Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi! My name is Oleksii Avramenko. I’m one of the founders of EspoCRM, an open-source CRM application that helps to grow businesses.
Our platform is a feature-rich and affordable solution that was designed with the needs of small and mid-size businesses in mind. The ultimate goal of the software is to empower sales, marketing, and support divisions with the functionality that improves business efficacy and performance. Our platform aids companies in systematizing customer data, improving sales cycles, generating accurate reports & analytics, streamlining business processes, automating routine administrative tasks, and more.
Along with that, the solution creates an efficient working space for your employees with real-time updates and seamless access to the needed information.
The first version of EspoCRM was launched in 2014 and October of 2020 has seen the release of the 6th one. During the last year (29 Nov 2019 - 29 Nov 2020), the average number of downloads has increased to more than 16,000/year and we are extremely proud of it as it means that our product is in demand for our clients. Over the years, we started to make on average up to $30k a month.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
When I was still pursuing a MA degree in Computer Science, I, together with my groupmate Taras Machyshyn, already worked as a developer in one of the local outsourcing companies. There, I got acquainted with Yuri Kuznetsov (who was obtaining a MA degree in Applied mathematics). At that time, we had loads of projects and cut our teeth on coding and developing solutions for businesses. Back then, we were young, ambitious and we wanted freedom. At some point, we understood that we grew out of that company and decided to start our own business.
We launched our company in 2011. At first, we offered outsourcing business development services. Back in those days, we worked with CRM systems and other business solutions a lot. After some time, we understood that the market lacked software that would be a universal, budget-friendly solution for any company irrespective of its size and type. Realizing that the CRM market needs such a platform, I put forth a proposal to discuss the future of CRM software. This discussion marked the beginning of creation and work on EspoCRM.
Understanding that each of us has our own strengths, we divided the project into parts and started turning our idea into reality. Taras Machyshyn was working on the back-end and API interface, Yuri Kuznetsov was developing the front-end and UI/UX, while I was busy with website creation, database administration, and marketing. In 2014, after several months of the complicated development process, we released the first version of EspoCRM.
Since its onset, the platform was built upon a dream and ambition to create software that would be flexible and easily adaptable to the needs of any industry without coding. Nowadays, our software is a customizable and affordable solution that offers a full set of tools for growing a company. It can boast of the plenitude of features developed both for ordinary users and developers.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Even though our team had previous experience with CRM software, we started developing our product by analyzing the current market trends. Back then, there was already a variety of solutions, but they were either too expensive or too intricate and complicated to be adopted quickly. So, we took everything we learned from our previous experience and then the demands of the market and started to work on our own product.
Be ready that your path to success can be long, curvy, sometimes dull, and even painful. But no matter what happens, you have to go on believing in your dream and work hard to achieve it.
Our core idea was to make CRM software more attainable for businesses that had a limited budget. Being in the same boat with other small companies and startups, we understood their needs like nobody else. Thus, we started to create a universal and highly flexible platform that could satisfy the industry-specific requirements of any company right after the installation without hard-coding.
As a result of several months of hard work, March of 2014 saw the first version of EspoCRM. Back in those days, our product was a revolutionary solution. It had a simple, intuitive interface and offered tools that allowed boosting business performance for free.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Our initial launch was successful. We were sparkled with the idea that we were creating something that was really needed at that time. At that time, we were providing outsource software development services, so we had some sort of a customer network.
Thus, we published our product on Sourceforge and started to get in touch with the companies from our network to invite them to try our free solution. There were only three of us and we bootstrapped our startup by equally investing our own savings into it. Since our first clients were satisfied with our product, they spread the information about our company by word-of-mouth, left reviews on various platforms, and so the number of our clients was growing.
Along with developing the core functionalities of EspoCRM, parallelly we were creating a website to build brand awareness and visibility. Although our start was promising, those times were extremely challenging for us. During the first year, we worked without any investments and on a sheer enthusiasm providing our product for free. However, we never lost faith in our project and continued pursuing our dream against all odds.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
We believe that there is no universal solution that will help to increase sales and gain more customers. All you have to do is to try everything from social media marketing and SEO to networking and partnership programs to find the things that work for your company best.
A lot of our customers come from rating sites and search engines to our website. Thus, we are constantly improving the content on our website by adding useful business articles and sharing recommendations on how to use our product efficiently to increase customer loyalty and attract new customers.
Also, we are constantly reaching out to our current and potential customers via email campaigns, content marketing, press release publications, etc. The other thing that works for us is offering our customers the ability to test-drive our solutions either by using our live demo or by registering a free trial so that they see how the software works.
However, nothing is more efficient than providing the best possible experience for our customers. We are investing a lot of time and resources into upgrading and developing new features for EspoCRM to make it more efficient and increase its performance. We are convinced that a really nice and efficient solution speaks for itself.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Our business is prospering. We have a great number of positive reviews and plenty of purchases from our regular customers and word of mouth referrals. Meanwhile, we are continuously releasing new features, integrations, and updates to provide the companies that use our software with the best customer experience.
Recently, we have released a new version of EspoCRM 6.0.0, which is more robust and offers seamless and streamlined performance. In the long term, we are planning to move upmarket. Our main objective is to expand our software and launch a partnership program.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
To build a successful company, you have to work hard and be ready to take risks. It is an open secret that the business world is extremely competitive these days. If you want your company to grow, you have to step out of your comfort zone and take calculated risks to open the doors to new perspectives.
Another thing that matters is the cohesiveness of your team, the bonds that pull people toward the common aim. The better and stronger are the relationships within your company, the more motivated are your employees to work harder and cooperate.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We prefer to use our own software to manage our business operations. EspoCRM is an ideal solution for us when it comes to sales management, tracking cases, sending personalized marketing campaigns, and automating routine tasks. In fact, we’ve created a platform that is so universal that satisfies our needs too.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
New knowledge and information are invaluable things in the modern world. Thus, a successful entrepreneur should be a voracious reader and lifelong learner. Our team is trying to keep up with the new trends, so we attend various conferences & webinars regularly, read and discuss popular business blogs, top-selling business literature.
Our motivation comes from a large mix of various resources, so we cannot distinguish a particular one that was more inspiring for us. In any case, we are constantly monitoring the market trends by reading the online magazine destinationcrm.com and attending “iForum”, the annual conference.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
The modern business market is a fast-evolving phenomenon. With all those trends coming and going, a true entrepreneur should always stay tuned and be adaptable to changes to remain on top. Be prepared to regularly research the market and tweak your business strategy to meet the rapidly emerging needs of the industry you work in.
Another important thing is to be ready that your path to success can be long, curvy, sometimes dull, and even painful. But no matter what happens, you have to go on believing in your dream and work hard to achieve it.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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