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The path begins with the first step.

To build a successful business, you need to start small and gradually move forward. What dangers lurk an entrepreneur on this path and how to overcome them? I talked about this, as well as problems at the idea stage, its development, relations with investors, mistakes of startups and many other things with the founder of Marva.ru, Pavel Manovich and his colleague Alexei Kuznetsov (not advertising). I hope that the conversation will be interesting and useful to entrepreneurs and those who wish to become them.

Some quotes from the interview:
"In any project there is a point where you stop thinking about whether you will succeed or not, and you decide to act and go to the end."

“The company is like a balloon. It starts to grow, develop, inflate, but if at some point you do not put struts, then it collapses, deflates. ”

“The project must have a leader who understands technology and marketing, and does not hesitate to do dirty work.”

Briefly about the company (not advertising):

Marva is an online consultation system. It allows you to contact the person who visited the site, tell him about goods and services, answer his questions or solve another problem. A person can ask for help himself, or a message with a proposal of consultation will automatically be displayed on the website.
Today, more than 700 clients use the Marva system, including BBK, Renaissance Insurance, ROSNO, Eurowindows, etc. A few dozen new users are registered daily.

The company “Online Consultant” was established in 2008. In the same year, her project Marva became the winner of the Technovations Cup .

Yury Bryzgalov (IT-preacher of the Cup of Technovations): Please tell us how you became involved in business.

Pavel Manovich (general director of Marva): In 2003, while studying in the third year, I realized that it was necessary to choose a profession and an area in which to develop further. I had a classmate, a good developer. We thought and decided to make websites on the Internet.

By 2006, our idea turned into a full-fledged company. It was part of a larger structure, but at the same time completely independent. Creating websites, we did not earn a lot of money, but we gained experience in various areas: web application development, work with clients, office work, management and much more. And most importantly - we studied the needs of the market, offering customers different technologies and approaches.

It was immediately clear that the web studio is not a scalable business: you can develop quality, become a master of your craft, but as a business this is not that. We need a typical solution that you put to all, you put, you put. Of course, it was scary to decide and drastically change everything, but in fact I had no choice.

Yuri: How did the idea of ​​an online consultation service come about?

Pavel: We were then engaged in the automation of enterprises. The first product was a virtual office. This is when the site can go back and forth in a restaurant or office and select a table for an order or, say, twist the mouse and better see an interesting product. We wanted to add the possibility of live communication so that, walking around the virtual office, one could approach the consultant and learn something from him. We discussed the idea with car dealerships, computer shops and other enterprises. Everything was great, everyone liked it, but it was a long-term, unique and expensive project. Therefore, the idea was born to take the squeeze on the basis of communication and greatly reduce the cost of projects, making our solution typical. We can say that we have evolved from difficult to simple.

A prototype was made immediately, literally in two weeks. It was simple, non-functional, only showed how the system should work.

This prototype was made to talk with potential investors about investments. But no one agreed. People said that it would not work, “there will be only ten customers for this service”.

Yuri: How did you find the money then?

Pavel: When the product was ready and the first clients appeared, we turned to the ABRT venture capital fund . There we were advised to develop without venture capital investments and submit an application to the Bortnik Fund . We did just that. And they won a grant. In the same place I met Alexey. He had a similar project. We decided to unite.

Alexey Kuznetsov (Marva Development Director): I had some kind of root activity then, but I was open to new projects. A couple of guys contacted me, we looked at what can be done now, and generated an idea. This time coincided with the distribution of grants from the Bortnik Fund. We submitted an application, and there we met Pavel.

Pavel: The Bortnik Foundation has become the pivot point: the point where you stop thinking about whether you will succeed or not, and you decide to act and go to the end. I think this is an extremely important moment for any undertaking.

Yuri: And then what? You had a team, development began ...

Pavel: Not really. We made a website, found an accountant, began to attract customers with direct calls to start. Then there were changes in the team. There was a period when Lesha and I worked only together: for developers, and for support services, and for marketing, and for sales. Moreover, few of the clients knew about this. We actually together developed our service to more than 300 registered companies, that is, we did some business.

In 2006, we traveled all Russian venture funds. It was hard in terms of relationships and mutual understanding. There were not enough people with experience creating their own successful Internet business from scratch. These were mostly financiers who did not understand how to work with business at this stage, and tried to apply a credit approach. I do not know, maybe today something has changed.

As a result, we found a private investor, a business angel.

Yuri: What happened after receiving the investment?

Pavel: When a project gets an investment, there is a risk to relax. It is illiterate to make budgets, hire unsuitable people to work and even ruin a project. Perhaps we were saved by the fact that we initially focused on making money, albeit small, and not on investment, artificial capitalization or the sale of a business.

Alexey: You can simply not reach the payback. Then the investor will have to think whether to report to the project, to doubt. Not everyone can afford it.

Pavel: After receiving the investment, it was time for active development, which caused chaos. They even opened an independent sales office: a separate company specializing in direct sales and having its own management.
In the last year, the focus was on the inside of the company. When it grew to a certain size, it was necessary to put everything in order, and then scale it normally.

Alexey: The company looks like a balloon. It begins to grow, develop, inflate, but if at a certain point you do not put struts, then it collapses, deflates. Internal organizational structure, regulations, motivational schemes, work technology in general - these are the very strutics.

Yuri: What did you do to put things in order?

