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Universities are often breeding grounds for new companies. Starting from there, Andras Tessenyi gave his all to found Supercharge, an innovation agency, providing digital strategy, design and custom software solutions to its worldwide partners. Within only ten years, the company grew to 150 employees and 13 million euros in sales. With a new office in Vienna, the originally Budapest-based company now aims to conquer the DACH region - and then the entire world.
How did you come up with the idea of founding a software company shortly after graduation?
Andras Tessenyi (AT): It didn't go that fast. After graduation, my path led me to business instead of becoming an expert in my field. At first, I tried my hand there as a consultant, and then took a job as a technology manager at an innovation consulting agency. My environment consisted mainly of engineers, and we always remained in touch with the graduates of the university. The founding of the company itself was an evolutionary journey from here.
How would you describe this journey?
AT: It was lucky for us that the Apple App Store was launched in 2008 and we were able to benefit from this wave. In 2010, I was working with colleagues from university to develop a loyalty app for shopping centers. We were a group of developers who had known each other for a long time, and we enjoyed working together. After a while, we had to face the question of whether to start a company out of it, because we had a good number of projects coming in. So, we did. We managed to draw lots of talent to the company early on. We gave people a lot of responsibility, creative opportunities and built the foundations of a friendly yet professional culture. After the first few steps, it was well-paying customers from the USA that enabled us to scale up the company in a relatively short period of time.
What was your biggest challenge back then?
AT: We were fresh out of university and had to get acquainted with all aspects of the business world in a very short time. The spectrum ranged from customer acquisition to contract negotiations, and so on.
How would you explain what Supercharge does in a few simple sentences? What does the product process look like from start to finish?
Janos Török (JT): There are three factors that define a successful digital product. Balancing out these three factors with our clients throughout our work together is key! First, the business objectives and needs must be clearly discussed with the client's management. We have to decide about internal resources, time and budget allocated to the project accordingly. The second point is the customer need, which must be validated to create a product that solves real problems. The last factor is the technology, which can be turned from a constraint to an enabler. These three points must be in harmony with each other for a project to succeed. Our job at Supercharge is to help our clients find this balance. We drive this from the very beginning, from building the strategy, designing the experience, developing and scaling the product, right through to the end, where we refine the product and maintain it.
Our goal is to be one of the ten largest software innovation houses in the world by 2025.
Andras Tessenyi, CEO of Supercharge
Can you give an example?
JT: We designed and developed an app for Kodak in the USA. The app automatically picks the best captured moments from the thousands of photos that a person takes with their smartphone, and allows them to be printed and sent within a blink of an eye. To find these rare moments in the users’ messy camera rolls, we based the app’s functionalities on machine learning.
Can you describe the product process through to its completion?
AT: Our cross-functional, multilingual design and engineering teams consist of versatile product strategists, highly skilled designers and first-class developers. We make innovation a scientific process. By relying on our own innovation framework, called Future Fit we transform visionary ideas into robust solutions for our partners. We start with exploration, where we thoroughly investigate the company's challenges, goals, and real customer needs, then map out what technology can do. The result of this process is a digital product strategy and an early concept. At the end of the discovery phase, there are a number of solid, pre-agreed conditions that we must meet in order to advance to the next stage. If we don't meet these, we either return to the drawing board or shelve the idea for later. The next step is product design. The aim of this stage is to work out the details of the digital experience and the appearance of the product. This phase gives us the opportunity to test the concept more thoroughly with real users in order to test its desirability. Finally, once we’re done with this phase, the product is developed for the required technology platforms and tested for performance, scalability and security. Our work, however, does not end here. At this point, we have real data to work with. Relying on analytics, we are constantly working to find ways to improve product performance and conversion, and to explore additional valuable features.
In which countries are you active, who are your customers?
AT: We’ve been very international from the get-go. A third of our customers are from the USA, another third from Western Europe, and the last third is spread across the rest of the world. Products we have designed and developed are available in over 80 countries and are used by millions of users. We have offices in Amsterdam, London, Budapest, and have now opened one in Vienna, where Janos Török is representing us as our local Director. Growing up in Vienna and having worked in these three countries, he is familiar with the Austrian, German and Swiss markets.
In which sectors are you active?
AT: Almost 50% of our products can be found in the financial sector, and the other half is divided between healthcare, education, energy and also e-commerce. Our advantage is that we can use the best practices in the individual fields, such as security solutions in financial services, in the other projects as well.
JT: We’re not only working with large corporations, but also startups and scaleups that need reliable design and technological partners helping them with their digital needs.
Your website talks about your work in sustainability, how do you do this as a digital agency?
JT: We have a mission to create positive change with the help of technology, so sustainability focused projects are close to our hearts. This year, we even adjusted our product design process to make it easier for us to align products with the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. When it comes to actual projects, our work with Zenobē is worth mentioning. Their business helps companies and even countries to switch to renewables through battery energy storage technology. In their efforts to combat the effects of climate change, many cities are ditching fossil fuels in public transportation to use cleaner and more sustainable electric alternatives. Zenobē's storage systems are used not only to balance the power grid, but also to operate large fleets of electric buses. The Supercharge team has collaborated with the company over the past few years to build a digital platform that enables precise management of a complex battery system, and provides real-time data to optimise the performance of both batteries and bus operations.
You can literally work from anywhere, not tied to any location. Why do you still want to open an office in Vienna?
JT: We were thinking about this for a long time. We’ve already had a few projects in the DACH region, and we see great potential here. It is economically the strongest part in Europe - a GDP of five trillion euros and a population of over 100 million German-speaking people. At the same time, the market in this region is well networked and coordinated with one another. For the past three years, I’ve been working on innovation projects in the DACH region, and therefore know the technological and innovation needs of its companies. I watch family businesses that have been innovating for decades with fascination. However, many of them are only at the beginning of their digital transformation. There are companies that have an incredibly strong market position in their industry, however they are still lagging behind in terms of digitization. The situation is even more apparent if we look at the digitization index for Europe, Germany and Austria are somewhere in the middle in the ranking. In order to remain globally competitive, these companies need to invest more in the digitization of their companies. Hence the strong demand for services like ours. In order to meet this growing need, we are opening an office in Vienna, as the city radiates into the entire region and is ideally suited to serving the DACH region.
You obviously want to conquer Central Europe from Vienna. What are your further plans for the future?
AT: We aspire to be among the top ten software innovation houses in the world by 2025. This goal, however, is not necessarily measured by size, but by quality. What do I mean by that? If someone wants to tackle a complex digital initiative, we want to be on their shortlist. Conversely, this means that we have to expand our geographic presence. That is the reason why we are investing in the economic heart of Europe, the DACH region. Next year, we would like to open an office in New York as well, and increase our presence in Asia. Besides geographical expansion, we also want to expand our services. Topics such as machine learning and data processing are becoming more and more important, and we are massively increasing our expertise in these fields. On top of that, we are also experimenting with incorporating scientific models into our design processes, with a special focus on behaviour forming.
Text: Muamer Becirovic
Fotos: László Mészáros
Dieses Advoice erschien in unserer Ausgabe 9–21 zum Thema „Handel“.