First of all, how are you and your Family doing in these COVID-19 Times?
Angel Grablev: So far, my family and I have been fortunate to have no contact with the virus. We have all been tested, keeping our connection with the outside world to a minimum. I want to thank all the hardworking employees at Doordash and Instacart for keeping our stomachs and refrigerators full during these testing times! My heart goes out to all the families affected by the virus.
Tell us about you, your Career, how you Founded or Joined Freedcamp
Angel Grablev: I have been a web developer as far back as I can remember. I love every detail of building cutting edge online presences. When I was 10, I saw the Yahoo website for the first time, long story short, I fell absolutely in love. At age 16, I founded my first company. I was building a social network for the popular game of Counter-Strike, allowing gamers to find players for their teams and instantly begin practice matches. A few years after I closed the app, the same system was built directly into the game itself.
At age 20, I was a part of the historic camping trip, which ended up being the beginning of Freedcamp. Having experienced the struggles of organizing projects via email, I quickly realized the same solution utilized by companies across the world could be used much the same way to organize any part of our lives.
However, using what was already on the market quickly proved to be unfit to satisfy the niche I had discovered. People organizing camping trips or school projects, couldn’t justify spending hundreds of dollars each month. Additionally, the mere complexity of said tools was overwhelming, even for seasoned professionals. The solution was to make the system’s core free and reduce complexity by utilizing an add-on approach. Freedcamp was born after a year of late nights and 48 hour weekends. Within a year, we had 30,000 dedicated users who confirmed our hypothesis.
Being a free system proved quite tricky initially, causing my co-founder to abandon ship three years later. Shortly after his departure, I was ready to open source the project. Unexpectedly I received a heartwarming message describing how a group of volunteers used our little app to organize a hurricane relief effort in Texas. That was the moment I knew that I would do everything I can to ensure our system is up and running for all those in need for the rest of my life.
Let me answer the most popular question of the story of Freedcamp, how we make money if the system is free. All the add-ons, such as Gantt charts used almost entirely by business users, are included in our premium plans. We’ve worked hard to ensure users who need to handle Project Management see little to no limitations using our free version while offering our premium plans for free to all non-profit organizations.
How does Freedcamp Innovate?
Angel Grablev: As described in the previous question, our core innovation came in the form of a flexible add-on based system. Meaning the interface remains simple and flexible for most users, growing in complexity as the users’ needs evolve. If users want to use Freedcamp as a simple task-based application, they can do just that. In contrast, business users can install add-ons like our Customer Relationships Management to manage their entire sales pipeline.
However, this was just the beginning of Freedcamp’s innovation. A few years ago, we embarked on the second phase of our product. It is utilizing Artificial Intelligence to remove the friction users experience altogether when using any online project management tool. This includes sifting through hundreds of notifications to present the user with a shortlist of only a few paramount items that require your immediate attention.
We’re now at the final stages of launching our brand new Version 4, which revolutionizes how a web application presents information to users at every interaction. Without going into too many details, revealing our secret sauce, I will give a straightforward example to provide you with a glimpse of what’s to come. Imagine a list of 100 to 200 tasks. For most users one a team, this list can be close to useless, requiring time and mental effort to process to find the 3 to 10 items that matter to them personally. Version 4 will quickly comprehend the list, quantify hundreds of data points, and present the user with the high importance items to entirely circumvent the effort required previously.
How the Coronavirus Pandemic affects your Business, and how are you Coping?
Angel Grablev: I initially expected a lot of companies, previously resistant to online project management, to begin using our tool out of necessity, which proved correct. However, I had not accounted that businesses using our product may experience financial difficulties. Some were asking us to close their accounts. However, we made a conscious decision to give such struggling companies credits to use our system for free until their finances improve. It is unthinkable for my team and me to terminate the accounts of loyal users currently going through a hard time. We can all use a little help, and for our company, this was one of the ways we could do our part in this worldwide crisis.
Did you have to make Difficult Choices, and what are the Lessons Learned?
Angel Grablev: Our team has been almost entirely remote from the beginning, heavily relying on our system to work from home successfully (eating your dog food). So we’ve had little hard choices to make. Sponsoring businesses that couldn’t afford the product was a no brainer. However, we’re continuing to think of ways that can help those in need.
How do you deal with Stress, and Anxiety? How do you Project yourself and Freedcamp in the Future?
Angel Grablev: Dealing with stress and anxiety is a daily battle when running a startup. One way to reduce stress is to ensure you’re breaking down large initiatives into smaller executable pieces. Other methods include covering your code with tests and paying to have your system penetration tested.
As to the anxiety, if anyone has ideas on how to reduce it, I’d love to hear it!
Who are your Competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the Game?
Angel Grablev: Our main competitors are Asana, Monday, and Wrike.
We have managed to stay ahead of our competition by focusing on innovation rather than matching them feature by feature. There is a great book called Blue Ocean Strategy, which explains our approach quite well.
By offering an entirely new approach to project management, which makes our users exponentially more productive, we can add some business-focused features later on.
Your Final Thoughts
Angel Grablev: As it relates to COVID 19, I hope companies find new innovative ways to stay afloat until everything goes back to normal. Often, times of great difficulty are also times of tremendous innovation and progress.