#XLAB20years: Most memorable moments

May 13, 2021
Words by Jasna Simončič

1. The 1st office

XLAB co-founders Jure Pompe, Damjan Pipan and Gregor Pipan rented a small office space and brought in some old furniture, chairs and boards, from which they made the first desks themselves. They bought three computers, monitors and a printer. And a fridge for Coca Cola – you have to know your priorities 😉 And they started to work.

But not without complications, of course. When the team was about to move into their first office, they were given a choice between two rooms, both about 50 square meters big. The only difference was that one had air conditioning and the other did not. Naturally, they chose the one with the fancy addition, but what the owners failed to mention was a not-so-small detail: the air conditioning unit that took up almost half the office space (remember – that was 20 years ago) wasn’t working. And they found out after they moved in, as it usually is. They decided to dismantle the big thing. Did that go smoothly? No, of course it didn’t. When they started cutting the pipes, the antifreeze splashed all over the computers. So they grabbed them and moved them to safety as fast as they could. But it was a priceless memory and that’s what it’s all about, right?

 

2. The 1st appliance

The first device we created was this interesting box. What was it? A small portable server that allowed software to run on terminals that didn’t have processors. The enthusiastic team drove all over Europe to share this innovation with interested parties. It’s all about determination and belief. “In the beginning, you fight for all kinds of projects and try to prove to the business environment that you can do something more. And if you believe you are capable of doing a project, then you can do it,” says Gregor Pipan, Co-founder & Board Advisor.

   

3. The 1st business trips

All beginnings are rough. You have to start somewhere. But anything is possible if you are inspired and determined. The first business trips were not exactly glamorous – they often involved travelling across Europe and sleeping in the car – but they were fun and, above all, successful.

“When I think of those first business trips, my first association is Damjan’s green van. That is one legendary van! We travelled half of Europe in it. We drove to trade shows, we transported servers to European data centres, we moved furniture in it, we even slept in it, because in the beginning, staying in hotels exceeded our budget,” recalls Jure Pompe, XLAB’s Co-founder & MD.

 

“There are a lot of memories and stories. For example, coming back from a business trip and being too tired to go home, so you sleep on a couch in the office or a chair or even in the company car because it’s more comfortable than an office chair – only to be kept awake all night by frogs croaking in a nearby pond …” recalls Daniel Vladušič, Chief Research Officer.

“These business trips really bonded us together. They were unintentional team building, even before we knew what team building was,” adds Matej Artač, Project manager, who spent a lot of time with Daniel on these trips.

Daniel and Matej doing team building before it was cool.

“We took a lot of road trips, and I always loved that change of scenery. We really had a lot of fun and bonded with each other – and that’s one of the most important aspects of working at XLAB,” adds Gregor Berginc, CEO.

 

4. The 1st ISL Online licence sold

Millions of happy ISL Online users and counting, but you never forget your first 😉

Jure and Damjan set up the first ISL Online site and shop. Right after the release they jumped in a car and drove to La Grave, the French off-piste freeride ski paradise high up on a glacier. “We took the gondola up in the morning and in the middle of the ride Jure got the news that the 1st ISL Online licence had been sold to a Spanish company. That was a moment when we both thought to ourselves that we’re clearly on the right track,” recalls Damjan Pipan, Co-founder, CTO & Head of ISL Online.

“That really burned itself into our memory, it was a huge milestone. It meant a lot to us – a confirmation that we are on the right track and a great motivation for further work,” adds Jure.

Usually celebration comes after a memorable achievement, but at XLAB it’s all about redefining the box 🙂

 

5. The xSailings

We couldn’t choose one, all xSailings were and are spectacular! We have been sailing on open waters since 2004 and it continues to be one of our favorite traditions because it creates a lasting sense of connection that carries over into the work environment. “Sailing is laughter and ease, and you get to know your colleagues in a different light when we’re being our true selves – worry-free and 100% relaxed. Even though our jobs can be stressful at times, these memories remind us how carefree and joyful we can be,” says Lara Tasev, Human Resource Manager.

 

6. SmartLocator saving lives

When our SmartLocator, a solution for instant and accurate location of emergency calls, was still in testing at one of the European emergency call centres, the operators told us that they used it to save a teenager. A girl who was being treated in a hospital ran away, but luckily she changed her mind and dialed 911. With the help of our SmartLocator, she was located fast and eventually rescued. “This experience still gives me a lot of positive energy and awareness that what we are doing really has a purpose and actually saves lives,” says Gregor Berginc.

 

7. The Zlata nit award for best employers

We have been nominated six times among the best employers in the Zlata nit competition and in 2010 we received a special Zlata nit award for innovative organizational culture. “The expert commission described XLAB’s special organizational culture as innovative and thus ranked XLAB among the Slovenian avant-garde and role models. We are very proud of this achievement,” explains Barbara Viškovič, Marketing Specialist at ISL Online, and ads: “The XLAB family is a lot bigger today. The growth brought many organizational challenges, but nevertheless the values and organizational culture that earned us this award 11 years ago still – or even increasingly – place teamwork, excellence, honesty and respect first.”

 

8. The Silver Gazela Award for the fastest growing company in Slovenia

The more the merrier. After 10 years of successfully getting bigger and better, we won one of the most prestigious business awards in Slovenia. In 2011 we received the Silver Gazela Award for the fastest growing company in Slovenia.

 

9. The Nasa award

Thirteen is a lucky number. In two decades, our commitment to excellence has earned us many awards and recognitions, including the NASA World Wind Award. Our 3D GIS visualization solution GAEA+, used by Slovenian Administration for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief, received the highest score and won 1st prize in the 2013 NASA World Wind Competition.

   

10. The 18th birthday xChallenge

Coming of age is a big deal and needs to be celebrated properly. For our 18th birthday, we threw a special party in true XLAB style. First there was a formal program where we reminisced about the beginnings and then focused on the now – XLAB teams presented what they do in an entertaining way. Then came the more relaxed part. We traveled back to 2001 with our DJ Joao playing music from that year. We watched a presentation with pictures of team members from 2001 and tried to guess who was who – keep in mind that some team members were toddlers back then, so there was some guessing to be done 🙂 And to top it all off, we had a big magenta cake and sang a Happy Birthday with accordion accompaniment. It was definitely a day for the XLAB history books.

 

11. The new offices

No, the team didn’t stay in the 50 square meter room for long, the team grew quickly and we moved to a much larger space in 2008. In 2020, we completely renovated the place. And now we have a brand new, shiny sanctuary. With fully functioning air conditioning, we might add 😉

2021 is a special year for us. XLAB is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Stay in touch with anniversary activities, take a trip down memory lane, and celebrate with us here.



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