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INNOVATORS VS COVID 19

Alexis Botaya: How the Pandemic Helped his Mobile App to Expand into New Usage Occasions

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Alexis Botaya

We talked to Alexis Botaya, CEO and co-founder of elocance about productivity applications and this is what he said about it.

First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?

Alexis Botaya: Great thank you! It was quite challenging during the first lockdown here in France with a 1-year-old and two working parents but we were able to rent a house in the countryside that was more accommodating than our Paris apartment!

Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Elocance.

Alexis Botaya: I am French and co-founded elocance (with Sabina Khilnani, who is American) following the exit of my previous startup in 2018. It was a media platform called Soon Soon Soon featuring the latest innovations from all over the world. We amassed 500,000 subscribers, many of which were companies, and I was able to sell to a large media conglomerate in France. While figuring out my next move, I thought about my consumption habits and was convinced that audio would continue to be a game-changer. I also felt that the fashion in which we interact with audio was evolving and would deeply impact our daily lives in the very near future. That’s how elocance was born. We wanted to give all our important content a voice and turn it into a podcast. This became a bit of an obsession. In 2019, we built an MVP of an app that was capable of transforming content into a personalized podcast. Basically, all the things you don’t have time to read would now be read to you. Your entire reading list (PDFs, meeting notes, company reports, case studies, or news articles) can now be listened to instantly. The most important thing for us is that our team wants to use the app every day. We use it to keep up with trends and industry news so we’re up to speed. I do this while jogging, running errands, or picking my son up from school. 

How does Elocance innovate? 

Alexis Botaya: Our users are at the center of our innovation strategy. We are very eager to connect with them and, likewise, they feel invested in our product development. We start with their feedback and prioritize this based on need and efficiency. We then pressure check all feature updates against 1) our overall vision for where we want to take elocance which is basically to make learning by listening faster and better and 2) our core target which is the loyal users that are most important to us. This helps us stay on track and keep from going down a rabbit hole on a feature that might not be needed or valuable. 

How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?

Alexis Botaya: The pandemic was a huge learning opportunity for us. Before Corona, we knew that the usage of our app was highly correlated with mobility, specifically, commuting to work. We were in the middle of the pandemic when we launched the paid version of our app and dove into understanding how this would impact usage behaviors. Two things struck us right away. First, professionals find it increasingly difficult to keep up with all the information that’s flying into their inbox, especially with coworkers on different timezones or schedules. The use case for elocance now became listening to work documents while cooking or running errands (vs. commuting). Another pandemic-related consequence was the issue of increased screentime. We heard over and over how elocance was helping users rest their eyes and taking walks or being able to stretch while still staying productive. We’re eager to see how usage changes as commuting come back into play but are grateful that we could use 2020 to learn more about how our product can fit into many other parts of our users’ day. 

Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?

Alexis Botaya: We have a relatively small team so we’re able to keep everyone on board as planned. We even hired another full-time employee during the period. However, we were diligent in taking advantage of government allowances to stay on track. We were very mindful of the unprecedented nature of what was going on and had various contingency plans in place in case they were needed. One lesson learned was that keeping our team informed every step of the way helped everyone feel like an important part of the venture. 

How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?

Alexis Botaya: When we first launched our MVP, we leveraged typical tools like surveys and cold emails to troubleshoot or drive customer loyalty. We soon realized we would need a more sophisticated CRM strategy. We’re a mobile app so we have a relatively complex customer journey with behaviors that extend beyond our mobile platform. One tool we needed right away was an event-based messaging and email platform (we use Vero) to help new users, prospects, and customers to complete actions throughout the funnel. Beyond this, engineering as marketing also plays a big role with our app design facilitating activity through notifications, pop-ups, and general UX. 

One fun thing we did is to create a section in the app called Call a Co-founder where our users could call us directly (me and my co-founder) with the press of a button. This has allowed us to troubleshoot issues much more quickly and also build loyalty with our users who appreciate this feature.

Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?

Alexis Botaya: Definitely. We are based in France, and France, like many European countries, has implemented very ambitious measures to encourage companies, and especially startups, to stay on course for growth. We have taken advantage of various grants and provisions that have helped us from a human resource and R&D perspective.

Your final thoughts?

Alexis Botaya: Well, in these times of uncertainty, you have to be opportunistic and quick to capitalize on opportunities. In that spirit, we’re happy to offer a 50% discount on the annual subscription to elocance! with the code ELO#2@21.

Your website?

https://www.elocance.com

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