Located in Yerevan and London, Benivo (formally FlatClub) help companies provide relocation support for their junior employees. The company helps the employees to complete the entire relocation process: finding affordable accommodation, finance solutions, support with setting up a bank account, registering with a doctor and many other issues.
Google, Microsoft, Bloomberg, Vodafone, and Apple are among Benivo’s clients. The company has 70 employees, and recently raised USD 10mln of venture capital funding, led by PBJ Capital, a US investment fund. Granatus Ventures, Millhouse (managing Roman Abramovich’s investments), Altair are also among the company’s investors.
Itel.am talked to the Founder and CEO of Benivo Nitzan Yudan.
- You are originally from Israel, living in London and having a business in Armenia. Why?
- I moved to London 7 years ago in order to do an MBA at London Business School. I have set up the company initially in London, but about two and a half years ago we took a decision to stop outsourcing and start forming an in-house team.
That was an important decision for us, but we realized that we can’t do it in London, because there were not enough specialists. So we had to choose a new location, having four options: China, Israel, Ukraine and Armenia. We interviewed 20-30 people from each of these countries, and we found both talent and culture in Armenia.
We decided to take a chance, so we hired the first employee two years ago. In just a few weeks she was already better than all the employees we had from other countries. She knew better quality of code, and she also understood the business, so her solutions were more relevant.
Then we took the strategic decision to invest in Armenia.
Granatus Ventures invested in the company. Now we have more than 20 employees here, and we are going to have 40 at the end of the year.
- Which were the main mistakes that your startup was making at the early stages of development?
- I have done many mistakes, but I also believe that this is the only way to learn. We did a mistake by not going fast enough, not trying to be realistic. We did mistakes while trying to do many things at the same time, which is very hard. That is why we decided to close our consumer business, and now we only do B2B (Business to business) business.
2017 is a very important year for us. We are going to grow very aggressively. We are now live in 100 locations, and we are expecting to get to up to 150 locations by the end of this year.
- You have known Armenian IT sector for more than 2 years now. Do you have any special tips on how to make it more advanced?
- When I came here two years ago and looked for co-working space, there was almost nothing; there are plenty of places now. So that is very exciting. It shows that the ecosystem is growing. I think that more business angels, investing in early stage startups, will help to develop the ecosystem. This will help to have more companies, which can get venture capital money from funds like Granatus.
When I moved to the UK, there were not many startups, though now there are many of them. UK government has created a tax incentive for people, investing in startups. So they can get up to seventy percent of their money back in tax incentives. This step contributed to the investment growth.
- Most start-ups have problems marketing their products. How do you market Benivo? Anything you could advice other young start-ups?
- Marketing and sales are probably the most important aspects of this business, and developing just tech solutions is not enough. You might think that it is a very good solution, but if you do not get clients to pay for it, you have not proven that it is a good solution.
It requires a lot of efforts in order to make it work, and it is important to understand that it is OK to fail. It is important to avoid investing too much from your own pocket, until you have something to sell in order to get the validation.
Talk to the clients - that is the most important advice from me. You will need to bring another person, who will introduce the specifics of your business, or you may try to develop your own communication and marketing skills.
It is also important to get used to hearing the word NO. You are going to hear that word a lot in this area, but you should also continue to sell your product to everyone. Entrepreneurship is a very tough journey; people talk a lot about success, but the base of this success is very touch work. It is an emotional and physical rollercoaster.
The only thing that is important is the word YES. We talk about how many clients we have (50 corporate clients), but we don’t talk on how many clients said NO to us.
Narine Daneghyan talked to Nitzan Yudan