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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!

Interview with Theodore Batzakas (wedjinni)

wedjinni is a wedding planning application to help with wedding related tasks.

I interviewed Theodore Batzakas, wedjinni founder to find out more. This is the two hundred and eighth in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to Theodore!

How would you describe wedjinni in under 50 words?

The most complete wedding management application ever built. Our focus, from the beginning of development was to make one tool that would make everyone’s life easier when planning a wedding. Wedding-related businesses included.

What made you decide to start working on wedjinni?

After getting married, I realized first-hand how difficult it is to plan a wedding. Inspiration and ideas are not that hard to find with all the information now on the Internet, but, pure, raw management of all the tasks involved with a wedding, is really hard without a good app. So I gathered up my team and brainstormed for it.

Planning a wedding is a very personal experience, do you feel you can make the experience personal via wedjinni?

Everything in wedjinni is personal! Every account is for two users, so we make the bride and groom work on their wedding together. Guests can be invited by connecting on Facebook or by transferring contacts from a mobile phone and the users can rsvp them by mail and get comments back in the app too. Gift registry can connect to other online services and import gifts in real time on the users’ account. Reception tables are easy to manage without stereotypes about table sizes and arrangements, so you can plan a beach party or a great venue reception with the same tool.

JinniQuest, the platform that helps couples and vendors connect, is as personal as it can get. Couples set a budget and deadline for a task, and vendors come with specialized proposals designed for the requiesting couple. Topping that with an 11-language support, wedjinni speaks in the users minds :)

What was technically the most challenging part of developing wedjinni?

We wanted to build a strong engine, with many features and great scalability, but we also wanted to keep the ui clean, the application simple and fun to use and uncover the great features of wedjinni only when needed to minimize the clutter. We think we succeeded on that.

Do younger couples tend to be your main target market?

Sure. Young couples are our main target, since they are more comfortable in using technology for something that was quite traditional until now. Today, everyone has access to the Internet and most people know how to operate a smartphone or a tablet, so they can put it in good use while planning their wedding.

It is important though, to state that wedjinni is not only being offered to younger couples.

What technologies have you used to build wedjinni?

Wedjinni is based on PHP and MySQL technologies. We used the CodeIgniter framework for our backend and we utilized extensively the beauty of JavaScript, jQuery and recently Backbone.js to make things faster.

Do you have any features in the pipeline to develop wedjinni?

Wedjinni is built to grow. After the initial release of web and mobile apps, we are going to integrate a social plugin in wedjinni which will allow couples to exchange ideas right from within wedjinni. Also, we plan on having special events from selected vendors, proposing new ideas to couples and answering questions to help them make the best choices for their wedding. With these services, we think wedjinni will be truly the most complete application for wedding planning ever built.

What do you wish you’d have known 5 years ago that you know now? Where do you see wedjinni in 5 years time?

Never give up on projects that come from a great idea. The idea is yours, and only you can make it work as it should. Wedjinni is our little kid. We like to see it succeeding and standing out from the crowd. We believe in its potential, we know it’s good so we are in a good path.

I see that you’re soon introducing an app available on Apple and Google play what inspired you to do this?

The world is moving, so should our app. Nowadays, when you close your laptop and get out, you stay connected and need to check email, update appointments etc.

When you plan a wedding, lots of events happen while you are on the move. That’s why we wanted to make wedjinni stay with you all the time and help you keep everything in order.

Has wedjinni got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?

Even though we haven’t marketed wedjinni extensively yet, we already have a thousand users, and a few hundred professionals registered to try jinniQuest. Our users have already managed over a million dollars worth in wedding expenses which eventually could end to jinniQuest vendors. And we are still in beta.

Who is your biggest competitor?

Competition of wedjinni is somehow difficult to detect. Not because there are not great applications out there, but because most applications excel in very specific areas. There are great apps for guest lists, great apps for budgeting, great apps for reception management but not many great apps, if any, that can do all of the above and keep the user from searching for a bunch of tools to do his job. Having said that, great competition that is hard to fight comes from big wedding related portals that have the funds and marketing strength to appear more to potential users.

The fee you charge seems relatively cheap, do you manage to effectively cover costs?

We kept wedjinni’s cost to the lowest possible after a careful study of our expenses. We want users to meet wedjinni and see what it can really do. One of our big challenges will be to make wedjinni completely free in the future for the couples and only charge for the users of jinniQuest (the professionals in the wedding industry).

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

Weddings in a global scale are a colorful mosaic. Every country and every area in a country, has traditions, special wedding customs and things that are de facto for the locals and hard for others to comprehend. Wedjinni has to be culture-free. It has to focus on the real management challenges that no matter where the wedding is taking place, it is there. Some countries use rsvps, some not. Some have bridal showers, some not. So, in every step of developing wedjinni, we had to keep in mind to leave tradition and cultural things out of the picture.

Being based in Bulgaria, do you experience difficulties in terms of time differences with other countries?

Sometimes we need more coffee to attend meetings, to watch statistics or to solve problems, but, coffee is nice :)

With customers needing to provide a fair amount of personal information, do you experience any difficulties with the data protection act?

We have taken the privacy of our users very seriously. Our attorneys has conducted a full privacy policy letter from scratch so we are in perfect conformance of national and international law regarding online privacy. We respect our users and we have taken all steps to also protect their data with encryption and other security technologies.

What are you most excited about at the moment?

We are close to release v.1 This is really an exciting milestone. We can’t wait to see how people are going to use wedjinni and we feel very happy to see them use wedjinni’s features to plan their special day. This makes us feel full of excitement.

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

If you are planning a wedding, managing everything will soon become a nightmare. Don’t let managing difficulties ruin your special day. Rub the lamp, and call for our jinni.

Finished reading? Check out wedjinni!