Xenia Muntean von Planable

Gr├╝nderkaffee Folge 033

Xenia Muntean von Planable

Ich bin Jeroen von Salesflare und das ist Founder Coffee.

Alle drei Wochen trinke ich einen Kaffee mit einem anderen Gr├╝nder. Wir sprechen ├╝ber das Leben, die Leidenschaften, das Gelernte, ... in einem intimen Gespr├Ąch und lernen die Person hinter dem Unternehmen kennen.

F├╝r diese dreiunddrei├čigste Folge habe ich mit Xenia Muntean gesprochen, der Mitbegr├╝nderin von Planable, einer Plattform f├╝r die Zusammenarbeit in den sozialen Medien und die Genehmigung von Projekten f├╝r Agenturen und gr├Â├čere Unternehmen.

Xenia gr├╝ndete w├Ąhrend ihres Studiums eine Social-Media-Agentur in Moldawien und baute sie auf sieben Mitarbeiter aus, bis sie Planable gr├╝ndete, um eines der Probleme der Zusammenarbeit in ihrer Agentur zu l├Âsen.

Ihr Startup wurde von einem Accelerator in Rum├Ąnien und anschlie├čend von Techstars in London entdeckt.

Wir sprechen dar├╝ber, warum man langsam einstellen sollte, um eine Unternehmenskultur aufzubauen, wie begeistert sie von der Umbenennung von Planable ist, wie sie wieder zu T├Âpferwaren und Schmuck zur├╝ckfindet und ├╝ber den langen Weg zum Produkt-Markt-Fit.

Willkommen bei Founder Coffee.

Salesflare erhalten

M├Âchten Sie lieber zuh├Âren? Sie finden diese Folge auf:


Jeroen: Hey, Xenia. It’s great to have you on Founder Coffee.

Xenia: Hallo, Jeroen. Vielen Dank, dass du mich eingeladen hast.

Jeroen: So you’re the co-founder of Planable. For those who don’t know Planable, what do you guys do?

Xenia: So Planable is a creative workflow tool for social media teams. And what it does is it helps marketing teams create social media content together. It helps them work better as a team, to get themselves aligned around the content that they have produced, to visualize it and get it published in a very streamlined way. Everything in one single place. So it’s like a productivity tool for social media teams.

Jeroen: Reden wir also von gro├čen Teams? Oder sind wir jetzt in gro├čen Unternehmen und Agenturen? Wer nutzt Planable?

Xenia: So agencies definitely, because agencies collaborate by default, with a lot of people, with their clients. They are, by default, in a collaborative environment. They need to showcase their work to clients and get approvals. So this type of workflow is necessary for them, because of their business model. But it also applies to in-house teams that are bigger. You know, five people and more. Or even fewer people, but distributed, working remotely and needing something to communicate around the work that they’re producing.

Aber ja, in der Regel wird das Problem un├╝bersichtlicher und komplexer, wenn mehr Menschen an der Produktion sozialer Medien beteiligt sind.

Jeroen: How did you get started with making a solution for this problem? Is this something you’ve faced yourself?

Xenia: Nun, ├Ąhnlich wie bei dir, Jeroen, waren wir in der Branche t├Ątig. Wir haben das Problem mit unseren eigenen Augen gesehen. Wir haben es pers├Ânlich gesp├╝rt. Wir haben pers├Ânlich damit gek├Ąmpft. Vor Planable hatte ich eine kleine Agentur f├╝r Social Media Marketing, und meine technischen Mitbegr├╝nder arbeiteten in einer ├Ąhnlichen Agentur. Und wir sprachen ├╝ber die Herausforderungen, die wir bei der Arbeit hatten, und dar├╝ber, wie schwer es war, internes Feedback von den Teammitgliedern zu erhalten.

Wir erstellten Social-Media-Kalender in Excels oder manchmal auch in PowerPoint und teilten sie per E-Mail intern, innerhalb der Agentur, und dann extern mit den Kunden, um Genehmigungen zu erhalten. Und das f├╝hlte sich einfach wie ein kaputter Prozess an.

We also have a background in graphic design, and we were always thinking, “Designers have InVision to collaborate around the frameworks and the design files that they’re creating.” It’s just so easy in InvVision to leave a comment and to share your work with clients and to share your work internally.

And it’s just such a beautiful process, and it’s very pleasant to work in InVision when you’re a designer. But marketers, they don’t have anything like that for social.

