When we started Transformify HR Suite, we knew that people who lost their jobs due to Industry 4.0 and business transformation need new opportunities. As many of these people were very experienced and highly-paid living in small cities across Europe, finding jobs for them locally would prove impossible. Thus, Transformify initially started as a freelance platform providing contract opportunities to highly -skilled independent contractors and freelancers. Unlike Upwork, Fiverr, PeoplePerHour, we don’t take a cut on freelancers’ earnings. Being a social enterprise means that we care about people in need of a job and provide equal access to jobs and secure payment.
Later, our customers started asking for new functionalities. Most recruiters wanted a ‘’one-stop-shop’’ and the ability to hire both employees and freelancers and manage the end to end hiring process. To address these needs, we added Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that leverages powerful matching algorithms to provide a shortlist of candidates having skills matching those required for the job. Needless to say, Transformify HR Suite is fully GDPR compliant as this is one of the biggest challenges faced by the recruiters.
As for our Diversity Hiring solution, it was an idea that came from one of our social media followers. She was a stay at home mom taking care of a child in a wheelchair. It was impossible for her to work full time and work from home jobs were the only possible option. She messaged me via Linkedin asking “Why don’t you do something for people like us? My son will grow up and will depend on welfare all his life.’’ It was one of those moments when you realize what is the actual power of your business to transform people’s lives for good.
How did you get your first three customers?
It was content marketing that brought them to us. Even before launching Transformify freelance platform, we started writing and sharing quality content online. Our first customers were from Silicon Valley and Switzerland. They loved the concept of Transformify and our mission to provide equal access to jobs and secure payment and trusted a brand new solution.
How did you validate the idea?
I have years of experience as CFO of Skrill/ Paysafe and Director PTP Europe at Coca-Cola Enterprises. All these years, I needed to hire people, manage business transformation, shared service centers and layoffs. There was a clear need of a solution like Transformify. It was demand -driven, not vice versa.
It takes years of experience to launch a new business and I am not an exception. When I founded Transformify, I already had 15+ years of experience as a hiring manager under my belt. Being a fintech expert also helps a lot as Transformify leverages HR Tech + Fintech + AI to provide an end-to-end solution.
Have you raised any money? How much?
Transformify is bootstrapped. I am an Angel Investor and prefer to bootstrap a company as long as possible as this increases valuation and postpones dilution. It is one thing to raise funding at a Power Point stage and a completely different story to raise funding when you have more than 4700 business customers worldwide and millions of job seekers use your HR Suite.
Early on, we took a small startup loan from Virgin Startup to gain access to their mentors, network and knowledge base. To me, knowledge and know-how are more important than cash as there are many businesses that have gone bankrupt due to investors’ unrealistic expectations. You can find recent examples in the portfolio of SoftBank. Choosing your investors wisely can make it or break it.
Who is your target demographic?
We operate globally. Transformify expanded to 150+ countries in less than 3 years and now the focus is on increasing our market share and boosting brand awareness. We grow super fast thanks to strategic partnerships with companies like WeWork, FactoHR and have more than 200 partners and affiliates. Paying 20% recurring commission per sale ranks Transformify Affiliate Program among the best B2B affiliate programs. It is a win-win arrangement as both parties earn sufficient revenue and help each other grow.
In some countries, it is still a practice to print CVs even though it's not needed or environmentally friendly. As Transformify uses powerful matching algorithms, we consider lengthy CVs as a thing of the past and we are not alone. Innovative companies like Tesla and Accenture have stopped using CVs years ago. Having said that, we had more than one client asking for adding paper file referencing numbers to our ATS ( applicant tracking system). Obviously, technology and environmental responsibility have different meanings in some parts of the world.
How did you fund the idea initially?
When I started Transformify, I had sufficient cash to fund the early stages and the pre-revenue period. Once the freelance platform was launched, it was easier as Transformify was revenue generating and we could reinvest. So far, we have never been short of growth capital and it’s our market entry strategy that allows us to grow exponentially while keeping the costs under control.
Where did you meet your cofounder/founding team?
Our CTO, Desislav Kamenov and I worked together before at Skrill, now part of Paysafe group. Having experience in the fintech industry with a fast-growing company helped us a lot to make Transformify a success. When I joined Skrill, which back then was called Moneybookers, the company was valued at USD 186 million. It was sold for USD 1 billion when I exited. You can imagine all the knowledge one could gain in such a fast-paced environment.
