Matúš Horák is a man of many talents. He is a loving father, an avid sports enthusiast and a successful businessman. He carefully schedules his time to devote to his family, dogs, physical activities, business, education and self-improvement. There is not a dull day in his life. With his ambition, drive and creativity, he is able to successfully complete any project. A clear example of this endeavour is the start-up company STL SOLUTIONS. He founded the company less than a year ago and has already made a significant mark on the market of innovative sports technology. This is largely a result of his effective management and leadership of the company.
So when the opportunity arose to interview Matúš Horák about his life, views, goals and achievements, I couldn’t pass it up.
Founder and Managing Partner
of STL SOLUTIONS
How did you get into the business world? Did you always know you wanted to do something similar to what you’re doing now?
My father is an entrepreneur. He was my role model and first mentor. I was fascinated to see him interact with business partners from all over the world, working on interesting projects, helping others.
Imagine at 10 years old, coming home and seeing a whole bunch of toys and gadgets that you’ve always dreamed about: Marvel and DC Comics heroes, NHL, NBA, FIFA sports superstars on Upper Deck cards. Dad tells you he’s made a deal with them and you have Christmas every week 🙂
By the time I was 15, I knew I wanted to be in business too.
You are a long-time entrepreneur. What advice would you give to young people who would like to start their own business?
- I would advise everyone to create healthy and productive habits immediately and be persistent in them. These will keep you on the right path whether you’re going through a successful or more difficult time in life.
- Learn at least 2 foreign languages and have goals far beyond Slovakia.
- Learn the basics of financial literacy and don’t get caught up in the rat race.
- Keep educating yourself. A more prestigious school will help you, but more so with the contacts you make there.
- Surround yourself with people smarter than you. Cherish the opportunity to work with experienced mentors. You can gain more in a year with them than you can in school and work in 7-10 years.
- Don’t shy away from any opportunity. You don’t need to know everything first; you can learn as you go.
- Work hard and add value to everything you do.
How did you choose the industry/industries in which you wanted to do business?
There is a saying in Slovakia, which roughly translates to: Hard work will get you where happiness finds you.
I started my first company, a production agency, when I discovered that I could save my father 2-3 million slovak crowns a year by producing at the same quality as his suppliers. I wanted to help several companies and quickly found my first clients. With satisfied clients came more opportunities and requests for additional marketing services. Along with my business partners, we took these opportunities and founded a full-service PR and marketing agency, the Huxley Nice Agency. We’ve helped dozens of companies since.
An interesting milestone was the digital agency PLATFORM. My brother Luke saw a big opportunity in web design, so I tried to help out in the beginning with contacts and managing the agency. Today his agency PLATFORM is one of the global leaders in UX design and a winner of many prestigious global awards.
Other global projects have been associated with Ludovít Černák Jr., a visionary project generator and many more leaders in various industries. For example, I’ve worked on an IoT tracker for dogs that monitors their location and physical activity; an online football sponsorship marketplace that connects professional football clubs with sponsors in 50 countries.
On one hand, I was enthralled by the sports industry. On the other hand, I was surprised how much it was lagging behind other industries. So, I started looking for a way to help consumers, suppliers, and stakeholders in this industry, and I wanted to do it in a way that aligned with my own life values… And that’s how the concept, mission, and vision for STL.SOLUTIONS was born.
It looks like sport is very important to you. Tell me a little bit about your sports career.
Sport is my passion and an integral part of my life; but sport is also fair, and I have unfortunately not been able to pursue this passion at a professional level.
When I was 6, I started playing tennis with some older boys on the street. When I was 11, my best friend and tennis teammate Rado Francisty (who happens to be my partner at STL.SOLUTIONS) said we should also start playing football. It only took one football practice for both of us to discover a new passion. I went through the youth categories of Bratislava clubs Inter, Slovan and Petržalka. I also played for the men’s team during university and well afterward, competing in lower leagues in Slovakia and Austria.
I later transitioned my love for football into futsal, which I’ve been playing for over 22 years now. The opportunity to represent Slovakia at the Academic World Championships in Mallorca, the participation of our club SEMIC BRATISLAVA in the extraliga for several years and the chance to play in the same team with my father and my best childhood friends were great experiences. I also remember fondly the period when my partners and I rebuilt and ran the SEMIC club. A sports club is a living organism and it is amazing to experience the positive effect of the right decisions. For 10 years, we were one of the most prestigious and respected football clubs in Bratislava. We have activated dozens of new players into futsal, to whom the experience was passed on by the Slovak national team, who also grew up in our club.
Apart from soccer and futsal, I am also a fan of kickbox, squash, hockey and, at the moment, mainly cycling.
