#XLAB20years: Good energy and fearless people

June 10, 2021 - Words by Jasna Simončič

June 10, 2021
Words by Jasna Simončič

What did the XLAB office look like in the beginning? What was the atmosphere like? What has changed over time and what has stayed the same? Did the first XLABers see success coming? Learn all about it from the members of the first teams themselves.


The beginnings: Pocket offices, full of good energy and fearless people

In the beginning, XLAB was one small room and three co-founders Jure Pompe, Gregor Pipan, and Damjan Pipan. The first official coworker was Boris Turk, Senior Software Developer, who joined them in 2003. “It was very unusual to come to a company with only three other people, the office was a bit shabby … I was skeptical if this was really a company I wanted to work for. But as it turned out, I hit the jackpot!” he says.

But a small room and a small team have their own charm. “We all knew each other. We were younger and less serious 😊 We still keep that spirit alive, but you can feel we’re growing up,” says Borut Lukič, Infrastructure Engineer, who joined XLAB in 2003. “We saw each other every day, went outside for a walk or a piece of cake, or even had barbecues on Fridays,” recalls Dušan Semen, Senior Software Engineer, who joined XLAB in 2007. “Beautiful memories. Everything was on a much smaller scale. It was more intimate, we saw and talked to each other more,” adds Aleš Černivec, Chief Information Security Officer, who also joined the team in 2007.

Although the office was unimpressive, it had what matters most - good energy. And that energy left a lasting impression. “It was pocket-like, but very pleasant. The office was mediocre, but it was the energy of the people that persuaded me. You could see people who wanted to be the best. They were fearless. You could say that their sense of risk assessment was not yet developed 😊 But they had a strong culture and a strong desire to succeed,” says Daniel Vladušič, Chief Research Officer, who joined XLAB in 2006.

And they knew the importance of a healthy work-life balance, which we still emphasize today. “We worked hard, but also took some time off and spruced up our workday with the technology of that time. We organized our schedule so that we could combine serious work and free time,” says Matej Artač, Project Manager, who joined XLAB in 2006.

To sum up, the first offices were not the fanciest, but they more than made up for it in energy, positive vibes, relaxed environment, and determination.


Growing is changing, but some things never change

Over time, the team grew and moved to a much larger office. So the organization had to follow the growth and the global success that came with it. But has much really changed? Besides the number of employees, the knowledge gained, the awards and recognitions received, the partnerships forged? What has changed the most in these 20 years and what has remained the same?

The most obvious change, of course, is the size of the team and the organization. “It was a lot more spontaneous back then. There were a lot more surprises,” says Aleš.

And growth means that maintaining personal contact with each and every member of the company is no longer possible. “I miss the personal contact with every colleague. I don’t know everyone anymore,” says Boris. And Egon Kocjan, Senior software developer, who started working at XLAB as a student in 2002, feels this change even more now that he works from Luxembourg. “When I come into the offices and meet people, I shake their hands and introduce myself. It’s a little weird because I’ve been at XLAB for almost 20 years.” But, they both agree, that closeness and friendly vibe has definitely stayed the same. “XLAB is still small enough that we can all be on a first-name basis. We’re all friends in a way,” Egon says. “The willingness to help each other out and the solidarity stayed the same,” adds Boris. “We’re still right next to each other, the leadership isn’t in their own rooms, we can still walk up to anyone and ask for advice or help. And we still go to lunch together, where we come up with great ideas,” Dušan concludes.

So the size has changed, but the foundations have not. “The culture has remained the same. Every person here wants to succeed. To be the best at something. What I’m really proud of, and what I think everyone at XLAB is proud of, is the fact that we still listen to each other, and we hear each other. And we still foster that respect very strongly. Internally and externally,” Daniel explains.

“XLAB keeps the spirit of the relaxed atmosphere alive,” Borut says. “We still do quirky, interesting, different things,” adds Matej. “And we still know how to see things from a kid’s perspective - we’re cheerful and spontaneous,” Boris concludes.



“It was clear from the start that the team wants to succeed and be the best”

Did the first team members imagine in two decades, XLAB would become what it is today? Some were sure of success from the start, some were blind sighted, and some just didn’t really think about it.

“Absolutely not, I didn’t see it coming, not even close. I’m really excited about our journey,” Boris says. “I believed in it, but I didn’t imagine it, no,” Borut adds. “No, I didn’t expect it. It was a nice natural, organic growth,” says Aleš.

”I did not imagine what would happen in 5 or 10 years’ time, but we would always approach our work in the way that would feel right, usually with success. Seeing where we are now, we’ve exceeded my expectations,” Matej says.

“I was hoping the company would grow organically, not too fast, but I didn’t imagine there would be so much of us. It’s great to watch the growth over the years. Every year there’s some milestone or award and that’s really nice to see. And it’s great to remember the beginnings and the whole journey because it makes us appreciate what we’ve achieved even more,” says Dušan.

“I think I first thought about it when we entered the Japanese market. At that time, I thought to myself that things are getting serious. Now the company has a lot of big customers and you’re used to it, but in the beginning it was really impressive,” Egon says.

“Yes, definitely, because of a strong culture and a desire to succeed. It was clear from the beginning that the team wanted to succeed and be the best,” Daniel was convinced.


Birthday wishes: Never grow up!

What does the team that has been with XLAB since the beginning wish for the company that has been a part of their lives for almost two decades?

“To keep growing, but never grow up!" says Borut, and we couldn’t agree more. It’s all about that childlike enthusiasm, fearlessness, courage and having fun doing things you love.

“Keep up the good work! Those of us who have been a part of XLAB for a long time are very conscious of why we stick around. But I hope that the new colleagues will also find their way and their place here and that we will all continue to work well together in the future,” says Egon.

“A lot of highly qualified personnel … Besides the projects and the money 😀*”* says Aleš.

“Happy birthday, of course, it’s what you wish to all your loved ones. And good luck, you always need it. Continue the journey fearlessly,” says Dani.

“Probably the first 20 years are the hardest. I hope that in the next 20 years XLAB will keep important things from its childhood and never forget the people who made it all possible,” says Dušan.

“I wish that XLAB remains curious, open minded, and that we’ll continue to work on things that excite our partners, our clients, and ourselves,” says Matej.

“That the core values stay the same and that XLAB never runs out of bold ideas, because they are the driving force for innovation and development,” says Boris.

And on what better note to end this post? XLAB, stay curious, courageous and bold!

2021 was a special year for us. XLAB celebrated its 20th anniversary. A lot has changed since 2001. Take a trip down memory lane with us here.