SaaS Founder Interview with Jakub Kubryński, Founder & CEO @ DevSkiller

Andy Halko 0:19
Well, hello, everybody, it is our SaaS founders Show. Today we are having another fascinating conversation with a SaaS founder today out of Poland, we’ve got a Jacub from DevSkiller. And DevSkiller is a platform that helps assess and grow tech count talent. So I’m really excited to have Jakub on I’m gonna bring them on now. Hey, Jakub, how are you doing today?

Jakub Kubryński 0:48
Hello, hello, pretty good and you?

Andy Halko 0:51
I’m doing very well. I’m excited to chat. I looked looked at everything through your site and about you and really interested about this, especially because I actually started out 20 years ago as a developer. So I’m a little bit of a code junkie myself. And so it was really interesting. If you don’t mind starting out, and just giving everybody the high level from your perspective about what DevSkiller is.

Jakub Kubryński 1:17
Yeah, so funny. It started like 20 years ago, because I’ve started like, my professional software career 18 years ago. So So in 2004, and I started coding like, 80s. So it was like late 80s. I didn’t look like this. But yeah, I’m also a code junkie. And I started with Fortran 77, which is probably pretty pretty stranger, writing some some simple programs to do my like, you know, my homeworks in a primary, primary school, or even before, so yeah, regarding DevSkiller. So DevSkiller. The first thing that is important is that there is a tool that was created by developers from developers and, and for developers. So basically, when finding DevSkiller, I was resolving my own problem. So I was hired that Allegra, which is like a pretty big, a few billion dollar ecommerce company, and I was setting up the new development office in a new city. And we’re just basically flooded by the candidates. And we’re not able to, like manage this highest scale of recruitment. So it was really a pain in the neck, I was sitting from 8am to 8pm, on an interviews, having like, you know, even 50 interviews per week, and I was so tired after three weeks, that I decided that it needs to be resolved in a better way than it was currently. And that’s how DevSkiller was founded. So I was resolving my own problem. Without, you know, standard way, like sitting on the viewer and thinking, hey, maybe we’ll find a startup, I was just trying to do everything to like, save my life. We’ve, we’ve resolving the real problem that I faced. And yeah, so that’s where we are. And right now, of course, these are fewer few years already when we are on the market. So our product has changed. We are doing right now much more. Because we’ve started with just a skills assessment. Right now it’s more like a skills assessment and development and management, which is more like jumping from like, you know, sophisticated version of Google Forms, to be kind of a CRM for for skills, that allows you to like incorporated in all of the processes that are used by the companies on a daily basis.

Andy Halko 3:41
Wow, it’s interesting. I’ll admit, I’ve had the same problem. Even being a developer and interviewing other developers, it’s hard to like, evaluate skill. So the pain that you felt and the solution that you’re solving, I’ve felt myself very strongly.

Jakub Kubryński 3:59
Yeah, additional away, if problem is that, you know, after you, like, start the interview, and often it happens that after five minutes, you know that this person is not the person you want to hire. And still, you need to see this, like, you know, at least like the next 50 minutes, just not kick away, someone after five or 10 minutes, because it’s like, you know, hurting your employer branding. So that was the worst part for me, when after a few minutes, I knew that it’s not this person, but you need it like you play this recruitment game and give these personality questions and try to get something out of these interviews, even if you will know that this person will, like be rejected. So yeah, that’s definitely a problem that we’re trying to solve.

Andy Halko 4:45
I’d love to go back to the beginning because I always liked the origin story, and you said you had a pain you were at an existing company. But you know, what did it really look like? Did you create a product while you were working somewhere, and then just found a couple customers where did you jump off and say, This is great. We’re gonna, you know, go after it full time, what did it really look like when he tried to start?