They don’t have anything as smooth and elegant and also as collaborative and visual as designers have with InVision. So that’s how the idea of Planable was born. We wanted to just make our work simpler and a bit more delightful. So Planable was born to do just that.

Jeroen: Sie erw├Ąhnten, dass die Zeitpl├Ąne im Grunde in Excel-Dateien verteilt werden und die Leute darin ihr Feedback abgeben w├╝rden.

Xenia: Ja.

Jeroen: Aber wie haben Sie vor Planable die Posts in den sozialen Medien entworfen? Hatten Sie etwas daf├╝r? Wie haben Sie das visualisiert, oder waren es nur ein paar Zeilen und die Leute mussten sich vorstellen, was es war?

Xenia: Oh God, that’s such an interesting story. Especially when I had very important clients that were very serious about their grants – Coca-Cola, for example, in Eastern Europe. I had a Photoshop file where I was mocking up how their entire timeline is going to look like with all the posts that we were planning to publish in the next week or next month. So that was tedious work.

Und dann wurde ich schlauer und erstellte eine gef├Ąlschte Facebook-Seite, auf der ich die Beitr├Ąge einfach nachbilden, einen Screenshot machen und ihn an Kunden oder intern versenden konnte. Das war gut, weil es f├╝r die Kunden einfach war zu verstehen, wie ihre Inhalte am Ende aussehen werden.

But it was also good for me, because I could make sure that the post was looking like I intended. Because spreadsheets and Excels are just a terrible way of showcasing visual content. There’s no way. You’re just relying on everyone else’s imagination to guess what you had in mind when you were drafting that post.

So that’s how I was doing it back then. And with Planable, you can just create the post and it looks exactly like on its social media platform. It looks exactly like what it is supposed to on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook. So what you see is what you’re going to get in the end with Planable.

Jeroen: Genau. Diese Social-Media-Marketing-Agentur, war das Ihre Agentur oder haben Sie irgendwo gearbeitet?

Xenia: No, I started it during my second year of university. I was in a student organization and one of the partners, one of the sponsors of that organization, was looking for someone to do their social. So there I was, young and hungry. And that’s how I started my agency.

I was studying PR and mass communication back then, so it was one of my dreams to work in this space. To work in advertising. And I actually never imagined I’m going to start an agency. It was a dream that I actually didn’t have, but it became a reality.

The agency was just me at the beginning, and then we were like about six, seven people doing, not just social, but also websites and branding work, and that’s how I learned more about the industry and the challenges marketers have.

Jeroen: Gibt es diese Agentur noch?

Xenia: No. When I started Planable, we left, together with my co-founders, we left everything we were doing back then. I closed my agency. My technical co-founder, Nick, left the agency he was working in. And my third co-founder, Vlad, he dropped out of college to do Planable. So we left quite a lot behind us. Our work, but also we moved countries. We started in Republic of Moldova. That’s where we are originally from. And then we moved to Romania to build the business.

Jeroen: Warum sind Sie nach Rum├Ąnien gezogen? Ist Rum├Ąnien ein besserer Ort, um Ihr Start-up zu gr├╝nden?

Xenia: Well, first of all, Romania is in the European Union, and it just has better economic opportunities, I would say. It has investors. It’s a growing, I wouldn’t say “strong”, but it is an upcoming start-up ecosystem, because it has angel investors and strong technical universities, accelerators, and quite a lot of events like the one we are going to speak at. Quite a lot of other conferences and platforms for start-ups too.

And it also has inspiring success stories, like the one that you’ve probably, quite a lot of people probably heard about, UiPath, the Eastern European unicorn. And all those inspiring stories that Romania has, just create a better environment to build a start-up than Moldova. Moldova is still trying to develop this ecosystem. But I would say Romania is a few steps ahead.

Jeroen: Richtig. Als ihr also euer eigenes Unternehmen gr├╝nden wolltet, hattet ihr das Gef├╝hl, dass Moldawien nicht der richtige Ort daf├╝r ist, und ihr habt beschlossen, nach Rum├Ąnien zu ziehen?

Xenia: Yeah. We were discovered, actually, by an accelerator in Romania. They discovered us in Moldova while we were having the idea of Planable, and they invited us to the accelerator in Romania, and that’s how we moved.

It’s really hard to start the company when you do not have the support of someone else, and I think that was a huge factor that helped us build the company. The fact that we had this accelerator that was confirming that what we’re doing made sense made all the difference. They were willing to put in the time to invest in us so that we could build the business and move forward.

