The story of one IT company that never came to success (Part 2)

    Company Origin

    The main benefit of capital is not to make more money, but to make money for the sake of improving life. © Henry Ford

    ... early 2011 - mid 2012.

    The current scheme of earnings smoothly came to its end of the "genetic code", namely, to the sunset of the era of "golden lumberjacks". The best solution seemed to take all the subsidiary services that were used for their own purposes and bring them to the mind of the mind to remake for the foreign market. In the opposite case, you have to put everything in the farthest corner and leave it to rot and cover with dust.

    The team, without changes, had a crazy working capacity of 12-14 hours of work - the norm, trying to squeeze the last juices from the gold mine. For the entire time of work, from distant 2008, few people were on vacation, not because it was not allowed, but because of their own choice, well, and the inability to replace themselves with someone else. One important point - the level of salary and all sorts of bonuses to close the project were on the principle of “how did you agree”, everyone believed in the existence of “karma”, its influence and deep conviction that everyone would be appreciated. It was not a habit to measure one’s income, no questions arose. There was an unwritten rule: "ZP issues are not accepted to discuss."

    The CEO was preparing for the moment of transition to a new level, a complete stop of work under the current scheme, and was considering options for the development of events. Of course, you could dissolve everyone, burn your old things, sell an apartment and go far to the Bahamas and drink juice, eat coconuts all your life, but ... then the story would end there, but no - it's too simple.

    Let me remind you that almost all employees, for the most part managers, tried to develop their services during the interruption, seeing the real perspective of each of its lines, which were completely different in nature.

    Project Hosting

    PM in this area is quite a decisive and very enterprising employee.

    This project was born not by chance, but as a consequence, and the necessary component based on the needs of the existing business. At that time, the architecture was heavy and the loads were quite impressive, so they bought / rented bundles of iron without hesitation. It was easy to organize your own data center, but for some reason this did not happen.

    A year earlier, the manager brought several large customers to the company, which increased his capital by a couple of three zeros, for which he was entitled to a weighty bonus with crispy bills.

    In the previous part, it was already said that no one took their money out of business. The further it went, the harder it was to do. Harder for reasons of human greed and desire to become financially independent. Indeed, in the future it was possible to get much more, and saving money within the company was better than “under the pillow”. Also, the prospects of becoming a co-investor in the project increased the share of the manager, and therefore the “exhaust” in the future.

    At some point, the manager noticed that the “buy-sell” market rule simply works in “iron” cases, he immediately suggested making a separate project for the foreign market. The CEO was not enthusiastic about this proposal - he did not see the future in it and did not see much money there either, so he refused to participate financially. The manager was not from a timid dozen, everything was in order in terms of entrepreneurial vein, and decided to separate from the company with his own separate project. It is clear that we are talking about the money earned, which was necessary for the development of his own company.

    The negotiations led to the following agreement: the manager does not withdraw all the money, but now receives the minimum payment (from the 1/15 series), then is under the patronage of the CEO, uses the office for free (cookies, coffee, etc. are included here), gets a certain number of man-hours of the company's specialists he needs is used by the jur. instruments of the company (company, account). On this and decided.

    For a short time, the manager, already within the framework of his company, managed to find one "fattest" client + now all the hardware, domains, etc. bought through it, not only as through the manager of the company, but as a separate organization. It didn’t appear in the amount of supplies for the company, it sometimes even turned out to be cheaper, but there is confidence that he made good money here too.

    We are curious and create.

    Billing project

    Earlier it was repeatedly mentioned, now I will tell a little more.

    This project was born due to the need to process its service. During his work since 2008, he has grown to an independent and full-fledged project. Its further development in the CIS countries was hindered, as it fell on the time of raids and total checks of similar services.

    Employees already had enormous experience in practice, it was enough to clearly understand where to move on.
    6 employees worked on board the project: 2 architects (one of them is a system administrator), a manager with banking experience (previously worked at the bank), 2 senior dev, 2 mid-juniors, 1 head of the remote support department (call center, ticket / chat center . A total of about 24 people). To enter the foreign market you need:

    Step 1
    Finish those parts and prepare it for the foreign market. Quite a lot has already been implemented, including 3-D secure, online fraud detection, real time stats, the ability to integrate via API, etc. It was necessary not to forget about E-commerce, for which it was necessary to bring beauty to the outside and simplify the connection processes to “easy-pisi”.

