PushPushGo turns four: an interview with Dawid Mędrek and Mateusz Worotyński
PushPushGo turns four: an interview with Dawid Mędrek and Mateusz Worotyński
Today PushPushGo celebrates its 4th anniversary. Specially for this occasion, we’ve prepared an interesting interview with Mateusz Worotyński and Dawid Mędrek that along with Artur Łabanowski, Jarosław Kocur and Joanna Worotyńska, started a company that turned out to become a successful business.
Mateusz and Dawid shared about their path of building a company from technological and business sides, obstacles and challenges they faced, the lessons they learned as well as plans for the further growth of PushPushGo. So, keep reading ;)
Table of content
- Can you, please, tell about how the idea of the PushPushGo application appeared and how it all started?
- Web push notifications as we know appeared in 2017 basically when PushPushGo was founded. What were the challenges you faced developing an application for such new technology?
- Speed or quality of implementation? What was your focus when creating the source code?
- In 2017 when PushPushGo started there were 10 thousand notifications sent per year, today we send 650 million per day. How did you manage technologically to keep up with such fast growth?
- In May 2018, GDPR regulations were introduced. Did it somehow affect PushPushGo? How do you provide security for your clients?
- Do you recall any specific situation that kept you and your team awake at night and how did you manage to fix it?
- Collaboration between business units and tech teams. How does it look in PushPushGo?
- From your experience what does it take to attract and retain tech talents?
- Do you grow fast enough to stay competitive? How do you see the development of the PushPushGo application in the next few years?
- Can you tell more about how the acquisition of the first clients looked like in PushPushGo?
- Especially at the beginning, it was very important to find investors and raise funds. How many times did you hear “no” before succeeding?
- What was the most difficult situation you faced while building PushPushGo and how did you manage it?
- When PushPushGo achieved Break Even Point? And what is the current company growth rate?
- When did you realize that you should go with your product to foreign customers? Do you focus on particular markets? And how different is the sales process in comparison to Poland?
- Have you ever had a situation when you had to refuse a company in cooperation? If so, why did it happen and was it a hard decision?
- What were the main challenges while building a successful sales team? Is there anything you would do differently?
- Based on your experience, what are the main lessons you learned on how to be a good and effective leader?
- Did COVID situation somehow slow down or affect the growth of PushPushGo?
- What are you most proud of regarding the company?
- Recently Vercom bought 67,42% shares of PushPushGo. Why did this transaction happen now? And what does it mean for the future of PushPushGo?
- What is your vision or objectives for the further growth of PushPushGo in the nearest few years?
Q&A with Mateusz Worotyński, Product Development @PushPushGo
1.Can you, please, tell us a little about how the idea of the PushPushGo application appeared and how it all started?
Before we started working on PushPushGo, it's worth mentioning an earlier story. Some of the founders of PushPushGo worked at Freshmail, where we were developing an email sending application.
Then after the Freshmail stage, while working in various software houses, we saw the potential in the web push channel, especially since it was a fairly young technology. We were neither familiar with the "marketing" market nor the work of a "marketer".
We created everything from the technology side and probably didn't know how big a project we were getting into. Without thinking much, we just started working and writing the first version of the PushPushGo app, which after almost one year saw the light of the day and was made available to customers.
Right after that, the founders' team expanded and PushPushGo became a viable competitor in the market.
2. Web push notifications as we know them nowadays appeared in 2017 basically when PushPushGo was founded. What were the challenges you faced developing an application for such new technology?
Unfortunately, any product in the MarTech segment that operates on a larger scale counts with numerous daily challenges.
If I had to put challenges in one word, it would definitely be "scale", which at the beginning we severely outgrew. At the time of our beginnings, we had a few servers and zero load. Today we have really high traffic because each web push sent to us gives us feedback on the delivery information, clicks, plus automation processes, which we also process in real-time. All of these ultimately give tens of thousands of requests per second to our API, queuing systems, and databases.
With such traffic, you have to learn a completely different approach to working with CI/CD, data backup and high availability. So a day without a slight failure, without optimizing part of the process, or other things that happen to us on "production" is a lost day. But this approach allowed us to develop a really well-scaled application as well as an approach to "failover".
3. Speed or quality of implementation? What was your focus when creating the source code?
When we started it was definitely the speed, so today we are still fighting with the remains of the code, trying to get rid of what was done in the "speed" period.
Today when we generate code, we definitely focus on quality. Really a lot of time and dedication is put in by the whole IT team to stick to the correct approach to code implementation and quality (here I send bows to the guys from automated testing).
