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13.04.2023 | 8 min

ExtraORDERnary Karol - The Industrial Revolution in the Elevator

What does the central anti-corruption bureau have in common with Order Group, and how can a single elevator ride revolutionize the company? Karol, our co-founder and Head of Design, will answer these and other questions. Enjoy!

ExtraORDERnary Karol - The Industrial Revolution in the Elevator - 2024 27
Table of Contents
  • When and how did designing become a part of your life?
  • So how did you combine design and business?
  • So how did OG come about?
  • Order Group celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2022. How has the company changed over time?
  • Chapter 1: An Old Tenement flat on Filtrowa Street
  • Chapter 2: steps taken in the house on Altowa Street
  • Chapter 3: the breakthrough at Krzywickiego Street
  • Chapter 3.5: The Industrial Revolution in the Elevator
  • Chapter 4: cultural revolution in the office at Dzielna Street
  • It's April 2023. What's next for you? What's next for Order Group?

When and how did designing become a part of your life?

It all began when I was in college and became part of the student government. I organized and promoted student events by creating posters for my faculty. Despite having no previous design experience, people liked my work, and I eventually started making posters for other faculties and the entire Warsaw University of Technology.

It's not to brag, but the logos I designed 12 years ago for the Institute of Cartography and Geodesy and for Juwenalia, Warsaw's biggest students' festival, are still in use. :)

So how did you combine design and business?

During my studies, I worked on many different design projects, and that's how I met Filip. The peak of our student achievements was designing and releasing an academic calendar with a print run of 20,000 copies (my first editorial attempt ;p ). Sometime after we released the second edition of the calendar and organized one of the biggest student festivals, we received an offer from the famous Warsaw music venue, Stodoła, to develop a ticketing system for promoting concerts. Stodoła turned into our office, and the ticketing platform became a long cooperation which led us to KOFS - a digital agency we created with Filip.

Around that time, I also participated in one of the earliest student startup incubators in Poland. Along with Paweł, Maciek (now members of the OG Management Board) & Katarzyna, we came up with the idea for a City Smart Guide - an app similar to Google Maps, which was my first experience designing a mobile app.

On top of that, to improve my graphic design skills, I enrolled in the Warsaw School of Advertising, where I met some fantastic people. Julia onboarded me to organize the Need for Street festival, which combined streetwear, street art, and innovative technologies such as 3D printing, VR, and AR. This was another milestone in my professional career.

So how did OG come about?

Although my previous initiatives were great experiences, experiments, and adventures, they didn't bring much money. So we focused on KOFS and took on larger and more profitable projects. With the increasing number & scale of our projects, we started to hit the roof of our capacity. So Filip began to plot a plan with Paweł to join forces and bring more development skills onboard, and that's basically how it all started.

Together with Filip, Paweł, Maciek, and Michał we decided to form a company that we later called Order Group.

Order Group celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2022. How has the company changed over time?

Looking back at our history, moving to new locations has always been a significant milestone, signaling the end of one era and the beginning of another. So…

Chapter 1: An Old Tenement flat on Filtrowa Street

Our journey began in an apartment on the top floor of an old tenement house in the Ochota district of Warsaw. The 90m2 flat with a stunning city view was converted into an office.

Initially (as stupid as we were), we created a group of 5 companies, each responsible for a different business aspect. We never had any professional managing experience, so we had to learn everything from scratch and figure out project management, sales, and marketing on the fly. By communicating as 5 separate business units, we put a lot of extra, unnecessary work on ourselves, as if the regular stuff wasn't enough…

The first years in that office were stressful and challenging, but we survived and became stronger. I learned a great deal during that time, both professionally and personally. They say it's best to learn from other's mistakes, but this period has taught me that if you don't experience something firsthand, you can't fully understand it.

Making mistakes is part of the learning process, and we certainly made our fair share of learning on Filtrowa Street.

Chapter 2: steps taken in the house on Altowa Street

We outgrew the old office and moved to a 3-story house with a sweet terrace. The design department and reception were on the ground floor, the management on the 1st floor, programmers on the 2nd floor, and a kitchen and a ping-pong table in the basement.

I will remember this office for two reasons: first, from the constant running down and up the stairs. Second, it was the first time we scaled up the team, which also scaled up our managing challenges. With greater projects came greater responsibilities, and we were still in a fight-or-flight mode.

