First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Alyona Medelyan: Luckily, we live in New Zealand. There are few Covid cases here, but 2020 has been a tricky year with lots of moments of anxiety.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Thematic.
Alyona Medelyan: I am CEO and a co-founder at Thematic, a SaaS company. We analyze customer feedback. It’s a specialized solution for insights analysts who work at medium to large companies. They use Thematic to inform their company’s strategy and prioritization.
My background is in Natural Language Processing, and I have a Ph.D. in this area. I have always been passionate about solving problems using my unique skill set. I was consulting in a general field of NLP. Then several companies reached out and asked if I could help them analyze feedback. I designed a prototype for a solution and started showing it around. This is how Thematic was born.
Since then, we have participated in YCombinator and raised seed funding. This allowed us to grow faster, hire an excellent team in the US and New Zealand. And this year we became profitable.
How does Thematic innovate?
Alyona Medelyan: Everything comes from understanding our customers and listening to their needs. As technologists, we are quick to come up with many cool features we could build. But innovation is worth nothing if it doesn’t solve what people want.
Recently, we opened up Thematic for anyone to try. You can upload your feedback and get it analyzed. Seeing the demand for this simple proposition has propelled everyone to innovate faster. Immediately, we can see issues that need fixing and enough feedback to iterate on.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Alyona Medelyan: We are coping by adapting as fast as we can. Our team, like many, went remote. There are no offices anymore. We find other ways of keeping the culture alive. For example, every Friday, the team meets for 40min to an hour of non-work focused time. Some share a personal story about their roots and history. Others create a fun quiz for everyone to take part in.
We are also finding other ways of connecting with customers and connecting them with each other. We run virtual roundtables, where we connected people via Zoom who have similar roles. It helped everyone to not feel as isolated in this new remote environment.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Thematic in the future?
Alyona Medelyan: My co-founder is my husband, and there is always one of us who is less stressed and more upbeat. We use this to prop each other up in tough times. We also have kids. Spending time with them helps us switch off. Playing a board game after dinner with a 4-year-old and a 7-year-old can be very entertaining. We also try to spend time in nature.
Our company will continue to listen to the feedback of our customers and building what they want. We’ll also continue experimenting, measuring the results, and adapting our strategy. It’s exciting how much you can do today with powerful analytics.