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iLeadBot startup creates a tool for effective client attraction in any kind of business using WhatsApp chatbots as a basis. The guys got interested in the fact that almost a third of the planet’s population has this messenger. iLeadBot product is connected with lead generation. Users who are interested in the advertisement of a specific product are forwarded to the chatbot in WhatsApp by clicking a special link, which gives them the first consultation and collects their phone numbers to the CRM system. Kirill Sudibor, the founder of the startup, and Vadim Lopukhov, the CEO of the startup, tell us how the project works, where they got money and why it was difficult to gather a team.
We talk to startups and investors, you get the value.
This is an alternative tool for attracting and warming up leads, which allows you to get a larger number of users interested in the product without increasing the advertising budget. The tool is based on a WhatsApp bot, which receives traffic from ads and instantly interacts with potential customers. The bot can respond to an unlimited number of requests simultaneously, and what’s the most important, after the first message sent to the bot, he can receive the contacts (phone numbers) of the user who has just started the conversation.
In the future, any client of the project will be able to collect the bot in a special intuitive interface on their own, based on those requests that are relevant tо them. Now each bot is manually assembled by the project staff in the developed soft.
You can test the bot on www.ileadbot.ru website by clicking on the link for testing.
- When and how did the idea hit you?
- The idea of a project came to me in February 2019. We were creating our marketing agency and were observing how the situation on the market was getting tougher year-to-year. This led to an increase in advertising rates and a constant increase of advertising budgets. Judging from our past experience, we understand that the majority of companies have two ways to survive: either they spend more and more money on advertising or they have to be first to implement new technologies on the market. So we figured out that in the near future a WhatsApp chatbot will be this kind of a new technology. We conducted a research on niches where we used to work and calculated that this messenger would give a better result than standard lead generation tools.
The idea hit me in February 2019, we started working on the project somewhere in May- June. We used an outsourcing company for tech-development, now and then, there are 3 to 5 programmers working on a chatbot, it depends on deadlines and difficulties of a specific development task.
A month ago, in April 2020, we entered the market with our MVP. In the current pandemic situation, many businesses transgressed to the Internet and become active competitors of those companies, which were already working on the Internet. For us, it is a great chance to test our product and receive real feedback from users.
- What were the main pitfalls in startup development?
- When we talk about difficulties, I can definitely name two of them. The first one was to find the team of developers who would understand you and would be able to fulfil your requirements.
The second difficulty was to get the official contract concerning API with WhatsApp. WhatsApp is quite a closed system. We managed to contact their technical partners, proved our competence and advantages of the startup. As a result, we got the official access to the API.
- How did you manage to find WhatsApp technical partners and how did you persuade them?
- We looked through all WhatsApp official representatives around the world who provide WhatsApp API connection service to third parties. We started to communicate with each company one after another. In the end, we contacted the one that was ready to conduct a dialogue with us as a small company that has an interesting product and plans for its development.
They have requested information about the company and founders, about our competences in marketing and teambuilding, about our development plans; they also asked for our business plan and we provided them with everything they asked for, along with documents we highlighted that we were working with many large companies in Belarus. After a few weeks of communication, they approved us.
Today, we are the only official WhatsApp partners in Belarus. This is the result of applying our competencies and a propitious concurrence of circumstances.
- How does the bot contact the user and how it interacts with them?
- Chatbot is a tool that communicates with the user in any messenger. We made it in WhatsApp because it is the most popular messenger in the world. According to official statistics, as of February 2020, it has more than 2 billion active users.
How does a person get to a bot? We give our customer a link to the bot, which is quite similar to the website link. The customer inserts it into his ad (for example, targeted) and drives traffic to this bot. By clicking on an advertisement, the lead goes directly to the customer’s account on WhatsApp and the bot starts communicating with the client.
The bot works in the following way: when a potential client gets into the conversation, the bot sends him messages and clarifies his current need. The user answers with numbers — similarly to ussd-requests of mobile operators.
For example, a person gets into a conversation with the bot and the bot types: if you need additional information about the product — press 1, if you want the consultant to call you back — press 2, if you want to make an order — press 3.
The whole message history downloads to the CRM-system and all information about the order is sent to a manager who provides further communication with new clients.
For reference: how iLeadBot works
1. Advertisement — a client clicks on your ads (in social networks, landings, mailouts, Yandex.Direct, Google Ads, on your website, etc.).
2. After this WhatsApp opens with a first message from the bot.
3. WhatsApp landing qualifies the case and heats up the audience.
4. Cases appear in a CRM-system.
- Is the bot designed for any specific CRM or you can adapt it to any?