Jakub Kubryński 5:09
Yeah, so here, I believe that our store, we’re pretty unique, but I believe that it has some advantages that it was worth to mention. So the first thing is that we started, of course, to build a product after hours, like during the weekends, etc. But very, very soon, we realized that it’s not going to work because you’re tired after work. And of course, like working on your own product is like, you know, more like, engaging, but still, you cannot like spend as many hours as it needs. At the very beginning, especially that DevSkiller had some I don’t want to say issues, but there were some hard stuff to do, like, what do we do, basically, we are like, you know, doing what all of the hackers are trying to do when they’re like, you know, fantastic the company. So we allow candidates to run and execute their own code in our in our environment. So every single like hacker tries to, you know, inject the codes, and run the code into the environment of the of the, like, Target, right. So ensuring that the security is on a high level, and it’s not going to hurt us, and ensuring that, you know, the security comes not as a trade off of performance. And as a user experience that took us like many, many months of sitting and thinking how to isolate this, the staff and the candidate execution called how not to like, run into the problem when one candidate is utilizing the resources that are assigned to other candidates as well. So we took a lot of a lot of time, and we realized that we need to spend more time based on that. So basically, very quickly, we decided to leave the regular job and start small boutique software house, because when we were finding DevSkiller, we already had, like, you know, eight or 10 years of professional experience. So we were able to pretty easily get some customers for for our services, get better money that you can get on the permanent job, and be able to get some time to spend on the on the product. And also like using the savings from this, like, you know, better software house salaries, were able to also invest some money at the early stage, even for external external services. And we’ve been like developing the product for like, three years, to three years on this stage when we like offering the consulting services, doing the product. And these were the two things that were doing concurrently. And I believe it was pretty good idea. And right now I can say that better than getting some early seed money or press pre seed money, when you give a lot of company for almost like no value. So if you are able to build this value yourself, then it’s of course better to be your own first investor, then then get the you know, just a few few 100,000 bucks and give like 20% of the company because that’s the 20% you will lack at the later stages. So that’s where we do what we did. And after finishing the product in a way that it was like let’s say working better, we started to acquire the the customers.

Andy Halko 8:33
Yeah, a lot to unpack there. I’m a fan also of waiting until you’ve gotten revenue to raise money, just because then you have more of a position to take with folks. And if you need the money to scale, you can take it at that point. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. So the one thing that you keep saying is we and us. So I assume you did you start with one co founder multiple. What was that?

Jakub Kubryński 8:59
So yeah, I founded the company with a friend of mine, who I’m like, No, for now for like 12 years or something is and you work together for 12 years, and we still sit in the same room. So so my co founder, Merrick is also a software software engineer. He is like something called a one man army. So the guy who can do like, you know, backend infrastructure front end like design and everything works as a charm, then. So that’s how we started, then we very quickly realized that it’s not a job for two people. So we get another co founder and our developer and that’s where how we started. Then very quickly, we went to what we’re saying basically, or or decided to go to acceleration program in Silicon Valley. When they basically shown us that, you know, building the software is not the same as building the product and building the product is still not the same as building the company. So when we get back to two other co founders join us responsible for sales and marketing. And in a team of five people, we just bootstrapped the company.

Andy Halko 10:16
Okay, wow. So five co founders, that’s, that’s probably the highest number that I’ve heard so far.

Jakub Kubryński 10:22
Yeah, two founders and three co founders. So still there is like, a majority of this tag is hold by me and Merrick. But without these three co founders, we won’t be able to be in the place where we are today.

Andy Halko 10:36
Yeah, I’d love for you the I think everybody gets it, but especially for our audience that difference between, you know, building up, you know, growing a product growing, you know, a company, etc. What you said there, I thought was really insightful. Can you talk about, like, why those things are so different?

Jakub Kubryński 10:55
Yeah, so the first thing that Asami that is obvious for all developers, it basically when you deploy the code to production is done, like, yeah, I’ve did my job, it’s there. So like, deal with it. And when you are building the product, there is much more than then you need to do like there is stuff like recommendation like the user experience, some you know, even support that you need to build for the users. Also, you need to ensure that the features you’ve built are used by the customers, the customers knows how to use them. And these are, in fact, the features that they require or they need, right, because you can build the features that are cool and crazy. But if no one needs that, and if the user needs are in a different place, then you build the software. But it’s not the product, there is no market product market fit that is like, you know, requirement for all of the SaaS companies. So this is the major difference between the software and the product. And the difference between the product and the company is that the company needs of course, to inject or introduce the branding. So you need to have a website, which describes what you are doing, it needs to sell the product, it needs to sell the you know, the whole value proposition needs to be understood by the people who are going to this website. And that’s something that we lacked at the very beginning. That’s why we decided to land two more co founders, Tom and Kate who are responsible for sales and marketing at the beginning. And they did this hard stuff of building the building the brand, building the website, you know, ensuring that there is some like inbound marketing, learning the people who know about our, our, our product, not just the people who we like, you know, call and say, Hey, we have a product, but they also like, come to us. And that was the biggest the biggest difference. And the biggest surprise for me as a developer, that there is like, you know, the the lifecycle of the software is not finishing on deployments to production.

Andy Halko 13:02
You know, I really do love that, you know, and these three pillars, a software product company, because I do think a lot of technical co founders, which we’ve talked to a lot of technical founders, that is that epiphany that they eventually have to have is that there is a difference for product, and then company. And I think the ones that really struggle are those that never get beyond like, Oh, I’m deploying something, and I love creating code.

