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Monday, December 05, 2022

The Story of the Czech Entrepreneur Who Challenged the Giants and Builds Windguru, One of the World’s Most Popular Weather Platforms

czech republic There is no sea or big lake in it. There the wind blows seldom and when it does, it does so in gusts. However, against all odds, In this small Central European country, the most popular weather forecasting platform on the planet among water sports enthusiasts was born., Today, it is consulted by fishermen and sailors, and even farmers come here regularly for detailed predictions of their fields.

This is WindGuru.cz, the “Over 20 Years of Independent Startup”Which captivated the marine world with its immense accuracy.

The history of this iconic website dates back to sometime in the 1980s, when small Vaclav Hornik Received my first windsurf board. Interestingly, his father and a friend made the equipment for this unusual water sport in former Czechoslovakia with the help of their mother, who sewed sails.

At that time, Hornick’s passion for water sports was born, but above all for air. “Already in the 80s I was obsessed with weather reports”account to Country This successful low-key entrepreneur, who spent his time between different radio stations to find out the weather to come.

Vaclav Hornik
Vaclav Hornik

In the 1990s, he began his undergraduate studies at the Prague University of Economics and Business. “I signed up for economics, finance and accounting because I didn’t have a clear plan for my future and thought it was something that would help me get a job and make a living,” he says.

However, an accidental incident changed their course… Rise of the Internet.

,When I was in college, I was lucky that the Internet had just startedIt was growing rapidly and it was a platform that suddenly offered a global reach that was very easily accessible, something that was not available before,” explains Hornick, who immediately spoke about Surf and Weather Reports. Can also be found, started researching it online.

Gradually, he immersed himself in the emerging world of programming. “When I finished my studies I realized that finance would not make me happy, so when it came time to find my first job, I chose an IT (Information and Technology) company and I started working as a developer instead of using my financial education to start a corporate career like most of my peers“Dice.

One day, while browsing the web, he found a concept that caught his attention: predictive model, which is broadly, a set of techniques that aim to predict future outcomes through the areas of Machine Learning, Historical Data Collection, Big Data and Pattern Recognition. The windsurfing enthusiast essentially started studying the concept until he came up with an idea.

“I needed a model that predicted the weather conditions in the four most popular venues for these types of games in the Czech Republic to predict when I could go sailing… Born, I called it Windguru and it was hosted on a few servers”Hornick revealed.

It was difficult at first, he admits. little data was available, “The wind forecast is not very interesting to the general public. And few fans knew if they could sail with the movement of leaves on trees”, he laughs. However, thanks to its programmatic capabilities, it managed to create A page that extracted public data from trusted sources and reformatted it into a fancy spreadsheet table.

Windguru
windguru

With patience, he started adding more places until he covered the whole country. In 2000, at the age of 25, he launched WindGuru.cz, the same domain he maintains to this day. (He didn’t want to convert it to .com because it seems too commercial and uninteresting, he says.)

Seeing that more and more people were visiting his website, he started replicating his model in new locations overseas. The first destination outside Europe was Mauis., the Hawaiian mecca of kitesurfing. The experience was a huge success and attracted more users from other countries while attracting surfers to a new niche.

In 2004, it launched a paid version of the site with more detailed, accurate, reliable and up-to-date data predictions. “When the first people paid for the service, it was an eye-opening moment: I realized my creation was working and I could probably survive driving Windguru and doing it full time. “

Despite Windguru’s tremendous growth, the page layout has remained largely unchanged over time. “It’s very effective when you get used to it, you take a look and the colors give you a rough idea in a second. The special effects or animations are nice but pretty useless,” explains Hornick.

“Also, when something works well, why change it?” Connects the entrepreneur, who prefers to “cover less” to maintain the quality of his product. “I still like to focus on my original goal: on the wind and the waves. I’m afraid that if I try to cover more, I’ll lose my focus and do more harm than good.”

After pioneering this small market, Windguru Didn’t face competition from big Silicon Valley tech companies, as it happens now. “Since my target audience was quite narrow, this made it a less attractive segment for large companies to enter, so it gave me more time to grow slowly and naturally without the need for large investments. There was no strategy behind it. “It’s done”, says its founder, who started his business around the same time that Larry Page and Sergey Brin launched Google.

The astonishing thing is that he did this to a country that had just escaped The dissolution of the former state of Czechoslovakiawhich came under Soviet influence during the Cold War. Hornick explains that this historic event opened up a lot of opportunities for people like him in the former Eastern Bloc. ,Without the freedom we got in 1989, Windguru would never exist.”

In March this year, Windguru suspends its services in Russia in retaliation for the war in Ukraine by Vladimir Putin, “Due to the horrors that are happening, I have banned access to the Windguru website from Russia in protest. I admit that I am not sure that these types of ‘bans’ have any positive effect in general, it is to some extent until… you’re punishing people who don’t deserve it. It still sounds better to me than nothing or a simple anti-war message in which you click ‘I accept cookies’ and Move on,” he published in a Facebook post.

Vaclav Hornik
Vaclav Hornik

Today, the Czech businessman is married and has children. But you still plan your vacation based on the wind conditions in a certain area.

In future, plan Expand the network of local weather stations that share data in real time With users around the world. These portable devices can be installed near surf schools, beach-front apartments with balconies or even inland bodies of water. However, the brains behind WindGuru like to take things slow. “I value my freedom too much.”

Surprisingly, Windguru There is no office space. “There are very few people involved, basically I do all the website programming, then a staff that looks after the advertisers and helps with customer support and the rest is outsourced. I team up with a group of scientists. I work that some forecasting models are running on their computer pool; we have an agreement on how to finance it and it’s been working like this for over 15 years, without complicated contracts, just a Simple agreement”, he revealed.

“Some of the data you need is available for free, some you have to pay for, there is a rack of servers that feed the website and data processing, 99% of the work is done by machines”Hornick says and admits that he has never done kitesurfing or windsurfing in Argentina, but that he would like to do so in the future.

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