- So far, we have integrated with Bitrix24 and amoCRM. We have chosen these two systems as they are the most popular in Russian and CIS markets.
Further on, we’re planning to scale up the number of integrations with other CRM-systems significantly, including international ones.
In addition, there will be another CRM inside our system, it will allow small business companies or companies with low-number CRM-system requests, keep a record of the clients and conversations with them, and all of this is on our platform.
- What technology lays down on the basis of the bot?
- The algorithm. Apart from other tools and chatbots, its main work principle is that the bot “captures” the client’s phone numbers right at the first sent message. This technology differs us from other chatbots.
Chatbots in Telegram and Viber are bound to request a phone number from the clients in the communication process, as they can only see the user’s ID. This may lower the tool’s conversion, as additional actions are required from the client. Now, we get the phone number without any additional requests — instantly!
In the future, we’re going to connect AI-modules that will react to unusual requests from clients, answer them and bring the client back to the funnel.
- What else do you still need to do?
- Currently, we have a company development plan for the next 2–3 years.
Our task for the nearest future is to create an international SaaS-solution because the process of creating a chatbot which is oriented only on the Russian and CIS markets, is nit that interesting. And our product solves the pain, which small businesses have around the world: small businesses cannot use expensive lead-generation tools. And big businesses are looking for new trends and to be the first to quickly implement them in their business processes. They require an individual approach that we can provide them. Our tool is universal. SaaS-solution will allow us to enter markets of other countries with our product, make it cheaper and more accessible for the client.
When it comes to our plans — we have plenty of them. We want to finish developing inner CRM, connect advanced analytics tools, create a user-friendly chatbot development kit. Besides, we want to develop a complex product so that our client won’t need to construct his bot on our website, integrate the CRM-system in another place and make the ads in a completely different place. We want to create a tool where entrepreneurs will be able to do everything.
- Can we say that in the near future that this project is an advanced CRM-system?
- No, as the task of a CRM-system is to keep a record of the clients. Our service is created for lead generation. More likely, this system is for client attraction and client retention. The system attracts the client, the bot communicates with the client and then in our inner CRM-system, which we are about to create (now, it has basic features), users will be able to inform their clients about new offers, conduct surveys, test the clients, “heat” them up, remind about the sales, greet with birthdays, change interaction status and communicate with clients.
In addition, we want to implement advanced analytics modules so that the client would understand which messages result in a positive conversion, and what brings more money.
- What are your short-term and mid-term project plans?
- During 6–8 months we’re finishing our bot constructing kit up to the full-fledged version. We will include such features as an advanced personal account, a possibility for the client to refill the balance on their own, choose the pricing, mailouts will be also available through your personal account as well as advanced analytics, features that allow being involved in conversations, access control between managers and the possibility for clients to process leads without leaving our CRM-system.
In 8–12 months we’re planning to launch MVP of the SaaS-solution. The main tool will be a visual bot constructor kit for clients. The client can independently create a bot using user-friendly principles. At the moment, our specialists do this for the clients: they debrief with the client and create a bot in our inner CRM-system.
After 12–18 months the plan is to launch a complete SaaS-solution — a fully-featured product with a wide range of possibilities for clients. They will get access to the analytic system, mailouts, an advanced CRM-system from their personal account.
- How did you find your first clients?
- Our clients are any businesses which are present on the internet and are interested in increasing the number of customers while lowering advertising costs and related support as well as companies and entrepreneurs providing marketing services for businesses that are interested in maximizing the income.
First clients came to us from the advertising industry. Our target audiences are small and medium-size businesses; in perspective, we consider connecting large businesses with individual solutions.
Still, we haven’t received any feedback as bots just started functioning. Our clients are still testing the product. Now, taking into account the fact that we decided to sell 4–5 bots and conduct the first commercial testing of the bot with clients, for the first few working days, we have 4 customers who have already made a purchase and with them, we will conduct an extended performance test. In the coming weeks, we’re going to start an active sales process. Monthly sales plan — 30+ new bots per month.
- How do you promote your project?
- Currently, all our traffic is provided by adverts. There is also a marketing buzz, and to be honest, it is effective.
- What about pricing?
- As for now, the starter pack costs 10 000 Russian rubles in the first month, and it is for everyone. After that, the client chooses one of the packs: Business Light (lead generation) — 24 990 Russian rubles for the solution, Business Optimal (lead generation + “heating” the audience) — from 34 990 Russian rubles for the solution and Business Maximal (lead generation for several business directions of customer preferences) — from 50 000 Russian rubles for the solution.
