“Take the time to speak with each other” With Mitch Russo & Latana’s Rytis Jakubauskas

Client focus is everything. Since your success is largely determined by whether your clients stick around and pay you in the future, you need to treat them very well and invest a lot more in customer success and retention compared to traditional business models Aspart of my series about the “5 Things You Need To […]

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Client focus is everything. Since your success is largely determined by whether your clients stick around and pay you in the future, you need to treat them very well and invest a lot more in customer success and retention compared to traditional business models

Aspart of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SAAS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rytis Jakubauskas. Rytis is General Manager at Latana, an advanced brand tracking software made for fast-growing consumer and tech startups and scale-ups. Rytis enjoys building and growing disruptive businesses, as well as the occasional game of squash.

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?

Isomehow ended up in the corporate world at the beginning of my career but very clearly realised that it wasn’t not for me. So I went to the other extreme and started working at an early stage startup.

I was one of the first members of a team that was trying to compete with Uber in Europe, which was of course difficult. We decided to take it up a notch and also compete with the incumbent car companies, and started building electric vehicles tailor-made for sharing as well. Both ventures got quite a bit of traction, we pushed it far and it was one hell of a ride, but ultimately we failed.

I decided to start my own company straight after in the very-hot crypto space of 2017, but we also shut that down after realising that what we were trying to build is technologically not possible, at least not yet.

And after all of that, I decided to join a successful team again, which is how I ended up at Dalia and Latana.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

Working at Dalia, we got a deep insight into how consumer firms operate and what type of insight they seek. Brand was the one area that stood out by far. On the one hand, you have marketers preaching how important brand is and, of course, we know how much brand drives consumer behaviour. So when we met marketers, we weren’t surprised to hear that they are investing heavily into their brands and brand marketing.

The surprise was really to find out that they were quite blind in their understanding of the effectiveness of all that work and investment. They had figured out digital marketing attribution to the cent, but in brand marketing they were struggling and desperate for a solution that can help steer their brand marketing. And that’s how it all got started, how we decided to start Latana as a spin-off within Dalia, with the ultimate vision to demystify brand and provide marketers with the tool they need to make data-driven brand decisions.

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?

Absolutely. The reason that there are no good solutions for quantifying brand is not because people are not aware of it, it is because it is very hard and difficult.

Our first attempt didn’t get much traction in the market and we considered shutting down the operation, so that was quite tough. It was only after we changed the underlying technology and dramatically improved the value proposition for our clients that we realised we’re on to something.

It’s still far from plain sailing, as we’re pushing the boundaries of what’s technologically possible, but at least now we have plenty of confirmation from the market and happy clients. Ultimately, we never stopped believing that there is a big problem to solve and that it can be solved, and persevered long enough to find the right solution for the problem.

So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

We are just over the year mark with the new product and we are very pleased with how Latana has been received by the market. We could talk about the new features being continually added to our platform, our rising number of clients, and so on but we can really see how successful Latana has been when we see how our platform has allowed our clients to build better brands.

We’ve managed to accelerate the rate at which we grow in the past months and, despite being quite young, are maturing at a very quick pace. We have a very talented team that has scaled with the growing business, so I am super confident that we will continue to do even better in the months and years to come.

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?

Before we ended up with our current product, we tried a different approach with traditional technology. And we made the same mistake that a lot of early startups make: We confused a few, friendly early adopters with traction and ultimately spent too much time and resources on a product that was doomed to fail.

The lesson here is to go beyond very basic buying signals and try to really understand whether you are solving a problem and if your clients are using the tool to find out whether you have product-market-fit or not.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I think we are a rare success story of a startup that was incubated in a larger organisation, but yet managed to succeed. Having access to Dalia’s technology and resources was critical to get Latana off the ground and still is the key factor that allows us to grow quicker than our peers and mature at a rapid pace.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Take the time to speak with other members of your team. It can be easy to get caught up in your own bubble of work, focusing too much on any problems or stresses. Positive relationships in the workplace can help unburden these issues, whether a colleague can offer a solution, lend a hand, or simply listen, it is important to get things off your chest. A problem shared is a problem halved, after all.

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?

As I mentioned earlier, none of this would be possible without the entire Latana team. I couldn’t possibly pick just one person. Without the impact of everyone of our sales people, marketers, developers, and so on, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

Also worth mentioning is Dalia’s support, especially from the CEO Nico, who never stopped believing in the idea and made sure we have all the resources we need to make this happen, which was certainly not easy at times.

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?

Latana is a SaaS-product that is on the premium-spectrum (think Salesforce) and has a very specific audience, instead of something that is relatively low-priced and has a wide target audience (think Dropbox). As a result of that, and since we are only about a year old, the number of accounts we have is in the double digits and users in the hundreds, both growing extremely quickly.

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 have a fairly traditional 3-tiered pricing plan and monetise only through our users. We create a lot of value for our clients, so they are willing to pay for the service of course. We have not considered other monetisation options so far, but I wouldn’t rule that out for the future.

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.

  • Understand the concept of product-market-fit, what it is, what it isn’t, and how to measure it
  • Have an understanding of margins, marginal costs and unit economics — that’s what makes SaaS business models so profitable
  • Client focus is everything. Since your success is largely determined by whether your clients stick around and pay you in the future, you need to treat them very well and invest a lot more in customer success and retention compared to traditional business models
  • It’s ultra competitive. Launching a company and building a piece of software, especially SaaS, has never been easier, so people do — be prepared for cutthroat competition and figure out early what you want your moat to be, and then double down on that.
  • IMO SaaS these days is synonymous for fast-growing. Even if you are not a growth-expert yourself, you will need to develop a deep understanding of current growth tactics, marketing, how to build scalable sales teams, net retention, and all of the other fun stuff that makes the best SaaS companies successful

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. 🙂

Having lived in the Nordics, I am a big fan of their social setup. People are happier, more productive, wealthier — there’s no doubt it’s a better model. Their high-tax-dependant system is difficult to replicate for other, especially larger nations, so if I could start a movement, I would start one to come up with a better system to fund the commons, i.e. better taxes. There are some interesting approaches in e.g. the blockchain-space around decentralised organisations with incentives that are better aligned as in our current systems, and I think accelerating this would be of great benefit to a lot of cities across the globe.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Latana is very active on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. We are also going to up the ante on YouTube this year, so keep an eye out there. As for myself, Twitter is probably the best place.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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