Eventually, we needed to move again once we hit 25 people onboard.

Chapter 3: the breakthrough at Krzywickiego Street

Our new office was a big deal. It was made exclusively for us and felt like moving from a trailer park to a bespoke penthouse. The funny part was that we got 24/7 security for free because the office was located on the premises of CBA, the Polish central anti-corruption bureau. Sure, we might have been bugged, but hey, at least we didn't have to hire our own security guards.

But more business-wise, as a company, we did it all at that time – projects of various sizes for all sorts of industries. We were a jack of all trades, from creating apps and systems to building our own products for real estate brokers and a ticketing platform.

It was great, as we gained experience in many areas. On the other hand, we were heavily distracted, working for customers vs. working on our own projects. And there were notoriously maintenance problems.

However, there was a breakthrough.

Chapter 3.5: The Industrial Revolution in the Elevator

One day, I stumbled upon a business meetup online; I can't even remember what it was about. While riding the elevator, I ran into an old friend - Iryna - with whom I had organized a Behance design meetup in the past. She said I needed to meet someone, so she took me to her office and introduced me to her bosses, Pedro and Nikolai.

They were entrepreneurs & investors from Norway. We chatted about our professional experiences and stayed in touch. Eventually, they invited me to a Hackathon in Norway. A month later, I worked on an app for Norwegian lawyers and entrepreneurs. And even though the project was unrelated to whatever we were doing in OG then, what mattered most was that I got to meet loads of people with much more experience and different perspectives.

Pedro and Nikolai became my business mentors; they showed me a whole new way of doing things when it comes to building ventures. It was only a short time before we picked up our first Norwegian project, then another, and another. Scandinavian clients pushed us to improve how we run projects and the company. At that time, we changed the way we manage and deliver projects.

The accidental elevator ride turned into a stream of international projects, which was a breath of fresh air for us. Before, we mainly worked with Polish companies, but gradually we were entering a bigger league with higher game standards.

Chapter 4: cultural revolution in the office at Dzielna Street

The CBA decided to kick us out of the office. Disclaimer: not because of any fraud-related activities :D They just needed the building to move in new employees. We have been looking for a new place for a couple of months. Eventually, we found a gorgeous 600 m2 space and designed it the way we wanted, with our planned growth in mind. And then, shortly after moving in, the pandemic hit.

Like many software companies, we quickly switched to fully remote work. I still can't believe how we didn't do it earlier and how easy it was to adapt. Going remote was another turning point for us; we opened up to a vast pool of talented programmers from all over Poland, which made scaling and building the organizational culture we wanted much easier in my opinion.

And speaking of culture: having worked for international clients and growing up as people and business owners, we learned the importance of it. We realized it's only possible to run a sustainable business with a strong company culture.

So in 2022, we started looking for an answer to the question: What is the purpose of Order Group? Why are we doing what we’re doing? We needed to answer those questions to create a vector and keep building the company culture around something worth identifying with.

Eventually, we came up with a mission, vision, and purpose we all agreed on: In order to boost global progress. In simple words - to help speed up civilization's progress by helping our customers to build products that bring real value to whole industries. And I’m not talking about another social media platform that leeches on your dopamine. I mean products that store energy (KYOTO GROUP), utilize a fleet of electric cars as mobile batteries (Nuvve), reactors that create hydrogen from biowaste, etc.

As a civilization, we are more and more dependent on energy. And as we all know, energy production, storage, transfer, and transition to renewable energy sources are our era’s biggest challenges. So, Order Group is all about helping customers that are contributing and bringing innovation to those areas.

It's April 2023. What's next for you? What's next for Order Group?

Regarding my professional development, I will definitely be more involved in the business side of things. I have transitioned from being a designer to a hybrid designer-business role, and now I'm more focused on strategy, sales, and marketing. Luckily, I have excellent help in design management (kudos Iza & Dawid), so I can give more attention to strategic development. And also, I’m starting to run an internal R&D department in Order Group where we will test new technologies, so it sounds like fun.

As for the company's direction, we want to continue doing what we are doing: helping our customers to deliver innovative solutions in the renewable energy industry. We are also open to exploring AI, blockchain, and web3 because the decentralization of power in the Internet is also a value close to the entire company and myself.

Overall, I believe we are on the right track, and I'm excited about what the future holds! :)

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