Welcome to our founder lessons series. Today, Max Pecherskyi, co-founder and CEO of PromoRepublic reflects on the success of his startup that lets you save time on social media management by creating an optimal posting schedule and providing unique industry-specific visual content.
PromoRepublic is a social media management app, and collaboration platform, with a surprise inside. Agencies find it exceptionally useful to save time on the collaboration process between writers, designers, clients, and SoMe experts. Small businesses and freelancers, in turn, appreciate the lasting value of our library of unique premade posts.
But what sets PromoRepublic apart from other tools is the combination of AI-powered algorithms and a continuous creative flow of fresh visuals ready to be published on different social networks in just a few quick clicks. Reviewers even came to think of it as of a cross between Buffer and Canva. Brands can even use it as a white-label solution to deliver an exceptional experience to their customers.
We’re now present in three countries – Ukraine, Finland, and the United States, with ambitions to expand globally. We bring our values to the forefront and simplify another million processes for small businesses, agencies, and freelancers.
Why and how did you start PromoRepublic?
I’ve always cared about what marketers do and tried to help them out by any means possible. Working in digital agencies with Valeriy and Mike, we came to the conclusion that social media is one of the main channels used in a marketing strategy and saw its potential for different kinds of entrepreneurs, especially the ones starting small.
So we started in 2013, with a platform for creating promotions and contests on social networks. In just a few months, the startup was close to €30,000 in revenue, but what’s more important, it was used by more than a thousand companies. To enter markets globally, we decided to start doing more than that. Our startup is one of the few that passed the trials of four accelerators, in Ukraine, Estonia, Chile, and Finland. In 2017, PromoRepublic managed to raise $1.2M to become the next generation of technology for social media, powered by artificial intelligence.
In essence, we’ve taken up the challenge to develop a system that will analyze the effectiveness of social media content and automatically generate templates based on the best posts for each business category. It’s always been great content that draws people to social media. But the content of small and medium-sized businesses is of very low quality, which makes their presence not that effective at all. As a result, entrepreneurs become disappointed to invest their time, energy, and money to optimize and grow their social media pages. Enriching our services with templates, automation, and AI, we’re planning to create a win-win for both small businesses and different channels.
What are your biggest success factors?
PromoRepublic has arrived at what it is now mainly through partnerships. Thanks to our investors who challenged us and pivoted us to the U.S. market, we managed to meet the needs of highly-demanding customers. Cooperating with AppSumo, a service doing lifetime promotional campaigns, we got our first several thousand American users who gave us valuable feedback. No doubt about it, it was a push stress test and inspiration for the whole team to bring the product to the next level of efficiency. Another success factor for PromoRepublic was public funding from Business Finland, private angel investors, and venture capital companies.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced launching and running the company?
If there’s one word that sums up our biggest challenge, it’s churn. Around 20% of our customers, the majority are small businesses, discontinue using the product because they shift their priorities or close their companies. It’s sad, but every fifth small business is doomed to failure. To thrive as a company, PromoRepublic thus needs an amazing organic growth that would attract a greater number of entrepreneurs.
This led us to another test – fitting our product to the needs of agencies, guaranteeing stable cooperation and ready to pay more. Aside from small businesses, we had to understand what value PromoRepublic could bring agencies and their clients to update our solution with new features. That’s how our tool has become a nice collaboration platform for different social media management activities.
Yet another challenge, when we’ve just started with Valeriy and Mike was to find talented people who would share the same values and help us bring the startup forward. At the outset, finding the right professionals to build a product of this kind seemed like a really tough nut to crack. Everyone realized that the environment we were in was extremely competitive. Now it’s even more so, but once the company was set up for growth, more experts from around the world started to express interest in PromoRepublic.
Which do you think is most important: the right market, the right product, or the right team?
My experience, over the last few years, finally brought me to the conclusion that the right team is key. In our case, the team should share customer values and love the idea to help small businesses compete with giants that have great budgets. Even turning to accelerators, you need to have the right people who will support you and share the same values. It’s always good to ask yourself – who develops the product – and focus on the roots. If the team is initially happy to help and work, it’ll come up with the right product and enter the right market.
Final words for those chasing the startup dream
Looking back at all we’ve gone through with the team, I can definitely say that managing a product of this scale requires a lot of learning to understand your end users’ pain points and build upon that understanding. My advice to anyone chasing the startup dream would be to find true believers in your idea and grow your network with like-minded professionals. Working hard eventually pays off.