“We’re aiming to let patients with rare diseases get faster, easily accessible and cheaper treatment.” – says Karolina Marzantowicz, Chief of Growth at A4BEE, in an interview with Kasia Krogulec for MamStartup.
What will you read about in the news below?
⬡ What do we do on a daily basis? What do we strive for?
⬡ What do dead languages have to do with programming?
⬡ The 4-day work week
⬡ What is the biggest challenge for us?
⬡ What are the plans for the near future for A4BEE?
What makes A4BEE’s mission meaningful?
A4BEE introduces technologies related to the Internet of Things, better sensing of equipment and production lines. It uses artificial intelligence for better data analysis. Besides, it is developing smart, modular bioreactors and other components that are part of the production line so that it is fast and drugs can be made in the hospital where the patient is being treated. That way, they won’t have to be ordered from overseas.
We wanted (and still want) to leverage our passion for technology, and the good understanding of the business and talents we each brought to the company with us. We began to slowly put our plan into action. Now we are a profitable company, completely self-sustaining. We have never used financing. We have 75 people on board and run a 20-person R&D department where we work on prototypes and solutions to lead us to a vision of the future, in the meantime helping pharmaceutical, biotech, or manufacturing companies solve current digitization problems.
What do dead languages have to do with programming?
Karolina recalls the beginning of her professional adventure. She studied philology and worked simultaneously in the IT department.
Parallel to my work, I explored Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit in college. It turned out that programming is similar to learning inanimate languages. Like ancient languages, programming is about using a language that is written but not spoken.
Math is the queen of the sciences, but grammar is nothing more than mathematical rules, just dressed differently. We don’t have numbers, just signs that can substitute for something, so these fields are closely related. Learning languages requires flexibility of mind. If languages are not a problem for someone, I would encourage them to see if programming would also be something easily learned. You may find that you can learn a skill that you can use in many different areas, no matter who you are.
The 4-day work week at A4BEE
A topic that has been gaining popularity lately. So far, we have tested workation, i.e. working from different locations around the world. How does it look like in A4BEE?
We run our research of the 4-day work week through March. The testing algorithm did not draw me into the group that works 4 days a week. I am in a control group that does similar functions but works 5 days. There are a few challenges with this model, although we don’t know the final results yet. There aren’t any big problems that would indicate that it won’t work. We also know that some positions, due to the nature of the work, cannot be covered by a 4-day workweek.
Karolina says and then adds:
These are positions related to maintaining 24/7 business continuity: system administrators, operators responsible for the continuity of IT systems, or production lines. Such employees cannot have flexible working hours, because we would have to hire an additional 1-2 people to maintain business continuity and for one person to work no more than 40 or 32 hours per week. We believe that you have to work smart, not more.
It is important that this 4-day work week works with the understanding that we do not take a pay cut. We have a few people who have always worked a 4-day week with us, but their responsibilities and tasks have been adjusted to 4 days. We are currently investigating whether the quality of work will decrease while maintaining the responsibilities and salaries as with a 5-day workweek. We will share the results when we complete the experience.
What do we find challenging?
We started competing in different competitions. There is no such category for startups that support themselves completely with their own money. We are not able to answer some of the questions that qualify these startups. We are not at any stage of funding. We don’t have specific financial expectations, we’re going there more for interaction with potential customers and mentoring in terms of how to run the company even smarter and manage the finances better.
I wonder to what extent this is our problem, how many more startups are like this. Is a startup a company that just asks for money and struggles with investors? Do we have a category of “healthy startups” in Poland that are able to maintain ethical values, have high customer loyalty and have high-quality services? This is kind of a niche.
Our focus for the coming year is to expand into the UK and US markets. We hope for big growth. We are growing equally in terms of the number of employees, revenues and profits, but we still want to grow. Also, to approach our ideas for more products more systematically, to commercialize them faster, so that we can have most of our revenue from that source.
Meaningful innovation and meaningful work are what make our heart beat faster, not working from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. And let’s keep it that way in the future.