Behind the Scenes: The Gravity Story

It all started in 2008. I was working with ValDeal, the premier technology incubator of Central Europe, and I was looking for promising Hungarian projects worth being taken to the global market.

I clearly remember that I was having lunch with a friend of mine, and he suggested I should take a look at what a guy called Domonkos Tikk, a researcher from Budapest University of Technology and Economics, was working on. Surprisingly, when I went back to the office after lunch, I received an application from Domonkos and a short description of his “Gravity Reco” project.

I definitely saw potential in Domonkos’ RECO project, and so we chose this to be in the 25 out of well over 300 other projects worthy of being transformed into real businesses.

Domonkos said he and his team of 3 could precisely predict what movies people would like to watch next. With this system, he entered his team (Gravity) into the Netflix Prize competition. The challenge was to beat Netflix’s in-house recommendation system and predict 10% more accurately what users would like to watch next. The Gravity team emerged victorious, and The Ensemble team (successor of Gravity team) won with the all-time best score when the competition ended in 2009. It was a great success and we were even interviewed by the New York Times.

I then had a “small-world” experience. It turned out that an old colleague of mine from ValDeal, Zoltan Petres, was friends with Domonkos and another person called Bottyan Nemeth since university. These three people were Gravity’s founding members.

In 2008 we decided to try our luck and turn Gravity into a real, functioning business. We thought that the best possible path to follow was to serve two markets at the same time. Internet and television, simply due to the fact that we believed this could lead to a sustainable business model. As we also needed developers with experience in large-scale telco grade software development, I simply walked into the office of one of our partner companies, and I told the CEO, “I will merge this company with Gravity, and everyone will work for me” and surprisingly, the CEO said, “That actually sounds like a good plan”.

Let’s jump ahead five years. Today, with the gift of hindsight, we can say that focusing on two areas at once was actually quite a good idea. Not only did the two halves balance each other out, providing the company with the financial stability it requires to function well, but throughout the years that have passed, the distance between internet and television shrank such a great deal, we could say it basically disappeared.

Our company isn’t just ready for the moment when the internet converges into the world of television – we’re hopeful and excited about it. We see a not-so-distant future in which all the devices a person uses will be connected to each other. Internet and TV will be more closely linked than today. Companies will need to show the right content to the right customer on the right screen. At Gravity R&D we see how significant it is to be prepared for this convergence and to be able to provide users with content and advertisements they find useful and valuable.

From the very first moment, we saw the importance of carrying out research not only for our own development, but to help establish newer and higher standards of this ever-growing industry. In one of our current projects we’re working with SoundCloud, the Berlin Institute of Technology and various other participants to pave the way for a new generation of analytics and recommendations.

With all the good and bad times that I have gone through, I can proudly say that in the few years of Gravity’s existence, I have not for a single moment felt that it is not worth it. Our products have a purpose and, with satisfied customers all around the world, what bigger reward could a business ask for?

 

Gravity has entered the Japanese market, we have been praised by Microsoft Mediaroom and we work with the largest classified ad companies on a global basis. They are so happy with our performance that they told all their subsidiaries about us. I can honestly say that working with Gravity R&D is exactly where I should be and what I want to do.

We start this blog in the hope of being able to provide our readers with interesting topics about what we do, the challenges we face day-by-day and the solutions we come up with to keep everything rolling. We all hope that our future posts will be helpful for leading your business, and that sharing a little piece of ourselves will prove to be a wise decision. Please remember to contact us with any questions you may have. We’ll help with anything we can.

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