Hello ! Who are you and what are you working on?
Hi OyeStartups! Thanks for having is on. I am Val Sopi, founder and CEO of Claritask, Inc.
We are making Claritask and have launched a bit over a year ago.
Claritask is a collaboration tool that helps teams and individuals work better with one another. Clarity is the key concept in our service as we try to stay true to our name.
Claritask replaces the need to use multiple alternatives (Email, notebooks, whiteboards, slack) and bring the entire team in one single hub where they collaborate in clarity, without being overwhelmed with notifications and pings about the same exact thing from a few different sources.
What motivated you to get started with? How did you come up with the idea?
We used to be a digital design firm before jumping the gun and focusing entirely on one product. The motivation was behind having a tool that would help us know what needs to get done, what has been accomplished and by whom, and report all that to our clients, as well as to ourselves.
Usually, with the existing tools at the time, we had to manually track and find things that were completed. It was a complete mess.
With Claritask we set out to solve that and we managed to pull it off with quite a small team.
At heart I am a born project manager. I am not suggesting "I am the best at it" — what I mean is that "I love managing projects". Specifically speaking, I love getting a project from zero to launch while managing and re-adjusting teams and deliverables in the process.
A good project manager, in my opinion, knows when to cut things out (deliverables that might hold the project back) — key idea here is to "always be launching!" — that's something I try to hold true with Claritask. We are constantly launching. Everyday is Day One! You can never sit back and say —"We're done! Lets go home!". The only time you can say that is when working with clients and you must get done and paid. However, with a product like Claritask you can't sit on your laurels. You are always on the lookout of what needs your customers have so you can solve it better/faster for them.
I am a "product head" so I try to lead a product-first company, where the product does the actual marketing and initiates word of mouth. This way we can clearly know that our customers are happy and are talking about Claritask to their friends.
Can you tell us the story of your business from idea to where you are now?
Claritask was born out necessity. We knew the market (service companies just like ours) and we had enough experience in knowing these pain points before building Claritask. Also, what helped tremendously was running a similar company to the market we were serving.
We knew internally how these companies run. We were our own guinea pig.
One thing we have to point out is that as soon as we started building Claritask, before having it "launch" ready, we offered it to three companies and agreed that they can use it free of charge even after our official launch. The only catch was that they had to provide us with feedback as we would continue with launching new features.
Once we launched, we had the confidence to continue offering to other similar companies in the market.
What has been your biggest failure or struggle?
Coming with a baggage of experience helps you get rid of failures early on and focus on what works, based on prior lessons. Struggles, or challenges as I like to call them, are many. The biggest challenge is being on the lookout for opportunities on how better to solve something for our clients that rely on Claritask on daily basis. This includes anticipating what they might need next before them asking about it.
It's easy to sit back and enjoy new clients rolling in, but the world today is moving fast. People are constantly learning new ways about their profession. Our job is to keep up with that pace and exceed expectations.
My way of formulating that, would be: Struggle is better solved if looked as a challenge. A challenge is better overcome if looked as an opportunity.
And what has been your biggest achievement or success?
Having happy clients and low churn has been one of the biggest successes so far. We want to keep this momentum going as we grow our company.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Our blog does pretty well in bringing in new people who have yet to learn about Claritask. Our posts deal with working better in general and how to overcome life's challenges so you can produce better work — and not just for the sake of being more productive, but feeling accomplished and fulfilled in the process.
Retention is one aspect of Claritask where we have been really successful in terms of keeping clients happy and have them constantly recommend Claritask to their friends and colleagues.
Technically speaking: A genuinely caring customer service goes a long way. Even if you can't currently help a client in need, you can always point them in the right direction. Overpromising and underdelivering will kill you. It's best to be honest with a progressive mindset and try to really solve your client's need, even if it takes doing something that doesn't scale. Things like manually helping a new client transfer their tasks from another product to Claritask (we've done that), listening to their business struggle (other than project management) and offering thoughts and lessons from experience. Just simply lending an ear can go a long way.
Describe the process of launching the business.
One thing that marks the launching of a business is your first sale. So anything you do up to that point is experimentation. Your first sale marks Day One of your business.
Technically speaking: run a lean team and extend those savings to your clients by offering an incredible product at an affordable price, never raise prices because you can (looking at you big pharma!), and always be offering an incredible product.
