Startups: Interview with TRIARE CEO
Denys Andrushchenko from WTFbit Group interviewed TRIARE CEO Boris Abazher on what it takes to launch a successful startup from the point of view of the software company, and why inexperienced founders keep repeating the same mistakes.
– Boris, it seems that TRIARE is very product-minded. What was a turning point when you realized you want to work with startups?
“Our company has three main types of customers that we are working with: digital agencies, established businesses with online solutions, and startups. Under the “startup” we envision an idea that can be implemented with web or mobile or other technology. Initially, we didn’t look specifically for startups, but it happened organically. We really enjoy working with founders and their teams due to open-mindedness, proactive approach, boldness, and hard work.”
– Indeed, it is hard work. Somebody proposed that even the brightest idea is worth only $20. And among a plethora of ideas, only a few come to fruition. What is so exciting about taking an idea to a working product?
“Absolutely agree! I love the quote of Pavlo Sheremeta, ex-minister of the economy of Ukraine: “Initiative without implementation is irresponsibility”.
“Initiative without implementation is irresponsibility”
We know that it is difficult and challenging to turn an idea into a product that is loved and used [frequently] by people. There is nothing exciting about it when you do not get the expected results. Or when you struggle, lose money and do not understand why. It takes a tremendous amount of work to turn an idea into reality. We are a team of realists and hard-working people who strive to help startups to reach their goals. That is exciting!”
– Accepted. And what are the most common mistakes startup founders make?
“There are many articles and statistics about why so many startups fail. There are dozens of reasons for that. We’ve observed two key reasons: weak marketing strategy and unacceptable technical execution.
Let me elaborate more on this: when the idea is valid, the market is there, even traction is present, but no one knows about it – the startup will not grow. On the other hand, if marketing is done right but the product itself has a sloppy technical execution (it is neither stable nor scalable, new features take a lot of time to add, a user interface is not friendly), then there is no chance.
I am saying this from own experience and because we as a company take full responsibility for the technical execution of a product or service.”
– Are you afraid of the partner’s failure? Why?
“Of course, we want the startup that we are working with to grow and scale. That also means a work opportunity for us. If we take into account my earlier answer and we do everything right, then there is a much higher probability that we reach the desired result together with the owner.”
– Have you ever failed as a technical partner?
“Yes, to be honest. In the beginning, when we were only establishing TRIARE, we used to think of ourselves as implementors of clients’ requests. Whatever one wanted we coded. This approach is inevitably a failure.”
That was a lesson we learned
We have recognized this and now we start with a deep dive into the business idea through the Discovery phase. Only when the value for the end customer is clear, and we understand the customer and the problems that a startup is solving for him, only then we proceed to implement a technical solution.”
– How do you define whether you will pursue a certain project? Have you rejected any in the past?
“It is vital for us that a potential customer does have a clear vision about his business solution. We ask questions and validate this before we engage and commit. We did have cases when after our Q&A session the customer realized that he is not ready to move forward and we have saved his time and money.”
– What is the first step before you define a statement of work?
“We have certain processes established in the company that we are pushing through. I would recommend a startup to go through a Discovery phase I mentioned earlier. This activity offers a crystall-clear vision to founders and can potentially save tons of time and thousands of dollars in unnecessary development. This is indeed a process that puts the right foundation and increases the probability of success.”
– How do you manage communication with the startup?
“This is a very good and important question. We believe that communication is the key to the success or failure of the project, especially when you are dealing with remote teams. We do know how to manage them despite time and cultural differences. We have written a more detailed piece on this.”
Communication is the key to success or failure of the project
– What do startup founders need to pay attention to when cooperating with extended/remote teams?
“One of the reasons customers from the US and Europe hire an offshore team is a price for the quality they get in return. If someone has already worked with an offshore team, he/she knows what to expect. One can tell what processes are required and how the communication routine should be organized.
I noticed that for those who didn’t work with the remote team before, the price is the greatest differentiator. They confess that liked the communication style during our negotiations and the professional attitude we showcased in the preparation process, but they have been offered a lower price… We do have cases when this approach failed and eventually the customer returned to TRIARE after a bad experience with a cheaper contractor. From my point of view, it is critical to examine if the team is interested and provides value even before the engagement.”
– Is it a good idea for a startup to participate in an accelerator or startup incubator? I’ve heard different opinions on the subject.
“You are right, there are different opinions. But there is an overall rule: you have to learn things you do not know. Learn things you do not knowIf you see that a particular incubator or accelerator can provide you this value, it is worth the investment. From my experience, we can recommend the Founder Institute that works with early-stage startups and provides them with the basics.”
– How would you define the success of a startup? What metrics do you consider the most important?
“An important thing is that metrics for success should be defined before the product or service is developed. These are vital in the very beginning and should be as clear as possible. All the focus of the dev and marketing team should be around them. There is an old saying: whatever you can count – you can control.
Here are some common ones:
- Customer acquisition cost (CAC)
- Customer retention rate
- Lifetime value (LTV)
- Ration of CAC and LTV
- CAC recovery time
- Conversion rate
- Monthly active users”
– What’s your shortlist of books or resources for a founder to read before launching a startup?
“I have personally read and can definitely recommend several:
Scrum by Jeff Sutherland
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
Sprint by Jake Knapp
Start with Why by Simon Sinek
Give and Take by Adam Grant
They all provide great insight and novel ideas. But these books will not help you without practical application. Only the decisions you make based on these insights and their implementation matter. Action is what will change your life.”