Aside from shining a light on some of Europe’s finest bootstrapped technology companies, we’ve also kicked off the ‘Startup Spotlight’ series featuring relatively under-the-radar but interesting European tech startups on a weekly basis.
This time, we shine a light on Weekdone, an Estonian startup aiming to help companies manage productivity within teams and provide feedback to employees in an efficient manner. Although based in Talinn, about 70-80% of its paid users come from the US, which is why the company is focusing on that market in the coming year, said Weekdone co-founder and CEO Jüri Kaljundi. At the moment, the startup – which consists of a six-person team – is also cash-flow positive and profitable.
Here’s a Q&A with Kaljundi on staying lean, the Estonian startup ecosystem and what’s on the roadmap for Weekdone:
tech.eu: How would you best describe Weekdone and its vision in a few sentences?
Jüri Kaljundi: Weekdone is an internal communication tool to build transparent, focused and productive teams. It provides leaders with insights into their team and company to understand people’s goals, actions and accomplishments.
Weekdone provides teams with a best practice process on how teams should be run and communicate. It all starts with setting and sharing quarterly company, team and personal goals using Objectives and Key Results (OKR), which is a management technique used at Google, Linkedin, Twitter and thousands of smaller companies.
On a weekly basis, the company can set up a questionnaire form that everyone fills in that includes task-related questions (like what got done? or what are the key tasks for next week?) or culture-building questions (like what’s the one thing we should do better in our team next week?). Leaders can then provide feedback using one-to-ne reviews and public comments creating a powerful feedback loop. Also, everything gets compiled and shared as a beautiful visual report.
The main benefits are saving time and providing everyone with a regular exercise of thinking about what the key things they should work on each week and day. We all have tens of items on our task lists, and not all of them are important. Focus is very important to build a successful team.
When was Weekdone founded? Where did the idea come from?
We started in 2012, after noticing how unstructured team communications are that use email, chat and feed-based tools. Both leaders and employees seemed to keep complaining that there was too much information coming in.
We knew a process called Plans, Progress and Problems (PPP) that’s used at companies like Skype and eBay for their weekly team status-sharing. We also knew that Google uses weekly email updates called Google Snippets and many people loved that. So we thought: “Hey, why not build a tool to take these best practices to a wider audience?”
How did you meet your co-founder and what were you (each) doing before starting the company?
We have three co-founders: me on the business/product-side, Janek Hiis running development and Veli-Johan Veromann doing design. Me and Janek have been working together for 15 years – first on CV-Online, a leading regional online recruitment company operating in 10 countries and then on the biggest photo-sharing sites in Estonia.
Veli, our talented designer, who was just awarded the best young designer in Estonia, joined us five years ago. It’s a perfect founder match, covering exactly the three key areas every startup must tackle.
What would you say is the main difference between Weekdone and others tackling the team management/productivity space, such as iDoneThis?
One of our key differentiators is we are not a task manager or project management tool. Weekdone is all about communication and internal-sharing. People using it have to always keep in mind that they are not recording items for themselves, but they are writing for their leaders and co-workers, so they learn new insights. Part of that is thinking what is important to share and what is not. Less is more.
How much funding have you raised so far?
Weekdone has been very lean. We raised €150,000 about 1.5 years ago from seed investor Kima Ventures, the founder and chief architect of Skype and Kazaa, Ahti Heinla, and some local business angels. We didn’t think we’d last so long with the money, but things progressed well and we became cash-flow positive.
It’s a great feeling for any founder to know that if you don’t want to, you actually don’t need to raise more money. Investment is just an accelerator pedal you can – but don’t have to – push.
At the end of the day your users are the ones who have to pay your salaries and bring in a profit. It’s OK sometimes to go into some losses, especially when growing, but even then moderation can be the key. Being focused on customers and thus sales has pushed us at Weekdone to make many right decisions on being focused and making choices – be it on product, sales or marketing side.
When we won Slush, the biggest tech conference in Northern Europe, and were off to a good start, we had the doors open to raise much more funding.
Instead, it was a conscious decision by our founding team to be a bit more conservative, to build a strong foundation to the company for years to come. By being smart in how we use our funds and what we focus on, we’ve probably achieved as much as others who’ve raised a million or more. Being serial entrepreneurs, we’ve learned our lessons. We sit down with Veli and Janek each quarter to discuss fundraising and the decision last year was: “No, not yet.”
However, that has changed. Now that we reached positive cash-flow, became profitable and are used by the leading brands of the world – including Fortune 500 companies – we see a clear path to accelerate growth. Now, we’ve started to look for a new financing round to take Weekdone to next level as a serious B2B company.
What is your business model?
Weekdone is all about the value we provide to teams and companies: saved time, increased focus and productivity as well as improved company culture.
When implemented well, our price – which is $3-5 per employee per month – can be very attractive to leaders. If a 10-person team can save hundreds of hours and thus thousands of dollars per month, our $49/month smallest tier package sounds like a no-brainer.
We also have a completely free fully-featured package for teams of up to three people and for larger ones there’s a 15-day free trial.
What’s the company’s plan for the next three months? And what do you hope to have achieve in the next 12 months?
We’ll focus on a few areas. First of course, is the product and improving it. We’re not planning any big changes, it’s much more now about improving the general ease-of-use and small details, as well as better on-boarding both for leaders setting us up and employees starting to use it.
We also want to improve usage in larger companies. Most of our users today are in teams or companies or 300 people, so the next step is getting to our first 500-1000 employee installations. Slowly but surely we’re getting there. Already, we’re being used by some of the top companies in the world, whose names we unfortunately can’t name.
As for growing the company, our challenge today is growing from a person-based company to a team-based one. It’s crucial now to have separate well-run discrete teams in sales, marketing and support in addition to the product side. We always want to keep no more than 50% of our team on product side, and be really customer- and sales-focused. That’s again something Europeans often forget, that even great products must be marketed and actively sold. It’s just as important as the product-side. We estimate growing to 15 or so people in 12 months from our current headcount of six. As great people are the key for any company, doing those hires now is crucial.
What are your thoughts on the local ecosystem in Estonia?
Estonia is absolutely fabulous as a tech-oriented country. The startup ecosystem is thriving, and it’s said we have the highest number of startups per capita, being a small country of just 1.4 million people.
There has been huge growth in last five years since the country started Garage48 Foundation and many other initiatives. There are accelerators for B2B, gaming and IoT. There are co-working spaces and bunch of events, from small weekly seminars to the largest annual conference, Latitude59.
On the funding side, it’s all good with angels and seed rounds of up to one million euros. However, after that, it’s hard because there are no real active VCs here, so you have to look elsewhere. Luckily during the next 12 months, many new ones are starting and more money will pour in.
Estonia has the same issue as most European countries. We have world-class tech and development talent and although hiring is hard everywhere, you can always find great people in that area. The problem is finding experienced people on the business-side, which includes both sales and marketing as well as customer-facing product management.
We have to train many more people on that side, as well as open up for even easier immigration to get talent from US and other countries here. While hiring people in the US is a short-term crutch, it’s not a long-term solution for European startups. We have to become more business-oriented, that’s a fact.
The interview has been edited and condensed.
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