Vaclav Muchna: CEO & co-founder, Y Soft

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Vaclav Muchna is CEO and co-founder of Y Soft Corporation, an enterprise workflow solutions provider. In 2000, Y Soft began in Brno, Czech Republic and now has 16 offices throughout Europe, North and South America, the Middle East and Asia. Y Soft provides intelligent enterprise office solutions that help build smart business. Its YSoft SafeQ workflow solutions platform is used by corporations and SMB organizations to manage, optimize and secure their print and digital processes and workflows. YSoft be3D eDee combines a 3D printer with print management to provide unique workflow and cost recovery benefits for schools and creative learning opportunities for students. When not traveling to meet with customers, partners and employees, he finds time for BBQs in the summer and skiing in the winter. He’s been known to destroy several sets of skis over the years.

How did you get into the industry?

In the early 2000s, a friend of mine and I worked on several developer projects. Some of them failed, some succeeded. One customer came to us with a request: develop software that secured printing. They had a couple hundred desktop printers and wanted to replace them with fewer, shared networked printers. The documents were sensitive so they wanted a way for documents to print only when the document owner was physically at the printer. We did it and then looked at the market and realized this is where the industry was headed: shared multifunction printers. So we developed print management software.

Any emerging industry trends?

We see two big areas. One is called digital transformation. While paper is still being produced, there is a need for organizations to transform digitally. It is not just about scanning a piece of paper as an image file. It is about creating a secure, document workflow. With a document workflow, the organization becomes more productive. A workflow is a defined process from capture as a text searchable document all the way to delivering the digital copy to a document repository or 3rd party application. For the user, all the decisions are made so it is easy; for the company it means better accuracy and the ability to search and retrieve a document faster and easier. We’ve added document workflows to our product.

The second trend is 3D printing. Many people thought that 3D printing would take off in the consumer market, hobbyists and the like. But in fact, 3D printing is taking off in education and manufacturing. In manufacturing, it is about making quick prototypes to get to market quickly and in a less costly way. We are particularly excited about education. Research shows that students are more engaged with complex subjects when they are able to create projects using 3D printing as part of the learning process. When we acquired a 3D printer company, we realized that no one had created print management software for 3D printers. We quickly worked on adapting our print management software so that it worked on both paper and 3D printers.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

We have grown very quickly to more than 16 offices on five continents. The global nature of our business is challenging in itself. But while these two areas that I have mentioned – digital transformation and 3D printing and 3D print management – are exciting, we must execute well and we must educate our channel partners well. There are many technological advancements that are still to come in 3D printing as well.  

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

I’m probably a little different in that the idea for what has now become enterprise workflow solutions came to us through the request of one of our customers in the early 2000s. But we ran with it and our vision was to be a successful global Czech company. The vision has now expanded to be a multi-product successful global Czech company. It’s a hard thing to do!

What's next for the Business in the near future?

We are executing on our multi-product vision right now. Our print and document capture business is growing and our relationships with our channel partners is deepening. It is a little hard to predict on the 3D printing side as it is, in many ways, still in its infancy. But we see bringing additional workflow solutions or to integrate with other 3D print manufacturers as a possibility. Of course, we also look at other workflow solutions and how we can help as it relates with the Internet of Things.

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

We made the decision early on to not sell direct. This means we use the channel 100% for sales activities. Our success therefore is in having excellent working relationships with the multifunction print manufacturers (Xerox, Konica Minolta, Ricoh, Sharp etc.). These relationships are not only about selling, it is also about anticipating the market and making sure that what we offer is where the industry is heading. This means we have to make some gut decisions – you can’t always rely on what analysts or industry pundits are saying. 3D printing is a good example. We made a bet on this and integrated our print management solution with our 3D printers. For our partners, being able to tell customers they have a 3D print solution in addition to 2D paper printers is a big win for them. It’s a big win for us to be able to give our partners a competitive edge in the market.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

Well we were doing well in Europe. And I said we needed to get some traction in the US. It’s a big market, there were many competitors there already, one of which had a contract with Xerox. So we made an acquisition in 2009 and I thought that would help. It did a bit but we still failing to attract a lot of business due to technical issues. I studied this a lot as I didn’t understand why we were not having these issues elsewhere. I learned a lot about the US market, particularly that we needed to have much more experienced and available technical support staff. We fixed that and it got better. We now have that Xerox contract.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

Our print management and document capture software is embedded in the multifunction printer. IT departments appreciate having software that eliminates their intervention with user’s printing problems (think about not worrying about print drivers). Users appreciate being able to print at any printer. On the 3D printing side, schools tell us that we have really thought out their needs. That a stand-alone printer is not a sustainable solution. It needs the print management, pay-for-print and reporting.

How do you motivate others?

You’d have to ask them, it might be different depending on where they are located or what they do. But at a high level, it is about sharing our successes, being open about our failures and going in a direction together.

Career advice to those in your industry?

It’s ok to fail. Learn from it and share your successes and failures with others so they can learn from it and you can learn from theirs.