I think without those things, you can definitely build a business, but it is easier if you have people that are validating what you’re doing.

Jeroen: Auf jeden Fall. Sie haben erw├Ąhnt, dass Sie angefangen haben, weil jemand jemanden brauchte, der sich um soziale Medien k├╝mmert?

Xenia: Ja.

Jeroen: War das das erste Mal, dass Sie sich entschlossen haben, ein Unternehmen zu gr├╝nden, oder war das etwas, das Sie schon vorher im Kopf hatten?

Xenia: No. I’m an entrepreneur by accident. I was not dreaming of becoming an entrepreneur at some point. Because in Moldova, it’s this tiny, tiny, post-Soviet country in Eastern Europe, and people do not have entrepreneurial aspirations back there. It’s not a trend. Young kids are not dreaming of becoming an entrepreneur at some point. So that was not something that I was always thinking about. It just happened to me, and I didn’t even realize I’m doing it until a certain point.

Aber meine Agentur war nicht mein erstes Unternehmen. Vor der Agentur, w├Ąhrend der High School, hatte ich ein kleines Unternehmen. Ich dachte nicht einmal daran, dass es ein Gesch├Ąft war, aber es brachte Geld ein. Ich stellte handgefertigten Schmuck her und verkaufte ihn online. Das war sozusagen eCommerce f├╝r Mode, wenn man es ein bisschen ├╝bertreiben will.

But it was my first attempt at a business that I had. It was a good one. It was profitable, as the agency was. So that’s how my journey started.

Jeroen: Ist das bei Ihren Mitbegr├╝ndern ├Ąhnlich, oder waren Sie derjenige, der sie ins Unternehmertum hineingezogen hat?

Xenia: Nun, die Idee zu Planable hatte zuerst mein Mitgr├╝nder Nick. Ich glaube, er hatte auch diesen Unternehmergeist in sich, obwohl ich glaube, dass es das erste Gesch├Ąft war, in das er einstieg. Planable ist das erste Unternehmen f├╝r ihn. Aber ich denke, dass wir alle den Unternehmergeist in uns trugen. Vlad, mein dritter Mitbegr├╝nder, hatte w├Ąhrend seiner Schulzeit ein paar NGOs gegr├╝ndet.

Wir hatten also alle diesen Ehrgeiz in uns, auch wenn er sich in den traditionellen Unternehmen zu dieser Zeit vielleicht nicht verwirklichte.

Jeroen: Mm-hmm. Cool. And what is your dream now as an accidental entrepreneur? How do you measure success, let’s say?

Xenia: Wow. That’s a tough question. So, success, personally, in life, or would you say success in business?

Jeroen: Ich denke, man kann beides abdecken. F├╝r viele Unternehmer ist der Erfolg im Gesch├Ąft gleichbedeutend mit dem Erfolg im Leben. Oder zumindest ein gro├čer Teil davon, denke ich.

Xenia: Ja.

Jeroen: But it doesn’t have to be.

Xenia: Yeah. I wouldn’t put it at an equal platform.

Jeroen: Nein, definitiv nicht.

Xenia: Because it’s a dangerous path. But success in business, for me, would mean actually transforming the way marketers work today. You could become a multi-millionaire business. You could actually drive a lot of revenue and have a lot of clients, but not change anything. Especially if you’re in the enterprise business. You could sign quite a lot of contracts, but a big majority of those licenses are not active, and people are not actually using the product and you’re not actually driving change in the way people work.

So I think, for me, the way I would measure my success is if we actually could transform the industry. Obviously that would come with bigger numbers in terms of revenue and in terms of contracts, but for me, change in the industry and actually making people say goodbye to Excels, Microsoft Outlook and Google Drive and all those archaic tools, that’s the way I see success in Planable.

And also, a big part of success in Planable is building a culture that makes you wake up in the morning excited. Like really excited to go to work. I think that’s a big, big part for me, both professionally but also kind of personally as well.

So that’s how I would define success. Having a really awesome team and helping the industry change.

Jeroen: So, on the one hand, it seems that you want to build a big company, at least serve a lot of clients, because it’s kind of a requirement to change how people work, I suppose.

Xenia: Ja.

Jeroen: On the other hand, you’re giving a lot of importance to building a company with the right culture. How do you feel you will marry the two?

