· Victor Musílek

From Earphones to Entrepreneurship: The High-Flying Journey of a Victor Musílek who built a $1.6M business

February 2, 2024
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Table of contents

  • Founders - Victor Musílek and Jaroslav Krajca
  • Location - Incorporated in Czech Republic but located all around the world
  • Started in 2021
  • 15 employees
  • Received investment at a 1.6MUSD valuation

What's your backstory?

My journey began in elementary school, in the Czech Republic, my homeland. I remember when eBay expanded there, I bought some colorful earphones for a dollar. Surprisingly, a classmate bought them from me for five dollars, netting me a four-dollar profit. This cycle continued, and by the time I was 15, I had a unique response to my parents' vacation query. Unlike the typical Czech family destinations like Italy or Greece, I chose China—to buy earphones in bulk.

That trip to China at 15 was a turning point. I handled all the embassy paperwork myself, declaring my responsibility despite being a minor. I returned to the Czech Republic with a plethora of items to sell, making my first significant earnings. Post high school, I pursued university in Beijing, where I learned Chinese. After graduation, I returned home and started working as a contractor for the Chinese embassy, scouting for international investment projects for Chinese VCs, ranging from patents to hospitals and technology.

My career took another leap when I joined one of Southeast Asia's fastest-growing tech startups, OBike, based in Singapore. I was instrumental in expanding the business from China to Central Europe. This foray into the tech and fast-growing companies sector was exhilarating, with my role involving constant travel and meeting fascinating people globally. However, maintaining connections became a challenge post-travel, as traditional social media wasn't enough.

This led to an epiphany during a trip from the Czech Republic to Beijing. At the baggage claim in Beijing, I randomly met a guy I'd seen in Singapore. It struck me then—the need for a mobile app to connect with people from flights, allowing us to stay in touch and exchange information beforehand.

Later, joining in 2018, one of Central Europe's fastest-growing companies, I was personally hired by the founder to lead their expansion into the Chinese market. There, I noticed even in a tech aviation company like ours, we struggled to track our colleagues' travel schedules. This realization reinforced my idea. I decided to pursue it, seeking a solution for myself and potentially for the travel industry. That's how my story and this project started.

What does your company do and how did you come up with the idea?

Our company's inception traces back to 2017, initially conceptualized as a social network for travelers to connect mid-air and perhaps grab a beer at the airport. However, the advent of the COVID pandemic dramatically altered our trajectory. As travel dwindled, the demand for travel-related information surged. People needed to know about COVID testing requirements, booking procedures, and airport situations worldwide. Our app transformed into a gateway for post-COVID travel, helping users connect with fellow passengers or those who had already reached their destinations.

This pivot proved successful; by 2021, our growth was explosive. In just six months, we made it into the second round of the Europe's fastest-growing companies by Deloitte. From a modest start with a few users on a handful of flights, we rapidly expanded to having users on 296 international flights across Europe in half a year. Despite being bootstrapped and initially reliant on a no-code platform, our growth drew media attention, leading to a crash due to overwhelming usage.

Our visibility attracted Slovakian investors. Despite the app's technical challenges, like a 10-second delay in sending messages, the concept resonated with them. Our no-code approach, combined with their software development expertise, led to a successful partnership. We revamped and relaunched the app, evolving from a mere social network to a vibrant community for travelers, digital nomads, and those embracing a mobile, online income-generating lifestyle. We offer travel hacks, tips, and a platform for sharing experiences.

Our community comprises hundreds of verified users—individuals we or our team have personally met and who contribute meaningfully to our platform—and thousands of non-verified users globally. We're diligent in building a community that offers real value. For example, if you need to discuss Paraguayan citizenship with an expert from Paraguay while in transit in Dubai, we facilitate such unique connections. We've grown into a global network of digital nomads, business travelers, and global citizens, all interconnected through travel, business opportunities, and shared learning.

How did you get your first 10 customers?

