Measure everything. Measure your customers interaction with the platform. Measure errors and failures. Make sure especially with Saas platforms for big brands, that you are closed to fault tolerance.. That the product won’t break when it’s needed the most. Sometimes products can be faulty and you want to make sure it goes well and as smooth as possible, especially for game day.
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 Asaf Nevo. Asaf is CEO and Co-Founder of Pico — Get Personal, one of the most well-known SportsTech startups in Israel, penetrating markets on a global level. From popular bar owner, to becoming a pioneer in revolutionizing the way sports teams and organizations communicate and engage with their fans, Nevo and his team of Founders are disrupting the sports industry in the best way possible. With more than 22 international teams working with and integrating Pico technology, Pico has become a major game-changer when it comes to the fan experience.
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?
Inour former lives, myself and one of the Co-Founders here at Pico, owned a popular bar for 8 years in the downtown area of our hometown. Owning and operating the bar was always something we really enjoyed as a business but we kind of hit a glass ceiling of wanting to try new things in our establishment that we weren’t able to, because bars typically do not have much room for new innovations. We were always very tech-savvy and were excited by the many advancements in technology we would see. We even had some experience at our bar creating cool tech products such as a self service bar. But at the end of the day, we were looking for something a bit deeper. During this time, I actually got married. At the wedding, we saw that many pictures were being taken by our friends and family, but there wasn’t an easy way to share those images with everybody. We’re talking 2013 here… before selfies and Instagram. From that, came the idea of creating a photo sharing app, which allowed people to share photos and aggregated albums from events. This, you could say was the very first version of Pico. It might sound far off from what we’re doing today, but it’s part of understanding our journey, the market, and where we are today. So all in all, the bar was basically a school for business management when it came down to understanding cash flow, growth obstacles, success and understanding markets.
Today, Pico is one of the most well known SportsTech startups in Israel, working with major organizations across the NBA, NFL, Bundesliga and more. We provide big brands and organizations the opportunity and option to create direct lines of communication with their fans across social media. We help foster organic relationships between organization and fan, while simultaneously driving engagement and revenue.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
I would say that we had a combination of “Aha Moments” along the way. The first one though was definitely from my wedding, when we saw that there was no solution for photo sharing from events. The next Aha Moment happened after Instagram became the new app on everyone’s phone and people no longer needed or wanted a photo sharing app. From that, we realized that there might be a need for organizations to see people sharing photos from their events, events such as festivals, sports games, concerts etc. This was during the time that content was King and everyone was looking for new content, how to generate content, and how to have User Generated Content (UGC).
At this point in the timeline, what we had was an App for users to download. Another Aha Moment, following straight after, was when we were in the States meeting with the former CMO of the Philadelphia 76ers. He told us straight up, “I really need your value. I want to see everyone’s pictures but I will never download an app because we already have our own. So you need to figure out how to provide us value without an app.” So that was really when we realized we need to kill the app entirely and create/start a Saas platform. When we switched to the platform we were able to aggregate a ton of content, and what came with the content was a lot of data. Because we had so much user data we were able to provide insights to brands, but there was really no connection yet to the brands fans themselves. The next Aha Moment was when Facebook released their API to Messenger platform, which allowed us to use Messenger as a channel and as a way for us to communicate directly with fans.
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?
It’s a good question. I think that because all three co-founders already came from an entrepreneurship background before building this company, most of our tough moments or thoughts of giving up didn’t necessarily happen at Pico. We understood, and still understand that things take time and a lot of persistence, so we feel lucky to have had that background to help us in the beginning stages of Pico. Most of our “traumatic” moments were in our first business, and they taught us that things take time. Every business struggles in the beginning to find the right market fit and that’s where the persistence aspect comes in to play.
The drive to continue comes from two places. First of all, we really enjoy building stuff. Our entrepreneurship journey is always about building… stuff! We like seeing what we build come to life and help solve a problem. The other drive is that we really feel, believe and know that we are helping solve a problem where we saw market faules. So that is what continues to inspire and drive us, to keep us moving forward and working hard.
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Things today are going great and they are going quickly. We are growing rapidly every month, with major teams and leagues wanting to partner with us. I believe our persistence and constantly checking if we are actually doing well or not has helped lead us to our current (and future) success. Always looking at the data and market responses to what we’re doing has helped us get to a place where we can say we understand the problem and have cracked it which helps in finding the right market fit.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
When we had the photo sharing app in the past and began working with big brands, we would always joke and say that one of these days someone will share an inappropriate picture. We thought that because the app is connected to users social media profiles, no one would share such a picture. Well, lo and behold, in one of the games, someone took a picture of their butt, uploaded it and created a (funny) hashtag around it. Luckily, we had photo filtering features in place to avoid the image being shared to the jumbotron by the team, but it really helped us understand the importance of the type of content and language that’s being used by these big brands and organizations. It allowed us to focus on being the most professional when it comes to presenting and representing the brand. We have to make sure that these brands are safe in terms of the content they are posting and sharing.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think two things are really making Pico stand out. From a founder perspective, we are all coming from a former business approach. We are always thinking less about bragging about our fundraising and less about the mojo of being a startup. We wanted to get shit done and understand the financial logic behind everything we do.