    Step 2
    What was missing was the PCI DSS certification , which is necessary to work in this niche. We began to study the requirements for the system as a whole, storage and data security.

    In these difficult times, find banks ready to cooperate with us.
    A small remark. All previous contacts for entering the foreign market did not fit, since all the banking partners and processors with which they had previously worked had problems with the law and went into deep underground.

    Caliper Project

    Customer support was carried out on their own, in part this is the key to the former success of the billing project and the entire business as a whole. Any financial institution does not like charge backs, and their large% could lead to the closure of accounts. The support center just performed a preventive and rescue function, in every possible way trying to convince customers, or intercept them on the way to the bank for a refund.

    call centerbased in India, this fact significantly reduced the cost of its maintenance. It was originally planned to do everything remotely. The owner of the call center was found with the necessary equipment and already hired agents, but in order to organize the whole thing as it should, I had to go to India and personally interview the operators, which turned out to be a rather difficult task - they changed almost everyone. The first stumbling block was the language barrier, English was a prerequisite. Then, quick action outside the instructions and minimal PC knowledge.
    Ticket / chat center - agents worked remotely, but already Russian-speaking, with good knowledge of English.

    For the support center, they even somehow attracted an MBA specialist“From outside”, a rather charismatic and wise person with the appropriate foreign education, to optimize processes and greater productivity. The result of his work was a huge package of documents, unfortunately, not applicable within the framework of an existing model. The specialist told how to build everything, but in fact all his methods gave only an additional fin. load, but excluded possible risks.

    Benefits of the MBA: learned to create beautiful presentations, think constructively, analyze situations into the smallest details, look for dependencies, develop KPIs and create formalized documents. This experience was more like a one-time expensive master class from a professional.

    As for the equipment, their ATCs went up for the whole service, they bought numbers, CRM was updated, various desktop solutions were written to help remove the human factor and exclude the remoters' love for “philo-work”. All these tools were molded into a single system and could well be in demand in the foreign market. To enter the market you need:

    Examine the market, its competitors. Understand how profitable a product is in its current form.

    Remove unnecessary architectural piles. All that was written on the knee, make userfriendly and hold a bug fixing. Not all tools, taken as a basis and cut to oneself, were licensed, it was necessary to take into account and legalize this moment too.

    To make a presentation. Initialize customer search.

    Below is one of those ideological projects that were born spontaneously.

    Marketplace Project

    The first project from scratch was the project of a trading platform for templates, similar to the current themeforest , envato, but with elements of social. network and ranking. I want to note here that there were no similar competitor services at that time. The designer visited this idea in the course of his work, as he said: “this is precisely the name of such a unified exchange with templates, icons, and clipart that I don’t have enough for quick work,” and I was able to easily convince the CEO of the need for this service. The idea was approved and thrown into development.

    Step 1
    The designer, who is essentially the creator of the project, made the layout of the marketplace on his own, in one week. Then he gave the CEO for consideration. Almost all employees took part in finalizing this service, “tykkali” and expressed their wishes - such a focus group for themselves. In addition, the designer performed his on-line tasks. There were no problems with the load, so I combined it.
    The whole process of collecting feedback took about 3 weeks, as before all the processes were very chaotic and decentralized.

    Step 2

    CEO intended to do everything step by step, for the first time to try to do something according to all the canons of outsourcing. Most likely he had thoughts about further development as an outsourcing company, I will not say anything here.
    Writing a Federal Law. From this moment, small difficulties began. Almost none of the managers had previous work experience in any of these areas. Unfortunately, the necessary experience was not acquired by them, with the exception of a single employee and then, the acting head of the support department (see. Billing). CEO preferred not to hire an additional employee for a while, but decided slowly, as long as the employee's employment allowed, to do everything on their own. Combines. This factor drastically delayed the time ... by 1.5 months.

    Step 3

    Writing TK was much faster, since those issues were already dealt with directly by those. project. As we wrote those assignments, the project underwent significant changes according to the recommendations of the developer and the results of research activities.

    The design of the project was naturally ready at the time, even before the Federal Law was written, with improvements to the functionality, and radical changes were also made here .... + more time.

    “We wanted the best, it turned out how ....”

    I will return to this project a little later.

    At this time ... the inevitable appearance of the project is marketing. Why is the inevitable? The fact is that all people from the era of doorways and antiviruses are directly related to this niche. Traffic is all of them. The old decisions were replaced by new, no less "gold-bearing" ones.