Xenia: Yeah, it’s a good question. It’s really hard to have both, because the more you grow, the harder it is to keep the culture as you intended initially. It is tough, but when we recruit new people at Planable, attitude is the first thing that we look at. And if we do not find someone that we are, a “Hell yes,” about them, then we decide to start the process again.

So, for us, it’s really important, especially now that we’re still a small team, we’re only 10 people on board, it’s really important to make sure that every person that joins Planable is as excited about it as we are about them. It is hard, but I think it’s doable if you stick to your values and principles that you have in mind, and if you do not compromise. I have definitely compromised before in terms of recruiting, and it never worked out.

So you recruit people that are brilliant and super smart and super talented, but there is not a 100% click, and you think that the fact that they’re smart and the fact that they’re interested in the company is going to work out and everything is going to align in the end, but if there is no chemistry, it’s not going to work out in the end. Things are going to go and it’s going to be an issue at some point.

So I’ve learned that lesson, and now we’re trying to make sure that the people that join in are happy and we’re happy. And I think those things are doable. Having a big company and having a happy and awesome and cool culture are doable, but it is definitely a hard thing to do.

Jeroen: Ja.

Xenia: Also ja. Ich dr├╝cke die Daumen.

Jeroen: Ein bisschen was zum gleichen Thema. Seht ihr euch selbst als Bootstrapper, oder sucht ihr nach einer Finanzierung?

Xenia: Well, we have already raised money, so we’re past that bootstrapping point. We were funded from the beginning, actually. So we had like a small family fund ticket investment, like an angel investment, of 20k, three years ago when we started the company. And afterwards, we went through Techstars in London, and that was 120k again. And we recently just closed our seed round. So we are definitely going on the easy path.

Jeroen: Ich habe auf Crunchbase nachgeschaut, und statt Rum├Ąnien steht dort London.

Xenia: Yeah. Because the company’s incorporated in London. We already switched now. It is a classical Delaware inc. So an American company now.

Jeroen: Mm-hmm. Was machen Sie pers├Ânlich bei Planable? Womit sind Sie besch├Ąftigt?

Xenia: I ask this myself sometimes. It’s a jumble to see. You would probably agree with me, or disagree. It’s just so diverse, and you do so many things at once. One of my focuses at the moment is our rebranding process. We’re not changing the name. The name is still going to be Planable, but we are changing our visual identity because, if you look at Planable’s logo now and the new Slack logo, you might see some similarities. Though our logo, I built it, I designed it three years ago. Slack is a big company so you don’t go against them. So yeah, we are changing.

It definitely needs an upgrade anyway, so it was a good opportunity to evolve the brand. So that’s one of the big focuses that I have at the moment. And we’re recruiting. Recruiting, I think, is one of my top priorities always. Recruiting and building the culture and making sure that I’m ticking all those boxes that we just discussed.

Ja, das sind im Moment meine beiden gr├Â├čten Schwerpunkte. Und ich denke, der dritte Schwerpunkt ist der Verkauf, die Gewinnung neuer Kunden. Das sind also meine drei wichtigsten Priorit├Ąten, die ich jeden Tag im Kopf habe.

Jeroen: So those are the three things you do when you’re in the office?

Xenia: Yeah. I mean, they’re high level. High level, that’s kind of the things that I do. But I think actually, they translate into writing emails, a lot of emails.

Jeroen: Yeah. Mostly writing emails. Actually, myself, I don’t write so many emails, which is sometimes a bit wrong, I guess.

Xenia: Wrong? Why would you say “wrong”?

Jeroen: Die Leute warten lange, bis sie eine Antwort bekommen. Denn es gibt so viele andere Kan├Ąle, die meine Aufmerksamkeit in Anspruch nehmen. Wir chatten zum Beispiel mit Kunden in Intercom.

Xenia: Richtig.

Jeroen: I mostly chat with other founders or so, in Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. There’s the internal Slack chat. And the emails are really the last place where I go look.

Xenia: Interessant. F├╝r mich stehen E-Mails an erster Stelle, weil ich denke, dass wir Intercom f├╝r Self-Service-Kunden verwenden, also f├╝r Kunden, die nur auf die Website kommen, um eine kostenlose Testversion zu erhalten, und auch f├╝r Kunden. Meine Priorit├Ąt liegt bei Unternehmenskunden, und die kontaktieren wir normalerweise per E-Mail und nicht ├╝ber den Chatbot. Bei den Anbietern und der Rekrutierung l├Ąuft alles ├╝ber E-Mail. Das nimmt also einen gro├čen Teil meines Tages in Anspruch.

