So, tell me please where it all started?
Narek: The idea was born in 2013. We were a video production studio at that time. Our experience showed that many startups could not afford to order custom videos for their businesses. Because, as you may know, explainer videos can cost high and they can be really expensive for the startups i.e. businesses that are only beginning to enter the game.
So, after conducting a whole lot of market research, we came up with an idea to make an automated platform which would allow creating online high-quality explainer videos. When doing our research, we found out that similar tools existed in the market. But the main problem with them was that they allowed creating presentations and not animated videos. So we decided to take a completely different path by creating a platform for making animated explainer videos. And while the video editing might not be as flexible as with the case of presentations, the user has got the chance to create broadcast quality explainer videos. These he can use not only for presentations but also as promotional materials.
So, in 2013, we gathered the development team and started working. In January of 2015, we went live as renderforest.com.
Our team had 3 people at the beginning, then we became 9. Now we are near 30. We have two offices one in Yerevan and one in Gyumri (some 10 people are working at our branch at Gyumri Technology Center).
Who is your target market? How many videos have been created through Renderforest?
Narek: Renderforest was targeting the whole world when we first entered the market. But time showed that the biggest number of users comes from the United States. Nearly 35% of our traffic and about 50% of sales come from the United States. Overall, we have website visitors from the US, United Kingdom, Germany, France etc.
The business model is really simple: the website is free of charge for all users. Anyone can register and create as many watermarked videos as needed. People usually like to share their videos created through Renderforest. This helped us get more visitors through the buzz that our users were creating.
Also, along with the product’s development, we started to implement various digital marketing techniques. And we were also experimenting a lot and improving the platform constantly. At the time of product launch, we had about 400 users. However, at the end of 2015, that number grew to 10K. At this point, we have nearly 500K monthly sessions. Our user base is over 1M. More than 2M videos have been created with the help of Renderforest. And we now have 10%-20% monthly growth in income.
Is there one job interview question you or your HR specialist asks all your job applicants?
Narek: We do not have one. Because we are not that big a company yet.
However, Renderfirest is facing a lot of HR challenges at the moment. The country lacks developers. It is very hard to find them. Mid-level or senior developers already have ongoing projects. So we often have to hire the juniors and conduct proper training to be able to use the workforce in the business.
It might not always be easy to manage a team of creatives like designers, animators etc. What kind of challenges do you often face and how do you overcome them?
Narek: Since half of our employees are designers/animators and half are developers and IT people, little battles are sometimes common in the team. Renderforest is not fully an IT company. It’s like a marketplace where there are IT specialists, designers, and marketers. The collaborative work of all these people helps make Renderforest a reality. The most typical scenario is that designers want to make it as pretty and fancy as possible, while the IT and the UX specialists try to make it intuitive and easy to use. So, conflicts are inevitable.
And who usually helps resolve those conflicts?
Narek: Me! (smiling)
And it is normal. In every team where there are designers and there are IT people, conflicts might occur. So, if we are having real trouble with a feature, we conduct A/B testing to find out which variant to choose. And we, of course, choose the variant which has the higher conversion rate.
Overall, we are trying to boost the conversion rates and to transform our visitors into buyers. For this reason, we are constantly improving the video editor. And we do not only make improvements, we create it from scratch every time we want to make major updates. For example, this year, it is being launched for the 4th time already.
So why do you need to create the editor from scratch?
Narek: When you are the only player in that specific industry and you have little or no people to look up to, you try doing everything from scratch and on your own. In most of the cases, we rely on our customer feedback. Our users are our best advisors. When we take into account their feedback and improve accordingly, the conversion rates increase.
For example, our first generation video editor did not allow much flexibility. The users wanted to be able to remove or add scenes, so we made the needed changes. Some users are now saying that the editor is small. So, we are currently working on making it bigger to fit various screen sizes. And there are some more awesome features coming soon.
What kind of team building activities does your team like the most?
Narek: Most of Reanderforest team are lovers of extreme sports. And nearly 80% of our male team members go to the gym. So we are for a healthy lifestyle. Very few of us smoke. Whoever smokes, they do it outside the office.
What about your work-life balance? Is it easy for a young entrepreneur to find time to be with friends and family?
Narek: Oh, well it is hard to keep the work-life balance. In my case, work prevails. There can be overdue tasks that need to be completed as soon as possible. Sometimes, you start a task at the office and finish it at home.
As an entrepreneur, I am sure you read a lot. Are there any particular publications, magazines or influencers you read/follow? Or maybe you read fiction (for example, sci-fi).
Narek: Having a good product in place is one thing, properly promoting it is another. You thus hit the marketing blogs in search of the right techniques to use. You experiment a lot and you might fail a lot as well. But in the end, you pick the techniques that work best for your business.
So, if there is no one you can ask for help or advice, no worries. You can always rely on self-education. I often read Neil Patel’s quicksprout.com, Brian Dean’s backlinko.com, Rand Fishkin’s moz.com etc.
There was a time when people were saying that content is KING (meaning that written content is a vital part of digital marketing and business promotion). Now, they say that video is KING. What do you think will come next?
Narek: VR is trendy for example, but I do not think it will surpass video. However, life changes. So, who knows?
Could you please enumerate three marketing strategies that help you promote your product?
Narek: First of all, it is crucial to follow Google algorithm changes. Your digital marketing strategies should work in accordance with those changes. It has become really difficult to rank high on Google.
Secondly, you need to have relevant content. And the keyword you want to rank for should really be interconnected with the content you provide. So we have targeted the “intro maker” keyword. We are using SemRush and Google Keyword Planner Tool as our digital marketing tools.
Thirdly, another important thing is the so-called backlink building. Your backlinks should be as natural as possible. Link stuffing or spamming should not be the way you get backlinks.
What 5 tips would you give to people who want to start their own business?
Narek: In order to start your own business you need to:
- Research the market
If there are similar ideas, think about what is going to be your unique selling point, what is going to make you stand out from the crowd, why should the potential customer choose you over your competitors?
- Educate yourself constantly
Hit the blogs, read a lot, learn new things, experiment, fail, try again, and move on.
- Listen to your customers/users
Your users should be your mentors because with the help of their feedback you will be able to improve the product.
- Never stop improving/adding new features
If your idea is live, you should never stand still. Instead, think how you can improve it and make it even more awesome.
- Decide who you work with
If you have a cool idea and you do not have enough money, you need co-founders or investors to kickstart your project. Or if you are good at coding, you should find a co-founder or a business partner who is good at marketing. These two should be present to ensure success.