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Mautilus CEO Vykoupil
August 28, 2013

Czechs take leading role in Arab movie streaming service

Brno company develops applications while Beroun specialists run technical center

The Arab world has a long and impressive cinematic history, which, following the traditions of Hollywood and Bollywood, has become known as Jazwood. A new streaming service recently launched in the Middle East will distribute films from all three of these cinematic centers, and a Czech company has developed many of the applications behind it.

Mautilus, based in Brno, South Moravia, signed a contract in January to produce key software applications for icflix, a Dubai-based streaming service described as the first of its kind in the Arab world. At the same time, the icflix technical center is based in Beroun, just southwest of Prague, offering further evidence of the Czech Republic’s strength as a hub for software and other IT-related industries.

Reports from the Middle East say the new service, available throughout the world but only offering Hollywood movies in the Middle East and North Africa, has attracted a “good response” since its recent soft launch. “If this goes well, this is just the beginning. … It’s an almost endless job. Many extra platforms will come,” said Řehoř Vykoupil, the CEO of Mautilus.

After initial contact had been made through networking site LinkedIn, Vykoupil said Mautilus was able to demonstrate it was a credible potential partner to icflix.”We showed our references. We do quite a lot of work for international software houses and agencies,” he said.

Being modest in size, with about 35 staff, of whom 20 or so are software developers, Mautilus is “agile,” according to Vykoupil, and could produce a prototype application that impressed icflix relatively quickly.

Officials from icflix visited the Czech Republic, and then in January Mautilus’s senior management traveled to Dubai, which is one of seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates, to sign a contract to provide applications for various devices on which the streaming service can be viewed. Rehor said lower costs were a factor in helping to secure the deal. “Czech companies are very creative. You can say it’s German quality at a cheaper price, and the price usually plays some role [in determining which company is selected],” he said.

Icflix describes itself as the first unlimited streaming platform for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and it offers movies as well as children’s programs and television series.

The company has signed content deals with several major entertainment industry operators, among them Turner Broadcasting System Arabia, to provide cartoons, DHX Media from Canada and Mondo TV from Italy. Vykoupil said Mautilus, which is based in the South Moravian Innovation Center, would develop many additional icflix applications to cover more devices such as various types of games consoles and televisions.

As an indicator of how global is the work of Mautilus, last year the company made 80 percent of its revenue from outside the Czech Republic. “We are able to work remotely. We have really good references. It’s proving that we’re a company that can provide excellent quality,” Rehor said.

The 37-year-old Vykoupil, who co-founded Mautilus three years ago after a lengthy stint with the engineering company Siemens, said Brno was a good place for finding talented software developers, with three technical universities in the vicinity. Living costs are also lower than in Prague, he said.

After selecting Mautilus to develop some of its key software applications, icflix appointed a Czech specialist, Antonín Král, to be its chief technology officer. “I was approached directly. I have done something similar, so they knew me through some references and exhibitions,” Král said.

From his base in Beroun, where about 10 people work, Kral manages the streaming services and other technical aspects of the icflix operations, while functions such as content acquisition and marketing are run from the Middle East. “The whole technical department is here … The quality of the people [available to hire] here is pretty good,” he said.

The technical functions he is responsible for “require a lot of resources” and projects ahead include improving the data management system and the in-house development of software for some additional devices. The scope of the work he carried out will likely increase as icflix expands its user base. “There are a lot of challenges ahead of us. At the end of the day, we want to be a global player,” Kral said.

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