From b2b applications to mass service worldwide
Hello, Habr! My name is Evgeny Lisovsky, I lead the MAPS.ME project - this is an international project, interesting and very ambitious. Our task is to compete with Google, Apple and several second-tier companies. Today I will briefly talk about my career, so that I can then elaborate on the most interesting stages.
Before the institute, I worked part time, assembled computers to order. And I got my own computer in 1995, at the age of 13 - thanks to my parents, it was really very cool. At the institute, I began to study PHP, MySQL myself, built my own engine for the online store. Made three sites, took 300 dollars for each. Since 2004, I worked at the international company Radmin.com, which creates a b2b product for remote computer control, where I spent six years. Then he rushed to startups: KupiBonus, baby products BabyBoom. It was interesting there! Not only successful projects are important, but also fails: you need to analyze well why they happened. Then there was Litres. A very interesting business is selling e-books with a piracy rate of 96%. In 2015, we earned $ 15 million; since 2011, revenue has grown 18 times. Then, together with partners, I launched my own project MoikaMoika.ru. Not that the founders immediately became millionaires, but it is an interesting experience. The project is alive and developing. And then about all this - in more detail.
I wrote in C ++ the software part of the thesis, and my partner did the hardware. Essentially a circuit board. The device was very simple: I took an ECG from three leads - the right arm, left arm, left leg - and formed an electrocardiogram. It was shot with a simple analog-to-digital converter, plus a frequency modulator at an audio frequency, and transmitted through a computer's sound card. Since there is a sound card in all computers, this is the easiest way to enter data in digital form. Then I programmatically shot the envelope, which is an ECG. By the height of the teeth and the distance between them, you can determine different types of diseases, mark certain patterns, compare them with the base and make a conclusion about the diagnosis.
That was back in 2004. Then I understood that our device could become a mass product, but I was too green and young. My main problem in the past is self-doubt. It seemed to me that the world is so big, there are such grown-up uncles around, they make money, and I’m still so stupid, small and can’t do anything. This is a key challenge. It is imperative to overcome fear. When you do something new, you always think that the task is overwhelming. And then a month or two passes, you turn around and understand: damn it, what was I afraid of? Everything is fine, there is nothing complicated. Throughout my career, I have struggled with fear. It is also very important to be able to admit your mistakes and correct them.
After college, I started looking for a job as a web programmer, a PHP, MySQL programmer, or a system administrator. There were not enough skills for the last post, I even interviewed at Kaspersky Lab, but it turned out to be very difficult. Yes, and with PHP-programming was not particularly. I came, and they tell me: here is a notepad, write us a plugin. And you think: why notepad when there is DreamWeaver, in which all tags are highlighted.
Then I was invited to the international software company Radmin as an Internet marketer. I had fluent English. We drove all kinds of IQ tests, asked questions, I answered everything, and my future leader says: “I see that you are a normal guy, but too young. If you immediately get into everything quickly and join the work in six days, then we will take you. Did you do marketing? ”I think: I did sites, SEO did - well, of course, marketing is my favorite. He: “Do you know Google Adwords?” And I’m in contextual advertising - not even with my foot. But I really needed the money, I only had a son. I say: “Well, of course!”
So I got a job. I got lucky. This experience gave me, an engineer, a huge profit. It has become very easy for me to communicate with the developers. You know, there is a classic confrontation between developers and marketers. A marketer comes, says: make me such a beautiful red button so that everything works well. And the engineers answer: yes, go to hell ... And that’s it, isolation begins. And when you come and say: dude, everything is fine, I also encoded in C ++, then the IT director immediately exhales with relief. And it becomes much easier to communicate. Indeed, almost all modern IT projects are a symbiosis of product development and marketing, they are inseparable from each other. And when they are artificially separated, the situation is not very good.
In this company, I worked with contextual advertising back in 2004, when in Russia there were very few Internet marketers. A very interesting experience. I went to various international conferences, where even then testing of landing pages was discussed. In the USA and Europe, A / B testing, conversion optimization and other techniques have been worked out at the highest level. It came to us with a delay of about five years.