Jeroen: Ja. Das k├Ânnte wahr sein. Auch bei LinkedIn.

Xenia: Yeah. That’s true. LinkedIn as well. I don’t know about you, but I have such an issue with the LinkedIn inbox. I just dream about a better LinkedIn inbox, one with reminders and a snoozing feature. It just feels so inefficient to work with. I mean, I’m forced to work in the LinkedIn inbox, but I’m dreaming about someone building a better client. The way there are email clients for email, I’m imagining something like that for LinkedIn. So someone should build that, if the API allows it.

Jeroen: Ich hoffe, dass LinkedIn das h├Ârt, denn ich glaube, dass viele Leute das gerne tun w├╝rden, aber die LinkedIn-API erlaubt das nicht.

Xenia: Oh, verdammt noch mal. Ja, ich dr├╝cke LinkedIn die Daumen, dass sie es eines Tages bauen.

Jeroen: Ja. Das Einzige, was man tun kann, ist, es irgendwie zu hacken. Sagen wir, ein clientseitiger Posteingang zus├Ątzlich zu dem ihren.

Xenia: Ja.

Jeroen: Aber die Frage ist, wie lange das ├╝berlebt.

Xenia: Yeah. That’s true. I mean, I’m not sure, but it’s always difficult to build something on top of others. I can say it from our own personal experience, with APIs there’s always an issue. So it’s difficult, especially with LinkedIn being very restrictive with their API nowadays.

Jeroen: Yeah. This is a totally off-topic question. Does that require a lot of work on your side? Because I’ve read some posts, for instance, by the guys at Quuu, that they spend a lot of 2018 catching up with all the different APIs and all the changes they made.

Xenia: Ja.

Jeroen: There’s also other apps that I’ve seen closing because Twitter closes whatever part of their API and then doesn’t allow them anymore, or tools on top of LinkedIn which are a bit more hacky, not using the API. How is that for you guys?

Xenia: It is a difficult job for us, working with the APIs. But because the problem we’re solving is more one of collaboration and planning rather than publishing, I would say it is not the core of Planable, but it is definitely a top five issues and top five priorities that we have.

For example, one of the biggest challenges that we have at the moment is direct Instagram publishing. There’s a lot of Facebook marketing partners that have direct Instagram publishing, like Hootsuite, for example. And we do not have it yet. So that’s an issue for us in terms of keeping customers and gaining new customers. It is by far the most requested feature that we are missing at the moment. And now with Facebook introducing direct Instagram publishing in their Creator Studio, it becomes even harder.

And it is heartbreaking when you talk with customers and they leave Planable because we don’t have that. It’s not something in our control. If it would be up to us, we would build it in a day, but it is the API again. So we are spending a lot of time working with Facebook to gain this enhanced API access. So APIs are just a bane to work with and to get access to them as well is difficult.

Jeroen: Yeah. So back to what you’re doing, actually. Like, if I had to see what you’re doing, what is exactly the next thing from your batch of tasks that you would like to delegate?

Xenia: Aufgaben, die ich gerne delegieren w├╝rde?

Jeroen: Yes. I mean, you are a CEO, co-founder, general management, and one of the things you probably want to do more. So what’s the one thing you do and want to delegate so you can focus on the company better?

Xenia: Yeah. So I think one of them is I definitely need to delegate a part of the hiring process, because now I’m doing it end-to-end. Now I’m going to involve my team into the first part of the hiring process, the full screening and the first selection of candidates. I think that empowers the team as well to have decision-making in who joins the team, who are going to be their new colleagues. I think that’s empowering for them as well, but it also helps me save some time and drop in the recruiting process in the middle and not do it end-to-end.

And then, sales. Expanding the team and growing the sales team so that it’s not just me focusing on enterprise sales, but having the team to support this function.

Jeroen: Was von den Dingen, die Sie tun, gibt Ihnen eigentlich die meiste Energie?

Xenia: I’m very, very excited and terrified about our rebranding process. It’s just mixed feelings that I have about it, but I am enthusiastic about it, though I am also scared about it. But I’m excited to see how it’s going to work out in the end, how it’s going to look like. I think this type of change is a fresh breath of air and it’s long overdue.

