“Strategy is the work of the entire leadership team,” Kirill Bigai, CEO and co-founder of the international educational online platform Preply
Kirill Bigai is the CEO and co-founder of the international educational online platform Preply, which helps to find tutors in 185 countries of the world. The project was founded in 2012 and was included in the list of 30 best startups according to Forbes.
On the air of the Big Fish Youtube channel, Kirill Bigai spoke about investing in a team and creation an innovative product.
ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF THE PRODUCT
The main thing is always the product. Tutors are, in fact, part of the product that the user receives. At the beginning of the development of Preply, marketing directly related to the product played an important role, and it allowed us to bypass competitors. Search engine optimization was also used: there were many products from the assortment that were searched for in search engines.
ABOUT THE RANGE
We sell timeslots. In fact, this is 1 hour of the tutor. It helps us to collect traffic and convert because we can answer any question related to foreign language tutors. On Preply, you can find a tutor for both $ 10 and $ 50 per hour. In our responses, we take into account the location and wishes of the client.
ABOUT THE INNOVATION OF THE PRODUCT
In modern companies, product and marketing are not super simple. We’re simplifying everything. We are responsible for the quality of our product and attract the coolest tutors, showing them in the right order: according to experience and quality.
This is the basis of the marketplace. The innovation is that we make the market for tutoring services more efficient, we bring order to this process, creating a system within which you can trust the product and the teacher’s expertise.
Now we are making digital content for learning English so that students have homework. Preply provides a unique strategy for each student-teacher pair, based on the success of a particular student.
ABOUT INVESTING IN A TEAM
We received a previous investment of $ 10 million for scaling the business, namely platforms and training methodologies. The current investment – $ 35 million – is aimed at developing the team.
On Google AdWords, we have increased the budget to $ 1 million per year. The current goal is to improve and test new directions, to move away from where we are already strong – this is the market of Western Europe and North America. We are especially interested in Asia and Latin America.
ABOUT BUILDING A STRONG MARKETING TEAM
The marketing team has grown from 15 to 60 people; in total, Preply employs 350 people. As the team expands, the expertise deepens in each channel and region. For example, 10 marketers are currently working in Barcelona and all of them are from different countries: the Netherlands, France, Spain, Britain.
These specialists understand the contexts of countries, their specifics. We started to launch new channels that we previously considered unprofitable for ourselves: in particular, paid advertising on Facebook. We also create regional teams. We will soon have a Country Manager in every key country. There are already localization experts who are in charge of local marketing.
ABOUT THE DYNAMICS OF VIEWS ON BUSINESS
Every six months my idea of how the business will develop changes. The online tutoring market is dynamic and has begun to attract large investments. There is potential in this market. We implement metrics that interest us – for example, return on investment per year for each client. For the year we go to zero, and after that the company the company has a profit. This is a healthy growth strategy.
ABOUT BUSINESS OBJECTIVES
There are two of them: to build the most efficient way to learn languages in the world and to make Preply grow quickly. Both goals are aimed at increasing future market share, because today Preply is still a relatively small company.
ABOUT TEAM ROLES
At the start we did everything ourselves: me, Sergey Lukyanov and Dmitry Voloshin. Now I do less and less with my own hands. The company’s strategy is created by hired people. Strategy is the work of the entire leadership team: I can’t write it alone. But the responsibility is still on me.
ABOUT RECRUITING STARS TO A TEAM
We have tried to hire very strong people. Strong people attract other strong people, this is a network effect. Hiring is for specific purposes, we hire those who previously performed larger tasks.
Josh Cross – Chief Product Officer: He was responsible for 60 product teams. We only have 12. Josh came to influence the trajectory of the company and the market. We have such a value – be humble. This is about the fact that you always do not know something. If I’m not enough as a leader, I’ll need to find someone who can do something better than me.
ABOUT PREPLY CULTURE
We grew up with the company. In a team, responsibility is distributed across processes, not departments. It is important for us to understand and cultivate values.
Hunger is about ambition, about responsibility for what you do.
Hacker is the ability to build pragmatic solutions with minimal investment.
Learning obsessed – a passion for learning new things.
Human is another of our values: we support psychological well-being, diversity and inclusion in the team, give the right feedback, talk about how to properly structure thoughts. We demand understanding and implementation of our values from all managers. You cannot enter a new stage in the organization if you do not know how.