Jakub Kubryński 13:29
Yeah, especially that, you know, when you are growing, these things are changing. So of course, like building the company, when you are like five people or four people is totally different, different thing than building the company when you have 40 people right now that’s screwing around like 40 like permanent employees and around loving 40 or 50 people who are cooperating with us and like being able to like you know, keep the culture keep keep the processes internally, it’s another another stuff that requires different different skills at the at the very beginning. And that’s something that’s also worth to mention that like if you’re a startup founder or scale up fonder, because I see that it’s getting more like a scale up right now the startup because we’re not anymore as flexible as you can be in fear like three people company, so that then you need to understand that you need to learn everyday new things, just to be able to deal with this like changing scale, and then new problems or you need to like hire people who have been there and do that, right. So that’s something that the startup founders need to understand that the requirements the company have from them are changing. So so so they need to adapt or they need to hire people who are able to do this new thing. That is that is required like managing the company of 50 people like managing the budgets of few million bucks, etc, because it’s different than like, you know, using the family or friends money to bootstrap or bootstrap the company.

Andy Halko 15:10
And that’s been a common thread, as we’ve interviewed a lot of different founders is that idea of adaptation, and constant education. Because you’re right, I’ve had a business for 20 years, and you’re constantly trying to learn new things, and having to solve new problems that come up, you know, how for you, was that a big shift from being that developer to being this, you know, founder, adaptable mindset? Or was it an easy shift for you?

Jakub Kubryński 15:42
So I’m basically a learner, so I like to learn but you know, the hardest stuff for me, being a software developer and like software developer by heart was like to stop coding, right? So that’s what we need to do when you realize that okay, I can still write write features. But that’s probably not the smartest way to do as a CEO of of a growing company. So yeah, for me, the hardest thing was to like, you know, uninstall the IDE. And do not think about that. For me, the funny situation is that I am basically a Linux person from like, early, early, you know, 90s, and I decided to buy a Mac, because I was not able to code on mac as all the keyboard shortcuts were different. And I was like, forced by changing the operating system to stop coding, because I was so frustrated that I cannot, like, you know, do this stuff, quick, quick enough, that I’ve stopped coding. So that was, like, a mindset change for me, I’ve changed the Linux to Mac OS. And now I, I changed the paradigm of me being in a in a company. But yeah, I needed to start reading another books, listening to different podcasts, like talking to different people. So like microservice architecture, or you know, like infrastructures code shouldn’t be my priority, I have people for that. And I should focus on like, you know, finding the patterns of growing, growing a company. And what’s also important is that you need to answer yourself if it’s something you want to do. Because, for example, the two founders that were responsible at DevSkiller for sales and marketing. At one time, they say, like, the working in a bigger and bigger company is not what they like. And that’s not their comfort zone, they prefer to like, you know, be on the edge and grow, like, think about how to do like, you know, something that your competitors are doing with 50 people how to do it with two people. So that’s what they did. And they decided that that’s their path they want to follow. And I believe that it was very mature decision, like they said, okay, like, Let’s go that way. Because we know that that’s the state of the company, where we can bring the biggest value, and we don’t want to brand ourselves just to learn like being be a manager, instead of like growth hacker, because not that that’s not our sweet spot. And that’s not our comfort zone. So I believe that you need to be able to answer this question, when you are a founder, if you want to be a founder of the company, or maybe there is someone who will do it better. And when I should, like, you know, quit from being a CEO and hire like a professional CEO that is able to like do what I’m able to do better, because maybe my like sweet spot is on the other side, on our other stage of the company, then the state we are arriving right now.

Andy Halko 18:52
That’s where I do see a lot of companies struggle is from that startup to scale up that someone is not able to or the leadership team can’t adapt to these changes. And like you said, I love that you got a whole different platform, because you need to force yourself to get out of that IDE. And it’s hard, right? But I mean, that’s totally where I see a lot of startups struggle is just getting out of that mentality that I’m I’m the builder. I’m the maker to I’m the leader.

