My name is Adam Przykucki, I'm 26 years old. When I was 15, I made my first portal with my friends. Since then I set up my own business called UnderMedia (since 2011, it’s the company that owns Zapodaj.net and other brands), became the CEO of 4Blop.com (a new platform for artists), and a co-owner of See Investments, that owns Concept Space – a co-working office in Gdynia. I created Zapodaj.net when I was 17.
HostAdvice: Can you tell us about yourself and how you got started with Zapodaj?
When I was a teenager, I very often communicated with my friends using the Polish Gadu-Gadu communicator (something like ICQ). However, it was a problem when I tried to send a larger photograph or picture using the communicator. I began to look for a hosting of images. There were a number of such platforms in Poland and abroad, but most of them required registration or were very unstable. This is why I decided to create my own hosting platform that would enable one to host images without registration and would allow larger file sizes.
The site’s name comes from the word Zapodaj which is Polish slang for sending or giving someone something. The service was to provide easy transfer and sending of files, and make it possible to share them with friends over the internet; that’s why we chose the .net domain. The name stuck and that’s how Zapodaj.net came to be.
HostAdvice: What is your relationship to UnderMedia and how does this relationship affect Zapodaj?
UnderMedia came about as a result of the natural process of the development of my business, and Zapodaj.net's success was one of the reasons for setting up the company. I learned to make websites already as a teen, but I couldn’t set up my own business then so I worked out of my parents’ company. This set-up suited me for years, but when I turned 21, I decided to set up my own business and become independent from my parents. This is how UnderMedia began. It combined all my projects, both old and new.
HostAdvice: Can you give an overview of the product and services Zapodaj offers to those of us who have never heard of your website before?
Zapodaj.net is a service that provides the hosting of images with a simple division of services. We have a group of websites which offer free hosting of images. Uploaded files are stored for 3 months and then automatically deleted. Adding images does not require any registration, setting up accounts or leaving your e-mail address. It’s a simple service that requires only a browser and internet access. The script can also generate a thumbnail and html code or other means of facilitating the dissemination of the image, for example, on an internet forum or your website.
We also have the Pro.Zapodaj.net service, which stores files as long as the account is active and paid for. The user registers him or herself, pays for their account via quick transfers or credit card and can upload an unlimited number of files, create albums, share their images and even switch already added files. The annual price of the PRO service is less than $27 at the current exchange rate of the Polish zloty to the US dollar. Of course, users can buy an account for a shorter period of time, e.g. for a month, quarter or half year.
HostAdvice: What is your most popular hosting service among your users?
Free image hosting is obviously the most popular among my users. But the purpose of use is more important. Many of them use this service for online auctions. When they want to sell some products using online platforms like allegro.pl (the equivalent of Ebay in Poland), they upload photos to Zapodaj.net. Why? Because it's easy and free of charge.
PRO hosting is becoming more and more popular. When they set up an account on pro.zapodaj.net and pay the subscription fee, users get access to a wider range of services, and their files are stored as long as their account is valid. What is more, we don’t constrain our users in any way. We do not limit the number of files stored on an account, there are no album limits, transfer limits or limits on the space that the user’s files take up. Such an approach to our customers certainly makes us stand out from among the competition. Some of our customers have several dozen or several hundred files, but there are also customers that can have as many as several hundred thousand files.
HostAdvice: With online cloud storage getting cheaper every year, especially for images, what are the future trends in image hosting that excite you?
I don’t have any crystal ball with which I could foresee the future but the main advantage of the services getting cheaper is the growing possibilities that can be offered to the users. Not only can you add bigger and bigger files, faster and faster with no quality loss, which is the main advantage of the technological progress, there are also new image file formats. It used to be that storing terabytes of data and its backups was extremely expensive and only large companies could afford it. Today, more and more people can afford such services. Terms such as cloud computing and data centres are no longer unfamiliar for even people outside IT. Technological development and lower prices also lead to more changes: a bigger emphasis on security and, for instance, on the environmental aspects of a data centre’s work.
That said, sometimes history goes full circle. We can see this, for example, in the comeback of the .gif format, with the difference that today we can load these funny pictures in an instant, whereas once you had to wait, especially with slower connections.
HostAdvice: When I think of image hosting, websites like Google+ Photos, Flickr, Imgur and 500px come to mind. How does Zapodaj’s view its place in the image hosting market?
We work on a local market and we’re a leader there. Compared to the giants you mentioned we are only a small company. When we began, the main player in the global market was Imageshack, which is almost forgotten today. Even though we began with a very small budget and infrastructure, within a few years we managed to build a strong brand on the Polish market. Initially it was difficult to get people to pay for services on the internet. Fortunately though, the situation has changed. Just as the market for internet services in Poland has changed, so have our services changed. They have grown and matured. Today, the decision to expand into further markets seems natural. Not because we are among the leaders in Poland, but in order to maintain our rate of growth and to further develop. We still have a lot to do in terms of Zapodaj.net, but if we can manage to succeed there, we’ll make it anywhere.
