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Burning deadlines and tasks, constantly multiplying work chats, dozens of open links — the working routine on the remote site often turns into confusion. In such conditions, it is difficult for employees to understand what tasks need to be completed today, and for the manager to check the team’s employment. Simple and convenient service for organizing working time at a remote location is offered by the Russian startup EZ work. Startup CEO Alexander Solomatov tells why he does not see a competitor in Jira and which customers find his product themselves.
— Alexander, why did you decide to make a tracker for effective teamwork, counting on the fact that there are already leaders like Jira on the market
— I have been engaged in business projects for 12 years and I often had to deal with managing a remote team. During this time, I realized that in such conditions, maintaining team spirit is a must-have for effective business development. While working in a Digital Agency, our team needed a simple and understandable tool for rapid communication between each other — and we started making a product for ourselves.
It soon became clear that this service fits well into the niche of remote work. Of course, you can give an example of Jira, Trello, Oracle, but these products are effective in large companies. Medium and small entrepreneurs with teams of 20–50 people are not so great. First, employees need to learn how to use a new and rather complex tool. Secondly, the same Jira and Trello are convenient services for planning, but they do not give an understanding of what tasks you need to perform today. Daily tasks are solved in work chats, but the correspondence is more distracting than focusing you on tasks.
So we realized that there is no program on the market for operational communication within the team hourly. At the same time, we do not see competitors in Trello, Jira or Microsoft. These are our partners with whom we integrate — we display topics and main tasks in a simple format.
— How is the work at EZwork arranged?
- The functionality of EZwork is simple and not overloaded, the video instruction to the service is only 1.5 minutes. We are working with the Workflow system today — our task is to ensure that each employee (from the contractor to the manager) effectively spends his 8 working hours.
The browser window is divided into three parts: commands, tasks and communication (chats).
An agile team is integrated into the office room, which always needs to be in touch. When creating these rooms, we were guided by the logic of Open Space, when an employee chooses tasks for himself “for today”, and each participant of the room can view the tasks and progress of other colleagues. The service also gives everyone recommendations on optimizing tasks.
Tasks are discussed in the service chat or in the telegram chat. We do not change user habits and do not persuade them to start another messenger, but integrate them into a convenient format. You can select chats that are associated only with a specific project.
Managers see statistics for each employee to understand how much time is spent and on what tasks. We relied on the fact that the preparation of weekly reports is a great stress for an employee: he is afraid of missing something or trying to show his work in the best light in order to stand out in front of his superiors. For a manager, requesting reports is also an unpleasant part of the work, since it is a negative and demanding communication. In EZ work, reports are created automatically in a convenient graphical format and are changed in real-time. So the boss can easily understand which of the employees is overloaded or vice versa, who needs to add tasks.
You can respond to each task with an emoji. Employees use emoticons to assess their condition at the beginning and end of the working day.
— How effective and necessary are emojis in such a service? After all, employees most likely will not make truthful assessments of their condition.
— Recently, a study was conducted among people working at a remote location, “How CEOs can support mental health during a crisis”. One of the survey questions was: “Is it necessary for the boss to ask about your emotional state?” According to the results, it turned out that 40% of respondents need it, 20% refused, and 40% do not mind being asked about their well-being. And our task in this project is not to find out whether the employee is telling the truth or not. We give a person the opportunity to express their feelings, to inform them about it.
Плашка The EZ work makes the work efficient and enjoyable
It is essential for people in a remote team who have never seen each other in their eyes to receive an emotional response to their work. Simple social interaction gives a sense of elbow contact and a sense of teamwork. On a remote site or in isolation, a person is alone with a computer all day, and receives only requirements and deadlines from the team. He does not see what his colleagues are doing, so he gets the impression that he is the only one working. In the future, such a state provokes burnout and dismissal of an employee and therefore costs for the company.
Our service is “sharpened” to make the work enjoyable. I conducted CustDev and talked with representatives of the boomer and zoomer generation. The first did not understand why someone should respond with a smiley face to his task. Boomers do not understand their benefits, their logic is this: if you want to encourage me, throw money at the card. Zoomers have other values: in the first place — a friendly and favourable atmosphere in the office, money is secondary. And our service is closer to the perception of the world of measurements, so we are doing Network with an eye on Generation Z.
— It is interesting to know who your clients are?