I can’t say that I have done a lot during my work at Radmin. Having gone to startup KupiBonus, a coupon project, I did more in six months than in six years in the previous company. Perhaps the dynamics of life on the Internet was slightly lower or I was struggling with myself: it seemed to me that it was time to leave, but I stayed because it was a good reliable company. I thought: I’ll come to the position of an Internet marketer, grow to a marketing director - and here it is, happiness. In fact, happiness is the achievement of goals in the creation of any products.
In the crisis year of 2009, I was able to reposition the product. I traveled all over Russia, all federal districts, did a lot of work with salespeople, who then distributed our system for optimizing business processes throughout the country. And as a result, in the crisis year, it turned out to increase revenue in Russia by 30%.
What conclusions did I draw for myself after working in a software company? I wanted to change the team. I realized that when a webmaster sits and literally sleeps with me, then this is a disaster. I tried to look for some kind of project management system, analyzed a bunch of different options. I thought that if I implement a normal system, then everything will immediately sparkle with bright colors. But actually the problem was in people. You must initially hire the right people.
I wanted to create my team from scratch. Having left for a startup, I came to a ready-made team. This also turned out to be a problem, because I didn’t hire people. We did not have mutual trust, we had to build relationships, and this is quite difficult. In the coupon business, my work day began with chocolate and a cup of coffee at eight in the morning, and ended at eleven in the evening. There was even a period (end of 2010) when we worked 15 hours a day. This is a very dynamic business. Our top management was strong, and the guys on my team were weak. As a result, I had to do a lot myself.
They told me: Zhenya, you’re a shitty manager, you took care of everything, you must delegate. And I understood that it was. I did not try to deceive myself, I worked on myself, but I continued to do it myself anyway, because I couldn’t fill up the project.
It was very nice when the president of the company, a Frenchman, the former (until 1998) owner of OZON.ru came up and said: Eugene, marketing is the key. This is true. I could not fall asleep at night until I figured out how to fulfill the plan. And we had a horse plan. I came from a company with a budget of 100 thousand dollars a year to a coupon business with a budget of 200 thousand euros per month. And we were extremely short of leads.
Then there was the BabyBoom project - a classic retail. My advice: do not work with inappropriate people, dismiss the weak, hire the strong. For example, in BabyBoom and Litres, I collected teams from scratch and often made the choice, maybe not the most experienced person, but ready to learn quickly. There is nothing super complicated in marketing, everything can be mastered in a month, if you approach the process normally. As a result, it is much easier to learn people than to hire very experienced and expensive. I also had a fad so that it was exactly my team.
But there is one problem. Boss Cap - Friend Cap. This is what I learned at BabyBoom, a baby products startup. First, we raised $ 1 million of investments, began to increase turnover, and increased five times. But logistics in children's products is very complex: bulky goods are often found. Although the average bill is quite large, the margin reached 30%, but bulky goods simply killed the business model. Logistics consumed the entire margin. Add here far from complete information about stock balances. Unfortunately, we were unable to close the second round of investments due to too many risks. As a result, the project fell apart, and I went to Litres.
Throughout my career I have been trying to look for hacks, non-standard solutions that can surpass competitors. The result is a team, a good product, good marketing, good management, but without entrepreneurial skills, nothing will work. Need to work ahead of the curve.
What can lead to success? Intelligence, erudition, social adaptation, multiplied by entrepreneurial abilities. A person can be an intellectual, but not particularly erudite, but at the same time have high abilities in entrepreneurship and social adaptation. Social adaptation is the ability to communicate, negotiate, build relationships with people. A very useful skill. Try to develop it in yourself.