- Did you attract investments from investors or did you manage to develop using your own money?
Angel investors joined us at the idea stage, and we were developing the project with their help. In total, more than $ 50,000 has been invested in the project at the moment.
- How much money do you need to create the ultimate version of the product?
- There is always a room for improvement and there is no perfect product. However, by our count, we need from $500 000 to $900 000 to create a product which will be almost perfect, and it still depends on how fast we will develop the product (at the expense of outward investments or income reinvestment). In addition, we don’t need all this money at once, it is an overall sum which we’ll be needed in parts on different stages of development and promotion.
- How do you earn money?
- The client pays for the development process and for the bot, and then, the bot is working on a subscription model — a monthly service pack which is bought or continued by the client. Additionally, the client can order different support-services: for instance, target advertising services for this bot. This is also paid monthly according to the subscription model.
- Why did you choose the Russian market?
- The Russian market is only the first stage, it is closer to us both mentally and linguistically. Here, it is easier to test hypotheses and get feedback from the clients. Speaking about the product in general, we do not want to stop and concentrate only on the Russian market, this is only the beginning for us. We are targeting the global market. According to our plans, the next stage after the Russian market will be the US market.
Besides, SaaS-solution production will take more time than creating a kit where we are creating bots for our clients at the moment. In the current period of company activity, we are already interested in getting some kind of profit and feedback from the market.
- Who are your competitors? What is your competitive advantage?
- As for now, our main competitors are all lead generation tools on the internet. In fact, we are one of such tools. But as we’ve said before, our main advantage over competitors is that we get the client’s contacts at the very first touch. Speaking specifically about competitors in our niche — chatbots in WhatsApp — they exist. The leader is IZZI (Synergy)-bot, which does the same thing as we do but we work from Belarus and they are from Russia.
They started 2 years ago. In February 2020, they were bought by Synergy Group. As their company is large enough, it takes time to implement a bot into their tool-structure. Our advantage over them is that we are a relatively small company and we are more flexible, we quicker adapt to changes.
Another advantage is that IZZI (Synergy)-bot don’t provide additional sales and we are ready to provide a complex service to a client and satisfy all his needs.
We also have indirect competitors in the international market. The main difference is that, first of all, our product is a lead generation tool, and competitors’ solutions are more communication-oriented tools.
This determines our positioning.
- Who are the team members?
- Me (Kirill) and Artem Bukharin are the founders, Vadim is the CEO. I have expertise in packing and promoting businesses on the Internet; I enter TOP-100 private experts in Contextually Targeted Advertising according to Yandex; I also have experience in successfully creating and promoting my own business (a marketing agency and building work and communication with major Belarusian brands). Artem, the co-founder, also has strong marketing expertise as well as experience in organizing and controlling remote teams, building work with medium and large businesses. Vadim, the project’s CEO, is strong in strategic planning and promotion, financial analysis and budgeting, he has 10+ years of experience in operational management, and he’s also experienced in creating his own businesses in various areas and well-trained Soft skills.
Also, we have two sales-managers in our team as well as the project manager of the sales department, who helps to build up a system with salesmen. There is a support department where now there is only one employee and eight more people are undergoing training, we will take 2–3 people from them. We also have an HR and an outsourced accountants.
- Which specialists were the hardest to find?
- It was quite difficult to find programmers who would understand the principles of product creation as there are a lot of peculiarities. Speaking about other specialists, it was pretty difficult to find a sales manager. Many people had applied for this job but all of them failed — some didn’t work in IT, some didn’t want to make progress.
Also, it was difficult to find support specialists as there are no specialists on bot creation and setting up the target advertisement for bots in Belarus. We had a task to prepare such kinds of specialists on our own. We masterminded and wrote our training system (it lasts a month) for these specialists and for sales managers.
What principles is your work based on? Without what couldn’t your startup succeed?
- I think, without past experience in work and life.
When it comes to the principles that we follow and propagate in our team; first of all, it is fast learning, openness to new knowledge and lack of fear for sound risk because creating something new is always uncertain.
For example, if a client asks a non-standard question, our employee should quickly find the answer or contact us, colleagues, with a clearly formulated request. If a person has no desire to learn, then we will not make him work; if desire exists, we are ready to help and support.
Secondly, it is about mutual respect, both in the team and regarding clients. Thirdly, it is about believing in yourself, in your product and in your team. Willingness to perform 110% when needed.
But among founders, there’s one main principle which we use daily, and together we call it “solve the problem or die”. As you can see, we are giving this interview and we are still alive :)