And formally? Tom is not just the founder but also a board member of Inquise Inc. – the company behind INFORMATION DESIRED - as well as the head of the Sales Network Support Department. But it is still not enough to introduce Tom with these few words. Definitely not enough. Get to know him better.
First speculations on Lotto tickets
- When I was little, most of my peers already knew who they wanted to be: a doctor, construction engineer, priest or fireman. And me? I wasn’t able to define who I wanted to be in the future with one sentence. Not because I didn’t know as a child, not because I didn’t have plans or dreams. No. I was simply incapable of briefly describing what was in my head – says Tom, starting his story with the early childhood years.
It’s no surprise that he didn’t know. That was before the Internet. The worldwide web was still in the heads of several people, scientists, who were regarded as dreamers back then.
Tom's first business? – I was maybe six years old, and it was the beginning of elementary school. I bought a Lotto ticket for 2 zlotys and tried to sell it to my aunt for 4 zlotys. Of course, my aunt was very happy I had thought of her, until she realized I was trying to speculate at her expense. Then things got a little unpleasant, and I had to return the price difference – Tom reminisces today with a smile.
A school shop instead of physics and chemistry
His first business didn’t go well, but he didn't give up. The next one was in high school. – I had a mathematics and physics educational profile, and my class took part in the “Junior Achievement” program, introduced into Poland by the Batory Foundation with support from the Freedom Union, a political party at the time. The program involved a lot of economics classes in school, and for a year, we learned how to start and manage a business. One task was to create a business plan. We made a school shop. But not just on paper. We actually ran the shop for 8-9 months. Then we were supposed to shut it down by the end of May. But school was still in session. I made arrangements with the principal so that I could keep running it, and I suggested to the class that I would buy back the rest of the unsold goods from them. And so I took over the entire business, which I continued to run after the summer vacation before the younger year got settled in, so that I could take it over according to plan – Tom recounts. Things went so well that his business even began sponsoring the school's basketball tournament.
It’s not surprising that business was good, since the shop's owner had time to take care of it. Tom had much more time than his peers, because he didn't attend half of his classes. No, he wasn't skipping, although even then, he was boisterous. In the second half of his high school education, his teachers decided to transfer him to an individual course of study. Why? So that he wouldn't disrupt others during classes, wouldn’t perplex other students when he already knew everything and the rest wasn’t keeping up. How did he know so much? Simple. He absorbed knowledge by himself. Mathematics, physics and chemistry were only a problem for him because those subjects bored him to death. He preferred to go to nationwide contests and knowledge contests rather than classes. In the end, this paid off for him – his involvement in nationwide school competitions gave him free passes to several universities before he even graduated to his senior year.
The man who capped Mensa's scale
For a Mensa member, this isn’t anything special though. Tom doesn’t like to boast about this and rarely talks about it. One day, he found out about Mensa so he went there. This is a society that unites people with a high intelligence quotient – members of the top 2% of the population.
- I just like competition, so I went to test myself – Tom says. The result? IQ 172. - They didn’t want to tell me what exactly that meant back then, which spot I had on the list, they just said they're accepting me into the society. Only years later did I find out that was the maximum result, I had capped the scale. That’s more or less two standard deviations from the norm, so I am even more deviated than the deviants – Tom laughs.
This is why people wanted to pull him into the Polish Academy of Sciences. – But I’m no scientist, I didn't work for it, I was just born like this. Besides, the Warsaw School of Economics impressed me at the time. The year was 1995. Everybody back then wanted to be a broker or investment consultant. We all thought it was enough to study there for a minute to earn several times more than our parents – Tom reminisces. The irony was that he was 2 points short of admission to full-time studies. He didn't give up, he enrolled extramurally.
And so he became a student at the Warsaw School of Economic, where the story of Inquise Inc. began, or more precisely, the story of GDP, from which Inquise was born. There, he met people, most of whom he still works with today. It was there that he applied his “two standard deviations from the norm” instead of theorizing and showing them off in scientific articles. – Because that’s how it should be, if someone’s got something, they should use it for the good of all. I know that sounds excessively grandiloquent, but it’s about making good use of one’s talents – Tom explains.