The team is the basis of the success of the project. The key competence of the head is the selection of employees. I myself was looking for people without resorting to the services of personnel officers. I spent a lot of time, but it's worth it. How do I usually choose workers? I looked into their kind eyes and talked about the project. Imagine: 2011, e-books - who buys them? It's like selling ice cream to the Eskimos. I told you that in the US e-books already occupy 20% of the entire book market, and now we will grow steeply. If the interlocutor's eyes widen, he pours a blush - which means that he is the right person, he is interested.
If you do what you like, you will achieve great results, and everyone will see it: management, shareholders. Work as an owner. This is a very interesting concept. I always acted as if it was my money, and I spend it. I will not stay in a project that I do not like, but I always work as if it were my own project. This will be noticed, believe me. But do not follow the principle "I’m a hired worker and I won’t jump above my head because they won’t pay me again." This is the wrong approach, self-giving is necessary.
Imagine, for example, a builder for hire. He builds a house, and dreams of his own house when there is money. And if he worked for 20 years as an employee and built as necessary, do you think he can build his own house well? Of course not. It is impossible to become an entrepreneur without being self-employed as an entrepreneur.
Be like Yoda. These are the truths of the right leader in IT. Of course, there must be achievements. If you come to lead a team, it’s very difficult to gain credibility. Need openness. If the guys understand what you did, know about your achievements, then they will not have questions. If there are achievements, then you can easily join. You also need to be a leader and understand IT. Here the technical background helps me very well.
During operation, you have to analyze a lot. If a person does not know how to use Excel, most likely he has unsystematic thinking , which means that we will not work together. I did not require technical education from people, the main thing is that candidates understand the basic principles. One example. At BabyBoom, I hired a guy for affiliate programs, engage in women's forums. I tell him: there are hundreds of sites, let's choose the largest ones, arrange them. Make me a tablet and see how we continue to work. He went to think, in the morning he brings a tablet. And in the cells with the rating not 4/5 numbers are written, but “four out of five points”. I say: how do you turn on the autofilter? These are just symbols, not numbers. But he didn’t even understand me.
My mistake: I did not question him in detail at the interview. After that, I gave all candidates the following task: “Imagine that you are an affiliate program manager at Litres. There are 10,000 book sites. Your task is to partner with all these sites. How will you act? ”It is important for me to evaluate how a person understands business processes. Does he think structurally: “I’ll put it on a tablet, sort it in descending order of traffic, take the top 20, which are likely to generate 80% of the traffic, and start working with them first.” In fact, Excel and Google Docs Spreadsheets are a kind of CRM. I have done everything on them and worked out on a bunch of startups, no project management system is needed.
Creating a team structure in my head and hiring people, I always let them know where they might be. For example, to a candidate who came to affiliate programs, I said: “I have a plan for the structure of the company for two years ahead, and here is the position - the head of affiliate programs. I can’t guarantee anything, but if you grow and develop actively, you can be there. ” In the end, he really took this position. And I am very pleased. I love when employees grow. I also openly explain that a career is not a cloudless flight, when everything is even and smooth, everyone can stall. But either the person moves forward, or we part. There are two states: fall and growth. No options.
In 2011, in Litres, we made a mobile application. So-so, just a reader. No bookmarks, no notes, no synchronization of positions - nothing, a primitive reader with a catalog for money.
It took me to promote it somehow. I had no experience in mobile marketing, and I agreed on mutual consulting with Alawar Entertainment, with the mobile games division. I advised them on the classic web, and they advised me on the mobile segment. So I gained knowledge, and we began to promote our reader. In 2012, revenue grew by 120%. Then in Russia, few people were engaged in mobile marketing as actively. We just bought up a bunch of traffic. As soon as advertising appeared in AdMob, subsequently Facebook, we were one of the first in Russia to actively buy it.
If in 2011 we decided to first make a super-class product with a bunch of features and launch it a year later, then we would have missed the decisive year 2012. When I came to Litres, one of my friends made a deal with Dream Industries. Project Bookmate. And at the end of 2011, these guys raised $ 30 million. And my marketing budget in 2012 was 9 million rubles. What do you think about my thoughts? And I worked at Litres for only a month. I resorted to the general director: “Serge, what should I do?” - “Well, work.”
