We talked to Emil Novakov, CEO of Scaleflex, a global leading B2B SaaS company developing the most powerful and scalable Digital Asset Management and Media Acceleration solutions. Here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Emil Novakov: The current situation hit us all, both personally and professionally. I am fortunate enough to be able to combine to a certain extent work and passion; hence I was able to focus even more on building the business and supporting our customers, as they were going through the same challenges as we all did. The lack of traveling to meet customers, partners, and team members needed some adjustments but was compensated by higher productivity. As a remote company since its inception, Scaleflex was not impacted negatively with the shift to remote working at all, and our model was actually strengthened. Everyone in my family went through COVID, and we went through the associated concerns, but now everyone is well, which is most important.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Scaleflex.
Emil Novakov: I was born in Bulgaria but emigrated as a child and spent my childhood between France and Germany. After studying telecommunications engineering in Paris, I had the opportunity to go to the US and study Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech, Atlanta. I began my career as a sales engineer working for a fast-growing B2B startup in enterprise mobility between Atlanta and London, later acquired by VMware. This unique experience allowed me to learn how to build and sell a B2B SaaS product and was fundamental in the process of co-founding Scaleflex with Julian, whom I met at university in France. Today, I live in Munich (Germany) but consider myself a citizen of the world. Julian also has a global vision and moved quickly after university to Asia, where he spent a few years between South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, where he is currently based. He had worked at few startups before Scaleflex and had a very good understanding of the challenges developers face when building web or mobile applications targeting global audiences. This was the cornerstone behind our initial service Cloudimage: accelerate page loading times while helping developers save precious time to allow them to build value for their customers instead of tools to support their applications.
3 years after starting Scaleflex, we are now a team of 35 team members from 11 nationalities, distributed across 14 countries.
How does Scaleflex innovate?
Emil Novakov: We started with an MVP of Cloudimage aiming at optimizing and accelerating images online at the end of 2016 and have been innovating on top of it since then. Today, we are providing Media Optimization and Digital Asset Management solutions as SaaS to solve the ever-growing challenges of managing media assets such as images and videos, team collaboration, digital experience creation, page loading times, and SEO. Our mission is to bring companies closer to their customers and users in times where the trend is rather towards getting them further and further apart. Our DNA lies in building global (anywhere on any device), scalable (high volume of media assets), flexible (provider-agnostic, modular architecture) SaaS solutions with a lego-like and easy-to-implement architecture. We believe that digital experiences can only be as impactful as the quality of the media assets they rely on and the channels they are delivered through.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Emil Novakov: On the one hand, like many other companies, we have experienced a slowdown in decision-making from our prospects and customers as their focus has been on saving their core business.
On the other hand, many companies realized that they were behind with their digital strategy and really accelerated on all digital initiatives, which opened many interesting opportunities for us.
At the end of the day, the more media assets, such as images or videos, are managed and accelerated by our solutions, the better we are off. Overall, the impact has been positive, and we doubled our ARR in the last 12 months.
Finally, as remote work became the new normal, we were able to attract talent in new countries like Egypt and Vietnam. We started working with people we would probably not have had the chance to collaborate with in another context.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Emil Novakov: Luckily, I did not have to make any difficult choices as we are in a growing phase. We redistributed our budget to better manage the new economic challenges and better address our audiences, but this was more a strategic decision.
As mentioned previously, the real lesson learned was to keep the cohesion and collaborative dynamic in the team. Being a fast-growing and fully remote company at the same time, it took a bit more effort than usual to increase the communication level, put in place processes and structure to avoid barriers between members from different cultures, backgrounds, and seniority levels. But it all happened very naturally, and I feel we became a stronger team as we fought through these challenging times together.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Emil Novakov: As a remote company since our inception, it was very important to have a single-source-of-truth and keep our employees connected. We mainly rely on Telegram and Google Workspace to collaborate and try to keep meetings as short as possible to keep them intense and motivating. We also “drank our own champagne” by relying heavily on our main product for Digital Asset Management, Filerobot. It became our single-source-of-truth to manage media assets, create customized workflows, boost the collaboration between various teams, and ultimately contribute to smooth communication and information sharing with our customers. Our management style has always been agile (easy communication, approachable, and empowered), and this is also a key part of our DNA. I would say that COVID has only strengthened our processes, way of working, and efficiency.
What are your key differentiators? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Emil Novakov: We make our reputation in the market for providing a flexible SaaS platform (performant, scalable, and global) and being customers-first. We have built a globally distributed, scalable, flexible, and cloud-agnostic file system, which serves as the foundation for Filerobot. We are able to serve a global customer base, and our products are built with “scale by design.” As an EU-based company, we are also very sensitive to the challenges around ever-changing privacy regulations and keep a close eye on them to make sure we enable our customers to stay ahead of the compliance curve.
From the beginning, 80% of our product roadmap has been driven by customer requirements. We are very lucky to have open and understanding customers who are onboard to help us help them.
Your final thoughts?
Emil Novakov: I like considering ourselves pioneers of remote work, and our products reflect it as we want to help our customers be more efficient in this paradigm shift to remote. We believe that our solutions can not only solve specific problems our customers face around managing digital media assets, team collaboration, digital experience creation, and media acceleration but also fundamentally help them get closer to their target audiences. I believe that in times when there are more and more reasons for people to stay home and grow apart, it is important to try and provide solutions for reducing gaps.
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