“Come on, we'll make websites”
- My first company was to be a clearinghouse for discount coupons. Even back then, I worked together with Marek on this project – Tom says. Yes, that Marek - Marek Kucharski, who is the CEO and financial director of Inquise Inc. today.
- We even had an investor, but ultimately nothing came of it, because he left us at the last minute and spent the money to start a car salon – says Tom.
Then came time for a company that dealt with advertising orders. It was nothing special, but it had a run of several years, and well, it was consistent with Tom’s major in college – management and marketing.
In 2001, a colleague approached Tom and said: “Tom, come on, we’ll make websites, there’s good money in it. We already have two people, a graphic designer and programmer”. Tom just said: “ok”. And so GDP was founded - an interactive agency with a strong programming department. It was really an agency and softwarehouse rolled into one.
However, it quickly became clear how extraordinarily important content management is. Someone said: “let’s write our own tool for this”. And so they did. Well, no, it didn't happen that quickly. The company was full of perfectionists, so it couldn't be done haphazardly. Programmers were writing the code for several years, but the effect was that they technologically surpassed the entire market. This is how IDMS, on which INFORMATION DESIRED is based, was created.
The supertool nobody wanted to buy. Luckily
Since we have a tool that no one else has, then maybe we’ll sell it? – they thought. A good idea, but somehow, nobody wanted to buy it. – Luckily – Tom Kuzak says today. - If we had sold it then, INFORMATION DESIRED would never have been created. Because, since nobody wanted to buy it, we thought that we should sell the effects of our tool’s work, not the tool itself - he adds.
At the same time, the people behind IDMS started to appreciate how very difficult it is to assess how useful a website is. - We began to analyze why someone arrives at a given www page, what makes them stay on it. Even then, we already knew that the pages we built were different than others on the market, that they weren’t just virtual business cards for companies but actually bring in customers. But business owners had no guarantee that our concept would work for them too. They exerted price pressure, because after all, there are thousands of companies that make websites. At one point in time, we realized that we were nearly working for free – Tom recounts.
And suddenly “Eureka!” – Since we’re selling our products cheaply anyway, let’s give them away for free, and the client will pay us only after our work is done, when they see that the website we built is actually drawing in customers – Tom says. Yes, this was the precise moment at which INFORMATION DESIRED was born.
- At the beginning, I didn't even realize what had just happened. It seemed to me that millions of other companies around the world are already operating like this, because in principle, this is completely natural, honest. But no, it turns out that everybody’s selling snake oil and demanding cash in advance. No one in the world is offering to build a website for business owners for payment only when the website does what it is meant to do – which is, de facto, to become a virtual salesman for the company – Tom recounts.
10 seconds – that's enough to learn to love INFORMATION DESIRED
This is why the clients of INFORMATION DESIRED don’t need to be convinced about this product. – My last conversation lasted maybe 10 seconds. I hadn’t even finished the last sentence of my introduction when the business owner said: “I’m in”. He instantly understood that what we are offering is precisely what he has been looking for on the market for a long time, but nobody was able to deliver – Tom says.
Are you surprised that it only took Tom 10 seconds to say enough to convince someone to do anything? You don't know Tom. This is a man who is always talking. Some at the company even wonder when he takes time to rest. Not from talking, but from work.
– When? What kind of question is that?! Work on INFORMATION DESIRED isn’t work to me, it drives me, it doesn’t tire me out, so I don't need rest. INFORMATION DESIRED is simply a challenge – Tom states.
It’s not the only one either. – INFORMATION DESIRED is only one of the projects I’m working on. There are many others waiting in line, which solve global problems and change ineffective, existing structures in various industries – says Tom Kuzak. What's that about? That's still a secret. – I can only add: “disrupt, what needs to be disrupted...” – he quips with a smile.