We are perceived as a "Startup", but the code definitely reflects a full "corporation". We follow all the good practices, namely DDD, SOLID, DI are our daily bread. Our non-trivial approach to security (bug bounty program) allows us to maintain a good level of security. Moreover, our DevOps are constantly watching over the fact that we can all the time deliver the code to production servers via CI/CD.
We try to deploy the code every day so that the changes don't "hurt", sometimes it was even seven deployments per day. This approach allows us not to be "surprised" in production with a non-optimal solution, which can quickly put us down. Continuous monitoring allows us to catch such phenomena early on in the blue/green deployment and quickly eliminate them.
Last year we made a lot of changes. A lot of automation of deployment processes, container orchestration, multi-datacenter, or automatic CI/CD allowed us to be even more agile when it comes to "development".
In general, I would say that if you put "quality" first, then you get "speed" in the feedback. What is important, working with high-quality code, you really leave work with a smile and pride, and not with a problem and sleepless night.
All of these changes, and the way the code is implemented, fully reflect the work culture and organization scheme of PushPushGo. I think that's what we're proud of.
If I were to use a metaphor, I would put it down to the fact that once we were driving a rental car that was going fast and we had no control over it, and today we are driving our own production that we built and we know perfectly how it will behave under certain conditions.
4. In 2017 when PushPushGo started there were 10 thousand notifications sent per year, today we send 650 million per day. How did you manage technologically to keep up with such fast growth?
We started with a few dozen pushes a year, today we send over 650 million a day, to people all over the world. The main merit that we are able to cope with such a scale is the aftermath of the previous question. Briefly speaking, the good architecture gives agility, agility gives growth and scale.
5. In May 2018, GDPR regulations were introduced. Did it somehow affect PushPushGo? How do you provide security for your clients?
Web push technology is GDPR ready.
In fact, using our tokens, we are not able to identify the subscriber 1:1 and say that this person is Anna Kowalska. Yes, we also offer the possibility to connect the database with clients’ own CRM, which allows identifying such a person. However such integrations we always recommend to do with anonymized data, so that in the event of a security incident, on the part of PushPushGo, it will not be possible to determine.
Of course, this required some legal instructions to be put in place in our company and we keep up with all the requirements.
As we mainly work with Enterprise customers, security questionnaires required a certain level of safety from us from the very beginning, not to mention security audits from "financial" customers.
On our side, we have always had the policy to keep as much data as we need and for as long as we need to perform the service for the client. In other cases, we very often just get rid of them, e.g., after a behavioural automation scenario has ended.
6. Do you recall any specific situation that kept you and your team awake at night and how did you manage to fix it?
Initially, you could say that our sleep was more of a vigil. In 2017-2018, it was very challenging. We didn't have a DevOps team yet, so we were doing everything from frontend to server management as one team. I won't say that was a bad thing, but with our growth in scale, there was constantly something going on.
Today we can say that we sleep peacefully, although there were moments when we were simply not up to the challenge, such as during the first failure in OVH, where it extinguished our entire datacenter and we were not ready for such an eventuality.
In retrospect, I'm glad it happened, because it gave us an incredible insight into how important such concepts as High Availability, Multi Datacenter are. We learned our lesson and moved on.
Two years later there was an incident again, admittedly we were ready for it, but not as we should have been. We did not assume that 1 datacenter would burn down and the others would be shut down, as a result, 70% of our infrastructure went down. Granted, it was a time that we put our entire team to work overnight, but again, in hindsight, it's cool that it happened.
First, we learned our lesson again and have infrastructure duplicated to three different DCs in different countries (full infrastructure). Second, we took advantage of the time and closed all the multi-datacenter scaling tasks in one day because we had to put everything back up anyway.
All in all, from what we observed, a lot of businesses dropped out back then due to such a mistake and not taking into account such things as "several DCs fire" at the same time. I'm proud to say that out of those that fired completely, we got up first.
Of course, this is also due to automation, because manually restoring the entire infrastructure would probably take a week, if not more. Responsible DevOps team is 50% of the company's success in the technology market.
Today we sleep better. Continuous monitoring, multi-datacenter even allows us sometimes to "ignore" some incidents at night, because they can calmly wait until morning because everything is replicated. As soon as a serious incident occurs, we all receive notifications about it and are ready to act.
7. Collaboration between business units and tech teams. How does it look in PushPushGo?
Our structure is not very "complex". We currently have a flat team of Customer Support, Strategy, Sales, Marketing and Product/IT; so communication is pretty linear.