In all, how would you describe the added value that sport brought to your life?
Sport has given me a lot in my life: ambition, teamwork, hard work, ability to accept criticism, patience, dedication, respect for authority, healthy self-esteem, healthy lifestyle – just to name a few.
I try to pass all this not only to my 4 children, but together with STL.SOLUTIONS, to as many people as I can. Our slogan “Be better than yesterday” says it all.
So, does STL.SOLUTIONS reflect your personal values?
100%. After all, I set them. 🙂
What would you like to achieve with STL.SOLUTIONS?
Humanity has been hit by several very serious crises, only accelerated by the pandemic. I was struck when I found out that 80% of children do not even meet the minimum requirements of weekly physical activity. Combatting overweight and obesity will cost us $24 trillion over the next 10 years, more than the cost of wars, terrorism, drugs and alcohol combined. The number of registered athletes worldwide is falling and screen time is reaching all-time highs.
Sport is becoming more digital, more connected. The perception of sport is undergoing a radical change. A typical ‘iPad kid’ is not likely to feel engaged or participate in old school drills, running around plastic cones. Major US sporting institutions like the NHL, NBA, NFL, MLB are getting real about how not to lose a generation of athletes and sports fans. These changes will bring big winners in the coming years, but unfortunately also many losers.
Our mission is to provide adults and children access to the most innovative sports technology products. By 2025, we want to be the sports-technology leader in Central and Southeastern Europe. We plan to bring the most innovative sports-technology, fittech and mixed reality products to the CEES region and open 500 of our own STL SOLUTIONS Corners locations.
What products would you like to add to your STL SOLUTIONS portfolio?
Any and all meaningful products. STL.SOLUTIONS will be the place where people will find the most innovative products from the world of sports and technology. In the coming weeks our portfolio will start to grow in an interesting way.
If you could have one future or current STL.SOLUTIONS product in your home, which would you like?
All of them, if I could. But I have no doubt that I will be spending a lot of time in our planned showrooms and STL Corners. 🙂
Have you tried MultiBall? Which is your favourite game?
I was captivated by MultiBall the first time I saw it. My business partner Rado was also immediately enthusiastic about MultiBall. If that wasn’t enough, various prestigious global awards from the fields of sports, technology and start-ups as well as feedback from customers confirmed our beliefs.
Some of my favorite games include Goal, Target Practice, Math Mission, Air Hockey, Darts, Monster Match and Invaders. The latest games, React and Ghosting, also incorporate a motion tracking camera and record the player’s movement in addition to the impact of the ball, which is also really cool.
The MultiBall gaming and sports platform is already open to game developers, and games are being added on a monthly basis. Sports and educational institutions are interested in incorporating MultiBall into the training process as well as analytics of various performance parameters of young athletes or students.
What future do you see for STL.SOLUTIONS? Do you think you are on the right track?
The significant growth in sales and investments in the sports-technology sector confirms that we are on the right track and that our mission makes business sense as well as social sense. The current developments in China have yet to shake up the market. They plan to invest $770 billion in sports over the next 4 years and increase the number of physical education classes to 2 hours a day. I am delighted that we are being contacted by their most prestigious institutions about innovation in sport.
I expect similar developments in the EU and the US soon. 1€ invested in sport will generate 3.91€ in social and economic returns.
Do you think we can revitalize children’s (and adults’) relationship with sport?
Seeing 17 kids on vacation at a family-friendly hotel sitting with cell phones in hand in a room while only my 3 kids were playing outside was a turning point for me.
As soon as possible, we need to end the senseless measures that are killing sport and physical activity in children and adults. More than 75% of civilisation diseases are the result of poor lifestyle choices. We are creating a society that is less productive, with an increased risk of physical and mental health problems, and therefore a greater need for healthcare in an already overstretched health system. This trend is unsustainable. We need to create a model that focuses on prevention.
Children who are physically active are less obese, have better school results, increased self-esteem, more energy, better sleep, better morale and will also be more active parents. Hardly anyone at 35 decides they are going to start playing sports or be a sports fan. If we don’t create a positive relationship with sports by the time we’re 18, we likely never will.
In the age of video games, social networking and Netflix, the demands of children are rightly more demanding. We need to bring them products and services that are cool and that they really want. We need to get them moving, but we also need to keep their attention. Gamification, interactive sports, and sportiification are the biggest trends at the moment. They focus on our gaming instincts and offer an instant reward system. You not only improve your physical skills, but also your cognitive skills. You expose your child to a new sport and movement pattern and allow them to progress quickly. He gets sweaty, has fun and stays “on the ball” and moving longer.