WISP: “We’ve Got Customers From Some Very Interesting & Unexpected Industries.”

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Vera Reshetina, CEO of the SaaS startup WISP on the difficulty of convincing your team of an idea, the joy of finding customers in unexpected industries and the importance freedom.

Describe WISP in 50 words or less.

WISP is a simple SaaS service for HR managers that helps creating mobile employee handbooks for your company in 20 minutes. You can upload your logo, customize the color scheme, and then add company policies, news and staff contacts. It also includes a built-in messenger to facilitate employee communication.

Why did you decide to pursue your own dreams rather than someone else’s?

Two years ago, we noticed that our employees didn’t use the standard Intranet solutions very much. For many of them it was troublesome to root through bookmarks in their browsers; that’s why they weren’t following the corporate news feed, and they were missing out on essential information. This is problematic on many levels; it inhibited the connection between employer and employees, and more importantly the connections between employees. That’s why we decided to develop our own corporate mobile app, because our smartphones are always with us; we use them constantly.

And it was a success! Our employees loved WISP. Now everyone knows what’s happening in our company, everyone receives updates on our corporate policies, and everyone can communicate with their co-workers and reach out to new employees. Moreover, WISP means you don’t have to search for individual contact details – the app automatically loads all of them to your smartphone.

So, we thought what if WISP could be just as useful for other companies too? That’s why we decided to develop it as an independent product.

7 years from now: How did your startup change the world?

Last year, Gartner published a research describing how digital technologies will change employee engagement over the coming years. According to this research, half of employee communication will have transferred to mobile devices by 2018. By 2020, 20% of employers will list employee engagement as the priority task for HR managers to engage with in attempts to increase employee productivity.

Mobile devices connect people in their private lives, and we’re sure that in the next five to seven years they will connect them in their corporate lives too. People will engage with their work more, they will get more involved, and our app is will be a key part of this development.

In what ways do you measure your success and how do you make sure you don’t lose track?

Our customer base keeps growing and this is the first and most important indicator that we’re moving in the right direction. WISP has caught interest of employers in locations around the globe: USA, India, Mexico, UAE, Brazil and others.

Our clients are an essential source of information for WISP. We communicate with them, respond to their questions and analyze their feedback on our product. Sometimes we get requests for new features and updates from our clients – and if these are good ideas and there is a demand for them on the market, we’re willing to develop and implement them.

Describe your typical working day from coming to the office to leaving it.

We are confident that you have to arrive at work in good spirits; this way you’ll enjoy whatever tasks present themselves. For example, our project manager goes to the gym in the mornings to clear his mind and keep the mood one hundred percent positive. This way, he comes to the office motivated and energized with new ideas.

Each team member follows their own strategic development plan for the project. We work on the product roadmap, research market demands, discuss the updates we’re planning for WISP, or communicate with our customers. The marketing department and the developers are always producing great ideas; that’s why we regularly hold team meetings where we get together to share and discuss them. We don’t always agree with each other; sometimes we have to argue out our points – but I guess that’s the most effective way to develop a successful strategy. The main thing here is that we’re able to reach a consensus in the end.

One of the most necessary things is to divert ourselves from time to time, and to take breaks. For instance, our developers love to play table football or Xbox games in their free time. It’s important to keep the mood pleasant, to do things for each other – this is necessary for team building and for improving employee engagement. For example, the girls from our team recently cooked a meal for the guys – they baked pies and buns for the whole team. Guys didn’t let this go unanswered – they organized a sushi party in return.
We have a tradition in our team – whenever we have a product release, we celebrate it with pilaf; a chef at a local restaurant cooks enough pilaf for the whole team. Our team adores this small but important shared ritual!

Already pivoted? Did customers use the intranet solution like you imagined it in the beginning?

First of all, WISP was designed with medium-scale companies in mind and with an emphasis on remote workers. With our app, they receive the latest corporate news, get to know new employees and communicate with each other. That’s why, when we started developing, we thought that WISP would find its user base in the logistic, entertainment, medical, transportation, and other related industries. Most of our customers work in these areas; we have a construction company from Bahrein, a fitness club from the USA, etc.

But we also have customers from more unexpected industries, who we did not initially think of as our target audience; for example, we’re working with a marching band from Ohio, in the USA, who have been using WISP for six months now. They use it for talking to each other and publishing corporate news.

What were the biggest challenges you faced building your startup?

The biggest challenge was to make every team member believe in the core idea of WISP. In the very beginning, when we were in the planning stage, some of us didn’t take the project seriously and didn’t believe that it would be of interest to potential customers. But in 2015, we won the “Bel.Biz Battle” startup competition – this gave our team more confidence, and everyone got more enthusiastic. Now, every one of us believes that we’ll be successful on this journey.

With ferocious competition and a booming trend to build new companies: How do you make sure you don’t get lost in the shuffle?

We are clearly positioning ourselves with a focus on two key points. Firstly, we identified our target audience – companies with remote workers. Secondly, we made WISP a simple and convenient app. It’s not overloaded with additional functions you might never need and you don’t need to call a consultant to install it or explain how to use it. HR managers with any level of experience can download WISP and upload the information they want, and then simply connect their employees. Of course, there is always a temptation to expand the functionality, but we’re strictly following our plan for this product.

What do you look for in team members?

Our company appreciates the potential people have, and we want them to develop further, so they can express their creativity. We’ve seen seemingly bad ideas change the product for the better and lead to great results.

We support the initiatives our employees have, and many of our team members have their own startups. For example, our programmer, Roman Titov, is developing his own avatar robot, and has another project, which was awarded second place at DevCon 2015. We’re proud to see these kinds of achievements in our team.

Why would a talent join your team?

Our key principle is that we don’t save money on staff; we hire a team of the best people and trust them completely. They have absolute freedom to implement their own ideas.

In addition, we help those who have proven themselves and have shown good results to grow professionally. Let me give you an example: one of our employees came to work with us as the office manager, and she has since advanced to become the HR director.

What was your most memorable moment so far?

I think everyone in WISP team had the very same moment we all remember. We started using the app within our company in November 2014, and, in couple of months, we’ve decided that WISP deserves to become a separate product. We’ve launched our first beta release in spring 2015, and we were really surprised to get our first client right away! We didn’t even hope to reach out to our first customer so quickly, so we got really excited.

Also, it was surprising to realize the fact that the marching band from Ohio became our first customer; I’ve already mentioned them above. It was a bit of shock for us to understand that such unusual people were interested in our product, it got us extra excited.

What advice would you give fellow founders for their startup?

First of all, you should remember that building a startup is really hard work, and it will require a lot of effort and dedication. You shouldn’t start to develop a product unless you’re sure who your target audience is and who your customers will be. You should only risk your resources when you’re fully aware of the audience you’re working for, and then strictly adhere to the core philosophies of your product.

Unfortunately, modern trends are proving that any idea can become very successful, even the craziest ones, and it’s difficult to work out which ideas will work. There are many examples out there of products that have been hugely successful, and it proves the point that, if you have enough faith in your idea, you should go for it.


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