Jakub Kubryński 19:25
Yeah, and also, you know, everyone is saying you should hire people that are smarter than you. But it’s like, it’s even pretty easy to hire these people but then you need to learn that you need to shut up and let them do their job because they know how to do that. And what I often see and and that was my problem at the very beginning of like, you know, my leadership path that I just need to do them do their job because like I’ve hired them and I believe they’re smarter than me. So I just should watch and not do not like you know, tell them what they need to do because they know what to do, they’ve been at this stage, they did it and they just need to like, you know, copy paste the solution that worked for them for them previously and adapted to to your culture, your strategy, etc. But I often see when people are saying, okay, they’re not doing it as good as I was doing for the last month, you have the need to learn, they need to adapt. And finally, you need to let them grow. And, for example, right now, the COO of the of the DevSkiller company is Stacy, she was hired by us as a, like customer success specialist, then she like, you know, started to grow, grow, grow. And right now she’s much better and like keeping this company up and running than me. Because she, she grown, and we just let her to do her job. And I believe that it’s hard to just, you know, sit in the back station, see how it goes. But when you are able to do that, then you know that you are not the bottleneck of the company. Because something that I’m pretty sure that you also seen a lot of time is that when the founders became a bottleneck of the company, so so they need to decide everything, like, can we buy the software? I don’t know, I need to think, can we change this website? I don’t know, let me think and like, everyone is waiting for you. So the company is not like doing their best, they’re just waiting for your approval, which makes no sense. And it’s hard to say, okay, like, decide on your own, I don’t want to be a blocker so that I was hard for me as well. When I knew that the company’s like, you know, of course, I was hiring these people. So I was ensuring that the values they have they shared the values with me, but it’s still hard, like, you know, give honor, the responsibility, and the ownership of the stuff they are doing, right?

Andy Halko 21:51
What was it? Was there anything that you could think of, or a moment or something that helped you not have to have control? To let go a little bit?

Jakub Kubryński 22:02
Yeah, so we had at some stage, some communication issues of the companies when we were like, you know, I don’t want to say fighting, but there were like, No, a lot of small conflicts in the company. And we as a Board decided to get a feedback from employees, what they like about us and what they dislike, so what they get from us what they need, what they get, and they don’t need. So just to find out, and then we realize that way, how we see ourselves in the company is not like, you know, aligned with the feedback that we get from the people, when then they shown us that we are bottlenecks. And many times we don’t like treat them equally. So we are saying okay, so that’s what you can do. And that’s how we should behave in the company. But I am the founder, so I can do it in a my way. And they say it’s not fair. And then we started to change that. And it’s extremely hard to change it when you know that you need to let them fail. Because no one is like, you know, perfect from the first day. So we know that they will fail. And you know, they will fail, you see that they are going in the wrong direction. But you need to like you know, shut up, listen and see. I know, I knew that I knew that you will fail. But okay, let’s do it one more time. So that was the hardest thing

Andy Halko 23:24
We’re the pioneers from making mistakes, right?

Jakub Kubryński 23:27
Yeah. But you know, it’s easy to say that, but when you see that someone is making a mistake, and you say, Okay, I don’t want to lose this customer. So let me like hijack this process, and I will fix it. And then you you end up with the situation when you need to fix everything, because people are not knowing they’re doing the mistakes, because you’re preventing them from doing these mistakes. So that was the very hard thing. But yeah, I believe that the idea from that is that ask your people for the feedback and ask them what they like, in you what they dislike in your, in your approach in your behavior, in your jobs to be done, etc. Because that would be like, I’m pretty sure for many, many people, that would be a surprise, how others are seeing their position in the in the company and where others see our values, and our see our advantages. And also like, you know, some some some issues, right?

Andy Halko 24:27
Yeah, and I’ll admit, you know, I’ve had again, I’ve had my business for a long time that I’ve had, you know, ups and downs of letting go control. And I think that’s the other thing that sometimes people don’t realize is, you know, you get to this point where you’re comfortable letting people do anything, but then you know, your own mentality can start like just impacting you and you go back to your old ways, and so you have to constantly push yourself to, to kind of know where you need to be right.

Jakub Kubryński 24:55
Yeah, exactly. And you need to understand that like, you know, they don’t have to be perfect, right? When you’re a software engineer, and you’re letting other software engineers do they call it like, Okay, if you’re a very good software engineer, then they don’t have to be like 100%. Like your quality, if it’s 80%. And still, like, it’s good enough, right. And I believe that good enough, is a key to success that not everything needs to be perfect, and it shouldn’t be perfect. Because that it should be good enough, it should be sellable. And working for customers.

Andy Halko 25:28
God it is better than perfect is that the

Jakub Kubryński 25:31
Exactly? And I believe here that should be like, you know, every, like entrance to any single thought of there shouldn’t be done is better than perfect.

Andy Halko 25:38
There’s some of those great posters and sayings out there for startups. They’re a little cliche now, but nonetheless, they’re right. I, you know, I’d be interested to shift gears a little bit and talk about, you know, for other founders, one of the places they struggle with is we create software, let’s say we learn a little bit about turning it into a product, but how do they find those first customers? So for you guys, what, you know, how did you get customer number one? And how did you go from one to 10? You know what.