The branding and the new website, I’m quite passionate and enthusiastic about it, also because it involves design, and I love design. And since I started the company, in the beginning I was doing quite a lot of design, but now I do not have the time, and I shouldn’t have the time to do design. But every time I get the chance to give feedback on design and our marketing materials, or do anything related to design, I’m very excited.

Jeroen: Warum glauben Sie, dass dies der Fall ist?

Xenia: Well, I learned Photoshop when I was in seventh grade. We moved with my family from one part of Moldova to a different part of Moldova, and I didn’t have any friends, so in the summer I learned Photoshop. My mom, she’s a painter and she has these aesthetic skills and she taught me how to see the world visually. And I think I miss that. I was doing a lot of design in my agency back then, so I think that’s something that I miss a lot.

And it’s also because when it is visual, you can almost touch it, right? With other things like sales or marketing, it’s more of a process rather than an end result. With design, it’s the closest thing it can get to an actual, physical thing. And I think that’s related to my first venture as well, when I was crafting handmade jewelry. It’s also a physical product.

So I think I miss this entire part of building beautiful things and designing beautiful things, and I think that’s why I enjoy it. I enjoy doing it whenever I get the chance.

Jeroen: Ja, ich wollte gerade sagen, dass du wahrscheinlich gerne sch├Âne Dinge baust, und dann hast du es gesagt.

Xenia: Ja.

Jeroen: Cool. I’m supposing you are quite busy, considering all the different things you do, from the hiring to the design process to the sales. Through all these kind of things! How do you keep that all in balance with your, let’s say, personal life next to that? What is the limit between your work and the rest?

Xenia: I don’t know if I keep it in balance. I remember when we started Planable, we didn’t have a weekend. I think we were so, so excited about building it. We are still, obviously, very excited, but back then we didn’t have any limits. We were working Saturday, Sundays, up until 11:00 PM. And then we gradually started making time for our personal lives, and we started taking the Sunday off and then the Saturday off.

Now, I am trying to build some hobbies and other stuff to keep my life in balance, but I’m not sure I’m doing a really good job yet. What I’m trying to do now is go to the gym. I think that energizes me and helps me put a bit of balance in life, and it helps me rewind. But I’m still struggling to do that regularly, as quite a lot of people are. Gym is hard to maintain.

Jeroen: Yeah. If you’re looking for hobbies, I suppose you don’t have kids?

Xenia: Nein, nein. Sind Kinder ein Hobby?

Jeroen: Nein. Sie t├Âten Hobbys.

Xenia: Oh. Yes. I don’t have kids, no. Not that much personal life. Or at least not that interesting.

Jeroen: So it’s mostly a few hobbies you’re developing and going to the gym?

Xenia: Ja.

Jeroen: Welche Art von Hobbys haben Sie im Auge?

Xenia: Well, I was thinking about something physical again, like some things like crafting, doing something with my hand. And I was looking at lessons on Skillshare or something like that about crafting ceramic pots and painting them and stuff like that. I would like to do that, but then you need like this big oven where you can bake those pots, basically, out of ceramics. And I didn’t find any. They’re like super, super expensive to buy, so you need to find one, and I didn’t find anything in Bucharest. But I would like to do that because it reminds me, again, of what I was doing in high school with the jewelry. I imagine that would be super relaxing to just paint them and craft them with my own hands. That’s something I would like to do.

But yeah. I’m postponing it until I find a solution to actually making them.

Jeroen: Yeah. And that’s in Bucharest, or is it in London? Because we had a discussion around the two places.

Xenia: No, I’m based in Bucharest at the moment. The company is incorporated in London and we have a lot of business there. Investors and customers, so I do spend a lot of time in London. But I consider Bucharest my home now.

Jeroen: Mm-hmm. Langsam zum Schluss: Liest du auch B├╝cher?

Xenia: Das tue ich, aber nicht so oft, wie ich es gerne m├Âchte, um ehrlich zu sein.

Jeroen: I usually ask what the latest good book you’ve read, and why you chose to read it?

Xenia: Ah, yes. The latest one that I read, I mean, I’m still reading it is 21 Lessons from Noah Harari.

I read his Sapiens book as well. I like a lot of what he’s writing. And I think especially if you’re working in technology, 21 Lessons, is a good book. And it’s also just easy to read. It doesn’t require a lot of mental space and effort, so it’s also, I would say, a relaxing read. At least for me.