Be a "Product first" company!
Financially: have a solid runway ahead (at least 6 months, ideally 12). Have enough cash in the bank so if anything goes wrong in the market/world, you have enough runway to keep offering your service at a great quality.
Did you use Betalist or PH or other Startup Launching Platform for Launching ? How was that experience ?
We have not done that yet, but will probably plan to do so at some point.
What’s your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?
Claritask relies on a Saas (Software-as-a-service) business model based on recurring payments (subscriptions) from our clients.
The way we are growing our revenue is actually being there for each one of our clients, since day one. As Paul Graham suggests to "do things that don't scale" — we have tried to stay true to that promise. As we scale up and grow our business we want to continue doing "things that don't scale" en masse and really point out the "service" part in our Software-as-a-service model.
Claritask is first and foremost a solution, a service — and then a technical software.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome? What are your goals for the future?
Our current challenge, or rather opportunity, is to reach more companies who can substantially benefit from using Claritask. Our goal is to constantly provide value, not just with Claritask (the software), but our writings and content that are meant to help not just our clients, but the world at large in working better, smarter, clearer — and make better work in the process as a result of all that.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We are growing steadily and calmly managing our everyday increases in new clients and requests. One thing we are not doing is growing un-controllably and this is deliberate, because we want to focus on quality first by offering an outstanding service for a handful of clients whom we can really help.
At this rate, we are lucky to say that the future looks bright.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I've started many businesses in my life. My very first one being at 9 years old selling custom designed paper banners with a friend of mine. Though we never made one single sale (we gave most of our banners for free to our friends and anyone who was excited about what we were making) — the experience gave me an opportunity to learn how fun it is to build something out of nothing and offer value to people so their lives are better through my creations, products, or offerings.
With that said, the biggest lesson is this: Make others lives better! Even if your selling lemonade, make the best lemonade there is.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We're constantly using various tools and platforms to run our business on daily basis. Obviously we use our very own Claritask to build and run Claritask. It's kinda meta in a way.
Specifically speaking, Claritask (the tool) has been very instrumental in having us "rush slowly" as the saying goes. Through Claritask we know exactly what's coming up, what has been accomplished, what's currently being worked on, and overall know everyone's pulse in the company.
Running a transparent company through all the ranks is very important in building a product that is clear and crisp to the touch.
Other than Claritask, I would like to point out Mercury, the new bank we have switched to recently. Mercury is a new kind of a bank that is nothing like we've ever seen before. Not only they are startup friendly, but the tools and options they are constantly launching (API, etc.) have been particularly helpful in managing our finances properly.
Who’s your most inspirational CEO or founder?
I usually tend to look up to people that are not famous in terms of social media. These are individuals who are running a business, serving a great products, and running a diverse team of individuals. People who are not only focused on sales and personal gain, but rather the overall well being of their staff and their families.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
One of the recent most influential books I've read is "Obviously Awsome" by April Dunford. For the first time I was able to fully understand what positioning is (and what it is not). April's take on the subject is unique, practical, and helpful in terms of teaching us what it means to position a product properly and offer it to someone specific that will actually benefit from it. A process that not only helps you optimize your sales process, but close more deals along the way.
What’s your advice for fellow aspiring entrepreneur who are just starting out?
A lot of people will say validate your idea first and do all these things so you play it safe, but you will never learn something new without pushing yourself to the edge. Yes, you can build a business on top of someone's blueprint, but you'll never realize what you're made of.
My suggestion is to just Nike it and JUST DO IT : )
Do you have an idea, product that can improve other people's lives? Just start. Today! Don't quit your day job just yet, but start. Even if it's an hour a day. Then once you have your first customer and some cash to play with, go fully in.
It's always good to have some initial cash when starting out. At least a couple of months worth of runway, so you're not making unsound decisions on the fly and for the wrong reasons.
And never stop selling. "Selling" as a process, or word, is usually frowned upon, but we forget to note that selling something that improves someone's quality of life, work — is nothing but introducing them to something they may not be aware of. Exchanging a payment for that service is nothing more than your clients investing back in your business so you can continue improving their lives for years to come.
Hope this was helpful for anyone reading up to here. For more on similar thoughts and writings check us out here
Thank you OyeStartups for the interview.