Jakub Kubryński 26:11
Yeah so I can sell, say how we did it, and why it wasn’t the smartest idea. Because at the very, very early stage, we decided that we want to be a global company. And we want to start globally from day one, right. So our first customer was in customer acquired by inbound marketing from us. And we are based in in in Europe, and the next companies will also look like this. And of course, it’s it’s pretty good, because very early, like, I believe that when we’ve been on the monthly recurring revenue around $15,000, we already have customers in like 30 or 40 different countries. And of course, like, it’s great because you have customers all over the world. But still, I believe that you should focus on particular markets know this market do not deal with like the cultural differences, timezone differences, etc. And start with that, what I realized, at the very, very early stage that we all believe that it’s pretty easy to sell to your friends, or the people that you know, that your previous co workers etc, and it wasn’t working for us at all. So they were very nice, but they don’t want it like make decisions based on like, you know, your relationship etc. So it was easier to go like, you know, to just to the market and acquire customers like you know, out of the street. So, yeah, I believe that basically at the very early stage of building the inbound marketing is something that is pretty useful because at the very early stage, you don’t know the market you you don’t understand the market. So it’s hard like know everything. And now by using the email marketing, you basically described your version of the word and your version of the problem and there are some people who will like say, Yeah, that’s exactly how I see that and they will come and became your customers. And that’s something that should be in my opinion, pretty easy to acquire the first like 10 customers or something lives. But what you should do next is to talk to these customers ask about their problems, ask about why they choose chosen you why they are working with you, why they prefer you over your competitors, etc. And then based on this story builder, like you know, find the patterns and basically finding the patterns or the customers at very early stage it’s something that you should be able to like to grow quickly that’s what we lacked at the beginning. So we were basically treating all customers equally and we should be able to find like for example okay, so we see that it’s much easier for us to sell two software houses so let’s focus on the software houses and we were like too long experimenting on like choosing these different customers and focusing on all markets and all types of customers all sizes of customers and that was a big mistake, I believe right now so yeah, you should be able to start like you know, with spreading the word and just looking at this first and customers who are the easiest to acquire and then look alike you know, find the pattern and like just just utilize this pattern to build more and more and more companies and then if you’re like you know already like saturated in this market then look for other customers based on the case studies that you’ve built. Because that’s the niche, right everyone is talking about the niche but it’s hard to define what this niche is, right? So we’ve been working with with a person who is like an Brand expert. And he’s always saying that it’s great to be English school, but it’s even better to be an English school for kids. Right? And it’s even better to be English school for kids being five year old, right? Because then you say, Oh, I have a five year old kid. So that’s definitely the company for me. So that’s what it means being a niche. And I believe that we should start with, for example, like being an technical assessment platform for software houses, and then every single software house No, okay, so they are for me, of course, you’re like, you know, making this market smaller. But on the other hand, you are like, saying, that’s the market, if you are feeling that, then you are a great fit for us. And that would be and that is my suggestion, when I talk to SaaS founders and startup founders that find your niche, and like, be sure ensure that you are like the number one in this niche. And what we’ve did, we’ve been like, number free in like, all niches, right. But it’s still not as good as being the number one in one niche, and then going niche by niche to other to other markets, other customer types, patterns, sizes, geography, etc.

Andy Halko 31:21
You know, so that’s probably one of my biggest things is finding your niche, your like, narrow focus, and really going deep on it rather than being you know, wide and thin, right? And we, I do a lot of consulting with folks on that. And the, the thing that I find is that it’s actually tough to get people to get there, that they, they don’t want to do that they have such a push back, that they’re afraid they’re gonna lose potential customers, or it’s not going to work. So what got you over the hump? Or were you already convinced like, because, again, most of the people I talked to, and I tend to have to fight with to say, we’ve got to narrow down, we have to narrow down.

