We managed to increase the share of revenue from foreign customers to 30%

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Chief Product Officer's perspective on 2017

We managed to increase the share of revenue from foreign customers to 30%

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2017 was for us like a sprint run over a full marathon distance. This was a year of searching for the scalability of our business and ways to replicate the business model abroad, introducing a number of internal communication changes, and strengthening our position on the Polish market. With what effect? I.a., increasing the share of revenue from foreign customers to 30%, improving ARPU and LTV while maintaining the calculated growth at 8% m2m.

Sebastian Przyborowski, CPO & co-founder.

Sebastian Przyborowski, CPO & co-founder.

Soon it will be two years since we’ve been granted investment support from MCI. It has paved the way to move forward towards fighting for Prowly’s scalability and provided us with the necessary financial ammo. With such support at hand, we could also start thinking about a more effective foreign expansion strategy. And as far as it took us best part of 2016 to try to validate some more or less successful hypotheses on business scalability, 2017 was for us the time to learn, draw conclusions, and develop a collective identity.
While entering the age of startup majority, we have ceased to focus only on the product and product-related activities and started thinking about people and their expectations towards their leaders and individual teams. As a team, we are satisfied with the progress we’ve made and the knowledge we were able to obtain. Therefore, we are looking at 2018 with excitement, but also with some quite big expectations.

People, Mission and Culture 💫

Startup newcomers often hear, “You should develop a product that will address a specific problem, for which the customers will be willing to pay. Get funds to develop your company and scale your sales operations. Adjust your sales model to ARPU, keep the churn at a low level, and maintain the LTV:CAC ratio at 3:1.” Sounds pretty easy, right? Let’s start then.
Somehow, however, somewhere along the way things tend to get complicated. Working in a startup company may be compared to going out on the front line every single day. When we start getting results, we often forget how we managed to achieve them in the first place. There are processes, distribution channels, conversion, onboarding, awesome sales results, and a ton of other granular factors that affect where we stand today. And there’s something completely different that underlies all these figures—an amazing team of people who build and develop an in-house organizational culture. Being able to focus on the team instead of derivative factors is for me the greatest catch this year and the key value which I’m taking along with me as I enter the new year.
To better understand the relations that happen to exist in the company, we asked an outside consultant (thanks, Iza!) for help. This is how we started a series of feedback sessions involving the whole team, which has helped us understand how individual people see the company and its leaders. The results were sometimes surprising, and, in some cases, eye-opening and sobering. It led us to create more than a dozen of side projects aiming at improving the efficiency of communication, specifying the company’s DNA and getting people more committed to the mission of our firm.
One of our most significant initiatives included the implementation of a regular, two-way feedback process within the team. We’ve organized sessions on each level, starting with meetings with the founders, getting feedback from the leaders, and engaging in two-way feedback get-togethers within the teams. We have discovered that feedback is not only critical comments but also praises and lessons learned from positive experiences.
Prowly HQ. Warsaw, Poland.

Prowly HQ. Warsaw, Poland.

Mission, Vision and an Inspiring Work Environment 🚀

Yup, what’s with the mission statement? It has been argued that companies with a strong and relevant mission achieve the most ambitious goals. Actually, for quite a long time we haven’t had a concrete mission statement crystallized that would unify our activities inside and outside the company. It was in 2017 when we felt this natural need to develop such a mission. Together, with the help of a series of workshops and a few iterations, we have worked out Prowly’s mission statement that takes into account different perspectives. Despite this, I have a feeling that nobody really remembered it just a couple of weeks later. Why?
As founders, we haven’t paid sufficient attention to its implementation and getting people to see and think about their everyday workload through the prism of this mission or its assumptions. Again, we focused too much on delivering monthly growth rates, putting the long-term perspective aside.

