Back icon Gurtam news / Discover Gurtam's rise in an exclusive interview with CEO

Discover Gurtam's rise in an exclusive interview with CEO

Date icon 01 July, 2024
Discover Gurtam's rise in an exclusive interview with CEO
Follow us

Gurtam's CEO and co-founder, Aliaksei Shchurko, who has led the company for over twenty years, attributes its success to two essential ingredients: opportunity and hard work. Headquartered in Vilnius, Gurtam's solutions are utilized across 150 countries, encompassing 300,000 projects and connecting around 4.5 million vehicles to the company’s software products. With plans for an AI breakthrough on the horizon, their ambitions continue to grow.

Today, Gurtam stands out as a software development company providing IoT solutions focusing on fleet tracking and management. The company's portfolio includes niche and comprehensive products, cloud- and server-based platforms, a telematics backend system, and mobile apps for personal use. Notable products include Wialon, an advanced fleet digitalization solution; flespi, an API-first telematics and IoT backend; and GPS-Trace, a set of user-friendly GPS tracking apps.

Interestingly, Aliaksei Shchurko never envisioned himself as a CEO; he identifies primarily as an engineer. With a keen understanding of company dynamics, he dedicates 80% of his time to development, aiming to cultivate joy within his team and himself. His influence extends beyond Gurtam's doors, as he passionately shares his experiences with others.

– Could you take us back to the beginning? Tell us about the early moves Gurtam made that led to its future success.

– Gurtam started about 20 years ago. Many Eastern Europeans began working in outsourcing software companies at those times, often through personal connections like school or friends. The same happened to us – a school friend of my father had a daughter who married a Dutch man interested in software development. Through this connection, they found my father, who was then working at a software company with 20 employees. My father arranged for me for this very first software project. We worked together for a couple of months, and then, in one night, I rewrote the whole program, making it more efficient – quicker and simpler, with all desired functionality included. From that moment, my father decided to quit his job and started a new company with me. I was in my early 20s and still studying IT at university.

As a side story, back then, I was playing Counter-Strike, and in this community, I met people who needed assistance with a GPS tracker solution. So we started the project together, and when their budget was cut, we decided to finish it with our own resources and sold several copies. It was then that I realized that earning money from software sales was easier than working a whole month on different projects. All this together led us to the moment when we founded Gurtam. We started with three people in a small apartment-based office, and now we have more than 300 employees in different countries developing IoT solutions.

– Is there anything you wish you had known about starting a business back when the company was just three people that you know now?

– I worked hard through these years, and I now know that it takes time and effort to build something. For example, if I am left without a team or money, I could have a successful business in ten years. I don't believe success will come quickly and easily, unlike the new generation, which thinks they can become millionaires within two years after starting a business. To launch something successful you should work really hard. If you ask for my advice on how to build a sustainable company, I would say you should do what you do every day without expecting quick results. Today, people with capital want to invest in startups, then sell them, and accumulate the profit instead of building a sustainable business and living off the dividends. At Gurtam, we have always lived off our money, from day one we relied on ourselves only and never took bank loans.


1 2


– What is your vision for Gurtam's future? What are your ultimate financial goals for the company – an IPO, a full exit, or accumulating dividends?

– As the CEO of the company I see my core target in fostering happiness – both within our team and among our users. When people are happy, they can invent more and be more efficient, the overall result is much better then  From a business perspective, Gurtam aims to integrate telematics seamlessly into everyday life. Just as people "Google" when they search online, we want them to "Gurtam" when they think of telematics. We prioritize being powerful and providing efficient solutions together with the top-quality service, rather than relying heavily on marketing. That’s why I've never focused much on our competitors; I just concentrate on our own business, its targets and improvements we can bring every day. I strongly believe that if you look around you are more likely to create something that already exists, while when you are concentrating on your ideas and your business, you can invent something outstanding. 

In terms of the company's goals, one of our priorities is to reach the level of revenue per-person of $200,000 annually, and we're on track to meet it. For us this goal is connected with achieving profitability level, which can enable us to offer higher compensation to our employees. Another objective of ours is to maintain a specific ratio of engineers among all our staff members. We're hiring externally and providing internal training and development opportunities to accomplish this. Despite engineering not being the most popular career choice nowadays, I believe that many individuals underestimate their potential in this field, especially in the age of AI. While today's businesses primarily develop roles such as managers, customer support, and legal personnel, we're committed to showcasing the potential for individuals in these roles to excel as prompt engineers.

– You're working a lot with AI today. What are the three key things you'd like people to understand about AI? What potential or overlooked aspects aren't fully appreciated?

–  We at Gurtam are particularly excited about AI. While it may not be directly aligned with our core business, developing AI tools internally helps us reduce costs and showcases our commitment to innovation.

Speaking from my personal perspective, I started actively working with AI in October. Since then, we have released several internal solutions. From what I can see, AI should not be treated as a magic button. It’s just a tool that generates outputs based on the inputs you provide, such as text, images, or speech. People often say AI is smart, but it’s not – it’s simply predictive. Making AI effective requires significant human effort: adaptation, upgrades, and content management. We see if from our own experience – currently, in our flespi team AI handles about 30% of our sales & support communication. But this is achieved only through constant time investment. It’s only when humans guide the AI, ensuring it generates useful content, the best results can be achieved.

If we speak about AI adoption, I would say I’m concerned with the current direction of AI development. While OpenAI's ChatGPT and other models are being leveraged by more and more users, the recent updates indicate the trend of focusing more on benchmarks and the B2C segment. It feels like they’re expanding horizontally, not vertically – they’re not creating smarter models, not diving deep into LLM  enhancement,  just adapting existing ones. Potentially, this can be explained by certain limitations due to computing resources.