Even though we built an HR Suite, early on we made hiring mistakes. Attracting talent is not easy when your brand is largely unknown and people have no idea if the startup will be still there in a month or two. In general, there are two avenues early on - to speak with coworkers and friends as they are likely to trust you and join or to pitch your idea to a very broad audience. I strongly recommend Employer Branding as of day one as it helps to attract both employees and potential customers. People relate to the story of your brand and what it stands for. It is even better when this story is told by a reputable third party. By the way, that’s how Transformify Employer Branding solution emerged.
Initially, we had to compromise with quality and hire people who were not experienced enough as we had a limited budget and the people have not heard of our brand. This all changed when we got featured by Virgin Unite and Sir Rechard Branson tweeted a link to the article. As most startups and businesses in general are not as lucky as us, we put sufficient effort in growing Transformify HR Blog as a reputable media providing quality content and attracting startup founders, investors, hiring managers and top talent.
What motivated you to start your own business?
In the past, I was CFO of Skrill / Paysafe and Director PTP Europe at Coca-Cola Enterprises. Managing a business is not something new to me and definitely helped in the hardest moments.
When you have an idea that can potentially transform people’s lives for good, it’s not hard to take the risk. Speaking with people in need later was what kept me motivated. There’s hardly anything more inspirational than the pure joy in someone’s voice when you tell them that they will not be relying on welfare anymore. Even now, from time to time I speak with a man diagnosed with Asperger. He is in the US and we have never met in person. However, the first time he called me out of the blue finding my contact details online, changed my perspective on life once and forever.
My family was very supportive, as for generations we were running businesses. What is even more interesting is that both men and women were running family businesses in my mother’s and father’s families for centuries. Friends were early adopters and they still support us as much as they can via introductions or by sharing knowledge and expertise.
What motivates you when things go wrong? What is the end goal?
Things went wrong many times and that’s common for early stage technology businesses. So far, I have never heard of a pilot version that remains untouched after launch. Not losing my vision and connection with reality is what kept me going. Speaking with our customers helped a lot too as they were using Transformify and knew better how to fix non-performing features.
If there is one thing an entrepreneur can’t afford to skip, it’s market and competitor research early on. Take as much time as needed, understand why your competitors are going one way or another, what’s working for them and what’s not. This will help develop your strategy and differentiate your product from the offering of the competition. Often, being different is what makes a new product a success.
What has driven the most sales?
Unlike many SaaS businesses, we rely mostly on our affiliate marketing program. It’s not as popular as social media marketing but has many advantages if executed right. There is minimal upfront cost to set up an affiliate program and acquire affiliates, but once set-up, a well-managed affiliate program generates revenue for many years. The ROI ( revenue on investment) is also times higher versus other channels.
What is stopping you being 3x the size you are now?
Transformify is an integrated single sign-on HR Suite comprising Freelance Platform, ATS, Contingent Workforce Management Software, Diversity Hiring, Employer Branding and billing & payments. Having said that, we combine SaaS and transactional business models. Our freelance platform is a marketplace in substance and like any marketplace, requires lots of time to acquire both B2B and B2C customers prior to scale. Luckily, with 4700+ business customers and millions of job seekers worldwide, we are already there. Last year, we tripled our user base and multiplied our revenue. Now, it’s all about exponential growth.
To me, the best way to protect your solution is by differentiating it from the offering of the competition. That was our goal since the beginning and so far, we have been successful.
What are the top 3-5 apps your business could not run without?
As an all-remote company, Transformify requires robust processes and communication channels. I can’t imagine a day without project management software, time tracking app, online conferencing solution, SEO and content writing tools and the list goes on. We use Jira, Slack, TimeCamp, Clockify, Ubersuggest, MOZ, Ahref, Grammarly, HubSpot, SendGrid and many more apps and software solutions daily.
Managing an all-remote company is much more demanding than managing a traditional business. Everything needs to be documented, people need to know where to find information, how to escalate an issue, who the right point of contact is, etc. All this is impossible without technological solutions.
What are your favourite books and podcasts?
There are many but ‘’Weapons for Math Destruction’’ and ‘’Contemporary Strategy Analysis’’ are on top of the list.
I am biased as I recently started my own podcast called ‘’ Angel Investor Talks’’.
What are the next products you’re working on?
We’ve just signed a global partnership agreement with FactoHR in India; thus, offering an end to end solution to our clients. If Transformify is the front end helping recruiters to source talent, streamline the hiring process and manage contingent workforce, then Facto HR is the backend providing onboarding, assessments, payroll and more. As always, we complement each other and help each other grow. That’s what partnerships are all about.