Understand your Customers and Users. Your users are the reason your product has value. So listening to them is not enough. You must also understand them. Here are some methods you can implement to help understand your users:
Spend time with them while they’re using your product. Doing so allows you to see first hand how they navigate the product and use each feature.
Give them ways to send you feedback when you’re not with them. At INTURN, we use an in-app feedback system.
As part of my series about the “5 Things, You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SAAS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Charlie Ifrah.
Charlie Ifrah is Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer at INTURN. As an accomplished entrepreneur, Charlie has founded and co-founded several companies that have developed transformational technologies for industries.
Charlie’s natural curiosity expresses itself in many ways: He’s a perpetual learner, prefers non-fiction over fiction, collects vintage mechanical devices, loves cars, and travels to far corners of the world to experience new cultures.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
From a young age, while growing up in Toronto, I’ve always known that I’m an entrepreneur at my core. After four years of working at my first job, I decided that it was time to take a risk and embark on my entrepreneurial adventure. Shortly after, I founded my first company, which provided end-to-end information technology needs to small businesses. Thirteen years later, I successfully sold that business, and without missing a beat, I ventured into a completely new domain: Charity Auctions.
CharityBids was co-founded by two friends and me to solve the online auction needs of the world’s most renowned foundations, non-profits, celebrities, athletes, corporations, and media companies. Our solution provided a turn-key web and social media auction platform that creates and promotes branded standalone and seamlessly embedded multi-channel online & Facebook auction programs. It enabled our customers to raise funds through an auction of in-kind items and experiences, either leading to an event or on a standalone basis.
While Toronto served as the incubator for my entrepreneurial aspirations, INTURN, my current venture, brought me to my present-day home, New York City.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
My co-founder Ronen and I had our “aha” moment after analyzing how brands manage and value their inventory throughout the product lifecycle and how consumers perceive value at each stage. We identified a need for systems and tools to institutionalize knowledge and process to drive efficiency, margin improvement around disposition, slow-moving, and excess inventory.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
For me, the first two years were the most difficult. At the time, I was still living between Toronto and New York. I was working 18 hour days, which involved customer research, building our product, recruiting, demos to potential customers, and pitching investors. Needless to say, it was a lot to handle.
I’ve learned that it doesn’t get easier with time. You just get used to it. When you’re growing a business, you encounter obstacles all the time that require flexibility, hard work and innovative thinking.
My mindset has helped me get through the hard times without giving up.
- I take each day at a time. I make a list of what I want to achieve, and strive to go to bed every night knowing that I did.
- I remind myself that if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
- I have times slotted in my calendar labeled “Think.” You need to put brainpower into problems to solve them.
- It’s ok to make a mistake; the critical part is how I correct it.
- We all have egos; I try to use mine as a tool instead of my identity.
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Things are going well! Over the last year, we grew from being mainly apparel focused to introducing support for new verticals like Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG). Our client base includes some of the most recognized global enterprise brands, and our pipeline continues to grow. I invite you to visit our site at www.inturn.com to learn more about our business and solution.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Mistakes are never funny when they happen, but don’t let them shake you because, in retrospect, they’re rarely a big deal. Mistakes are human; it’s how you course correct that matters.
Our MVP was very scrappy and addressed particular problems for our customers. I would go to customers and hear feedback like “it’s not good enough” or “you need more features for it to work for us.” These comments caused me to hold back on releases until I felt I’d get a better response. The funny thing is that once I did release new “complete” features, they would always get used right away, and customers would either ask me why I didn’t release this earlier or would give me valuable feedback that helped us iterate and make it better.
The lesson learned is that you shouldn’t wait to release any new value to your customers. Live by this rule: If it’s better than what exists, release it. Don’t wait for perfection because, by the time you achieve it, it might be too late.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
INTURN stands out from other companies in so many ways. Let me share a few with you.
- Our People. The people of INTURN are all such amazing humans. We come from so many different backgrounds, and diversities and we all get along so well. I love learning about their talents and hobbies. We have musicians, divers, photographers, marathon runners, and even a drone pilot.
- Thought-leadership. My dear friend and our CEO, Ronen Lazar, has built a network of executives across many verticals and has established himself as an essential industry thought leader. It’s through thought-leadership and trust that makes us stand out.