Our journey to acquiring our first ten customers was quite hands-on and rooted in direct engagement. Post the COVID pandemic in 2021, I personally went to the airport and interacted with travelers. This face-to-face approach involved me showing them our app, inviting them to try it, and asking for their honest feedback right there. This method proved effective in securing our initial user base.

Another significant boost came from a partnership we established with an international airport in Ostrava. At that time, due to the pandemic, there was only one international flight from Ostrava to London. Our app was initially tailored for this single route. However, we soon received feedback from our first users, highlighting the need to include return flights as well. This was an eye-opener and led us to expand our flight options.

For instance, one of our early customers contacted me about adding a flight to Mallorca, which wasn't in our system yet. Their question, "Why not?" pushed us to include more destinations like Mallorca. This customer-driven approach helped us build a feature for users to recommend new routes, further expanding our coverage based on direct user needs.

Our growth was significantly fueled by the pandemic's disruption of travel norms. People were desperate for current travel information, and our app became a gateway for them to access this crucial data from a community of international travelers. This surge in demand for reliable travel information played a crucial role in our early success.

Thus, from these first ten customers, we organically scaled up to having users on 296 international flights across Europe. Remarkably, this growth was achieved without any paid marketing or even a strong social media presence. Our focus was solely on responding to user needs and continuously adding new flights as requested. This approach laid the foundation for our rapid expansion and the strong community we built.

What steps did you take to understand and confirm that your product or service was a good match for the needs and wants of your target customers?

When I embarked on this venture, my understanding of startups and product validation was practically nonexistent. I didn't even know what a startup was, let alone the concept of validating an idea. My journey began without any startup capital or knowledge of the startup process. My approach was intuitive and born out of personal experience and necessity while traveling.

The genesis of the idea had a casual beginning. In Europe, there's a car-sharing platform called BlaBlaCar, which I frequently used. This platform allows users to share driving routes and costs. This concept influenced my thinking. When I encountered a person in Beijing whom I had previously met in Singapore, it struck me that while we couldn't share the cost of an air ticket, there was potential to use travel time more productively, like forming business connections or sharing a taxi from the airport, thus saving money.

Initially, I wasn't actively seeking to match my idea with the market or validate it in any formal sense. I didn't even know terms like 'product-market fit.' However, as the product began to grow, I realized the need to understand what this growth meant and how to articulate it.

One of our early validations, though I didn't recognize it as such at the time, was the creation of a very basic minimum viable product (MVP). Despite its rudimentary design—a plain white screen with a black square indicating flights from Ostrava to London—it caught the interest of an airport. They saw the potential to offer their local services to users of our app.

My education in the startup world evolved naturally. I listened to and learned from established startup founders like Travis Kalanick, Elon Musk, and Brian Chesky. Meeting Jason Calacanis from the All In Podcast was also enlightening. Through these experiences, I gradually grasped the startup landscape and how to navigate it.

In retrospect, I see the success of our product as a combination of perfect timing, a relevant idea, and addressing a widespread need that many people, like myself, experienced. It wasn't a meticulously planned validation strategy; rather, it was an organic process fueled by the right conditions and a resonant idea.

How did you reach and acquire your first 100 customers? Which platforms or methods did you use to connect with them and promote your product or service?

Our approach to acquiring our first 100 customers was deeply personal and influenced by a principle Brian Chesky of Airbnb often discusses—an advice he received from Paul Graham of Y Combinator. It emphasized the importance of having 100 people who love your app rather than a million who just like it. This philosophy guided our initial customer acquisition strategy.

I reached out directly to 100 friends from my personal network—people I knew from various platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and other social media channels, who were frequent flyers. I pitched them the idea of using our app, SkyChatters, to stay connected during their travels. The proposition was simple: by following each other on SkyChatters, we could easily coordinate meetings whenever we found ourselves in the same city, whether it was Dubai, Istanbul, or elsewhere.