In my opinion, communication is a really difficult topic. In the beginning, a lot of the time we just met and talked about things on the fly. As the team grows, it's hard to control. Communication is probably the hardest part of being a technical business manager. Everyone is different and everyone has a different communication style. One person prefers a call, another an e-mail, a third a Slack, and yet another a meeting in real life.
We work on communication all the time. Currently, almost all of us work remotely, so we had to experiment and introduced "longer asynchronous forms" of communication; the old-school "discussion forum". We currently use Discourse teams and I can confidently recommend this form. IT can quietly work on its tasks and when it finds the time, it simply expresses itself on the forum. Have we changed something? Simple - post it on the forum. In this way, we begin to document and distribute information throughout the company, without disturbing anyone's day or work cycle.
This form seems to me that it is certainly better than e-mail, because there is a central point where you can find everything. It should be noted that communication on Slack, practically disappears after 20 minutes from posting a message and no one will return to such a message.
To summarize our communication channels:
- Slack is for real-time communication,
- Discourse - for communication, planning, idea verification, free exchange of ideas,
- Email - mainly to communicate with external customers.
A large contribution to the communication between the various units of IT is also DDD, which tells us to establish a language for domain communication with individual departments and reflect this in the code. So you can say that IT and Accounting can get along because they use the same phrases.
Two years ago, when we started introducing the DDD approach, the whole company was involved in establishing the basic "domains" of our business through "event storming". Today, that map proudly serves us well as we continue to work on our application and carve out specific bounded contexts.
I don't know what more I can say about communication, because we are definitely not the best at it, we have a lot of misunderstandings behind us, a lot of missed words. Today I have an impression that we are somehow starting to find our way in it.
8. From your experience what does it take to attract and retain tech talents?
In my opinion, these are some of the most important points:
- Good quality code and interesting project,
- Lots of challenges,
- Job stability,
- Flexibility of working hours,
9. Do you grow fast enough to stay competitive? How do you see the development of the PushPushGo application in the next few years?
This is definitely the hardest part of this business. There are a lot of companies operating in the MarTech field, you could say that some new ones are being created every day. Each of them is looking for its niche and trying to get the largest piece of the market. It turned out that specializing in one area was a bull's eye, which allowed us to gain customers when others did not offer web push notifications.
Today we have the potential and ambition for more. We will definitely have new channels, new offers and new solutions. Currently, we are at an interesting stage, because we are getting rid of what I mentioned about the "speed" period. Flexibility will allow us to enter new channels, which were difficult for us to enter so far: mobile push, in-app push. Given the recent transaction with Vercom S.A., I think we will also be able to introduce some cool products to our offering to become more competitive in the market.
Q&A with Dawid Mędrek, CEO @PushPushGo
1. To sell a new product is always hard but to sell the technology that back in 2017 was new on the market can be even more challenging. Can you tell more about how the acquisition of the first clients looked like in PushPushGo?
At the very beginning of our activity, we focused on big players who would help us both with branding and revenue building. Servicing large brands is always a good solution in terms of gaining trust in the market, which is a very important factor at the initial stage of the business.
From the very beginning, we focused on developing a direct sales department that would be close to the client and would be able to fully focus on specific customer groups. In our case, these were publishers and e-commerce.
I remember at the very beginning of the business we went to one of the largest publishers in Poland and we received a request about our client portfolio. We were disarmingly frank and made it clear that we do not have such a portfolio, we are just starting. By entering into cooperation with us, we can only promise that we will provide a high-quality product and do everything in our power to meet all expectations. It was a bit of a risky play but I think that this kind of sincerity is extremely important and helps in building long-term relationships.
Certainly, an important factor is also openness and trust on the other side. It's not always easy and it's not common for corporations to simply give a chance and give some part of the business to be built by small companies that don't have a portfolio yet. We were fortunate enough to do that and it was the first important step to further corporate client acquisition. Based on this first cooperation we built good models and applied many of those elements to the whole sales process.
2. Especially at the beginning, I assume, it was very important to find investors and raise funds. How many times did you hear “no” before succeeding?
In our case, it was an interesting story, because we had a 100% success rate when it came to investors, and each subsequent funding was preceded by an intro from a friend.
At the very beginning, when we had practically no income, we turned for help to Mariusz Gralewski, the founder of Goldenline and Docplanner Group.
I think this was a crucial moment in the history of PushPushGo development because, without Mariusz's belief in our vision and determination, we might not be where we are today. It is also worth noting that the very process of decision by Mariusz was made practically at our first meeting.
Additionally, Marcin Kurek, Michał Skrzyński, Kamil Kopka were invited to the investment, i.e. entrepreneurs who have already achieved considerable success in the new technology industry. This investment also allowed us to gain credibility in the market, which we often heard at meetings with potential customers.
