An interview with Matej Benuska, Taxify Public Policy & Government Relations for CEE & Southern Europe.
„Campus has become a micro-ecosystem where everyone is willing to help and support each other.“
Taxify‘s beginnings in Slovakia
Taxify was founded in August 2013 by Markus Villig, Martin Villig, and Oliver Leisalu and raised a total of USD 177.2M in five funding rounds. They have been accelerating fast over the last years to reach 10 million customers (May 2018). Today, Taxify covers markets in Europe, Africa (number one market), Australia, and Mexico.
As a great proponent of technology solutions in the transportation industry, Matej has been helping Taxify to enter the Slovak market. „We needed an office. The truth is that Markus built the company from scratch in the startup community of Estonia, but today we are accelerating businesses all over the world. So while an office for a startup is luxury, for us, it is inevitable.“
In 2016, only two co-working spaces came into consideration for Taxify. „And in one of them, Uber team was a member,“ Matej says smilingly. „When I first entered Campus, I was impressed. Sandra (the community manager) met me and wanted to take me for a tour around the place. I replied we could go for a tour, but I had known right away we were staying here.“
For a platform as Taxify with dozens of drivers who need support, location is a strategic decision. Campus in Mlynska Dolina ticks all the boxes. It‘s on a non-traffic-jam route, a plethora of parking spaces, close to the city centre or a highway. „Sometimes it‘s us worrying whether Campus won‘t fire us as so many drivers come for a visit. We don‘t want to leave, we love it here,“ says Matej with humour.
The future of transportation
That Matej is a transportation enthusiast, you can sense in the first moments of the interview. He believes scooters and minibuses are the future. Taxify has data on how people use routes and lines in their city.
„Based on that, we believe minibuses will come to usage in the future on a bigger scale. All the problems lie in the convenience. Why don‘t you use a bus or tram? It‘s not set up for the needs of the citizens. Once a minibus comes to your doors, you don‘t have the problem.“
Matej was one of the first people to join Taxify. When he first came to Campus, it was about 50 people in the company. Today, it‘s over 800 worldwide. Having started out as an Expansion Manager for the Slovak market, over time Matej‘s hard work led him to become a Public Policy & Government Relations Manager for CEE and Southern Europe.
Sounds busy? Well, he is also in charge of dockless scooter service launch. „We started in Paris and hope to get it going in Slovakia during spring 2019. Scooter is ideal for a one to two kilometers distances where a vehicle is useless.“ Besides Taxify, he raises a three-months-old and studies Executive Master in European Union Studies in Brussels. Soon, he might be eligible to become a Mileage Club member.
A helping micro-ecosystem
Nevertheless, he still loves coming back to Campus. „Such a great community has been formed here, and it has matured over time. Founders put much effort to shape it and let the entrepreneurial minded people in.“
As Matej sees it, the teams in Campus prosper and grow. „Moreover, teams are being established in here. Many times have I heard guys in the fixdesk area shout out – hey, will you set up the landing page for me? - with a reply – sure, I‘ll have a look in the evening. All the freelancers here have a work to do all the time. Campus has become kind of a helping and supportive micro-ecosystem.“
Everything goes freely and openly, however. „I have never been in a mood to be a super-enthusiastic startup guy, and no one expected it from me here. It‘s an advantage in the beginnings when you are launching your business but not the necessary for a global company as Taxify is.“
As the most significant advantage of the co-working space, Matej mentions the connectivity of people. „Campus founders organize Reflect conference in Cyprus where I helped to get our Expansion Manager Karl Aru for a panel discussion. We made connections in the country and recently launched our service there.“
Another nice piece of cooperation has been with Mindworx. „Of course we have a performance marketing team at the headquarters. But guys from Mindworx showed us how to do the PPC campaigns more effectively.“
Even though the Taxify team does not have much time to join the events organized by Campus – „the heck, and there is a lot of them“, they value the enthusiasm of the community and founders‘ approach to the venue. „Maybe we do not participate at events regularly but, man, from time to time it is awesome to just go to the bar, grab a cup of coffee, and listen to an expert give a talk.“
Top three (audio)books/blogs/podcasts that changed your way of thinking about the world/business/people?
Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury
Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't by Simon Sinek
Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Amy Wallace and Edwin Catmull
Which app or tool do you regularly use that most people around you do not know, aka your „secret weapon“?
The best personal hack that helped you become more effective/productive/healthier/less stressed/get things done over the last six months?
My daughter. I'm more of a mess now but at least I know what is the priority in my life.
Were you not doing what you do, what career path could we see you pursuing?
I would open Korean chicken & beer restaurant.
A thing people do not know about you, yet you can share it with the world?
I won a silver medal at badminton Bratislava junior championship. Unfortunately, only 3 people participated.
You can watch the episode of Campus faces with Matej here!
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