Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi, my name is Ross Knap, and I am the CEO and co-founder of CallPage. I've been an entrepreneur for as long as I can remember. When I was five years old, I had the idea to sell chewing gum. I bought them in bulk of 100 pieces and then sold them 2x more expensive. When I was 13, I sold mobile phones. In college, for a long time, I was investing in the stock market. I also studied finance and business, which directed my actions toward entrepreneurship. I also launched an online shop for home decor, which I then sold. Later I co-founded CallPage along with two of my friends Sergey Butko, and Andriy Tkachiv.
CallPage provides a range of tools that allows sales reps to get in touch with leads instantly. And when I say instantly, I mean 28 seconds. When a web visitor browses the website, our smart widget pops up and asks them to leave their phone number and get an automated callback immediately. This, in turn, leads to driving more sales leads and moving deals faster through the pipeline with an immediate conversation via callback. We facilitate converting website visitors into happy customers. If you've ever seen a thrifty little pop-up on a website that says, "we'll call you back in 28 seconds," that's most likely our widget. We have been in the market since 2015.
We have now expanded our tools to become a full-fledged inside sales platform. Currently, we deal with comprehensive support for all business phone systems. We have added an element of artificial intelligence to this by providing services that range from converting voice to text, recognizing emotions, and extracting statistical data from the phone call itself.
CallPage based is out of Kraków, Poland with another office in San Francisco.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
For two years, I was working as a consultant for a company that assisted other Eastern European countries in entering new markets, for example, from Russian to the Polish market. I managed more than 75 projects during my time there.
One of my responsibilities included optimizing the conversion of the websites to increase the number of leads and phone calls. While exploring various opportunities, we noticed with my partner - Sergey, that the faster we promised to contact users, the more likely they were to leave their contact details. We ran a test, where we promised to call back users within an hour, this resulted in a 30% increase in people leaving their contact details.
Within a short period, we observed a very high level of interest among businesses which reassured us with the belief that there is a specific demand in the market.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
As I mentioned earlier, after what we discovered while running the experiment in my last job, related to conversion optimization, it was a decisive moment for us. We reached out to Andriy (who eventually became the third co-founder), to develop a tool to redirect these incoming leads from the web to mobile phones and convert them to a phone call. After analyzing the market in Poland and abroad, with regular feedback from customers, we concluded that we could not miss this opportunity and need to act quickly by perfecting our prototype.
Soon after we raised $50,000 from AIP Seed Capital and there was no looking back.
Our first version of the product was just a simple widget that enabled instant callback function with basic features and customizations. Our MVP facilitated the ability to for a lead to leave their phone number and our system would automatically connect them with the consultant. Today, CallPage is a complete business phone system with a built-in CRM to track all your phone leads. It's about 4 months to ship the first version of our product.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The seed round from AIP Seed Capital and a few other business angels gave us the initial boost that allowed us to develop the product for the next further 6 months. For there on, we reached out to around 30 SaaS accelerators around the world. We managed to get into one of the most prestigious B2B accelerators in Europe - Startup Wise Guys from Estonia, where we spent about half a year. The accelerator was an eye-opening experience for us. We acclimatized ourselves with all the know-how of running a SaaS startup apart from receiving continuous feedback from about 250 people from around the world that we met there.
This also provided us an opportunity to run toe-to-toe with other projects that were in a similar stage as ours and observe, share, and learn.
We used the initial funds to develop CallPage to the point where we could get users to use the tool. The first 50 clients came mainly from our contacts. Before we knew, we were doing about $2,600 MRR. Post the accelerator we entered the transition phase, where we moved from manual sourcing of clients to a measurable and scalable approach. Soon after that, we launch CallPage on the global market and start building a more thoughtful sales funnel.
Taking part in a startup accelerator gave us the opportunity to interact with other startups and learn from each other
Within half a year of going live, we managed to scale from $2,600 to $10,000 in MRR. We were continuously testing various methods of operation, partnerships, etc. During that time, we had about 80% of clients from Poland and the rest from around the world. In a massive turn of events, I met Rafał Brzoska, who's a well-known entrepreneur in Poland and one of the board members the bValue Fund on the same flight and I convinced him to invest in us.
It's a funny story because we were returning from London and I spotted him on the same Ryanair flight; I went up to the person who was sitting next to Rafał and requested to swap seats. And the rest is history.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Right since going live, we've tested multiple channels and strategies to drive traffic, attract, and retain customers. It's in the DNA of CallPage; we regularly check, analyze, rinse, repeat strategies, channels that do wonders for us. Initially, word-of-mouth marketing gave us a considerable boost, followed by media and PR coverage.
We managed to create initial interest and curiosity that drove traffic and later converted to customers. Sergey, Andriy, and I got featured in the coveted Forbes 30 under 30 list, and The Next Web identified us as one of the 'hottest startups from Poland.' These media opportunities helped us a lot. We also leveraged our contacts in spreading the word out. Another step that put us globally was the launch of our LTD with Appsumo. We went viral and on-boarded hundreds of new customers within a short period.