— We have clients from IT companies — and initially, we were aimed at this category. But unexpectedly, we discovered a new target audience-restaurant. People from the restaurant business began to come out to us themselves and, as it turned out, there are no solutions for collective work organizations for this area — after all, it is very difficult for administrators and cooks to use Trello or Jira, and only WhatsApp and Google Calendar are in their arsenal of tools. And to our surprise, apparently, the service sector, including restaurants, beauty salons and other services, is our niche, since today we offer the simplest and most understandable workflow management system available on the CIS market.
There is also a hypothesis to work out — this is the organization of the work of interns. Every year, the world’s giant companies hire more than 100 000 interns. It is unprofitable to train them to work in a CMS for a long time, both in time and cost — and here EZwork will be able to solve this problem.
So far, all our clients are from the CIS, but we plan to scale to Europe. The system itself will not be difficult to localize — for example, replace the emoji, while the principle of operation will remain the same.
— At what stage of product development are you currently at, and what are you planning to do next?
— We entered the market in April of this year, and work on the project began in September 2020. After making a landing page, we looked at how many people would apply for our program, and we got a good conversion rate of -14%.
MVP was developed for a very long time since at that time EZ work was not the main project and did not bring money. Due to the need to pay employees a salary, a break was made in the work on the project for two months — but in the end, the MVP turned out to be a finished product. Now we receive a lot of feedback and are refining the UIX, but the backbone of the service remains the same.
The next step is to integrate WhatsApp, Zoom and Discord into our service. We try to reduce the number of open tabs within a single window, so integration with messengers is very important for us.
Next, we plan to add a working assistant function to EZ work for adapting new employees. Usually, training beginners take a lot of time and resources — we want to reduce this time and make it more enjoyable. The assistant will be presented in the form of a chatbot that will support the employee and encourage him.
There are also plans to launch in-game training of employees in the micromanagement of their time. We want EZ work to be perceived as a pleasant workspace.
— You said that Jira and Trello are not your competitors, but there are certain products similar to EZwork. Who are they?
— Teamcheck is an application that visualizes the success of team members for the day. Like us, they promote horizontal management. However, unlike EZ work, this application does not display the emotional state and integration with messengers. So far, they do not plan to move beyond the Russian market.
ClickUp is a positive service for planning work and life, there is kanban, calendar and chats. We consider them an indirect competitor since we can integrate with it and tighten up tasks
The Productivity Software market is estimated at $48B, in five years it will grow at least twice and will be transformed.
— How do you monetize the product?
— Monetization is tied to paying for the workspace. We charge for a room for up to 20 people, it can be rented for a month, three months or a year. You can choose one, three or ten rooms. The cost of one room per month is ₽1 399, but if you buy for a year, the cost is reduced to ₽1 224. The maximum number of rooms is 10 and the maximum coverage is 200 people.
— What funds did you attract for the development of the product?
- — ₽3.5M was spent on EZwork. Invested by a partner and a friend with whom we work together. These are costs without taking into account our salaries — we are still working on the idea.
For further development — a confident go-to-market, completion of development, integration and optimization — we need to raise $100,000. We understand that we can grow up to a unicorn, but this requires specialists, and they usually come because of a cool idea and good money. It is very difficult to find good developers for little money — and this is a challenge for us.
We are still looking for a business model. Go-to-market is not easy, the price of traffic for an audience that uses applications like Trello is high. We can work with targets and do many tests for small amounts. We are following the path of the least resistance in search of a loyal audience.
At the moment we are studying at the Social Tech Challenge from the Moscow Innovation Cluster.vation Cluster. Experts help us reach out to large companies — for example, we are currently working on cooperation with Burger King.
— Do you have a large team?
— Today there are eight people in the team, we are all burning with our product. I have the largest mining farm in the Irkutsk region. Previously, I was engaged in the production of the largest marmalade worms and bears in the world. In addition, together with a partner, we founded the car perfume company Feel Me, with which we captured 20% of the market of the Irkutsk region in a year. However, I am no longer engaged in these projects. Now I want to create a product that will be useful to people anywhere in the world — this is my mission.
My wife Tatiana is a product manager. She lives in services, understands how to make the product pleasant to look at, and manages the visual component of EZwork. At the service station, Igor started as a back-end developer in the Islet projects Ostrovok.ru and Dostavista. I think Igor is the best marketer in Russia, he understands perfectly how to configure neural networks for the desired result. Also working in the team are Andrey-back-end developer, Rinat-front-end developer and designer Katya. Our partner Zhenya acts as an adviser.
— What insights did you discover while working on the project?
— Castdev in its purest form is a sea of discoveries, do not underestimate it. Even if you have created a product, do not stop casting. After the castdev ask people how they would sell this product. You will get interesting ideas for the go-to market.