Vlad Centea of Morfin tells us about user retention and monetization.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Vlad Centea: Actually, people having a family at home can cope easier with all the negative feelings induced by the uncertainty, by the restrictions, and by the reduced social contact. I can say I am grateful for the support I have from my family, and I can imagine how much more difficult it must be for ex-pats living alone in a foreign country.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Morfin.
Vlad Centea: I was always a builder since kindergarten. I had my first computer in 1986, a Sinclair Spectrum, and I was hooked (with games) and my first PC in 1994 and because at that time was quite expensive, my mother, who had to borrow money to buy it, made me promise I will do other things than gaming. So I did, and I started building on the computer. I started playing with 3d modeling, and I ended up building all kinds of useless software for small games for fun. I followed that high school by specializing in computer science and continued my studies in the same field at university. Last 25 years, I worked in the IT and Financial sectors for names la IBM, Motorola, and Deutsche Bank. I left a delivery project executive position to create my own company with some former colleagues from high school and university.
How does Morfin innovate?
Vlad Centea: We deliver meaningful digital interactions in times when we face a digital storm of noise and distractions. Our products help companies interact digitally with their communities of employees or clients only when the community members are ready to listen, and the interaction will result in direct value for the company and the member. For this to work, our platform is very flexible in creating a user journey that would fit each specific company and community. Companies can implement customer loyalty programs or employee engagement programs using journeys, challenges, and tasks, tokens, geofencing, phone sensors data that create different types of touchpoints with the community members developing an emotional connection with the brand/company.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Vlad Centea: In a way, the remote working and impact of the restrictions on customers and businesses accelerated the digitalization process across the board. The increased awareness about the use cases of digitalization and reaching and maintaining relationships with teams and customers over digital channels helps our business to grow.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Vlad Centea: Although we work remotely (we have teams in 2 countries), we used to see each other a few times a year. Now it has been more than one year since we last met in person. With the local teams, we have at least one day a week when people come to the office, and that we find brings a good balance. We are still adjusting and exploring what feels the best of everyone in the team, and from now on, we probably will keep this habit of always trying to adjust quickly to the ever-evolving need of the people.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Vlad Centea: We always adopted new software tools, and we always used a lot of technology. Now we find sometimes new use cases for existing tools, we use some of them more often, or we migrate from one tool to another in the same category. As I said before, we had offices in 2 countries before COVID, and we are a technology company that loves to adopt or create software. When the restrictions hit, we had to follow the same way of doing things locally as we did before with cross-border people. Of course, we noticed that some local meetings changed, and some of the dynamics of team communication changed for the local teams. However, we did not see a decrease in productivity or engagement. We also put in place more communication channels (replacing water-cooler talk), and we also implemented a virtual shares program.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Vlad Centea: Platforms or products that create engaging interactions with users are employee engagement platforms like Bonusly (for peer recognition) or Tiny pulse for (pulse surveys) and Gamitize as a generic gamification platform. In the customer loyalty space, there are very heavy solutions, but most of them are focused on earn and burn and monolithic product architecture. Basically, although it looks like a crowded market, our value proposition of reducing the number of interactions, listen to the customers before you speak to them, and shape your digital interface and journey to fit exactly your company and your community is unique right now. Our winning “less is more” method is in digital interactions, and community engagement is new in the Retail and HR sectors (and in most non-digitally-born companies like TikTok, tinder, uber, Duolingo…).
Your final thoughts?
Vlad Centea: The only thing I did not mention about our product in all this interview is that we use blockchain infrastructure for storing the value generated by the people’s interactions in the forms of tokens that can be later used to buy rewards. However, there is a reason for that: for our customers, the only thing that matters is their experience and the extra value they get. Using blockchain infrastructure in our case translates into the advantage of using earned tokens across various brands and companies and the ability to exchange them freely. Technically you can implement all this functionality on a centralized platform and connect partners with API, so the only big difference in using blockchain in our case is creating an open ecosystem in which the partnerships and integration between the companies can be done without our consent. Also, using public infrastructure for transacting and issuing tokens does not lock customers in our platform or ecosystem; basically, the ecosystem boundaries are defined by the token, not by our platform. But again, this is not a selling point to an end-user and becomes a selling point to a company only when their engagement program starts to scale, and their ecosystem expands.