How did we work? Just as horses close their eyes with blinders so that they do not see what is happening around us, so we just rushed forward. A year has passed, we turn around - and something and not see anyone from behind. Time to Market - a timely product and good marketing decided the fate of the project.
Nothing will take off. Many people think that it’s enough to make an excellent product, put it in the App Store or Google Play, and it will trample on leaps and bounds. This has not been working for a long time. Now we need a system of well-functioning marketing, attracting traffic from a bunch of different channels, analysis of conversions and cohorts, internal analytics. Do not hope that the “Tell Friends” button will give you a powerful viral effect.
Here’s a basic marketing approach. There are impressions, clicks, installations, etc. Suppose you buy traffic on Facebook. You think that if you put a CPI of 50 cents, then Facebook will bring you a bunch of settings. This will not happen, because Facebook assumes all risks for poor creativity, for poor landing, for poor descriptions, low ratings, etc. Naturally, in doing so, it will raise the bar. I will show by the example of contextual advertising. Interviewing positions in marketing, I asked a simple question: “Explain how contextual advertising works?” The candidate says: “Well, there is a ranking system ...” - “Why is it needed?” - “So that advertisers are normal with each other, so that there was an honest sort ... "It's not like that.
Imagine that I am the commercial director of Yandex.Direct. My goal is to increase revenue by a thousand impressions from the context. How can I express this KPI? And CPM, revenue per thousand impressions. How to maximize it? The Yandex.Direct ranking algorithm is a formula that maximizes revenue per thousand impressions, and nothing more. This is not a system that allows equalizing the rights of advertisers. This is a system that maximizes revenue. There are several factors: CTR, CPC. If you have a high CTR, then the advertiser’s side goes more traffic, which means more money.
There is one more - the quality of the landing page. Why is it needed? Here, the candidates were generally lost and answered: “To make people feel good.” In fact - to increase revenue lifetime value. You need to understand that the one who sells you traffic needs money. And this factor allows you to control the level of trust in contextual advertising. If a user clicks on an ad to the landing page, where completely different information appears, he will lose confidence in contextual advertising and in the long run will be less likely to click on it.
Finally, I will give an example of what we did in coupon systems. This is from the category of growth hacks, how you can hack a system. Then there was Darberry on the market, then Groupon bought it. They had a placement on Mail.Ru Group for 300 thousand rubles a day. Very expensive, as it seemed to me then. I managed these budgets for the first time. CTR was quite low, and the cost for the lead was 86 rubles, although according to the model it was about 50. A little expensive, and also a female audience. What to do? I had an employee who was responsible for banner layouts. At six o’clock in the evening he declares that it is time for him to run away to study. And I have to send the layout to eleven. I say: "My campaign starts, and you leave." “Well, litter.” Then I fired him, but that evening I had to sit down and think about how to be.
I just opened Paint and drew a banner, wrote “–90%” on a white background, stretching it to the full screen as much as possible, without a border. I don’t know how it was missed then. Later, by the way, it was forbidden to make banners without a border and made the fill a gradient. But then it swept. I've posted. There is Steve Circle’s book “Don’t make me think.” Everything needs to be simplified - the simpler the better. Thanks to this primitive banner, CTR has grown more than eight times. Naturally, the conversion to registration fell, but at the output I still got a price for a lead of 34 rubles.
However, then the legal service of Mail.Ru Group came to us and said that “-90%” is written here, but there is no such action on the site. Indeed, it was not. Then we began to pick up stocks for such large placements.
In 2014, my partners and I decided to launch the MoikaMoika startup. This is a record for washing out of turn. And it sounds good, and the market is decent. Indeed, there is such a problem - queues for washing. There is a certain seasonality, but we calculated the business model, we figured it all out. In 2014, they started development, in February 2015 they released it on iOS and Android and started marketing. I came up with all kinds of creatives. Then, by the way, they were blocked, but for some time they worked.
