Three co-founders of PromoRepublic – Max, Mike and Val – worked at digital agencies in Ukraine, and built hundreds of successful social media campaigns and promotions for companies like Danone, Ferrero, Philips, PepsiCo and Johnson&Johnson. For their customers, social media marketing was one of the main channels used in their marketing strategy – and that’s how the guys recognised how big potential social media marketing would have for entrepreneurs of SMEs.
This lead to founding of PromoRepublic, a platform for creating promotions and contests on social networks, in 2013. Already few months after the launch, startup generated close to €30,000 in revenue, and its services were used by more than 1 000 companies. At this first stage PromoRepublic’s results were also noticed by investors – and the startup received support from Eastlabs business incubator and from a group of business angels including a managing partner of Techstars Semyon Dukach alongside business modeling guru David C. Lottenbach.
“We were making good money in our first year, but building a global SaaS business with monthly recurring payments wasn’t an easy task. No one needed contests each month, and we operated sales and tech support manually. But we noticed that small businesses needed help with content marketing on a daily basis and we decided to give them a scalable readymade solution for their problems,” tells Val Grabko, the CEO of PromoRepublic.
That’s why the team decided to go bigger – and also broader their horizon. First PromoRepublic participated at Estonian B2B accelerator program Startup Wise Guys, through which the company pivoted to do content marketing SaaS for SMEs and started to concentrate on overseas markets. The relaunch encouraged them to experiment even more with the concept – and next they headed to accelerate at Startup Chile and Finnish Startup Sauna. As a result, the company found their new home within the Helsinki startup ecosystem.
“We decided that Helsinki will be a base for our global expansion,” says Max Pecherskyi and adds that they are the first Ukranian startup who has managed to successfully accelerate through Finnish startup ecosystem including Startup Sauna and making it to Slush pitching competition top 25 companies as well as Arctic15 top 15 in 2015.
PromoRepublic believes that ‘Do It Yourself’ as a trend is transferring to ‘Do Nothing’ trend. This means developing easy-to-use user interfaces, total templatization and automation of small marketing platforms. Photo: PromoRepublic
“FiBAN Angels and Vigo Accelerators – Helsinki Ventures and Vendep – actually helped us to move the company to Finland and get a Tekes grant,” adds Pecherskyi. In their previous funding round closed in Finland, they attracted in total €100,000 in grants and investments – but now they’re aiming for more with the help of Finnish crowdfunding platform Invesdor, Tekes and investors from US that were found from Slush 2015.
“At the moment, we’re raising seed round of €350,000 and this year we plan to develop our service in the American market, where we have just launched. We’re also traveling to Silicon Valley this spring with Startup Sauna Roadshow and staying there for three weeks after to talk with customers,” tells Pecherskyi and adds that they have quite ambitious plans on growth and R&D in 2016 as well.
For PromoRepublic, Finland has been an amazing place to grow the startup – despite the higher living costs, taxes and salaries in comparison to Ukraine, says Pecherskyi:
“Finland’s start-up ecosystem turns Eastern European startups into civilised, transparent and globally ambitious businesses. In addition it has tight connections to Silicon Valley and programmes especially for nordic companies that support you in realization of global ambitions.”
Today PromoRepublic is used by 10,000 small businesses from the CIS region, Brazil, UK, Finland and the US. These companies have connected 16,000 pages to the service and generated over 100,000 posts. Monthly growth of the service is 105% on average in paying customers, at the moment there are 350 of them.
But the next goal is much bigger: to reach €100 000 monthly revenue. It’s gonna be a quite of a challenge – but the ambitious team has the trust of the supportive community they’ve already gathered in the Finnish ecosystem during the past few years.
“PromoRepublic is a very dedicated and enthusiastic team that will go through a brick wall to achieve their goals,” states Panu Paljakka, the CEO of Startup Sauna.
And that sounds like the company has assimilated the definition of sisu – the Finnish strenght.