Jeroen: Yeah. What’s the main take away you had from the book so far? Like what is a lesson that has stayed with you?

Xenia: Data is going to kill us all. Yeah, he’s talking a lot about how this accumulation of data on humanity, on society, if it’s not properly regulated by governments, in the future it could lead to authoritarian technology regimes, and how it can go badly if the data is not regulated, because people who own it might develop technologies that are not necessarily in our interest.

So we could go in a very Orwellian world. So yeah. I said it is a relaxing read, but now, when I’m saying it, it sounds scary.

Jeroen: Ja. Gibt es etwas, das Sie gerne gewusst h├Ątten, als Sie mit Planable anfingen?

Xenia: It’s an interesting question. Yes, I wish someone made it more clear to me that it is going to take a lot of time to get to a product-market fit, and that product-market fit is a very uncertain thing. You might think you have it, but it’s always a question if you actually achieve it or not.

So I think just the amount of time it takes to put the product on the market, to iterate on the products. I think I probably was a bit naïve and expected things to move a bit faster, and I wish I knew that. I wish my expectations were set more correctly. So I think that’s one of the things that I wish I knew. Yeah.

Jeroen: Yeah, thinking about it, I feel the same way. I remember it was in April 2014, having this great idea and then thinking like, “People are going to love this and we’re going to be successful so fast. We just need to build this thing.” I mean, we had an approach about it, like to do it step-by-step and to test the idea.

Aber wir haben uns definitiv vorgestellt, dass es schneller geht als es war.

Xenia: And I think one of the issues around this is that I was imagining it all depends on me, right? On how fast I move and how much I work. But it doesn’t. There are things that are out of your control. And you just need to wait for those things to happen, and time needs to pass. So I wish I knew that it doesn’t depend only on me and my team and how much we work and how much effort we put in this. That it still depends on so many other criteria out of our own power.

And I think if I knew that, it would have helped me not feel guilty in some instances, feel a bit more relaxed around how fast things are moving. Because if you put all that pressure on you, and if you think it’s just up to you on how the business is going to go, when it doesn’t go well, it’s also all your fault.

Jeroen: Ja.

Xenia: And it kind of is, because you’re doing the business, but not 100%, right? There are some criteria outside of your control and you need to be aware of those.

Jeroen: Ja. Haben Sie ein paar Beispiele daf├╝r?

Xenia: The APIs, definitely. Working with external partners is hard always. And also, just talking with customers and signing new contracts, it’s also an external factor that. I mean, you can push it. You can speed it up. But in the end, it’s again, outside of your control. I think in sales, there’s a lot of those things that don’t depend on you entirely, right? I mean, you know better probably than me. But I feel like that’s what I’ve learned so far.

Jeroen: Right. Final question. What’s the best piece of business advice you ever got?

Xenia: Der beste gesch├Ąftliche Ratschlag? Lass mich nachdenken.

Jeroen: It could’ve been from one of your investors, co-founders, Techstars?

Xenia: Yeah, so I think it was from one of my investors recently. It is a good piece of advice about creating our own category. So I think it’s very important to define a new category, build it with your own product. That’s what we’re trying to think at the moment about Planable, like what product category does Planable create? And that will probably be creative content collaboration.

Ich denke also, dass es ein interessanter Gesch├Ąftsansatz ist, einen neuen Raum zu schaffen und ihn zu besitzen, eine Flagge zu setzen und ihn zu besitzen und das Wachstum in dieser speziellen Kategorie, die man geschaffen hat, voranzutreiben. Das war also ein guter Ratschlag

But general advice is just how important the team is. I think that’s something that I learned very early on, from my mentors. And because it was just us, the three co-founders, in the beginning, one of the best advice that I got was just to not hire in the beginning, if you know what I mean? Like, postpone hiring as much as you can. And that’s important because it gave us, the co-founders, the chance to build a culture between the three of us and align ourselves in terms of values and everything and be more mature as a business when we started hiring. So I think that was some good advice we got.

Jeroen: That’s definitely some solid advice. I would advise people to do that as well.

Xenia: Ja.

Jeroen: Nochmals vielen Dank, dass du bei Founder Coffee dabei warst, Xenia. Es war toll, dich dabei zu haben.

Xenia: Vielen Dank, Jeroen, dass du mich eingeladen hast. Mein Kaffee ist gerade zu Ende, also perfektes Timing.

Jeroen: Sch├Ân!


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Jeroen Corthout