This a very special day for us, because Konduto is turning 2!
We can’t tell if it’s “already” or “that long” since our team first sat down together to begin coding. We want to thank our customers for trusting us, our beta trials and investors for believing in us, and specially our awesome team for the hard work they’ve put in these past 24 months.
A few days ago someone asked me how the Konduto we envisioned back then is different from the Konduto today. That got us thinking about the journey so far – the many hits, misses and lessons learned. We thought we might share some of these lessons with you today.
Self-service isn’t as simple as it sounds
Integration is one of the major barriers for switching to a new provider. Managers don’t want to touch the checkout process with a ten foot pole, so we wanted to make the API oh-so-simple that everyone wanted to integrate.
While we got praises for the API itself, we didn’t explain much of anything else. “Here’s an API, you know what to do”, is what we told our customers. Lovely. We quickly turned that off and went with the more traditional (i.e. less “startupy”) transactional sales model. We’ve been at it for just under a year now.
You’ll probably see us giving self-service another try, but transactional sales gave us greater insight on our customers particulars needs and a chance to practice different sales pitches – and we needed it badly. Which leads me to the next point…
Selling is hard
None of us in the day-to-day operation had any experience selling, and the closest we got in the past was as a “sales engineer”. Which is not sales. At all.
We had no idea the hard work it goes into selling something effectively: the process, persistence, the follow-ups and readiness that Sales requires – and I had read Mark Cranney’s “if SaaS products sell themselves, why do we need sales?”.
We read up on the subject and designed our first sales funnel ever. That funnel has been modified several times since then and we now have a much greater appreciation for the profession.
Don’t overlook Marketing
In late 2014 we ended the closed beta phase and openly launched the company. It was a very good launch down here in Brazil, and soon new leads popped up. Weekly blog posts brought in more leads. Weee, here we go!
However, more leads and customers meant more work in sales and support, and less time writing content and tweaking Adwords. Weekly posts turned into bi-weekly, then monthly, then oh-my has it been that long?
Soon we had no more time for marketing, so we dropped most of it to focus on our customers and new leads. Yes, those same new leads that began to wither because we weren’t doing any of those things anymore.
Once we realized this we took actions to revert it. Just under a year after launch, we hired our first marketing and customer support staff. They have been invaluable in picking up our slack and getting the company to achieve much more.
Keep realistic projections
It’s easy to think everything will work perfectly – your app will go viral and you won’t know what to do with all the customers, all the while bootstrapping and keeping costs near zero. But the truth is likely to be the opposite: you book less revenue than predicted and your costs rise unexpectedly because the economy blows the exchange rate through the roof.
All our costs were projected as “worst case” and we always assumed that we would not close that big customer we were talking to. It’s uncomfortable, but necessary.
You need to bootstrap until you get paying customers, and knowing how long you will last in the worst case scenario will help you focus. Don’t bet it will all run smoothly. If you miss all your targeted revenue and spend as much as you planned, how long will you last? Are you default alive or default dead?
Spend time picking and building a great team
The team is the most important asset of any startup. They write the code and website copy, debug, sell and support customers. They will be right beside you when you close your first big account and when you have that first major outage. So don’t pick someone just because you need to fill a position and they are the “least worst choice”. If after interviewing someone you don’t automatically think “YES” then it’s a no.
This fortunately is something we did right. All our straight up “YESes” were great hires and are with us come hell and high water. We have an amazing team of professionals and we couldn’t have gotten this far without them.
These were the five more important lessons we had for the last 24 months. If we could come back in time, we’d give this peace of advise to ourselves. Maybe they’ll help you, or maybe you’ll make the same mistakes we did. That’s ok, it happens.
Over the last two years we launched an smart, innovator anti-fraud, combining buying behavior, risk analysis and Artificial Intelligence (machine learning). We went from 0 to 1+ million orders screened monthly, won 100+ clients and helped Brazilian ecommerce to reduce online fraud.
We’re absolutely excited, but we’re also aware that we can’t just stop right here. Indeed we still got a lot to do, many improvements to develop, customers to attract and tons of things to learn.
But, by now, we just want to say:
THANK YOU SO MUCH!
And count on us.
Daniel, Milton and Tom