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Chris Cardell

Interview with Jacob van Duijn (Yanomo)

Yanomo is a time tracking & invoicing tool for teams, businesses and enterprises.

I interviewed Jacob van Duijn, Yanomo CEO to find out more. This is the two hundred and ninth in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to Jacob!

How would you describe Yanomo in under 50 words?

We’re a SaaS that enables service companies to track their operations in the cloud, leading to more efficiency, better management focus and a happier workforce. We have satisfied customers all across the globe. Our mission is to make service companies better places to work – it’s that simple.

How did you come to get involved in Yanomo and what inspired you to launch in 2010?

I got involved because I loved the product, which was 75% finished when I joined the company. I knew the market for time and expense tracking apps was saturated even by 2010, but I could see that Joost had built something different, something that would vault us over the competition.

Joost Schouten (my co-founder and CTO) had been working on the product for a few years. He needed a business partner, I fit the bill and we know each other from kindergarten, so I guess I was easy to approach.

How did the name Yanomo come about?

It’s a shorthand for “you know more”. We actually spent a lot of time getting there. We wanted the name to express an idea, not functionality. It had to be accessible, but it also had to be a bit corporate and reliable. Finally, the name had to be pronounceable in all major languages… And the domain name had to be available, of course. So there.

How would you say that Yanomo differs from the competition?

While other tools focus primarily on small companies and/or single users, Yanomo excels when your business consists of 15+ people. Think medium-sized ad agencies, consultancies, architectural firms… These companies need easy time & expense tracking like any small service biz, but there’s more: they need reliable KPI’s to manage their business, and the power tools to obtain these KPI’s. They need a tool that can handle complex organizational structures without the interface falling apart. They need security. And as a bonus, Yanomo keeps their workforce in the loop of who’s up to what, something that is always an issue for any mid-sized organization.

How different is the current version of Yanomo to the original?

Vastly improved. Every new customer teaches you something about the strengths and weaknesses of your product, and you learn to expand on the strengths and radically expunge the weak spots.

One of the most radical changes, believe it or not, was the color scheme. We had a pretty sophisticated color scheme in place, but too many customers were complaining about it. So we switched back to the old standbys: apple green and heavenly blue.

What was technically the most challenging part of developing Yanomo?

We wanted to build an architecture that could REALLY scale, and would offer no restrictions to any type of customer. I mean, we wanted to be able to hook up a 15,000 user-company with 1,000 accounts and 5,000 projects without the interface cluttering or performance crashing.

We succeeded there, and that’s become a big part of our sales pitch: don’t worry, Yanomo can handle your company’s complexity.

Who do you see as your principle target audience? How are you reaching them?

We are aiming at SMEs from 15 to 500 people. That’s our sweet spot: these companies are in the process of switching to SaaS, but have several requirements regarding performance, security and scalability that Yanomo excels at, and many of our competitors don’t meet.

We are reaching these companies using a four-channel sales strategy: direct sales, reseller sales, affiliates and search.

You currently have a team of 8. Have you had any difficulties in finding talented employees?

Yes and no. Yes, because we had to convince people to leave their jobs and take the plunge. No, because we are great guys to work for and working on a product is so much better than working on projects for clients.

How many countries is Yanomo available in?

Everywhere people speak either English, Dutch or Spanish.

Has Yanomo got the feedback and growth you expected since launching November 2010?

No on both accounts. We didn’t start to grow until last year, when we realized we should be focusing exclusively on mid-sized companies instead of service organizations in general. This immediately led to the feedback that we were hoping to get all along: that people are really happy with the product. It simply took a while for us to grasp which audience was *really* benefiting from Yanomo.

What is your primary focus in terms of new developments at the moment?

Integration with other great software, primarily. We’re in the process of putting the finishing touches on our API so users can deploy Yanomo in conjunction with their other favorite tools, from CRM to accountancy.

What is the startup scene like in Amsterdam?

It is booming. There are so many startup hubs, hotspots and events I’ve lost track a bit. The tricky thing for a Dutch startup is that our domestic market is too small to make a heavy VC investment truly feasible… If you don’t have an international strategy, that is. So I would say your average Dutch startup is very innovative, but isn’t living the glamorous life.

What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing at Yanomo?

In a young SaaS business, you have a perpetual cash flow problem. In the short run, converting any lead will cost you money that won’t come back for the next 6 months. So if you want to grow aggressively – which is the correct strategy – you are always slightly frustrated because you’re missing great opportunities that require cash you don’t have. It’s slowly getting better, though.

What advice would you offer to any soon to be startup founders out there?

Be goal-oriented, and be flexible. You’re going to play a game that will throw the most unexpected challenges at you. It will test you in ways you cannot imagine. But it will be fun. Take firm charge of the helm and keep reading the waters ahead. Don’t be afraid to completely overhaul your tactics, but never lose sight of the end goal.

This is the 11th startup I’ve been involved with, and if there’s one thing that always held true is that things never go as planned… For better and worse.

Can you convince the reader to start using Yanomo in under 50 words?

You should try Yanomo if you’re looking for a time tracking tool that brings the best of both worlds: the usability and accessibility of a friendly SaaS, with the power tools and scalability you expect from an enterprise solution. Grab our free trial – you won’t be disappointed!

Finished reading? Check out Yanomo!

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