This is an industry that makes up a substantial part of every country’s GDP, but at the same time you would be hard pressed to find an industry that has experienced less productivity growth and innovation over the last 100 years. The construction industry is one of those dinosaurs that hardly changes direction. But one trend is no longer avoidable – digitalisation. And that’s what a startup from the Usti Region is helping with – “Stavario”!
When the application for the ICUK business incubator came in 2019, we knew that the topic of this startup is a big bite. Coming up with an innovation in the construction industry was not easy. Putting it into practice is even harder. But Josef Benes, founder of Stavario (formerly as “Vím o všem”), was full of optimism, enthusiasm, energy and most importantly, he had a wealth of industry experience!
From shovel to application
Josef is not from the IT industry, nor from a large company where he would be in charge of the innovation or digitalisation department. Josef started at his uncle’s construction site, where his first experience with construction was to dig the building foundation of a house. Not with a backhoe, but by hand using a shovel and pickaxe. But he wasn´t discouraged at all. Few years later he started his own construction company and began to gain considerable experience in the construction industry. However, he was bothered by the constant paperwork and spending a lot of time in his car, going from site to site to solve problems.
Paper is not Excel and Excel is not an application
“There are many situations when you feel that you are just filling out paper for paper’s sake,” says Josef Beneš. “I wanted to find a way to create the ‘paper’ myself, register it and then calculate other numbers from it.” So he set about developing an app to help him do just that. At the beginning, he calculated that an investment of a few hundred thousand crowns would be enough, and he and his colleagues would bring the application to a successful end. “In retrospect, this mistake was probably the biggest and most expensive in my career,” Josef adds with a laugh. Anyway, the first module of the whole application was attendance. With this, the company digitised the arrivals and departures of employees on site. Gradually, he began to implement other functionalities into the app, such as an online construction diary, asset register, Gantt chart, online chat with users in the app and much more. And the fact that these things help construction companies to be efficient, speaks numbers of companies working in the app – nowadays more than a few hundred!
“All or nothing” strategy
In order to finance his company, which he saw huge potential in, Josef sold almost all of his personal assets. Other investors also joined the company, led by the Nation 1 Fund with an investment of around $1 million. At the time, Stavario could be said to be the most valuable startup in the Usti Region. “Negotiating with investors was an incredible experience and it opened my eyes. Probably no startup is prepared for so many questions and documents that big investors require. But these are the things that ultimately help you clarify your goals and the path to get there,” says Josef in the #NovyStart podcast from the Innovation Centre of the Usti Region. Negotiations with investors took more than half a year. But without them, the app’s development would have stalled.
The life of the startup person behind the marketing curtain
Does the life of a startup look like one big party with flashy presentations? It could look like that, if all you can see is a stage full of smiles. Josef is very open about this, and his story reveals sometimes a harsh reality. “The activities behind the curtain are a massacre. I often went to Brno for meetings in a car I borrowed from my parents. I had a sleeping bag to sleep in the car, because I knew I didn’t have the money to go back that day. It was a cashflow issue, but it was still uncomfortable. I was also held up by the staff few times. And the background of a start-up company? After all, I was running the company during the day and assembling office furniture overnight, so we had a place to sit in the office. And from the room which had left in the offices, I made my own apartment,” Josef sums up the difficult beginnings of the business honestly. He adds: “The problem was also with the investment itself. As soon as people read in Forbes that I had received an investment of 1 million euros, it was a problem. They thought I was a millionaire. But you have that money to grow the company. It doesn’t actually belong to you, even though it’s in your company account.”
Business support is not to be disdained
Josef and his startup Stavario went through many entrepreneurial programs to help in the beginning. Whether it’s ICUK’s StartUp Go business incubator, Czechinvest’s CzechStarter programme, ČSOB’s StartIt accelerator or Vodafone’s Idea of the Year 2020, where he made it to the final of the TOP 10 startups in the Czech Republic. “The beginning of the business is one big signpost, and you don´t know which way is the right one. That’s why I’m glad I joined ICUK’s business incubator, which helped me to get me in the right direction to build a fast-growing startup! I would recommend it to anyone who doesn’t want to go round in circles and explore paths that have been taken before you,” says Josef, looking back on the programmes for budding entrepreneurs. In 2019, the startup Stavario won the ICUK Special Awards for the most innovative company in the Usti Region.
Interested in more? We recommend watching the whole episode of the podcast #Nový start from the Innovation Centre of the Ústí nad Labem Region, where we interviewed Josef Beneš.
STAVARIO´S JOURNEY WITH ICUK
– Participation in the ICUK business incubator
– Winner of the Startup Go Grill in April 2019 – public presentation of startups
– Innovation Company of the Usti Region 2019 – ICUK Special Award
– Vodafone Idea of the Year – TOP 10
– Investment from Nation 1 Fund