Valeri Potchekailov of StoryChief tells us about helping companies collaborate on content, and distribute on multiple channels and websites.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Valeri Potchekailov: We are doing fine, thanks! Everyone is healthy and alright. Spending more time with the kids and the family now while working from home, which is great.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded StoryChief.
Valeri Potchekailov: I’ve started my first company during my university years. First, I was studying economics for almost three years, but I didn’t finish that school as it was too theoretical, I switched to marketing and design university college in Ghent (Belgium) because I wanted to work in the advertising world. This is where the magic started happening. This was totally my thing, and together with my old high school mate, who went studying software engineering, I found a branding and digital agency while still studying. By the time we graduated, we had a large office, 15 people in-house, and we were working on creative campaigns for Mitsubishi, DHL, and other huge brands. Applying strong visual and usability approaches to complex web/software flows. In other words, we made complex processes/campaigns easy to digest.
10 years and 400 projects later, we found out that this was not scalable at all. The costs and risks are too high if you want to scale. And we started thinking about building our own SaaS startup, which was super hot (and still is).
Back then, we were involved in a lot of marketing teams in different companies, sizes and verticals. But all of them had one thing in common. They didn’t have a centralized and streamlined content marketing flywheel. A lot of chaos when collaborating on articles, a lot of messages coming from different sources, copy-pasting from docs/word/email to all these different backends and social media platforms, no decent archive, no structure. This is how the StoryChief idea was born. To solve that problem.
StoryChief helps companies collaborate on content, distribute on multiple channels and websites, and analyze the content performance. All from one central place. In one flow, eliminating 5 – 10 different tools/steps allowing to generate ten times more leads with content while saving multiple hours of time per campaign.
How does StoryChief innovate?
Valeri Potchekailov: We listen to the feedback of our customers, look for trends in the space, ship upgrades and improvements almost on a weekly basis. And are always asking ourselves how we can simplify complex problems related to content in our tool.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Valeri Potchekailov: We were able to triple our growth since the start of the pandemic last year. I think because more companies realized their manual process doesn’t work any more from home and they were forced to digitalize more. It was no longer a choice. Companies need to professionalize as they can’t stand in front of their whiteboards anymore and need to create systems.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Valeri Potchekailov: Not because of the Covid situation. But definitely as a young founder. As with every tech startup, you grow with HR and personally as your company grows. We made a lot of mistakes hiring too fast. Wrong choices in terms of the stage we were at as a company versus the mindset of the people. At the very early stage, you are in survival mode; you can’t afford a lot of mistakes as your budget is limited; this means high working tempo, tons of pivots, harsh feedback, micromanagement, conflicts. All of this is very common at the early stages, but as your company grows, it all fades out as you find the growth path and become wiser with tons of failures.
We see that as a positive thing and the lessons learned to improve our current hiring process. It’s also better to fail at this at that stage than later when you need to scale your people in bulk. Our team is very strong today, and we are always on the lookout for new professionals.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Valeri Potchekailov: We bring tons of data from different sources in a central warehouse and then use tools on top to visualize patterns and behaviours. We then reach out personally to assist and onboard our customers. This makes us stand out, and people love the level of support they get.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Valeri Potchekailov: Not really; the process to get a grand is very time consuming and bureaucratic.
Your final thoughts?
Valeri Potchekailov: Do what you love to do, and this will not feel like work anymore.
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