This strategy was akin to the early growth of Clubhouse, where their initial user base comprised individuals who were already connected in some way, fostering a sense of community and exclusivity. We didn't rely on traditional digital marketing tactics that are common for launching products. Instead, we depended on word-of-mouth and direct communication. I explained to my friends the problem that our app solved and how it could benefit them during their travels. The simplicity and directness of this approach were key in acquiring our first 100 customers.

What distribution channels did you try that didn’t work?

In the early stages, we positioned ourselves as a typical B2B company. The initial plan was to attract advertisers who could offer services to our community based on their travel destinations. We anticipated partnerships with airports, airlines, travel agencies, taxi, or car rental companies. However, this strategy proved to be less effective than expected.

One significant challenge we faced was dealing with old or government-partly owned companies in the travel industry. Negotiating with such entities, especially when it involved new technology, was exceedingly difficult. Despite investing countless hours in CRM tools like HubSpot to follow up with airports, the only successful deal we made was with the first airport we approached. Ironically, this was when our product was in its infancy, with minimal users and no significant media coverage.

As we grew, even when approaching larger airports with a more substantial user base, a functional app, and backing from a Slovakian investor, we found limited interest. The main hurdle was the lack of tech understanding and willingness to embrace new technological solutions. For example, in the Czech Republic, a recent article highlighted that Prague airport couldn't advertise inside its own buildings due to not owning the billboards. Despite our offering an online solution that could leverage data on travelers well in advance, there was reluctance, often stemming from a lack of understanding of the technology.

In addition to these B2B efforts, we experimented with paid marketing on platforms like Facebook and However, these campaigns struggled to convey the complexity and novelty of our service. Many users mistakenly believed we were accessing airline passenger data without consent, not realizing we operate on an opt-in basis.

Our experience showed that explaining the multifaceted nature of our app—a social network in the aviation and commercial airline industry—was challenging through traditional advertising. This complexity made it difficult for potential partners to grasp our value proposition fully. Consequently, we found it more effective to engage directly with company executives rather than rely on broad marketing strategies that failed to adequately communicate our unique position and functionality.

What specific tools, software, or resources have been most helpful in growing your business?

My approach towards growing the business has been quite straightforward and somewhat traditional. I primarily rely on a few key tools and software, keeping things simple and effective. Firstly, HubSpot has been instrumental for tracking purposes. It helps me organize and manage the plethora of emails and communications that are essential to our operations.

Email and LinkedIn play crucial roles in my day-to-day business activities. These platforms are not just about sending messages; they are vital for networking, building relationships, and reaching out to potential partners and customers. In fact, LinkedIn was pivotal in establishing the connection with your team.

I place a high value on personal, direct communication methods. In this digital age, I believe there's an underrated power in being "old school." I prefer making phone calls, setting up face-to-face meetings, and leveraging personal connections. This approach, often involving getting introductions through mutual acquaintances (what I like to call 'Warm Intro'), has proven to be very effective.

So, to sum up, the most helpful resources in growing my business have been HubSpot for tracking, email and LinkedIn for communication and networking, and a strong emphasis on direct, personal interactions. This blend of tools and methods, though simple, has been fundamental to our growth and success.

How did you make the transition from a side hustle to full-time entrepreneurship?

Transitioning from a side hustle to full-time entrepreneurship required a significant reshuffling of priorities and time management. With only 24 hours in a day, and a typical full-time job consuming about 8 to 9 hours, the key was to maximize the use of my remaining time. It's eye-opening to consider how much time people spend on activities like scrolling through TikTok or other apps; that time could be redirected towards working on a side hustle.

My approach involved multitasking and time optimization. I set up multiple screens, allowing me to handle various tasks simultaneously—trading crypto, investing, and building SkyChatters, often with two cups of coffee on the go. This method effectively expanded my productive hours.

