Secret behind fast growth of Lithuanian artificial intelligence company CUJO AI
Most innovative business ideas do not manage to survive the initial three years of the startup lifecycle. After gaining momentum and surviving this difficult period, CUJO AI has established itself internationally and attracted millions in investments.
Recognizing the ever-increasing need to protect people from hazards on the Internet, CUJO AI develops solutions based on artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies for both telecommunications companies and home users. Currently, the company provides services to 25 million households worldwide and has branches in Lithuania, USA, Brazil, Hungary and many other countries.
Kestutis Pakalniškis, head of Quality Assessment Division in the Baltic States CUJO Baltic and one of the company founders, discusses the rapid development of the company
Were you successful from the very start and what determined your success? Was it the idea, the team, the strategy or the investments?
Investments are very helpful, but success depends on talents. A professional and ambitious team is the key pillar to any company. I find it good that we did not search for a compromise from the very start. We chose places for our offices not by countries, but by professionals who lived in those countries.
We established our first offices in the USA and Lithuania. Today we also have offices in Brazil and Hungary. Smaller teams work worldwide: Finland, Malaysia, the Great Britain, and other states.
One of the company co-founders Saulius Tvarijonas and I, we had some prior experience in developing technological business in Lithuania. That is why we decided to establish our headquarters in Lithuania. We have two offices in Lithuania. Currently, we have nearly 100 software developers, testers, data analysts, cyber security professionals and other specialists working in Vilnius and Kaunas. We are expanding and planning to employ more professionals, who search for creative solutions and want to work with innovative products.
We searched for artificial intelligence and machine learning experts across the world. We chose a Hungarian Gábor Takács, who occupies the TOP seventh place on the artificial intelligence platform Kaggle.com. He was appointed head of the Hungarian division.
We established our centre of embedded firmware in Brazil, where a high-end community of Lua programming language operates. One of the creators of this programming language works together with us, therefore, it was only natural to establish the division there.
Tell us about the success and fast growth of your startup.
CUJO AI was launched 3 years ago. We started out with the purpose to protect users from data theft and financial losses. We offered a method, which even users without extensive technical knowledge could use independently in order to protect themselves, their families and their data. We did not choose the known path, but rather started processing big data and using artificial intelligence algorithms right from the beginning.
It was obvious that the time had come for such a step because we saw the rapidly growing demand from the users. The campaign developed on the „Indiegogo“ platform where we presented our logo attracted a great deal of attention and we surpassed our goal by 763%. Although we were happy with our success, the highest reward for us was not the money. We received a number of valuable insights from our future clients which helped us develop our first product.
Having developed and launched CUJO AI smart firewall, we received many awards and positive feedback from our clients. We know what is important for technology leaders and clients. And one of the fundamental requirements from our clients was simplicity.
Aiming to protect as many people as possible, we changed the direction of our business and started working directly with companies that provides telecommunication services. The decision served the purpose: today, we provide our services to more than 25 million users. Our clients include major US telecommunication companies, and we develop sollutions not only in the field of cybersecurity, but also in the field of device identification and other fields.
According to you, what are the characteristics of a fast-growing company? How can such companies be identified?
First of all, a product of a successful startup must be aimed at solving a real problem, and the need for such product must be recognized by the customers. Fast-growing companies usually have several factors in common, such as demand for a product or service, market potential, fast response to demands and changes, an established method for talent attraction and the ability to attract investors.
You claim that in order to grow fast a company must focus on the development of quality products. Why do you think so? What is the importance of innovation and demand in the market?
Users can quickly establish whether a product or a service offered to them is of high quality. It is one of the main factors influencing the further decision fof a user to stay with the trademark and recommend it to her friends.
Our solutions are based on data processing by using artificial intelligence algorithms. It is a rather new, but already widely applied technology. We use artificial intelligence algorithms for smart device identification, protection and maintenance. The choice of this data processing method was encouraged by the market itself.
By using our old methods, we would not be a competitive company. We observe it among our former and current rivals: with their traditional security and data processing methods they are not able to cope with the increasing number of smart devices and cyber threats.
In your opinion, what are the possibilities Lithuanian startups have for a fast growth? How do they use them?
Lithuanian startups and teams are strong technologically. People are ready to work hard to achieve amazing results. They want to create exceptional products by using innovative technologies and try a new theme or direction everyday. This is the main criteria for fast growth. A strong team will develop products, which its members will want to be proud of.
With that said, companies should not be afraid to experiment and create. However, even with a strong team in place, the possibility of creating a new and exceptional product will remain unrealised without having trust in the team or providing the team the possibility of making decisions independently. Lithuania still needs more entrepreneurship, and it can only come with a renewed and open attitude towards teams.
Every startup entrepreneur dreams about his business growing fast. What problems does a fast-growing business face? How can they be solved?
It is important to react promptly to the changing environment and not to be afraid of the changes. We started contemplating about partnerships with telecommunication companies in 2016. Having understood that such a step will create a great deal of added value for our business, we formed a team dedicated specifically to work with telecommunication companies. Currently, not only do we implement common projects, but also successfully attract partners’ investments.
The main problem entrepreneurs deal with is overestimating themselves. Plans should be ambitious, but realistic. Although at the very beginning we were planning to offer operators from the telecommunication companies a number of various services, the second we started implementing them, we understood we had been too optimistic.
Fast growth requires considerable resources and our team was determined to work until all work was finished (even if it meant working through the night until the next morning). However, such work would not ensure a long-term result. Therefore, if you have bold plans, I would suggest negotiating terms with every employee in your office. If you have 150 team members, do not plan such activities which 700 employees can hardly perform.
It is necessary for startups to clearly define their priorities and adhere to such. You have few resources and little time. Therefore, choose one niche to become the best in. You should also not be afraid of making mistakes. It is definit that you will not be able to fulfil all your plans. Include Research and Development, beta testing into your processes and try out your theories in practice
At one of the major events for startups “Startup Fair”, happening in Lithuania on 16-17 May, you will deliver a speech with an intriguing theme “A step ahead: innovations based on artificial intelligence”. Could you reveal what participants of the event could expect from your speech?
I will talk more about the fundamental strategies used by CUJO AI for developing a small business into a full-fledged successful company that now offers its products across the world. I believe this information will be useful for leading our startups into the highly competitive world of innovative businesses.