wordpress.com)
- Counterintuitive results (cutandplante.wordpress.com)