As soon as you meet a genie, you will know it immediately. Of course, there is something different with them. For example, they wear socks and t-shirts with otter designs and use company scooters instead of company cars. This is exactly what Martin Schmid is.
Remember that name, because chances are it will shake the foundations of Wall Street. A few years ago they did it with Matej Moravčík in poker when they created DeepStack – the first artificial intelligence that people can’t beat in a popular card game.
Science magazine also enthusiastically reported on a feat that was completely unprecedented at the time, and there was talk about it in almost every casino around the world. Now a trio of scientists (Rudolf Kadlec joined Martin and Matej) want to create the best capital markets trading algorithm.
If someone with an otter on your t-shirt told you that most algorithms on Wall Street are outdated and that in the worst case – i.e. if they didn’t succeed – the algorithm would have an average and a few billion you could hit on your forehead. But when Schmid tells you, you have the terrifying belief that it will.
“But I would be disappointed because I don’t care about the money. I just want to be the best in the world,” adds the quiet boy, who is based at WeWork, Prague, with his twelve-member team.
Oxford, Stanford, IBM, Google, DeepMind… These attributes literally revolve around Schmid and his colleagues. That’s why he managed to get the biggest seed investment in the history of the Czech Republic. Choosing a few million dollars for an idea and a one-page presentation with only the names of the people on the team is a masterpiece that has never happened in our region.
And one of those investors who could not miss it is, of course, the Czech Credo Ventures. “It’s our biggest investment in a team. For a presentation without a single comma of code,” says Andrej Kiska of Credo Ventures.
“We were convinced by a world-class team. We’ve seen one in the Czech Republic in ten years – I’d count it on the fingers of one hand,” he adds. Schmid, EquiLibre Technologies, was officially created on February 16, 2022, but when he raised the money, it was written in December 2021.
Around this time, the three founding partners returned from Canada, where they worked for Google, over Christmas, and ultimately stayed. “I put clothes under the tree to have something to walk on. Because I only had three T-shirts and a sweater with me,” laughs Schmid.
As? What happened to the other clothes?
It stayed in Canada packed in a container with all my stuff. And it’s stuck there so far. This return to Prague has been so hectic, moreover, so much the pandemic has affected logistics that the search for a container across the Atlantic now takes a long time.
Why the rush?
She was in such a funny situation. In the fall I popped over to Prague and we told the boys that when I got there I could meet some investors. We expected to gather contacts during the fall, fundraise during the winter and spring, and have an initial investment selected this summer so that we could leave Canada.
What changed your plans?
Credo’s Andrej Kiska. Right after the first meeting, he offered us money and organized support for other Czech venture capital funds. We slapped each other and really had paper and cash on the table within weeks. Added to that were a few angel investors from Canada and the US, so there was nothing to look forward to. We left Google and I was already in Prague for Christmas.
How much money did you withdraw in this first round?
We will not say the exact amount. But we know from our investors that this is the biggest seed investment the Czech startup has ever received. That’s a decent amount even in the US context, one that even a Silicon Valley startup wouldn’t be ashamed of. This amount is exceptional for Central Europe.
Why did you fundraise in the Czech Republic and not in America?
It happened by chance, and we weren’t even counting on it at all. We were lucky to find Andrej, he immediately understood our vision and it immediately clicked between us. We initially thought that we had to raise funds from American investors.
Which wouldn’t be a problem, we already receive money and we have to refuse to wait for the next round. But we were pleasantly surprised to have most of the seeds covered in Prague. And it also accelerated our move here. In six months. We just packed up as soon as we could and came here to start working on EquiLibre.
Why here? Did you want to go home?
The three founders are friends who came to IBM first, then Google, and we always planned to get back to Europe in time. And we also knew that we could build a top team in Prague.
There are people who excel in AI research, and we’ve managed to bring together the best people we’ve worked with over the past ten years and persuaded them to come along with us. Some come from America, others from Great Britain. It’s a top team, a solid set, which I think has no comparison in Prague.