Remote and Communication in a Mixed Environment 📡

The most frequently repeated feedback was about the difficulties in communication and the lack of understanding between individual teams. For a long time, as our primary communication platform, we’ve been using Slack, which, over time, has brought all our conversations—in a partially remote environment—down to a very low level. Most of our professional lives have been led on Slack. It became a place for discussions as well as making key decisions and designing product specifications. It was also where we used to have informal conversations about non-work related stuff and where some team members were getting involved in arguments and fights.
We overused the tags @channel and @here. This chaos hindered our daily work. And the hidden cost of using such an app without thinking included the value of switching engineers and the frustration of being constantly distracted.
Today, we are well aware of the fact that nothing will ever replace face-to-face communication. And because we often can’t make it happen as part of our team works remotely, we decided to transfer our communication activities to another innovative and breakthrough tool called… email! From that point forward, key conversations have been held through emails, which works like magic, while Slack became this quiet and peaceful place where we can host informed discussions here and now. What’s more, the people that work outside the office are now more visible and much more present in our daily life.

The Company’s DNA 🔬

Since its birth, a part of Prowly has been remote. As we grew, the relations or contact between the two teams began to disappear and became limited to the minimum necessary. We no longer knew or understood each other, let alone feeling part of the same organization. The remote team (mainly developers, front-end programmers, graphic designers) was largely left out from the firm’s daily life in the Warsaw office. The paradox is that we’re a ‘product’ company and technological competence is at the heart of our business.
The people that worked remotely, i.e., mostly within a 150-kilometer radius from Warsaw, visited the office on rare occasions. Halfway through the year, we decided to rent bigger office space to fit the whole teams without any problems or, if necessary, provide working space to all. We encourage everyone on board to come to meetings and don’t forget about anyone who couldn’t make it to general meetings or product sessions held at our HQ. We also organize more ‘after hours’ get-togethers and team-building events.
At the beginning of November, our communications team launched the Monday Booster—an in-house newsletter where everyone can read what happened in the last seven days and what’s going to happen in the current week. I think that there’s much more chemistry between us now than a few months back.

Our average office Friday is like:

Product 📧

For almost a year, a small mistake in the name of our developer team has crippled the way we thought about the product. At Prowly, we used to refer to programmers as the “product” department, when the truth is that everyone here can today influence what we call our product, for instance by submitting own ideas and solutions. The technical department is usually isolated from the customer world and current operation; it’s important to ensure the right working environment and eliminate as many distractions as possible, which leads to the risk of losing the proper perspective regarding issues we intend to address.
To counter this approach, as the team of engineers, we regularly sit down with the sales team and try to complement each other’s point of view. In the long-term perspective, we’re also planning to spend more time participating in the work of our service desk or even customer meetings. I believe this will help develop a sense of responsibility and empathy, which in turn will translate into making the right project decisions and contribute to improving the quality of our software. Not without significance is also the possibility of building stronger relations with other team members.

Measures 📐

Last but not least: we’ve created a well thought-through, universal customer journey process, thanks to which we were able to automate certain parts of our sales activities. We have learned to specify relevant measures for individual projects and actions. Obviously, we’ve given ourselves much space for some “non-measurable” things, but we are more mature about it. What are the effects of this? In 2017, we won some “first-league” customers such as Viber, Vimeo, LG, Medicover, Aviva, and Dawanda.
We began the year 2018 as a company of more than 20 people, ready to become an X-times larger organization and consciously follow our ideas and mission, no matter how large we become in the months or years to come.

Now check out our team's review of 2017 :)

Prowly Superpowers of 2017 - Prowly Journal

2017 was like one of the best Daft Punk records. Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger. We’re finishing it with having our business more than doubled in size and having established presence in markets such as Mexico, South Africa, or Spain. What happened throughout the last twelve months? Here’s a summary of the superpowers we’ve gained in 2017.

About Prowly

Prowly is a PR and Content Marketing CRM for agencies, businesses and freelancers. It lets you create interactive press releases, articles or blog posts, post them on brand newsrooms, then distribute to the media and measure results. Several thousand professionals already use Prowly, including PR team members for brands such as Vimeo, Deloitte Digital, IKEA, Spotify and National Geographic.

Prowly is a member of the European Tech Alliance, alongside some of the biggest technology startups from Europe (King, Spotify, BlaBlaCar, Deezer), supporting the European Commission in the Digital Single Market (DSM) project. 

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