Cybersecurity: Why this beautiful city of spires could be the next tech innovation hub
Each year, around 4,000 ICT graduates in the Czech Republic enter its tech and IT industry. According to some estimates, the IT sector in the country employs more than 300,00 people, with the demand for talent growing every day.
The mix of startups, well-established tech firms and global companies opening offices or branches in Prague makes the Czech capital a popular destination for the country’s tech workforce.
Software developers themselves say they are mostly motivated by the opportunity to learn and to work on interesting projects, as well as the quality of life that Prague offers.
Thirty-seven-year-old SQM developer Martin Bohm has been living in Prague for 10 years, moving from neighboring Slovakia. For him, working in the Czech capital is the highlight of his career so far.
“Opportunities in Prague are huge, skilled IT workers are needed and this is also visible on many job offer portals. This place has its spirit, cultural and historical; the difference with western EU countries is visible, but in a positive sense.” Bohm tells ZDNet.
“The ratio between income and expenses is very well balanced, as the IT industry also offers high and above-average income.”
Several tech companies are looking to capitalize on this talent, with US cybersecurity company SentinelOne among them.
Last month, the company launched its new office and innovation center in Prague. The company plans to hire 300 staff and create product development functions in Prague that will augment its existing teams in the Americas, Asia, and elsewhere in Europe.
SentinelOne’s total investment in the Czech Republic will exceed $45 million over the next three years. The company plans to hire across a number of engineering disciplines, such as kernel, frontend, backend, validation and data engineering, as well as in data science and detection.
With this investment, Prague will become the heart of SentinelOne’s European operations and the center of its global product development. This makes it an important strategic investment for the company, says SentinelOne COO, Nicholas Warner, and as such, access to talent will be crucial.
“The Czech education system produces engineers of a particularly high caliber, so we see it as the ideal base to help us build our technology. We’re impressed with the math, science, critical thinking, and language skills of the talent pool,” Warner tells ZDNet.
Martin Matula, the company’s VP of engineering, is the site lead for its operations in the Czech Republic. He joined SentinelOne from Avast, another successful cybersecurity company with its roots in the Czech Republic.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia have created a number of successful cybersecurity companies. Matula believes this is why the region has such an abundance of tech talent.
“We have a solid base of a talent pool for backend engineers, Java and JVM-based technologies. There are many SaaS companies based here, so when it comes to the experience of working with public cloud, developing microservices, public cloud backend, frontend, [and] quality assurance, I feel that we are doing pretty well on that front,” he tells ZDNet.
Old dogs, new tricks
Prague is also home to some of the Czech Republic’s biggest names in tech. 2N Telekomunikace, a developer and manufacturer of IP intercoms and access control systems, is considered one of the country’s IT pioneers.
Founded in 1991, the company has since become a leader in the global access control market and has experienced an average growth of 20% annually since being acquired by Swedish video surveillance giant, Axis, in 2016.
The demand for contactless technology in the workplace — something 2N has also been working on in recent years — is helping to fuel further growth for the company. “The value of technology in managing access to buildings or floor levels is becoming more widely recognized now,” 2N chief executive, Michal Kratochvil, tells ZDNet.
2N has ambitious plans to expand throughout Australia, Europe and the US, where the access control market size is expected to reach more than $15 billion by 2027.
These regions are less price-sensitive than elsewhere and value innovation more highly, says Kratochvil — something that will prove crucial for the company’s ambitions to transition from analog intercom systems to ‘smart’ IP intercoms.
Even so, being based in the Czech Republic has significantly influenced the company’s development, Kratochvil says. “2N’s heritage is in the Czech Republic and our products are still developed here. It has proved to be the perfect base from which to grow internationally because the cost base is lower than Western Europe or North America and there is an outstanding talent pool.”
With companies like 2N SentinelOne setting up shop in the Czech Republic and creating bountiful opportunities for the country’s software professionals, developers are less likely to move elsewhere.
The success of Prague and Brno, another Czech city with a booming IT ecosystem, in attracting many of the world’s leading tech companies also means that tech also takes the pressure off relying on overseas talent.
Meanwhile, developers are able to work with companies that are serious about their workers’ career development. Organizational charts transformations — where employees are allowed to work for other parts of the business — and project relocations are becoming very common in the Czech Republic, says Bohn.
“When it comes to personal growth, absolutely, companies I worked for are investing time for continuous employee development,” he says. “There is definitely big potential in the industry.”
For Matula, no bigger is this potential than in the Czech Republic’s budding cyber-ecosystem. “There are lots of opportunities in Prague for starting up other R&D centers for e-commerce and other different domains, but I think cybersecurity is the future. Even now, it influences relationships between countries, it influences even how modern wars are being conducted,” he says.
“In this region, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, we have a history of building cybersecurity companies… So, when it comes to cybersecurity, there is really good talent here.”