    Project X

    Under this business, a separate office was rented and under the heading "secretly" a flock of small "newly-hired" dwarfs washed goldfish. Everything is allegorical, but partly true. Software> bundles> installs - we were everywhere, we all know. It is a sin not to take advantage of the results of a long work done. They began to saw the technical part almost from scratch, with a good conscience, because they had a fairly rich work experience. Traffic is good, but yours is even better!

    The question arises why this project is developing separately, the "elders" of the company have heard about it and, naturally, those who are involved in it are aware. This is because, according to the creator’s idea, this “money virus” was not supposed to infect everyone else and ... yes, the CEO is still trying to build a crystal clear business.

    For a while, forget about this gray speck, move on.

    Clear sheet

    A perspective shines in the rays, but a dense path leads to it. © George Alexandrov

    It is time for a change. Change of office. Doomsday is the day when work with a previously successful earnings model is being curtailed. Having woken up, all the employees working on it, felt emptiness and obscurity in tomorrow. (I don’t mean the designer who was working hard on his progress). For some time, there was a sweep of everything that connected the company with its former life. Сancel of all server resources, complete disbandment of the support, suspension of billing, closing of accounts and companies, formatting of stationary computers, laptops and ... consciousness.

    There comes an understanding that the white path is thorny and long, almost everything was new - I had to sweat in order to master, now in my opinion, elementary things.
    The positive news was not long in coming. The official registration of the company, official employment and social security. package, this included paid sport and food - all as expected. It was this step that reassured some employees who were not ready to remain no destiny.

    Dramatic overtube occurred. Everyone found the application “lossless” and even more, the rest of the remote key employees are being pulled into the city N.

    The billing project is preparing for PCI DSS certification - hiring additional employees to help (2 system administrators).

    This stage in the history of the company is a turning point.

    What is available:
    • Registered company
    • Social packages for employees
    • Good team
    • Strong motivation
    • Lack of experience
    • Separate working project Hosting
    • Those. best practices
    • Ideas and potentially promising projects:
    • Big capital
    • The goal is to make money in white

    It is necessary:
    • Gain experience in developing a white product / service from scratch.
    • To study the situation and profitability of products / services in the market
    • Convert projects to market
    • Find more promising projects for investment
    • expand staff
    • Structure a company


    To make a lot of money is courage; to preserve them is wisdom, and to skillfully spend is art. © Auerbach Bertold

    As you probably understood, the CEO was directly involved in all the projects, he didn’t dare to delegate anything, therefore he was guided by the principle “if you want to do something well, do it yourself”, but he really lacked experience. It was necessary to draw on the missing knowledge from “experienced” specialists.

    It is time to attend various events, seminars and read smart books. This is where knowledge and thoughts about a future perspective come from.

    The company is undergoing reforms in order to make everything more formalized. A work schedule is introduced (quite flexible), everyone learns planning and analytics from the words of the CEO. While these are just experiments, they are not forcing anyone to become an analyst. Almost all of the innovations are advisory rather than mandatory. Weekly reports on the work done are being introduced, so far there is no one to show them either, because there are too few people, but everyone is studying for the future, with the thought of the unimaginable growth of the company and the flow of new personnel.

    A research department is opened (consisting initially of one employee). The head of the department is the former head of the support department. This innovation was dictated by the need to study market trends, competitors and promising niches. Its functions included not only performing assigned tasks such as comparative analysis of competitors, but also searching for new directions, existing successful solutions for further investments (possibly external). Nobody dared to claim exclusivity and high quality of research - "they did as they could."

    A small digression:
    At this stage of studies and searches, the idea of ​​an earthly business indoor / outdoor advertising project appears. Looking ahead a lot, I will share that under this project there is a hired PM (who has no experience in the IT field, but is quite successful in the world of local business). Initially, it is planned to enter the foreign market, with time the illusions disappear. Then, attempts to lodge on the CIS market. I won’t go into details, I don’t want to distort the facts due to ignorance of the whole situation as a whole. Therefore, I will say only one thing, after 3 years quite large sums have been invested (for the most part these are salaries + acquisition / purchase of one of the major competitors). From IT here: CRM, admin panel, some specialized equipment and ... this project is still alive. Moved from the stage of research and development to real actions, not particularly visible, but already something.

    Returning back to the company's activities, another 2 managers migrate to the research department. Projects require various studies and comparative analyzes. All of them go through the same stages simultaneously.