We also focus a lot on inbound marketing. Having undertaken inbound activities such as webinars, content marketing, podcasts, e-books, primary research, email nurturing, we now generate a steady stream of pre-qualified traffic. We have managed to define a well-oiled inbound funnel and offer value to our customers at every stage of the journey and delight them not only with our product but also with the knowledge that they can deploy within their businesses.
We have also undertaken outbound activities in terms of paid ads, PPC campaigns, directory listings, etc. We focus a lot on SEO and complement our outbound activities as a support to inbound. There's also a Partner Program which has worked well for us.
Not having a clear strategy is one of the biggest mistakes we made. This led to wanting to do everything for everyone
It is essential early on to define where your target sits online and build strategies to reach out to them. Rather than a spray and pray approach, you should work on a few channels, optimize them and then move on to the next. Currently, Quora has been working well for us as an avenue to attract new customers. We are also working on PPC and cold outreach that has so far shown promising results.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Currently, we are the leader in CallBack solutions in Poland. At the same time, we are rapidly growing in international markets. Here in our Kraków office, we are 30 people strong and motivated to take CallPage to the next level. The next couple of quarters are particularly interesting for us because we are currently in the process of developing new AI solutions that will enable businesses to analyze conversations in terms of emotions, keywords, sales rep performance, voice-to-text, etc.
Thanks to our experience in the industry, we are continuously able to teach and adapt models to work on the phone better and faster. As far as CallBack is concerned, we are regularly working on improving its functionalities and offering new features.
We continue to publish high-quality blogs and other educational materials, that bring value to our readers, and they keep coming to learn more. We haven't perfected the process yet, but firmly believe that we are on our way there. Constant feedback from our users and others, keep us on our toes in terms of how we want to develop the product. We focus a lot on direct sales, a channel that's been working the best for us and continue to build our Partner program to onboard new customers faster.
At CallPage, we live by the motto of 'Make Calls Great Again,' and all our actions are a testament to this fact.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
In my opinion, not having a clear strategy is one of the biggest mistakes we made. This led to wanting to do everything for everyone. Another typical mistake made by a lot of startups (we are guilty of it too) is to spend too much at the start of a financial round. One needs to be frugal with the spending. And this is where have a well-defined strategy comes in handy.
Once, we found ourselves in a situation where we were waiting for around to be completed within 4 months, and it ended up taking 9 months. Staying afloat for those 5 months was a challenge, but we managed to pull it off. If you're only starting your business, you need to have the bandwidth for unforeseen circumstances.
If we had an adequately structured strategy that covers such situations, we would have been alright. Amongst other things, skillful financial management is vital. The crucial element, however, is not to give up and learn from the mistakes made.
What you also need to keep in mind is that you can't just copy a product! You need a database of 200-300 customers who are willing to spend time, be honest, and give you proper feedback about your product. When you have had input from smaller businesses, you can shift gears and focus on enterprises who require a much more complicated product or solution.
We have had the opportunity to collaborate and deploy our solutions for PriceWaterhouseCoopers, BDO, and Volkswagen. Our international growth is steady, and along with HubSpot as advisors, we are now scaling to the next level. We want our foreign market to be 30% of our turnover. By the end of this year, we aim to grow 6 times. It's ambitious but not impossible.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use a bunch of tools that help us in different stages of our business and keep things organized. For our CRM, we use HubSpot. We use it to manage our contacts, send communication via email, build landing pages, deploy SEO-friendly content.
Our internal communication relies on Slack, we process payments via Stripe, the IT Team uses Jira for all project tracking and software development, we also use Intercom, and needless to say, use CallPage for all our inside sales calls.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
That depends on what kind of business you're running. However, I would recommend the following books:
- Hard things about hard things, by Ben Horowitz.
- Predictable revenue, by Marylou Tyler, Aaron Ross.
- Tools of Titans, by Tim Ferriss
Apart from the books themselves, it is vital to inculcate a culture of reading. It's not enough to read a few books to say that we've already acquired all the knowledge. It is important to have humility and always try to learn something.
I am currently reading a book about how to scale fast-growing startups and what actions were taken to do that in the United States. I also use a tool called Storytel to listen to audiobooks.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
When we launched our operations, we took part in an accelerator for startups in Estonia. There, we had an opportunity to interact with other startups too. It was essential for us in the sense that it made us realize that we are on the right path. Everyone there had their flaws, made mistakes, and we learned from each other.
So my first advice is to believe in yourself, in your team and that you will pull it off. And the second crucial thing is to focus on what you're building, put aside everything that's a distraction. This focus on CallPage influenced the dynamics of our growth.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are always on the lookout for driven people to join our team. CallPage is a tight-knit group of salespeople, marketers, developers, and designers who work hard to provide an unparalleled experience to our users and partners and deliver success. For a list of current open positions, take a look at our careers page. And if you don't find anything that suits your needs, don't hesitate to reach out to us.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Want to start your own business?
Hey! 👋I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
We interview successful business owners and share the stories behind their business. By sharing these stories, we want to help others get started.
If you liked this story, join our mailing list for new interviews every Tuesday.
Interested in sharing your own story? Find out how!