Another aspect was making personal sacrifices. Cutting down on sleep and reducing time spent with family were tough choices, but necessary for achieving my goals. I believe that to build something meaningful, sacrifices are inevitable.

As a first-time founder without a co-founder, these challenges were amplified. Therefore, I advise moving to a more conducive environment for entrepreneurship. For instance, I left the Czech Republic due to its limited startup ecosystem and lack of supportive resources for entrepreneurs. Finding a remote job that covers basic expenses while not demanding excessive hours can provide the financial stability needed to focus on your entrepreneurial venture. Luxury items like the latest iPhone or car aren’t essentials; living modestly can free up resources and time for your business.

I also recommend surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals who share your entrepreneurial spirit. For example, I partnered with a business developer co-founder in Thailand. We chose Thailand for its cost-effective living, enabling us to rent a two-floor apartment and set up a small workspace. This setup not only reduced our living expenses but also provided an environment conducive to networking with digital nomads and expanding our business contacts.

In summary, the transition to full-time entrepreneurship involved a combination of efficient time management, personal sacrifices, strategic relocation, and forming partnerships that align with your business goals. This approach worked for me and could be effective for others willing to make similar commitments.

What drives you to do what you do?

This is one of the best questions. Eventually, it's not easy, and I've managed to build up a career that I never ever imagined to have. So when I apply for a job, I have very, very nice offers, but first of all, nobody wants to work for somebody else. You want to pursue your dream, and the reason why I do it is to, first of all, show to everyone around that it's possible to build something out of nothing from scratch with no money. Also, prove myself that I can do something that hard as to build a unicorn. Also, it's a hell of a life experience. I have learned tons of new info, I have met tons of new people, and I have learned life, basically. How it works, how to pursue dreams, how to believe in yourself, how to be crazy enough in order to accomplish anything in life. Because the reality is that most of the people around you, even your family, are not going to be supportive that much. They're either not going to believe in you, they're not going to believe in the timing. And so the reason is, for me, for the family, for the future, for freedom, and there is no money motivation behind it. It's really, really for, maybe, ego purposes, or just proving yourself that you can do what you want to do and pursue. If you can dream it, you can make it, basically. So, you know, people decided to build the pyramids. Eventually, they made the pyramids. Now, some people just decide to build a skyscraper. Some people decide to build the biggest social network in the world. All of these things, all of these dreams, can be accomplished if you are crazy enough to be working for free, sacrifice your life, sacrifice time with your wife, with your family, and not give up. Eventually, also, the reason is the added value that you are bringing to the community that is using your product. So, eventually, it makes me happy to see other people using our product, meeting each other. It helps their life, they are saving money, and they are grateful. We are making very meaningful connections all around the world. So, for me, it's also the happiness out of our users, and as well, proving to the people that didn't believe in you, proving to teachers that didn't believe in you, and all the people around that didn't support you, prove them wrong. These are the reasons, basically. I have nothing more to say.

Who were the pivotal figures that contributed to the success of Skychatters, and how did they influence the journey?

This whole story wouldn’t be possible to happen without my amazing wife Vicky Musilek Yang and cofounder Jerry Krajca, who built the first no-code solution, helping me fight the market every minute, negotiate with investors and survive the everyday stress.

Who are some recommended experts or entrepreneurs to follow for learning how to grow a business?

I learn from Travis Kalanick (Uber), Adam Neumann (WeWork).

My mentor is Karthik Iyer (globally recognized expert in blockchain and fintech), Brian Chesky (AirBnb) and Elon Musk.

Any quotes you live by?

If you can dream it, you can make it. The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.

Your links + socials

I share almost day-to-day progress on my X account, business and advisory requests here.

Any promotions for Founderoo readers?

"FOUNDEROO" to get 10% off all our membership plans and with the new year anyone interested in advertising based on arrival destination just text "FOUNDEROO" to Victor Musilek at the Skychatters app and get 20% off for any advertising campaign.

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