Jakub Kubryński 32:07
Yeah, so the problem here is when you should like, say that, okay, I’ve narrowed down enough, right? Because like, you can say that I want to be, I don’t know, technical assessment platform for software houses. But is it enough? Or should I say that I want to be the technical screening platform for Java software houses, or maybe I should say that I should be a technical assessment platform for Java software houses coming from 50 to 100 employees, right. And then maybe in Europe, maybe in like UK, and it’s hard to say when you should say enough, like, do not narrow it down. But I believe that to do that, you need to understand the market, and you need to understand your values. So for example, for DevSkiller right now, it’s obvious for me that we should focus on Java, because Java was our sweet spot, it was our native technology stack. That was the market when we were, like, you know, new by the industry, because we were speaking at many, many different like Java, technical conferences, these developers renewing us, etc. And we should say, Okay, let’s be the number one choice for Java companies, and then go for other companies. And instead of that, we of course, decided because every single startup knows that the bigger company pays more, right, so the bigger customer the better. So we started with like, you know, looking for all this is a giant company, but they need to verify Java dot net, Android, iOS, front end infrastructure, that’s not a problem, let’s do that. Right. And then you’re like doing everything you’re trying to, you know, be present on all paths that are that are that are possible. And that means that it’s not your niche, right niche is something that you should be able to verify if he’s going if you’re going in the right direction, like very quickly, I remember like listening on TechCrunch to the drift CEO, who was saying that the building or finding the product market thing is like walking like trying to escape or exit the desert. When you have no marks nothing there is sun everywhere, and you are going in one direction and you don’t know if like you know this, this desert will end up in 500 meters or in 500 kilometers so you’re turning back and you don’t know if you’re like going in the right direction because you see nothing you see just sand. And the same happens when you’re looking for a product market fit so okay, I’m drawing 10% month over month. Is it good? Is it bad? I don’t know. Like, looking at the market benchmarks is great. But maybe in the place where I can I am. If I will change the niche I will be able to grow 200% month over month. I don’t know I need to test that right? So like it’s hard to do. So a lot of assumptions and decisions, I believe that you need to have a lack, to be, to be honest, to grow quickly. Because it’s, it’s, it’s impossible to, like predict everything and like know, like for sure, based on the facts and data driven staff, etc, because there is no data. So how can you like driven by data when there is no data, right?

Andy Halko 35:22
Well, I think, you know, I agree with you that, about all that, and I love the analogy, I think what I tend to find with founders, the difference between those that are really successful, and those that are that stubbornness, of, you know, being willing to, like, find a path and go down it versus like, staying with what they know, and just not being able to adapt, like we talked about.

Jakub Kubryński 35:49
Yeah, also, I believe that it’s never too late to find your niche. So if you are like, as you said, You’re everywhere, but you are fin, then you can like, find a niche and start, like, you know, going into the this niche, like more deeply. So even right now, when DevSkiller we are, of course, like a different stage that we’ve been like few years ago, it’s never too late to say Okay, so right now, my, my goal is to become a number one Java assessment tool, right? Why not like I can be a leader in every other area. But that’s my focus, that’s where I want to be. And that’s, for example, the I don’t know, I want to build my Account Based Marketing based on Java, because that’s, that’s what I believe what I see. And that’s where I’m going to invest. So it’s never too late to find out. So it’s not that the niche can be only at the very beginning. Of course, you cannot do only the niche, when you are like already big company. But not doing only niche doesn’t mean that you are not allowed to focus on the niche. And like spend like 30% of your like no efforts on like, growing around this niche right now. So that’s what is also important, because often people’s AI is too late for us never too late, right? You cannot drop all other customers, because the churn will kill you. But still, you can like start growing in the niche. And that’s better than grow. Like, as you said, everywhere, in every word, we pretty thin.

Andy Halko 37:21
I always talk about to the difference between product niche and marketing niche, where that, you know, from your perspective, if you have a product that handles 20 different languages, you’re not narrowed down, but you may on a marketing side only go after one. Right versus are you developing a product where it’s just Java per se? And are you defining it at the product level or at the marketing level? I think that’s the other option for people that are concerned about it is that, you know, you can do it with marketing, and then have the product follow? Or I do sometimes think if you do with the product first, it’s much stronger when you put it out to the market.

Jakub Kubryński 38:05
Yeah, you are right. So the product niche is very, very important at the beginning, when you need to think about like, you need to invest the money into building the product, of course. And building the platform that is assessing just Java is of course, like much cheaper than building a platform that assesses like 20 different different languages. But also, the marketing is also an investment, right? You have some money to spend and the question that many founders asked if it’s better to like, find, or invest this money to 20 different regions and find which one is performing better or into one that you believe, is working better. And that’s hard to say like, if you will invest all money in one sector, and the sector will like, you know, extra or then great, you are like, you know, on a good path to become a unicorn. But that was the luck. And that’s what I understand by luck, because you had like 10% of chances to to find this right segment and like 90% of findings, wow, that is not going as good. And also what I mentioned, like previously, when you invest into one segment of the money, and you are growing 7% month over month, you have no idea if that’s the best segment because that’s how it looks according to benchmarks. Or maybe the segment like in another country will allow you to grow like 10 times faster, right? So you will know you need to test that and that’s like there are a lot of trade offs that you need to do and a lot of assumptions and a lot of decisions that we are taking our decisions like you know that we are very very like short on answers slicer we are long the questions, show the answers and see we need to make decisions.

