Start-Ups.Co really enjoyed interviewing the brilliant entrepreneur; Mr. ‘Rytis Lauris'; C0-Founder and CEOof the UK- based Start Up “Soundest”.
Below, is the full interview that we have conducted :
1. What is it exactly that you do and what your start-up is all about?
Soundest is a web-based app for e-commerce email marketing. We aim to help small and medium e-shop owners to send promotional newsletters in a fast and easy way. Being seamlessly integrated with the most popular e-commerce platforms (such as Shopify, Tictail, Magento, WooCommerce, etc.), our app is easy to start and to use.
2. When has your startup been founded? And what stage is your startup currently at?
Soundest app was launched in late January 2014 and is already counting 1000 users by now (April 2014). App is available for online sellers who run their e-shops on Shopify, Tictail, Magento and OXID e-commerce platforms, but we are not standing still. We’re working on expanding the platforms supported in order to make Soundest available for wider circle of e-tailers. Integrations with BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Etsy and Wix are coming very soon.
3. What is your startup’s business model and how does it work?
We don’t charge users for bulk email sending – they can send up to 1 million emails per month at no cost. Reporting, segmentation and “in-store email builder” are also the functions users get for free. Additionally, Soundest has advanced features specifically for e-commerce. They can be purchased according to individual needs.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
Our team, including both co-founders, used to work as a digital marketing agency. There are nine of us, and the team is super cohesive as it is four years of working together. In our team we have super-experienced CTO, also professionals with different competences covering business development, product management, client support, marketing and design.
5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?
Soundest is focused exclusively on e-commerce. Needs of small and medium online retailers was our priority when developing the app. Since now, e-shop owners had no choice but to use general email marketing tools that actually carry no value added for them. Combining strong e-commerce focus with the need of simple using solution, we introduced a unique feature – “in-store email builder”. It lets to select products for email newsletter while just browsing your online store. App automatically detects and adds pictures, descriptions and pricing. It minimizes time needed to design a good-looking promotional newsletter – a single click is what it takes to add an item.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has your startup achieved so far?
We already have 1000 users of Soundest app and I am glad to say that we reached this number in three months after the app launch on 28th of January, 2014. Soundest is already seamlessly integrated with Shopify, Tictail, Magento and OXID e-commerce platforms and we are working on integrations with more of them. The most popular ones, such as WooCommerce, Bigcommerce and Etsy are on our roadmap. Regarding users, our goal is to have at least 8000 of them by the middle of the year.
7. Who are your competitors? And what is your start-up’s competitive advantage over them?
Email marketing service industry has strong players – Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Mad Mimi, Aweber, just to name a few. They address various types of businesses, but none of them focuses on e-commerce exclusively. Soundest focuses solely on e-commerce and provides specialized email marketing solution for online retailers.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
Email marketing is a very competitive industry with strong players, but we have found the niche for e-commerce. Soundest is following the idea of offering value added for a good price. That’s why we have chosen the “freemium” business model – users don’t have to pay for bulk email sending, they just pay for additional features that help them earn more. The principles of e-commerce is very clear, so we just needed to find the unique value proposition for our users and that probably was the main challenge so far.
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
Email is sometimes treated as “dead” marketing channel, especially when social media emerged. However, email marketing is still the most effective for sending promotional messages, especially in e-commerce. Email has the highest ROI and newsletters are the main sales generators in e-commerce, despite of how old-fashioned it may look.
10. Why are you going to succeed?
I can say, there are three main factors driving Soundest to success. First and the most important of all – we believe in what we do. Our mission is to improve e-commerce marketing and create value for online retailers. These ideas are brought to life by our great team, each member of which plays a vital role in achieving common goals. So that’s the second thing. Lastly, expertise in email marketing that we carry let us do everything with confidence. This combinations makes Soundest unstoppable.
11. If your startup succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
Our vision is to create value added for e-commerce and to make marketing easier for small and medium online retailers. Email marketing is just one of the marketing channels and we see an opportunity to expand by offering intelligent, more sophisticated solutions for e-commerce marketing, advertising and social media.