Pavel: When it became clear that you can not save every penny, but do things right, we began structuring and expanding the staff. The order is when everyone does his own business. Then we worked for 20 people and set the task of distributing our work to hired employees. Let the quality of work in some places be lower, let it be more expensive, but this is a completely different stage.
Alexey: Any time released allows you to do things that your hands simply do not reach. I can give an example of my favorite partner distance learning center. This is a necessary moment, because it is necessary to transfer experience to new people who are engaged in sales, service, etc. You can do it yourself for three people, but not seventy. And it’s impossible to implement such a thing when you are in charge of operational management, when they call you every five minutes.

Yuri: What did you do to promote your service?

Pavel: We immediately started a strong PR. We wrote articles, analytical notes, offered them to publications. It was very interesting, some were even willing to pay. You can effectively promote even for free, and you can spend a lot, but there’s no sense.

Yuri: What is happening in the company now?

Pavel: Now we are at the stage of product refactoring. In any IT project, a situation occurs when you realize that what he wrote is not technologically advanced, and it would be worthwhile to do everything according to his mind.

Alexey: This is how to build a building. You understand that you can build a house in the forest, but some skyscraper is not.
If you understand what needs to be done, and you can describe it at the TZ level, then you need to transfer the development to outsourcing, this is the ideal scheme. You need to communicate only with the leader of the outsourcer at the level of tasks and requirements, and not to monitor specific performers. This is a great time saver.

Yuri: How do you see the future of yourself and the company in the perspective of three to five years?

Pavel: We are interested in the release of new products, international markets and, of course, cooperation with the state.

Alexey: There will be some moment when you want to switch, but it's all so far away.

I would like to point out the mistake that some venture capital funds suffer. They are asked to write a business plan for five years. But in reality, when there are few people, you can write only two months in advance. If there are more people, the planning horizon shifts. Now we live in terms of six months. And then there is a fork in the road, when you look at what happened, what was delayed, and make a decision where to go.

Pavel: Five years is a fairy tale. Only very experienced top managers who are well aware of the market can plan so far. And to demand this from the startups team is just ridiculous.

Alexey: So you think, either to write a fiction, or not to work with investors at all, because then they will ask you for this plan. Why, for example, not 350 clients, but only 270?

Yuri: Do you regret becoming entrepreneurs and starting your own business?

Pavel: A difficult, interesting and responsible way, but, in my opinion, for some people there is simply no other way.

The important point is patience. Business is a real test of patience. Literally tomorrow, the result will not be, and the day after tomorrow, too, will not.

Alexey: The result can be in a year and a half.

Pavel: And this was hardly believed at times. That in general there can be at least some result.

Alexey: There are temptations. They offer different topics that seem more interesting than what you are doing now. But this is all untrue. Any topic is interesting only as long as you do not dive into it, you will not understand how much everything has to be done.

Pavel: They will often say that nothing will come out, but over time their voices will become quieter.

Alexey: That everything has been around for a long time, etc. There is a category of people who want to assert themselves at the expense of others. People who have done something are becoming very balanced in their assessments, they will not say anything again.

In the IT area there is a catchphrase: "We will do everything ourselves in a couple of days." We can provide a list of companies that said so, but they did not work.

Pavel: At some point you may get the impression that only you and your customers need your business. And all around - resistance. But at some point people become interested, new partners appear.

Yuri: What would you recommend to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Pavel: Perhaps the main advice is that if some goal has been set, then we must go forward to it. Obstacles will appear on the way, but they are all surmountable. And where is the truth, only time will tell.

I often see that start-up entrepreneurs do not ask themselves an important question, and therefore they step on the rake. It is clear that the idea should be good, adequate, timely, but you have to ask yourself the question: why exactly am I implementing it?

For example, I took up this project because I started from the simplest and most accessible, and then I oriented myself and went in the right direction, gaining experience.

Alexey: Startupers' mistakes are that I want everything at once, but this does not happen. A startup is a work with the elimination of restrictions. They must be properly seen and understood.

The biggest limitation is the market. If it is initially selected incorrectly, when there are only five clients on it, then you can’t do anything with this restriction. And if there is a market, other restrictions arise, and something needs to be corrected, corrected, listened carefully, watched, etc. Each level has its own limitations. If you consider any situation from this perspective (for example, communicating with a person, to think why he made this mistake, which prevented him), then you begin to grow professionally. Over time, you begin to see these limitations not only see, but also predict.

Pavel: There are two extremes in IT projects. The first is when programmers start the project. People are one hundred percent development oriented. They may fall under the influence of dishonest financiers, do not know how to develop their project, not understand marketing. The other extreme is when the project is started by purely advertisers who do not understand anything in development at all. Some programmers can fool them. Or they just talk, but really do nothing.

There is one more thing. When you start up you can face the "star" of your partners. And when all the "stars", then no one sweep the floor.
But the project must have a leader who understands both technology and marketing and does not hesitate to do dirty work.

Yuri: Thank you, Pavel and Alexey, for the conversation. It was very interesting. I wish you success!

Pavel: Thank you, Yuri! Taking this opportunity, I would like to say that now we are looking for a good partner for the development of web applications. If among the readers will be the leaders of young outsourcing companies aimed at good orders, then we are ready for a productive dialogue. You can contact me or Alexey through our website.

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We thank the editorial bureau " According to the rules " for help in preparing the article.

Source: https://habr.com/ru/post/104728/

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