Some things to learn from other entrepreneurs – Nejc Zupan

When I was thinking who to write this article about, a person that I personally know and admire, and at the same time owns a business, the first one that came on my mind was my friend Nejc Zupan. I will write a 2-in-1 article here – Young entrepreneurs – Nejc Zupan, and the interview with him.

Nejc Zupan is a 25 year old, Slovenian entrepreneur who is involved in the IT Business in Slovenia. I met him when we were still students, years back. I joined a workshop where he was one of the trainers. At that time he was not yet involved in the business world. Few months later, him and few of his colleagues started a company in Ljubljana. It was back in 2006 when the idea first raised. He was disappointed from the academic life and the technical and soft skills he expected to get, but unfortunately didn’t see a chance at that time to gain.

E: What is your business about more specifically, and why did you choose it?
NZ: Secure web applications. Nowadays, people are not aware of the huge gaping holes which are present in IT. 99% of web pages don’t have even the minimum protection against security breaches. We help this get better.

Every company has highlights and bad moments. No one is lucky to only go up to the top, or even stay there without many breaks on the way. So is the example of Nejc’ company. They had many bad moments: “Mostly when clients/investors don’t pay the bill. You wait for it for several months, practically starving.” says Nejc, and continues: “Best ones are the ones where we get recognized in the community for what we do. That’s the real thrill. Decent money is just a nice side-product.”

Nejc and his colleagues recognize that not exploring the market was a huge mistake, because they didn’t know what product would sell, and which one wouldn’t. Investing time, money and human resources on a product that finally would not pay off your hard work and money and time invested is not only bad for business financially, but also can bring your motivation down.

E: Did you have a business plan when you started, did you make a market research before you started? Mistakes you made?
NZ: Sure we had a business plan. We just didn’t really stick to it. Internet is changing every few months, and our business plan was always outdated. Market research was a stranger for us in the first 3 years. Huge mistake. Now we know better, and first test if the product will sell, before actually investing money/time to produce it. 

E: Best lessons you learned in the process of the evolution of your company.
NZ: Tons of technical knowledge I could never get on the university, and soft skills.
Another lesson they learned on the way was that complaining will not make problems disappear, but taking matters into people’s own hands might solve them. When entrepreneurs start working, they have to realize they depend mostly on themselves, and their own mind, creativity, motivation, will and patience! Patience is a piece of the puzzle that can save a company in the hardest moments.

But no matter how many bad days were behind, an entrepreneur is always an entrepreneur, and lives for his idea to come true. Like actors and musicians, they never stop being themselves, even while working in a coffee shop, they are actors and musicians, waiting for the big chance. Entrepreneurs are a bit different than the musicians and actors, they take things into their own hands, do not only wait for a chance, but they create the chance, they make business plans, they try, fail, make mistakes, learn, earn small cash, then manage to put some food on the table, but there are alos times when they go back at the beginning because of bad planning. But if they fall 10 times, they stand up 11 times, and try again.

E: What would you suggest to a future entrepreneur?
NZ: Start yesterday. Seriously, it’s never too early. The sooner you make the first few stupid mistakes, the better. And you will make them.
E: Your future plans? Do you plan to expand, start up another company maybe?
NZ: Sell the start-up we (as a company) co-founded in 2008. We also just started (with some partners) an entrepreneurship incubator and office-sharing space in Ljubljana. We want this place to be the hub where people go for the first few months when they want to start a company. Promote open-source. Everywhere, every time.

Open source software is a key foundation for Nejc’ company. It is good to support something that helped them develop, because as it helped them it can help many others, plus it shows they didn’t forget how they got so far.

And my future plans are continue following this company, not because it has very bright aspects for the future, but also because of the level of passion the involved people show. I thank Nejc Zupan for his time and short deadline for answering this questionnaire.

And for last: “I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.
Booker T. Washington

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