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build your start-up based on?
We noticed that there were no specialized solution for e-commerce email marketing. Online retailers were using the same tools as any other type of business and that carried no value added for them. E-tailers have different needs and different goals for doing email marketing, so we decided to create extremely easy to use tool with out of the box integration with e-commerce platforms.
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
The main lesson learned is that everything takes longer than we expect Also, our practice proved that the product or a tool must be easy to use and carry value added in order to assure organic growth. We are glad that, in our case, seamless integration is the thing that fosters clients to use Soundest app.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
Everything is going well at the moment. Looking from the future perspective, there is only one small issue I can think of. There are some patterns of users behavior existing, related to the “freemium” business model we apply. It takes time since the moment when client starts using the app, to the decision of buying additional features. All that time in between we still have to maintain our service. Soundest features are useful and leading to success, so I am sure we’ll handle this.
15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?
First of all – simplicity and shortened time to design a newsletter. Our unique “in-store email builder” solution cuts the time spent to prepare a newsletter by 10 times, so it takes minimal efforts to create an email marketing campaign. Also, convenience of having all the statistics in one place – both newsletters performance and sales tracking. And it’s all for free.
16. How did customers / users find out about you?
Most of our users find Soundest on app stores of e-commerce platforms among other complementary apps for their online businesses. For those who have just started online business and are new in e-commerce, easy-to-use Soundest app is the perfect choice for complementing e-shop with email marketing.
Soundest is also present on social media. We run a blog where we share useful tips on email marketing.
17. Who are your current customers / users? Who are your target customers / users?
Our target users are owners of small and medium e-commerce sites, who run their shops on e-commerce platforms and do not want to spend long hours on email marketing. They use Soundest for sending promotional messages for their customers and subscribers. Talking about e-shops profiles, they vary a lot: from fashion, beauty, health products to tech, gadgets, furniture, etc.
18. Where do new customers / users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?
Soundest app is live on Shopify, Tictail and Magento app stores, so new users discover our app when searching solutions for their marketing. I think that easiness of use, “in-store email builder” and ability to send up to 1 million emails per month at no cost induce e-shop owners to try Soundest out.
19. What do your customers / users say about your product and/or service?
From the feedback we get, users really like the “in-store email builder” and how convenient it is that items are automatically complemented with pictures, descriptions and pricing when you select to add a product to newsletter. Also, they find it easy to start and use the app and are happy with the result they get – a beautiful newsletter designed with minimal efforts.
20. How are you going to scale?
We are going to scale by seamlessly integrating Soundest app with more e-commerce platforms. This way we will make it available for a wider range of small and medium e-stores and, therefore, the user base would organically grow also. Integrations with BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Etsy and Wix are coming very soon.
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?
We didn’t get asked about the exact missing feature, but I think we know what our users mostly need right now. Because of the reason being a small or medium e-shop owners, they do not have long mailing lists and the common question rises: how to grow subscribers database? So probably the feature that would allow them easily collecting contacts of their e-shop visitors would be the feature on demand.
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?
I can say that we are already international, because users of Soundest app are from all over the world. The primary markets are USA, UK and Sweden. Operating like software as a service, Soundest can be coordinated in a remote way, so there is no urgent way to internationalize physically in case of expansion.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
E-commerce industry is growing rapidly and our aim is to become the leading email marketing service provider for e-commerce. We are going to achieve it by creating value through features that help our customers to earn more, keeping system very simple to use and by providing top class client support.
24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?
At the moment we’re happy with the current team. The team is very cohesive, because it is already several years of working together. Team members are professionals in different fields and have various valuable skills. Looking to the future, more people may be needed in case of expansion, but now the team size and capabilities are just perfect.
25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?
We are building self-sustainable business, but it does not mean that we are saying “no” for partnerships. We are still open to partnerships with Venture Capitals or other funding sources. There’s just one thing important to mention – we are more oriented to long-tail investments and long-term partnerships.
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
Just do it. It may turn into something big. But if it happens that your first startup fails, you will learn a lot and the experience you get will definitely be useful in the future.