HostAdvice: Do you have plans to expand beyond Poland into other markets?
We’ve long had plans of world conquest ;) However, with such ambitious plans you have to meet certain factors for them to succeed. You need knowledge and experience, which I have gained so far. You need a team, whose base I have already built. Money, which there can never be too much of, and time, which there is never enough of. We’ve recently launched the File2.net project. It’s a service which is to be the international equivalent of Zapodaj.net. Will we succeed? Time will tell. We’re optimistic though.
HostAdvice: How has mobile changed your business since you started almost 10 years ago in 2007?
We always put a premium on standards and that our service works on as many devices as possible. By standards I mean those determined by W3C and the ones commonly accepted in our field. Mobile has also become a standard which we need to tackle. To begin with we adapted the sites to mobile devices and reconfigured the service for it to be responsive.
Mobile has become another market to expand to and succeed. Our site makes it possible to generate a QR code for the uploaded image. All you need to do is scan it to get a link on your mobile device. With time, we also plan to release mobile applications for all our platforms with many new functions, but all in good time.
HostAdvice: Can you share with our readers some things to look forward to that are coming to Zapodaj?
I’ve already shared some of our plans answering the previous questions, for example the plan to expand abroad with File2.net. Besides this flagship challenge, we want to further develop Zapodaj.net and the possibilities to add files to the platform. The development of our paid services for PRO account users will be very important. We plan to reconstruct our desktop application (Zapodaj Uploader) to add files and to build mobile applications for every available platform. We also have several other plans, but I cannot disclose them yet.
In recent weeks we’ve managed to develop our infrastructure somewhat and began to use a SSL certificate. We are the first image hosting company in Poland, which has taken care of the data sent by our users this way, both those using our paid and free services. Our A+ rating in the SSL Labs test is also something we can boast about. This shows that we make efforts to meet the expectations of our customers and invest in the further development of our venture.
HostAdvice: What are the challenges of a company like you that has a lot of incoming traffic from users (uploads) vs most of the websites that only need good downloads speed of data to the user computer?
As a hosting service Zapodaj.net has to meet two main challenges: The need to secure efficient internet connections and to process large amounts of data, both incoming and outgoing. After all, most of the images we host are viewed by many users. Some files can be shown as many as several hundred thousand times in a single day! When we choose a service provider we put a big premium on the capacity of the connections they have. For us, it’s a priority when we choose between providers.
Another challenge is to process uploaded files and their storage. The amount of data we deal with requires a special configuration of our servers and to streamline every stage that the files goes through. Both when the user uploads them, when they are stored and later when they are shown. In our nine years we have gained the experience that enables us to provide a smooth running service.
HostAdvice: I see you are hosted with OVH. What is your experience and why didn’t you choose a local Polish hosting company?
We wanted to use Polish companies and in fact we did use them, but unfortunately they didn’t meet our requirements. Over our long and winding road we have ploughed through many companies from Poland, the USA and other countries. We ended up using OVH. First of all because of a good ratio of price to the resources they offer; second, because of the connections, which are the most vital for us.
HostAdvice: Poland is one of the only markets where the leading hosting company (home.pl) has such dominance (30% market share in comparison with 7% for Godaddy in the US). What makes the polish market so unique?
The Polish hosting market is relatively young and this is why one company is so dominant. However, remember that the market is growing year by year, even though it is already rather big. There is growing competition. Some companies are merging, others can’t take the price war or crises (like for example, recently a Polish hosting company that had over 1000 customers and had been in the market for almost 10 years, lost its customers’ and its own data because of unauthorised access to their ICT system).
Home.pl is also one of Poland’s main domain name registrars, while also offering complementary services such as hosting, ssl certificates, etc. This makes it easier for them to get customers who prefer a one-stop-shop, with a well-known brand name to boot. That said, there are many competitive offers out there, often better price-wise and in terms of the services offered. When customers want a tailor-made service, more efficient machines or have custom requirements, they often reach out to other providers. Home.pl is a bit like a supermarket. We can find everything there and are tempted by many sales promotions, but they are not always good for the buyer. The balance of power will change when customer awareness grows.
The scale of what we do is incomparably smaller which means that we can deal with our customers directly. We often get in touch with them before they even manage to ask a question. We try to spot and solve the problems they face. We also often implement their suggestions and functions they find useful. Sometimes it’s this custom approach to the customer that makes them want to stay, not just price, a promotional sale or functionality.