Andy Halko 39:57
Yeah, I totally agree with you and I’ve said it for years is that I think there Is that mix of. Yeah, you have good skills, good decision. But luck, man. Is a such an impact in in growing a business.

Jakub Kubryński 40:09
Yeah. But, you know, it’s, it’s hard to say when you’re like running a company that is like valued like, I don’t know, 100 million bucks that yeah, I was lucky. So like, the no one we treat you seriously. So everyone knows that luck is is a factor, but no one wants to say like loud, right when you’re

Andy Halko 40:28
You say luck is a mixture of oppor, you know, opportunity and open mindedness where, you know, you’re open to things and then you’re putting yourself in different situations. And that’s where, you know, you become

Jakub Kubryński 40:42
And the right timing.

Andy Halko 40:44
Yeah, exactly. So I think there’s a science to luck as crazy as that sounds, right?

Jakub Kubryński 40:52
Yeah, pretty sure. So like, I know that there was some the unit, you know, like idea, when you’re learning how to fly an airplane, right? And everyone is saying that you’re starting with a bargain, that is full of luck. And other bargains, at least, like back for experience, but it’s empty. And the whole idea is to feel these experience back. Before this luck back will like, you know, the empty, right? So I believe that it’s similar with the with with running a business. So you have like, two, you know, two boxes, right? One, we’ve experienced the second one with luck. And of course, you need to gain experience, but to gain experience and not like, you know, go or run out of money or something is you need to be lucky, right? So the question is, if you will be able to feel this experience box between these, like, you know, a luck book, books will will get fit.

Andy Halko 41:56
So, I’m curious, I know, it’s never one thing, but I’m always interested in asking founders, you know, was there a key catalyst decision, you know, a higher customer that made a big impact for your trajectory? You know, and what I’m trying to get to is for other founders out there that are sitting there with startups, you know, what, what are those things that, you know, could be that thing? That’s a big turning point and growth?

Jakub Kubryński 42:26
Yeah, so I believe the biggest impact is when you when you have on board, people who are experts in the area, so you have experts in marketing expert in sales, and you let them do their job, right? If there, if you let them do the job and the company is growing, then you know that it was the right decision. Of course, the problem is when you let them do their job, and the company is not growing. So you know that these are like wrong people, right. And I believe that, just piggybacking on that hiring great people is the most important important stuff. So you should be able to find the right people for your startup. And if you’re a startup founder, I would say it’s 99% probability that you are not able to do that. So ensure like, be like, you can always use some external resources to help you in this hiring process. Because having a good hiring process that ensures that the people who are entering your company, as leaders of our era, like leaders, sales leaders, or marketing leaders of technology, these should be people that share your values that have the same culture that you like to work with, that will follow your like principles or paradigms of running the company. And be sure that you use every single resource, every single friend, every single consultant that you trust, and you have to help you make good decisions, because wrong decisions around sales can like, you know, waste you a year of growing so so I believe that that would be the single advice. That is really a game changing right now, we see that we have the right people in the company at the right places, and we see that everything is like you know, doing going automatically. I don’t need to think about that. Because it’s already done. I can think about something I asked people about what do you think about that? And they say, Yeah, we started doing two weeks ago or something. Yes. So that’s where you know that you are in the right hands, right?

Andy Halko 44:42
Yeah, that’s amazing. Have you purposely tried to like sculpt the culture the company or has it just kind of built organically?

Jakub Kubryński 44:54
Both I would say because the first thing is that the there is a sadness and I I really believe in this sentence, that the culture is eating the strategy. So if you don’t have like a proper culture, you can have the best strategy strategy that you want, but you won’t be able to implement that. So basically, we knew that their skill, we need to have a defined culture, just to have kind of an anchor that we can say, hey, that’s our, these are our values. This is our culture. But it wasn’t like introduced top down. Basically, when we decided that we need to, like write down the culture write down the values, we ask our employees, for, like the examples of behaviors that they like, or they dislike, right. And based on that, after filling the examples. So for example, if you say to someone, hey, this sucks, they say we dislike that, because it’s like, it’s not helping us to do better next time. So you should say, it sucks. Because of this, and this, and this, I believe it should be this and this and this. So that’s what we did. And based on that, after having, like, I don’t know, 60 or 100, different examples of behaviors that are like to do and not to do behaviors, we just find out that the values and the example of the values can be, for example, a respectful challenge. So you should challenge people, you should like force them to do better, but you should be respectful in that, right? We are doing a lot about around the dialogue, because everyone is saying that that’s the dialogue. But maybe that’s the fight, maybe that’s the conflict, not the dialogue, because the dialogue is like when you listen to each other and not try to convince the other people to your to your ideas, because that’s not the dialogue, right, that’s enforcement. So yeah, we’ve spent a lot of time on that. And probably like, a few, four hour meetings on the company level to define the staff to define the values, describe them, provide examples, and use that and implement that in the company. And that’s helping a lot, especially that if you want to like be able to implement your roadmap and implement the strategy, strategy, go to market strategy, etc, you need to have the people that are like, you know, easy to collaborate, it doesn’t mean that everyone needs to be equal, because diversity helps, right? If you have different ideas, different approaches, but these people need to be aligned around the values in the culture. So yeah, I fully agree that the culture is important.

