Source: eKapija | Sunday, 27.10.2019.| 10:27
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Darko Marjanovic, CEO of Things Solver – Silicon Valley needs knowledge of IT experts from Serbia

Darko Marjanovic
The company Things Solver was founded in 2016 and can already boast a large number of projects, but also a list of clients it cooperates with. Although it is a team of young people, their energy, enormous knowledge, creativity and ideas are impressive.

One of the founders and the company’s CEO, Darko Marjanovic, likes to say that he is dedicated to data, but not only from a commercial aspect. He also aims to help the data community, which he does through his membership in the Managing Board of the Data Science Serbia organization. He is also proud to point out that he is father to a daughter, little Marlena. How did it all start?

– Formally, Things Solver has been operating since 2016. However, even during my studies, I ran the Hadoop Srbija blog, dedicated to data science. Around that time, my colleague Milos and I held a lecture at Microsoft, where we were heard by people from Banca Intesa. They became our first client, and working for them became our first project. Everything started developing quickly. Milos and I founded Things Solver, and other clients followed. When we were starting out, concepts such as big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence were already in use, but no one was really active in those fields. We were prepared to take a chance and I can now say that it has paid off – Darko Marjanovic says for eKapija.

eKapija: What does the company do now? Which products/solutions and services to you offer your clients?

– Things Solver focuses on solutions and products based on machine learning, artificial intelligence and big data. However, over time, we’ve turned a bit more to solutions meant for corporate users and we are having great results in that field. Our main product is Coeus, but there are also solutions we’ve developed for numerous clients.

For Telekom Austria Group, the owner of Vip Mobile, we created a network optimization solution which uses data, data science and machine learning to facilitate and improve decision-making, which then has an impact on their savings and an increase of their income. We are very proud of this project, as we’ve managed to make software which changes processes in a company. Also, we developed a customer experience management solution for them, which manages data and improves customer experience. The colleagues from Vip responded really well to this tool. They use it every day and benefit from it.

We are also working on other projects, such as turn analyses, prediction, salaries for banks, various segmentation projects, anomaly detection and similar project. Indeed, the range of projects we’ve worked on is wide, but we focus on Coeus, as it is a product after all, whereas the rest are solutions.

eKapija: In which fields do you operate? Which solutions have proven to be the most popular with your clients?

– Things Solver operates in banking, telecommunications and retail. We are also present in the real estate sector to a smaller extent. For now, the majority of our clients come from the TC sector, followed by retail and banking, where we are present in equal measure.

Our most popular and currently the most present solution is the one we’ve prepared for the TC sector, for radio network optimization. It is used in Telekom Austria Group and has great potential for further expansion. Next is Coeus, which we’ve have been presenting to companies more and more lately and which is becoming an increasingly interesting products to both current and potential clients.

eKapija: How do you rate the IT industry in Serbia?

– I believe that Serbia is a very good place for IT companies. Also, our experts have great knowledge and we provide high-quality services. Still, we should offer more concrete products and cut down on outsourcing. I believe we should work on that, because otherwise we will not be able to compete with India and other big countries. We have great potential, especially in the field of data science. Through this community, we are also trying to present Serbia as a country of good data experts. If we all put our efforts together, I believe we can be very successful in that field.

eKapija: In launching your business, did you use subsidies and are they available to young experts in the IT industry?

– Subsidies are available nowadays. What local companies have a problem with is subsidizing foreign companies. Things Solver didn’t use any incentives when it was starting out and I believe, in fact, that the state shouldn’t subsidize IT. We only need a good idea, a laptop and an internet connection to start with. State incentives and subsidies should be put in some other fields, such as agriculture. We can develop quite well even without help.

eKapija: How do you deal with the competition, considering that the number of IT companies in Serbia is growing day by day?

– From the very start, Things Solver chose a specific niche, a specific part of the IT industry. This means that, while there is competition in Serbia, it is not that large. We believe that competition is a good and healthy thing. We do not fear it, but actually want there to be more of it. This would stimulate us as a company to move forward and be even better.

eKapija: A large number of your colleagues have decided to leave Serbia and seek jobs abroad. What is it that kept you here?

I love Serbia, above all. My family and friends are here and this is in fact the main reason. On the other hand, I do believe that one can have a good life working in the IT sector in our country, maybe even more so that abroad. Still, some problems need to be addressed here, otherwise, more and more young people could decide to leave the country and seek their opportunity abroad.

eKapija: Is the Fourth Industrial Revolution present in Serbia and to what extent? Are we lagging behind the world?

– Things Solver has clients in Serbia, but also in Europe and America. We have therefore had the opportunity to see that we are not lagging behind Europe at all. Our biggest problem is that we are a very small market, where development is not too fast. When it comes to America, I wouldn’t say we’re too far behind either. In fact, having worked with clients on data science projects in the Silicon Valley, where it all started, we saw that we were even better and faster than them in some segments. It was a shock to us too, as we had believed that they were much more advanced and that they didn’t need our knowledge. Still, it turned out that we were wrong and that they did.

eKapija: How did you get to the Silicon Valley?

– Through the LinkedIn social network, through which we get a large number of clients in fact. At the company, we don’t have a sales team, and everything is done through recommendations. As you see, those recommendations sometimes go beyond Serbia’s borders. I’d say that this is a sign that we’re doing a good job.

eKapija: Is it a problem for you to explain to your clients what it is that you do? Is there still resistance from local companies to implementing innovative technologies in their operations?

– If you had asked us this in 2016, when we were starting out, we would have said yes. Today, however, things have changed considerably. There’s a lot of talk about data science, the Internet of Things, machine learning and artificial intelligence, so our clients are familiar with these concepts. Perhaps the level of understanding is not always the same, but they certainly know what we’re talking about. When it comes to companies’ resistance to new technologies, it’s still there, though to a smaller extent. I’d say that the resistance is mostly down to the fear of people losing their jobs due to technology. Still, we all need to be aware that we must keep up with the world and that technology can considerably improve our operations and our lives as well. We need to understand all its benefits.

eKapija: What are Things Solver’s plans for the upcoming period?

– The company is investing more and more in Coeus, because, as I’ve already said, what we need to export from Serbia are products. That is our main strategy for the upcoming period. We also plan to solidify our position in the region and to continue further to Europe and America. We are already undergoing an expansion process, and as the company grows there will be new jobs as well. We are trying to have a normal kind of development, not to develop too fast, but still to keep developing constantly. The idea is to grow 2-3 times in the next two years. The company currently has 14 employees, and there were nearly three times fewer last year. We want the company’s development to be followed by financial growth and I can say that we’re doing well for now.

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