Onboarding is an issue all SaaS projects have to face sooner or later. When faced with the same problem, Vladimir Polo not only created a great onboarding tool, he found a way he could improve content marketing, convert better, and increase customers’ LTV all together. We caught up with Vladimir at Web Summit to find out more about how academies can change businesses like nothing else.
Hi Vladimir! How’s [Web Summit] going for you?
Vladimir Polo: It’s great! This is the first Web Summit for us. A huge event – 70,000 people, just WOW!
Can you tell us a little about AcademyOcean and what you do?
VP: We are a platform where any SaaS company can build an academy to teach their customers, or leads, or employees.
Most companies still see academies as just an onboarding tool. Yes, this is a customer success or a customer service tool. But it is also a hugely powerful tool for marketing and lead generation as well.
And how old is your company?
VP: We’ve launched two years ago.
We know that you’ve launched on ProductHunt already and you became #1 Product of the Day. How was that experience? How did you prepare for that?
VP: Like everyone with a product, we wanted to launch AcademyOcean on ProductHunt. But we wanted to take an unconventional approach, so we created an academy about ProductHunt and launched it on Producthunt. And it became #1 Product of the Day.
We wanted to present an example of how people can create and use academies about any platform, process, or product. It brought us a lot of leads and people just saw how it works, though it isn’t a usual use case.
More often a company creates an academy to teach or onboard their customers. But we do have a great use case of when companies create academies to teach their leads or future customers: they find a problem that is quite common for their potential audience or potential customers, and they create not a blog post about it, but a course about it. And just like with any course, people need to enter their email address to enter; this course is then shared everywhere, the company gets leads that want to read this content, and they can grow and nurture these leads after they complete the course.
It’s a new way to convert your leads and visitors into customers, which is quite often used by global market companies. Companies like HubSpot and Unbounce already use academies, but they’ve built their own. Now any company can build an academy with an academy builder like Academy Ocean.
So, you’re an into unconventional marketing and unconventional sales techniques. What was your biggest challenge when it came to sales and marketing?
VP: Actually, it still is [our biggest challenge] – most companies still see academies as just an onboarding tool. Yes, this is a customer success or a customer service tool. But it is also a hugely powerful tool for marketing and lead generation as well.
Back when I was looking for a CTO, I had 49 interviews before I hired the right person… If you want to hire the right people, you’re going to have to invest your time in finding them.
And how many people are on your team?
VP: There’s seven of us right now.
Just seven people?
And what team management techniques do you use?
VP: You know, as we’re a small team, we’re using a nice tool called Planfix. It’s a powerful task manager. Though, it’s very easy to manage the team while we’re all sitting in one office. I love that we’re not in remote offices, we are all in one place, and it’s great to see your friends every day. It’s much easier to build a startup that way than in a more corporate way.
Is it hard to hire new people into a small tightly-knit team like that?
VP: One of the things I wanted to do [back when we started], and still want to do, is to only hire the right people. Back when I was looking for a CTO, I had 49 interviews before I hired the right person, Victor. So, even though it took a while, I’m proud that he is a part of our team. It’s great to be friends with the people you work with.
You shouldn’t look for an idea, it’s better to look for a problem.
And after 49 interviews, how did you find the perfect CTO?
VP: You know, I just understood that if you want to hire the right people, you’re going to have to invest your time in finding them. But then again, I think it’s a very important part of any CEO’s job.
What would be your #1 advice for anyone who plans on launching a startup or, in fact, any young entrepreneur?
VP: Wow, that’s a great question… Actually, before starting AcademyOcean, I was kind of looking for an idea of a startup. Back then I had another startup, and it was then that I understood that you shouldn’t look for an idea, it’s better to look for a problem.
Especially if you already have experience solving this problem. We’ve built an academy for ourselves before we even started AcademyOcean. We’ve built our own academy for that startup three years ago. It worked great and people became interested in how they can create their own academy like ours. So we saw that there’s a demand on academies and that’s how we found our idea.
So don’t search, try to feel what’s closer to you, what you want to solve or what you want to help people solve. That’s where you’ll find your idea.