Andy Halko 47:36
My only issue with the culture eats strategy for breakfast, because I’ve heard it a billion times is for some people, they start saying, well, I’ll strategy doesn’t matter. And I think back to your desert analogy, if you have amazing people in the desert, but they don’t know what direction to go, they’re still gonna die. But

Jakub Kubryński 47:54

Andy Halko 47:55
People and they know the right direction to go, you’re gonna get there a lot faster.

Jakub Kubryński 48:00
Yeah, regarding the strategy, there is one great and awesome video I can recommend. It’s the person is called the Simon Wardley. And he introduced something that is called the Wardley mapping. And there is his video at Google Next, the recording is in YouTube. And he’s about like crossing the river by feeling the stones or something like this. And he’s great about how the strategy can look like, like, the strategy is not that yeah, we want to be a leader around the customer success because not that’s not the strategy. That’s kind of a vision may be but definitely not the strategy. And he’s like showing how to define a strategy based on the value chain. So you have a value chain and the values that you are providing to the customers. And he’s like cross cutting the value value chain with the like, the maturity of the of the, like, particular elements of the value chain, if it’s like a commodity, or it’s like a custom build or something that is and based on that he’s he’s describing that so we’ve been working with with Simon he’s he’s like company, and they help us a lot in defining the strategy, it’s still hard to now use it on a daily basis. But it’s pretty good to define what you are doing right now. And in which areas you are waiting for some important elements of the value chains to like be shifted right? From like, you know, an experiment or custom build to get to a product, because the more commoditized the relevant the value chain is the more reliable it is, right? So there are some elements that are like, you know, unreliable and if you want, like, you know, use unreliable elements in your reliable business, it’s not going to happen like you know, to end up in a good way. So I really suggest the Simon Wardley Word the recording, because that was a game changer for me in terms of what the strategy of the company means and how the strategy be implemented, how it can be, like shown and how it can be measured, because that’s the way when you can measure the strategy and follow the strategy. So definitely must have watching for all founders.

Andy Halko 50:22
Awesome. So my final question, and I asked this of every founder, if you could go back in time before you started the business and have coffee with yourself, what advice would you give?

Jakub Kubryński 50:35
So definitely find a niche and build the product around this niche. Don’t try to be everywhere, because it’s impossible. So I believe that that was the biggest mistake. We’ve we’ve made a disaster. And I would do definitely in a different way right now. So that’s the first thing. The second thing is, what do you say like Dan is better than perfect. We were waiting too long with launching the product because this product was not good enough. But it was only our opinion. And right now, when we recently launched the next product, our new product is launched in a totally different way. We are saying to the cost customers, it’s an early like early product is at the early stage, it’s not fitting all of the issues. But that’s how this product will look into yours. So you’re entering it in a state that is today or not. And they’re saying, Yeah, let’s do that. And I will say why, like, it don’t need to be perfect, like it’s sellable. So these are the two most important things. I believe. So find your niche, and the product doesn’t need to be perfect, it needs to be sellable, and needs to work.

Andy Halko 51:48
That’s awesome. Well, Jakub, I mean, I think it was an amazing conversation. I really appreciate your time. Is there anywhere that you want to direct folks to learn more about you and the company?

Jakub Kubryński 52:00
So you can always like go to our website there DevSkillercom take a look at that. We have some of the nice recordings of webinars at YouTube and I believe like personally that the video recordings on YouTube are pretty good. I even when when I was preparing to our like discussion today went through your recordings and YouTube just to find out how the structure looks like so yeah, there is a lot of materials on YouTube right now. I believe that if you want to become like an you know, submarine captain, there are like some tutorials on YouTube. How to, like, you know, deal with the submarines or something like this, right?

Andy Halko 52:37
That’s great. Well, thank you again. I really appreciate it.

Jakub Kubryński 52:40
Yeah, thank you much. It was a great talk.

Andy Halko 52:43
Yeah, I agree. All right, everybody. Well, that’s our show for today. Look forward to seeing you next week. And thank you and have a good day.

Jakub Kubryński 52:51
Bye bye.

Andy Halko 52:52
See ya.

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