For an introvert who never liked networking and making small talk, the onset of internet communication was a dream come true. The opportunity to connect people who are tens or thousands of kilometres apart fascinates Ondřej today just as it did 20 years ago. He first encountered the web while standing behind his father, both of them listening intently to the crackling of their home dial-up modem until the message connected finally appeared. The first web pages they browsed on their PC 286 were – what else – Czechia’s first web portal Seznam.cz.
“It’s safe to say that I’ve been searching for a bit of quiet all my life. And I like walking – yes, sometimes with a headset playing an audiobook – and enjoying peace and solitude. It helps me to think,” explains Ondřej. He prefers the hills above Železný Brod over Prague, and rather than going out to a concert or an exhibition, he likes sitting quietly with a book.
What has been occupying Ondřej lately on the professional front and keeping his mind busy during his travels are questions of artificial intelligence, machine learning, cryptocurrencies, open source and blockchain. In other words, ideas that are drawing the attention of many in the world: “That’s why they interest me so much. Partly because I don’t want us to miss the boat, and also because I see in them huge opportunities for business.”
Ondřej’s technical acumen is matched by the projects he is involved in within the Miton portfolio. At the moment it is the startup Rossum, which is developing machine-reading technology that can process documents like invoices. In the past he worked on companies like Pixmac, Slevomat and Stable.cz.
When Miton was officially founded in the year 2000, three of the original four founders were studying at the University of Economics in Prague, Ondřej among them. A fired-up IT geek, he wanted to go to the Czech Technical University but did not get in. “I wasn’t great at maths,” he shrugs his shoulders. But he found ‘his place’ at the University of Economics’ Department of Informatics and Statistics, and for a while even considered a career in academia. But the call of business was louder.
If in the early days Miton founders had put job titles on their business cards, as is common with today’s startups, Ondřej’s would probably have read CTO - chief technical officer. Although everyone did everything in those days, he was (and still is) the tech guru. And that’s why it was Ondřej who was responsible for the development of the webhosting service Stable.cz, which grew from the opportunity to use existing capacity on the server that was built for Stahuj.cz.
Life in Miton has changed a lot since those days. Like it or not, the team had to move to Prague, and their companies are now operational in nearly twenty European countries. But the main reason for Ondřej’s decision to build his life around the world of internet remains the same: “There are more than seven billion people in the world, and most of them have a mobile phone with an internet connection. I can write to any one of them in a second. That’s remarkable.”
There’s no doubt in Ondřej’s mind that we are talking about a revolutionary milestone in the history of humankind. But he believes we are just at the beginning: “We are still waiting for a service or a technology that will truly connect people across the globe. It’s not email, messaging or Facebook. I don’t know exactly what it will be, and there’s a long way to go. That’s what interests me. And I would like Miton to be a part of the story.”