    The company takes on the outlines of the new-fangled term “incubator”, and in fact, they have decided on the concept of the company itself.

    Work on all projects is in full swing, a whole bunch of word docks and various excels are being stamped (we already know this), while we have not yet come close to real development. Studying competitors, development strategies, goals and ways to achieve them change several times. For the most part, projects (with the exception of the marketplace project) were not innovative in nature. Work schemes / niches have long been taken as a basis, there were existing flaws in them, and their copies were created with modifications in new wrappers. CEO, having no real development experience, in all understandings, a startup, saw only this way. Time passed, and new projects as "things are still there."

    Billing- mired in the "imperfections" of its own architecture and vulnerabilities. Project managers could not find a suitable exit to the foreign market, old contacts do not work, there is no real external portfolio. Small clients are not considered at the insistence of the CEO. The purpose of the search is a large lump that will make multi-zero revolutions per day.

    Flow costs: RFP, external legal advice, equipment and, of course, preparation for already long-suffering certification.
    Looking ahead, I will say that the certification was successful. Received a license for a year, a prerequisite is its confirmation (+ several K). In the future, the auditor will have to come a couple of times and ... check. In general, everything, the school is over, it's time to "adult" life.

    Caliper- time has run out a bit, while the shortcomings of existing tools (still unlicensed) were eliminated on the market, like mushrooms, more convenient and customizable solutions began to appear.
    Bottom line: they turned everything down, postponed it, forgot it. BUSTED!

    Marketplace - there are some changes in the design template market. Successfully growing the main and so far the only competitor themeforest . He is still far from perfect and PM is stubbornly trying to convey this idea to the CEO. The idea that it is time to start with flaws as is, otherwise we’ll always be late. CEO takes a different point of view: the product must be perfect before release, otherwise it may lose the entire audience and earn a bad reputation at the very start.

    A couple more projects after Peer-to-peerand hosting2. The research department finds another promising area of ​​torrent trackers. Monetization is familiar to us, even from the old experience of how to bring the product to light, in theory, imagined. Therefore, we began to plan and create it.

    Hosting 2 - And again he, updated and already in new faces. The reason why the project takes on a new life - the need for server resources has not disappeared, while its focus is only on providing internal company projects.

    What is available:
    • Company Concept - Incubator
    • Research department
    • Subordination
    • Support project- failed
    • Projects in development:
    • New projects:
    • Big capital
    • The goal is to make money in white
    • Wonderful team
    • Competitively stable working conditions

    It is necessary:
    • Learn to develop a white product / service.
    • Structure a company
    • expand staff
    • Go from research to development


    To spend money wisely, you must first spend money on the mind. © Leonid Sukhorukov

    In parallel, new departments of the incubator are opening. In addition to the research, departments appear: design, backend design (that is, layout), QA and admin.

    Each department has its own head assigned. Become the head of the design department, was awarded our designer PM marketplace, he is part-time and the head of the layout department. He hired only one newcomer.

    And so ... the first problems appear.

    Problem No. 1

    With the load, everything is very bad ... the research department is not only directly involved in research, but is being transformed into a research, marketing and analytical center, while it still employs 3 people.
    It creates certain units involved in: analysis, advertising, development strategies, usability, content (this includes, copyright, rewrite, language translations) writing legal. documents (Terms, EULA, Privacy Policy, etc.) In general, almost all tasks not related to development were dumped here, they asked any questions, as if referring to the only measure of everything.

    Such a number of projects going through the same stage could not be serviced, and applications could not be processed physically.

    The search for new employees is impossible, for several reasons: there are no ready-made specialists in the market, there is no time for their training. Exit: find a quick philology student and let him go on his own the same path as the leadership team, in express modes. Hired> given> left. Another option was to stop work and only engage in hiring, because after listening to a huge number of candidates it became clear - this is for a long time.

    problem number 2

    with planningthe same problems ... Dates shamelessly broke, everyone needs here and now. Everything is urgent, and the prioritization of priorities is subjective. Freelance no longer “drags”. Again sleepless nights and breathtaking flows of information, scraps of knowledge from various directions. Before starting work, it was first necessary to understand what was at stake.