- Our Product. The INTURN platform is awesome! I can’t describe what it feels like to put seven years into a product and see the world’s biggest brands finding it valuable. It gives me the motivation to keep going.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Burnout is a lack of interest or motivation. Nobody ever said, “I’m too burnt out to go to Hawaii.” My point is that if you’re solving real problems for people, the challenge in doing so is the exciting part of the job. Here are some tips that give me the energy to do my job well without burning out.
- Create fun every day. Sometimes there is no fun to be had, so you have to create it. I start meetings with a joke or a funny story. I also have an old vintage typewriter on my desk that I enjoy looking at or tapping its keys. I love to celebrate milestones over drinks with my team. Be creative, and you’ll never run out of fun ideas.
- Surround yourself with people that share your values. The leading reason companies set values is because it provides a built-in alignment amongst team members.
- Get 7–8 hrs of sleep every night. Sleep is not optional. Always know that your customers, peers, and investors don’t judge you by your stamina; they judge you by your decisions. The first thing that goes out the window when you’re sleep deprived is your ability to make good decisions.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Of course, my co-founder Ronen is first that comes to mind. He’s family, and we built the INTURN family together. I’m also grateful to Abe Marciano, our COO. Abe joined our company at the perfect time, and he was instrumental in taking us to the next level. Abe has become a dear friend.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?
Our business works on a client basis. Our users span across the biggest consumer & retail brands in the Fortune 500/1000. INTURN has a client-centric approach across all areas of our business to help us achieve complete user satisfaction. We build and enhance our offerings with our clients and their needs in mind. On top of daily interactions, we conduct an annual survey to help us continuously improve and inform our go-forward strategies. We recently announced a strategic partnership with SAP which will only help scale our reach and exposure.
What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?
We use a SaaS model and with that we monetize the service via a fixed tiered annual subscription model as well an onboarding one-time setup fee. We have considered and tested other models, such as charging a small fee for every transaction completed on our solution. After receiving user feedback, we decided against this model because it does not allow our clients to allocate a budget against the service, and encourages users to move off the platform to avoid paying the fee associated with transactions. The clients who leverage INTURN throughout their complete excess inventory process receive the highest value. Our pricing model encourages and enables this type of behavior.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful app or a SAAS? Please share a story or an example for each.
There are no out of the box steps that you take to build a successful app. Each idea is unique, and you need to act or react differently based on each individual situation. Follow these rules, and you’ll have the best chances of building a successful app:
- Always start with a problem. If you’re not solving a specific problem, you can’t sell a solution.
- Know Yourself. Have a deep understanding of what you’re good at and also a deep understanding of what you suck at. Then, surround yourself with people that are amazing at what you suck at and spend your time delivering on the things that you do well.
- Trust your intuition. The reason you took the risk in the first place is that you trusted your intuition, so follow through on your instinct. What I’m telling you is, ignore your imposter syndrome.
- Understand your Customers/Users. Your users are the reason your product has value. So listening to them is not enough. You must also understand them. Here are some methods you can implement to help understand your users:
- Spend time with them while they’re using your product. Doing so allows you to see first hand how they navigate the product and use each feature.
- Give them ways to send you feedback when you’re not with them. At INTURN, we use an in-app feedback system.
- Stay very close to your client success team and provide channels for them to give you constant feedback. Client success teams are the closest to your users on a day-to-day basis. They have a real-time pulse on how your user base feels about your product.
- Collect usage data and analyze behavior, identify trends to personalize experiences, improve features, and understand new opportunities.
5. Partner with your Bus. Dev/Sales Team. Product and BD teams need to form a partnership with close collaboration to achieve common business goals.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would build a multimedia education platform. It would take a page from YouTube’s revenue model and attract content creators to compete to design and develop courses at the highest standards of production. Imagine VR/AR courses in surround sound taught by the best educators in the world. The platform would be available to all citizens of the world for free. The hardest part will be to get recognized as an accredited school, but maybe Bill Gates and Warren Buffet will help out.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I love life and sharing my experiences with loved ones, but I don’t share too much online. I invite you to follow me on Instagram. @charlieifrah, which is my personal account or @automotivecharlie which is my hobby account.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us.