Here is an example of the fact that if you work on creative, on CTR, efficiency, if you do CPI binding, the result will be much worse.
The initial capital of a startup is approximately 300 thousand from each of the founders. Example of calculating a MoikaMoika business model with cohorts, conversions, an approximate approach:
As for MAPS.ME, today the project is somewhere in sixth place in the world in terms of audience size, while we are not trying to be Google Maps, we have our own niche and our users. Now we are maps for travelers: lightweight, fast and reliable, designed to work without the Internet. We are leaders in this segment, since the bulk of the “old guard” navigators are not designed for pedestrian navigation at all, and about 70% of tourists traveling without a car. According to Google, 40% of travelers prefer using offline maps.
It is for this market segment that we are fighting. About 1.3 billion travelers per year in the world are enough for us :) However, we are faced with the task of fighting for the daily use of MAPS.ME, for which we are actively working on functionality that will allow us to better keep our audience. For example, in December 2016, we launched traffic jams in 38 countries of the world, which allowed us to raise the level of the daily audience among motorists and convert users from the tourist use scenario to daily. At the same time, we introduce simplicity and reliability into all the added functionality: traffic jams are effectively compressed and consume four times less mobile traffic than competitor applications, which allows us to use our navigation with traffic jams even when roaming. Also, all the functionality - search, auto, cycle and foot navigation, bookmarks, notes - works without internet. This does not mean that our users do without it at all: according to our statistics, more than 80% connect to the Internet during the day, which allows us to earn money on affiliate programs with travel giants like Booking.com, with whom we entered the top six months 10 partners in terms of bookings. The integration of Booking.com for us is not only an opportunity to earn money, but also a demanded functionality for searching hotels on a map. It is very convenient if it is important for you to see where the hotel is and how far it is located from transport hubs and main attractions. which allows us to earn on affiliate programs with travel giants like Booking.com, with whom we have entered the top 10 partners in terms of bookings for half a year. The integration of Booking.com for us is not only an opportunity to earn money, but also a demanded functionality for searching hotels on a map. It is very convenient if it is important for you to see where the hotel is and how far it is located from transport hubs and main attractions. which allows us to earn on affiliate programs with travel giants like Booking.com, with whom we have entered the top 10 partners in terms of bookings for half a year. The integration of Booking.com for us is not only an opportunity to earn money, but also a demanded functionality for searching hotels on a map. It is very convenient if it is important for you to see where the hotel is and how far it is located from transport hubs and main attractions.
We have many development plans, formed on the basis of user surveys and backlogs from our customer support service, but all tasks are prioritized according to a simple principle: on the contribution to audience retention, monetization, audience engagement and the complexity of development. This allows us to achieve quick victories and move forward in development, however, we pay considerable attention to long-term (for three years) strategic functionality.
Briefly speaking about our long-term strategy, the task of the tourism segment is to expand the application of MAPS.ME, to turn it from the tool "get from point A to point B" into a full-fledged travel assistant. Therefore, we plan to add functionality that is in demand among tourists: UGC (user-generated content) - ratings, reviews, so that it is easier for a tourist to choose a restaurant or any other establishment; search for interesting places; buying tickets to museums and various local activities. We are convinced that the map is a tool for basic regular needs, around which you can add additional complementary functionality that extends the scenarios of tourist use. At the same time, the demand for offline maps will only grow, especially in developing countries,
In terms of monetization, we also believe in hyperlocal advertising, which has recently been gaining momentum, because small and medium-sized businesses are significantly limited in advertising tools.
We have a strong team of developers and marketers and a well-functioning system for planning and managing business processes. Our motto: good product - good marketing. This allows you to achieve maximum synergy for the proactive development of the project and achieve high results.
I put all my best practices in the public domain for free for any use (non-commercial / commercial): www.lisovskiy.ru/edu . There are templates for examples of calculating business models in tablets, presentations. There is a detailed training course: in 2016, I tried to put together all my practical experience. I hope this is useful to someone and helps in launching new projects and developing existing ones.