    Problem No. 3

    Formalization and statement of tasks ... sheer hell. PMs often could not formulate their question, some due to ignorance / incompetence, others due to the specifics of the industry. Tasks were formulated from the category: “Interest” or “Explore the market, study competitors, supplement the project with missing competitive advantages.” Either an overabundance of input, or a one-word description, led to misunderstanding, poor planning, and unnecessary work.

    problem No. 4

    Lack of communication, coordination of actions ... The company tried to outsource the practice of remote work: I described the task> set it> received an estimate> confirmed> sent it to work. In real life, it didn’t work. At first, communication was deliberately minimized, then it was impossible due to lack of time. At the time of completion or at the time the task was completed, it could already be not relevant, and sometimes completely altered.

    The design department experienced similar problems after some time. All projects needed the services of this department. Tasks for design development for websites, products, services, etc.

    The picture was identical at all subsequent stages of development. Departments could not cope with the load, not to mention the significant drawback of the developers themselves, migrating from one project to another, depending on the specifics of the projects themselves, people's knowledge, skills and abilities. Which virgins might like this? There were not so many new ones, and even those did not stay long, the old ones pulled everything on themselves. Some projects stood in line for some extraordinary task for months, waiting for the developer.

    Meanwhile, the CEO has embarked on investment processes, fin. questions, making any decisions, up to buying cookies (exaggerated). This concerned not only the "incubator" company, but also all the projects. Any action of project and department managers was clearly controlled and applied by him personally. Even the period of the upstream purchase of the server, now represented a large temporary hole; and it’s not a fact that with a positive outcome. It’s not surprising that you won’t be in time, and so it happened - he did not have time.

    Managers began to sink in the amount of documentation, reports, presentations necessary for upgrades ...

    Double standards

    Money in your pocket is not wings yet, but your gait is changing. ©

    Regarding the RFP, hard times have come too. No changes were expected in a positive direction. It so happened that initially, some of the employees were significantly overestimated, and they rejoiced at their state of affairs, while the other part was underestimated - they felt injustice in relation to themselves, but that was how it remained. No one was in poverty, but discomfort was present.

    At the close of the "old" business project, prizes were awarded. If these prizes were issued with one banknote for each person, then they would be portraits: William McKinley, in some places Grover Cleveland, a couple of James Meddisonov and possibly Samuel Chase in the 2nd copy. Most of the profits were "pulled" back into projects and ...

    As without a well-deserved rest, here and in contrast to no one dared to declare, because until that moment everyone worked without holidays. It's time to give yourself the opportunity to take a break. The quality of rest of ordinary mortals "slightly" differed from the CEO's, just like the standard of living in general. Counting other people's money is ugly, but some internal contradictions began, and employees experienced an emotional decline. The atmosphere slowly began to destabilize, but complaining would be at least strange. Some employees, at one time, simply “didn’t agree”, worked at the RF without agreements on%, without remuneration “from above”. On the one hand, the fact that they received a minimal bonus was a pleasant surprise for them, on the other hand, they understood that it was so little to blame. The other half of the employees received some piece of cake, but not the whole,

    Despite all of the above, positive aspects were present: the opportunity to experiment, gain new knowledge, learn new directions for oneself, the level of salary skills corresponded to the market, good working conditions, and the prospect (in the case of the development of the company) to be at the forefront and take its places in advance, the opportunity to start a business and get a portfolio investor - is that not enough? All of the items listed outweighed in a positive way and smoothed out dissatisfaction.

    What is available:
    • New structured departments
    • Premiums paid
    • PMs are co-investors or project shareholders
    • Lack of experience with PMs and a reliable source of knowledge
    • Problems:
    • CEO makes all decisions
    • Big capital
    • Wonderful team
    • Competitively stable working conditions
    • Accumulated fatigue
    • Discomfort on the background of the material aspect
    • Inequality
    • The goal is to make money in white

    It is necessary:
    • Delegate part of their functions (for CEO)
    • Debug the process of setting and completing tasks
    • Eliminate problems
    • Expand staff
    • If possible, eliminate inequality
    • Take a break
    • Raise team spirit (team building)

    PS Despite all efforts to complete his article in the second part, it is worth recognizing that it did not work out. Without details, this article will not carry any morality, in order to understand what steps were taken and what they led to, it is worth listing the causes and order of certain actions over 7 years. In the last part, a pessimistic attitude was noticed, so I hasten to assure that not everything is so bad.

    In the next part I will talk about: projects, their management, the fate of the incubator, about the rounds of investment, the size of the amount of investment, which of the projects have been successful, and of course about the “gnomes” of project X.

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