We will see how AI will develop, as more and more companies will adopt it. However, I would say that my experience with AI makes me believe in the future of human potential. AI can definitely handle routine tasks, but decisions and inventions should still be made by people.




– Regarding decision-making, why did Gurtam choose Vilnius for its office three years ago, and what role does it play in the company's story?

– The reason lies in the events of 2020, and the situation that developed in Belarus after the presidential elections. I decided to travel to Lithuania for a week or two to unwind and I ended up staying in Lithuania and never returned. As the situation in Belarus worsened, I initiated the process of relocating the company. It was during the COVID-19 pandemic, making the whole process more challenging. However, I had previously researched Lithuania and knew it would be a nice place for Gurtam as it had a good business climate, great people, and lower taxes than other European countries. These factors made the decision easier.

– Lithuania is short on talents able to generate high added value, forcing startups to look abroad – do you have any advice on how to attract them? From your personal experience, what have you noticed?

– The solution is straightforward: offer special incentives to high-value companies or talents. However, exiting these regimes by expanding business globally in the future can be problematic. Still, attracting talent and investment is essential for countries as it will accelerate progress.


4 1


– Back to your profile – I find your perspectives fascinating, did you always aspire to be a CEO? What was your upbringing like, and what sparked your interest in business?

– It happened like it happened, but becoming a CEO was never my dream; simply because I'm not keen on managerial roles. My passion lies in collaborating within small teams and innovating products. As an engineer and developer, I thrive on creation rather than managing people or processes. For this I have a team of talented managers, and around 70-80% of my time now involves hands-on development, and I like it this way. I cannot remember what I dreamed about when a child; childhood dreams escape me. I've always been the one who lives in the moment, prioritizing present happiness over future plans. While I recognize the importance of foresight, I believe in finding joy in the now rather than fixating on tomorrow.

– What other key principles guide you in your personal and professional life? What strategies do you find effective in achieving results?

– Understanding people and customers is crucial to me. Everyone has their own motivations, and I strive to empathize with them. Once I grasp their perspective, needs, and ideas, I can align with their motivations and offer what meets expectations. Basically, it works as an algorithm. Human behavior follows certain logic: there are triggers, behaviors, and motivations, and you need to analyze them to reach the core. 

Actually, this and other aspects of life clicked for me around the age of 30 after gaining some life experience and lessons learned. I would say I'm a hands-on learner, so experience is my best teacher and the source of inspiration. I stopped reading business literature about 5–10 years ago, and I reduced my conference attendance. The reason is simple – I somehow felt I grasped the principles already, and since then, I have preferred learning from my mistakes rather than imitating others. That’s how you open the door to inventing something remarkable.

– How do you recharge and let off steam? How do you spend your time off?

– I enjoy running, but not in competitions; I prefer my own pace, usually covering around 10 km, immersed in nature. Seeing others prompts me to compare and compete, which detracts from my enjoyment. I also fly a small plane in my spare time, often journeying to Slovenia, Italy, or Sweden. The act of flying captivates me, not just reaching the destination. I relish the entire process. When I'm flying, work doesn't cross my mind, and thus distracting from the operational routine, I recharge. 

– Since you’re in touch with startups, investors, and top talent, have you observed what sets the Lithuanian startup ecosystem apart? What factors should be considered, and what steps can Lithuania take to foster more startups?

– I might not be deeply versed in the Lithuanian startup ecosystem, but since our clients are often startups, I have a glimpse into their perspective. I can see that any successful startup requires a conducive environment, talented individuals, and innovative ideas. Lithuania boasts a strong tech environment and promising ideas, yet perhaps lacks talents. When it comes to people, it's crucial to have those with vision and those with the skills to execute it. To cultivate a thriving startup ecosystem, it's essential to address these aspects holistically and develop them in parallel. In this case, it would bring the boost. 

– How do you manage your team and attract and retain talent? What fundamental principles do you follow to build an effective team?

– At Gurtam, we believe that happy people can create great things. That’s why I seek out smart, motivated individuals who thrive on challenges, even without experience. I believe in providing them with the latest tech and a supportive environment to help them realize their potential while ensuring their safety and joy in what they do and achieve.

Also, I am an advocate of team connection. For example, I don’t see remote work as that efficient. Although it may seem convenient, I've discovered in practice that it leads to slower results due to difficulties in synchronizing efforts. I know many young people believe in it, but I value face-to-face interactions and immediate collaboration, as I see the real benefit of such a connection.

– What advice would you give to new startups or tech companies? What is crucial in the early stages and deserves the most attention?

– It's advisable not to sell the company or shares prematurely. Investors usually have goals that are different from those of founders. While a majority investor holds financial objectives, the company might risk losing its original mission. While maintaining positive financial cash flows is crucial, money shouldn't be the primary goal. And we shouldn’t forget that external investments often entail the company's eventual sale. However, it's a delicate balance because competing and paying salaries without sufficient funding is challenging. So my advice is to refrain from selling the company entirely or selling no more than 30% of it.

– What's your outlook on the tech sector for 2024-2025? Any predictions for the upcoming years? And what do you see as the main challenges ahead for businesses?

– My predictions for 2024-2025 are quite positive. It looks like everything is booming in every field, so as for advice, I strongly advocate following your passions and pursuing your dreams rather than focusing on trends and comparing yourself to others. Having a strong sense of motivation, understanding, and desire can lead to fulfilling outcomes, especially when you are ready to work hard. It's also important to consider merging traditional sectors with technology, as this can open up new opportunities for growth and innovation. Focus on areas where you have both experience and passion, and don't be afraid to invest time and effort into what you love. Ultimately, success often comes to those who are willing to take risks and persevere in the face of challenges. Keep pushing forward, and you'll be on the path to success.

The interview was taken and written by Rūta Pukenė, Unicorns Lithuania