The second thing that makes us stand out is the strong team we have behind us. Our leaders are coming from years of experience in the sports and entertainment industry, and everything we do is tailor made for the markets we are approaching and entering. Everyone here in a leadership role has been part of big entertainment companies or sports organizations.
In addition, we are not asking our customers for any big hustle. Our clients can easily work with us and start their activations on any channel they prefer, very easily. In 2018, we won the National Sports Forum TechTank for the best sponsorship activation technology. And again in 2018, we won the EuroLeague challenge.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I think the number one top would have to be to stay positive through it all. Entrepreneurship life (in the beginning especially) is receiving a lot of negative responses from investors or clients. It is definitely a rough process.. At the first stages of raising money, most investors are also saying no. So staying positive is key. Take their feedback, learn what you can, wash your face and keep it moving. Most importantly, listen to the market. The market knows what it’s saying. You need to understand the reactions to your solution and understand what adaptation will look like/looks like. What you are solving for them and most importantly, what is their real problem? You need to be readily available for changes, and be ready to change and integrate fast.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My family and my wife have always been so supportive of everything we are doing. Coming from an Israeli company to a global company requires a lot of out-of-home time and time abroad. When we were building our business in the States, we left home for over a month and our wives didn’t divorce us. So we feel really lucky to have such a support system.
I think we have very supportive investors who know how to support us when we are down but also help us reach our big picture and new milestones.
Lastly, our team is something we are very proud of. The atmosphere we have built is something to get energy from when needed. Working with smart people who know how to execute our vision and goals has been a true gift.
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?
We currently have 22 professional sports teams using our platform, ranging from the NBA, NFL, NHL and Euroleague teams including Bundesliga.
1. Find the first design partner — someone who likes you personally, who likes and shares your enthusiasm and the way you are solving problems. This is probably happening even before you find the right market fit. This will be the first doctor who will be willing to test new features or ideas with you. For example, our first major client was our first design partner. We always said yes to their requests because as a first client, they are willing to test and write testimonials on our services. They’re the ones actually helping design the overall product from a business standpoint in the first stages.
2. Then, using the design partners you’ve found, you have to really work hard in finding and figuring out the problem you are solving for them. This can also be done over a few design partners. Test with them, build new features or activations to help determine what it is you are solving. After working with them for a while, try to narrow down all of the things you are doing and the steps you are taking and split it between the main Value Proposition and the Features you offer.
There’s an unnecessary need to come to new clients and show them EVERYTHING you’ve got. People can’t visualize that. They need to first understand your value and what you bring to the table.
3. Once you figure out your value proposition, you can start scaling and hiring people to go out and sell, sell, sell.
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?
Our basic monetization is based off of Saas subscription fees. However we also sometimes receive commission from transactions we drive. We are also always testing new business models to find new ways of monetizing the data we have about the fans for each team. We’ve tried and tested different monetization methods but Subscription Fees and Commission bring us the most value and allows us to grow the fastest in terms of the market.
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.
1. Personal Relationships. When working with big brands, investing in personal relationships brings big value. People buy from people they like, appreciate and who are experts in the area. You have to maintain relationships with your clients to not only gain their trust but to also assist in getting more clients on board. Build personal relationships whenever possible.
2. Never build before there is a need. Always build or add on according to your client feedback. Don’t over develop. We had thought we were developing cool features but our clients didn’t end up using them, and it took up a lot of time and resources.
3. Measure everything. Measure your customers interaction with the platform. Measure errors and failures. Make sure especially with Saas platforms for big brands, that you are closed to fault tolerance.. That the product won’t break when it’s needed the most. Sometimes products can be faulty and you want to make sure it goes well and as smooth as possible, especially for game day.
4. Communicate with your customers and manage their success. Especially with the big brands. They don’t always understand everything and what everything does. So make sure you are guiding them through what is most important for them and what will help them achieve their goals.
5. It takes time! Getting your first clients will take time. Getting them to actually use the service after they’ve signed also takes time. So practice patience, and be resilient.
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. 🙂
Less of a movement, but a real passion of mine is to hopefully one day be able to help small — medium sized business owners. Most businesses in the world are of the small to medium sized and they often need help with that next step to take. I want to help them when they’re at the point that they’ve successfully built a business but they reached a limit, a glass ceiling, and they don’t know what else they could be doing or where else they could be focusing their efforts. They’re making some money but not enough to feel comfortable. I’d like to build a fund that would allow me to come in as an investor and help them grow and help them truly enjoy the fruits of their labor. I’m interested in that because I have seen firsthand how this stage in a business affects so many people besides the founder(s), like their families for instance. I’d love to help them find that sweet spot so that they can enjoy their life and not struggle with the day to day tasks and chores.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!