The personal experiences of Mudita's founder, Michal Kicinski, had a major impact on the decision to establish the company and on its mission. We asked him to tell his story in a short documentary we shot during some cold and snowy days in Warsaw, Poland. He also wrote it down in the article you can read below the video.
As a child, I got totally fascinated by computers. It started in the early 80s. I used to visit my uncle who had a ZX81 computer, which was a rare thing in communist Poland at that time. I became completely fascinated by computers, they felt like the future to me, they meant unlimited possibilities.
Of course games were a major part of my interest in computers. I was dreaming about owning one. In the times of late communism it was about 100 dollars and the monthly salary of my mother was around 30. I started saving money, I was collecting bottles and paper for recycling and, little by little, at the age of 13, I could finally buy a computer, it was second hand but I was the happiest child in the world.
A teenage entrepreneur in communist Poland
Earning money felt good so I came up with a new idea. I started to copy games onto cartridges and sell them. Copyright didn’t exist in Poland at that time but there was a big computer market and a great demand. In high school I was spending every weekend selling games and getting further and further into the world of gaming.
I also met Marcin Iwiński in high school, who shared my passion. From now on we were working together. As one of very few people in Poland with the means to do so, he imported a CD-ROM player for around 1,000 dollars which was a fortune at that time. On a single CD you could put 700 times more data than on a disc. For us it was the beginning of a new era. The economy in Poland was growing after the fall of communism, we were no longer copying games but buying them from distributors abroad and selling them here.
Michal and Ula enjoy a conversation while sitting at a restaurant
Building a global games developer
In 1994, at the age of 20 we founded our company CD Projekt. The competition was growing and we always tried to be a few steps ahead. We were the first to release local versions with dubbing of games such as Ace Ventura or Baldur’s Gate. Those who know a bit about this field will recall these titles with nostalgia. But it wasn’t the end of our ambitions. Our company was growing and we started to be serious about fulfilling our dream of making our own game.
We started working on The Witcher, based on the cult fantasy book by Andrzej Sapkowski. Netflix is developing now their showed based on it too. It took a long time, much longer and more expensive than we anticipated but when finally released, The Witcher was a great international success. All of a sudden, the media started to talk about us, I was appearing on magazine covers and I won the title of ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’. I felt as though I had truly achieved great success.
The price for success
However, it came at a high cost. It was the product of an unbelievable amount of effort and stress. The economic crisis in 2009 hit us hard and almost destroyed what we had been building. We were struggling in order not to close the company, we were sadly forced to fire a lot of brilliant people, it was a nightmare. I was under constant pressure and I started to feel the effects of this on my physical and mental health. I was suffering from insomnia and I felt exhausted after only five hours of work.
Michal, founder of Mudita
I knew I couldn’t do it any longer. I spent 18 years building CD Projekt, not having time for anything else. More and more often I thought: wait, there is much more to discover in this life. It could be more conscious, more full of colours, views, experiences. I could feel the temptation from a pile of unread books, places to discover. As the company was slowly recovering, I was thinking more often about what to do with my life.
Then, when I was really exhausted from stress, 20 days with very little sleep, my business partner asked if I wanted to join him on a trip to India, for a Vipassana meditation retreat. I said ‘yes’, not really knowing what it was.
The life-changing power of meditation
During the flight I read that we’re going for a 10 day long course of meditation, where you sleep in separate rooms, wake up at 4 AM and meditate for 10 hours. I thought it was crazy but decided to follow the instructions precisely. This is how a new chapter started for me. Those 10 days opened my eyes to a completely new way of thinking and living, I felt like someone had taken a really heavy bag from my back and was letting me start over. Nothing since this trip brought about as a big change in my life. Vipassana helps you to get to know and understand yourself better, the reasons behind your choices and behaviours. It helps you find the tools you need to remove negativity from your life. Meditation from that moment on became an important part of my life.
When the company was finally in a better condition, I made the decision to step back from active work and just own some shares. I started to read and analyze buddhist philosophy and saw that it was close to me. I wouldn’t call myself a buddhist though. I slowly started to reach some form of balance after those difficult years. I felt ready to start something new, so I did. I wanted to get involved in projects that would bring a positive change into people’s lives.
Because of meditation I became more sensitive, intuitive and conscious. This made me radically limit the amount of meat in my diet and pay more attention to the nutritious value of what I eat. I noticed that in Warsaw it wasn’t that easy to find a place that would be both vegan and serve healthy, fresh and nutritious food. So, I decided to open Wegeguru. We serve fresh food, made from high quality products. Meat, wheat, white sugar, diary, you won’t find it here.
The next thing that I’m really proud of was to support the Vipassana Dhamma Pallava resort in Poland that opened in 2017. It’s an amazing, big and really modern place. Twice a month there are 10 day long retreats for over 100 people. I feel that in this way I can repay all the great gifts that I received from meditation. I’m also involved in creating smaller places, such as a Munay Sonqo resort in a Sacred Valley in Peru, where groups mostly come for practicing yoga, meditation and learning about healthy eating, or another place in Urle, close to Warsaw.
How Mudita was born
This was just the beginning. My dream was to apply the values I believe into the world of new technologies. One of the biggest problems of the modern world, that I saw, was that new technology became inhuman. It has two sides and sometimes we only start to notice the darker one after some time. In the beginning, we are fascinated by technology and the side effects or long-term consequences come much later. We’re not always able to use it in an intentional way, so that technology supports us and doesn’t become an addiction. Most companies profit from keeping the users in front of screens for as long as possible. Limiting our world to a five inch screen steals us from experiencing the world fully.
We created Mudita in order to design products that would allow us to use new technologies without experiencing those negative effects for our physical and mental health.
One of the side effects of meditation is increased sensitivity. I noticed a kind of discomfort, or sometimes even pain in my hand, the one in which I was holding a mobile phone in previously. The same with headaches. I started to observe them and I realized it was definitely related to the exchange of data in my mobile phone. I read that mobile radiation is measured with a value called SAR and tried to find a phone that would have the lowest level. It turned out though that the producers aren’t really paying a lot of attention to this, it’s just enough to fit in some legal limits. This is when I thought it would be great to try to construct a mobile phone with the lowest possible radiation level.
Completely by accident, I saw a man talking about the technology he created, on morning television, he had patented this invention to limit radiation levels, it was a kind of shield. The man on TV was Przemek Kitowski, a scientist cooperating with a polytechnic institution in Gdańsk. I looked up his contact details and we met on the same day. We started to work together and initiated a research programme to see if it was even possible to have lower SAR levels in a mobile phone and keep all the parameters such as connectivity and signal. After 1.5 years we had a working prototype and a plan to release a product.
Building a strong team
I started to gather a team and was really lucky to meet Tomek and Łukasz, founders of a venture building company App’n’roll. Great and talented people who believed in this dream. They are helping to make it come true. We’re progressing very fast and soon, we will start selling our first mobile phone.
We named this company after the buddhist word Mudita. It doesn’t have a direct translation into English but can be described as empathetic joy, the happiness that we feel from another person’s wellbeing and success. In this way we’re sending a message that our goal is to give the world new kinds of technology solutions. Ones that bring joy and satisfaction to everyday life. They are not there to overwhelm us. When we look around in the street or on a bus, we can see that most people are hooked to their smartphones, often not realizing how much it influences them. Obviously, technology brings us a lot of amazing things but often takes away too much of our actual joy. The joy of being close to our families, friends, nature and our full presence.
This is a challenge for a new kind of tech company. To encourage people to do more things in the present moment, that simply bring them joy and happiness.