The next step was to choose a VC fund, and here the situation was much easier because we were not pinned into a tight corner and we did not have to obtain funding at all costs.
We were invited to the first meeting with the bValue fund via an intro from a friend I had worked for before. The transaction process itself took about three months, so this was also an important factor for us because we didn't have to take our hands off the business for too long.
Finally, the bValue investment allowed us to develop and verify certain ideas and assumptions, which now gives us a wide area for development, not only in terms of products but also sales and marketing.
Summing up our history of raising funding, I think two factors worked here. A good intro, which is preceded by previous collaborations, trust, and our determination and belief in the success of PushPushGo.
3. During the last 4 years have you ever thought that this business will not work out? What was the most difficult situation you faced while building PushPushGo and how did you manage it?
I think we are already at a stage where each of us has learned that running a business is not a road on which there are no difficulties and the maturity of each of us allows us to accept certain events as challenges to be faced.
It seems to me that there were several points in our history where we had to strongly revise our plans for product development and revenue growth, but I can't say that there was a moment when we hesitated or thought about whether this business can continue to function.
From the very beginning, we had a clear vision of the company's development and some experience from previous companies. We patiently try to implement them, from time to time adjusting our plans to the current situation. Flexibility in business and openness are important factors, thanks to which I believe we are at quite an interesting stage of PushPushGo's development.
As for such difficult moments, I think there hasn't been one that has put us up against the wall. We can think about when OVH crashed, it was actually a big issue for us and we spent a lot of time repairing the damage that was done then.
It was also quite an interesting moment when we were getting funding from a VC fund, and basically asking ourselves what we wanted to achieve and what our vision was for PushPushGo's development in the coming years.
4. When PushPushGo achieved Break Even Point? And what is the current company growth rate?
We had already reached BEP in the previous year and are still maintaining this level. This was an important step for the whole company, which allowed us to grow with a clear head and without the pressure to obtain further financing at any cost.
It is worth noting that the very process of obtaining financing is quite a distraction from running a business and is simply stressful. We could spend this time on operational activities and working on a well-thought-out strategy for the further development of PushPushGo.
We now have a fairly large amount of cash that we will be able to allocate to developing the product and the organization itself, which will allow us to be even more competitive in the marketplace.
In terms of current growth, we are growing at a rate of 75% year-over-year, but this is a rate that we will want to increase significantly in the near future, especially since the company is still at a fairly early stage of development.
5. Since 2017 a lot has changed. Now PushPushGo works with the biggest companies in different industries not only in Poland (4F, McDonald’s, WP, Citi, T-mobile, Inpost, etc.) but also abroad (Decathlon, Unicredit, SuperSport, TVN, Tele2, etc.). Can you, please, tell a little bit more about when you realize that you should go with your product to foreign customers? Do you focus on particular markets? And how different is the sales process in comparison to Poland?
We started our development on global markets by transferring 1 to 1 of our activities from the Polish market. At the very beginning, it was selling only in English and exploring virtually every market and every type of customer. Only with time, based on the analysis of results, we began to narrow our activities and focus only on those countries and categories where we were able to obtain interesting results.
Thanks to such actions, we limited our presence in foreign markets and now we focus only on Poland, LATAM and Balkan. In these countries, we have clients, case studies and that is where we are currently focusing our attention.
Additionally, it is worth mentioning here a change in the very approach to the development of a given market. Currently in each market where we operate we employ people who speak local languages in sales and customer support departments. Of course English is the language of business, but customers really appreciate being able to work with companies that speak their native language.
Our sales and customer support processes are not very different from each other. We are, of course, flexible on some issues, while we try to make many processes uniform. This makes it easier to scale and transfer knowledge to others in the organization.
When it comes to the question of when it is worthwhile to go with your product to foreign markets, I think there is no clear and easy answer here. Based on our example I can say that at the beginning it is worth exploring certain assumptions and processes on the domestic market and then try to apply them to other markets. And above all, be patient, do a lot of testing, analyze the results and draw conclusions from them.
6. Have you ever had a situation when you had to refuse a company in cooperation? If so, why did it happen and was it a hard decision?
Yes, we have had situations like this before, whereas you simply have to mature for this type of decision.
At the very beginning of the activity, most companies make practically everything for clients, even developing dedicated functionalities, without analyzing whether they will be used by other clients.
Probably without this approach, we would not be able to get those first ambassadors of our brand, but there comes a time when this type of approach is simply unscalable and causes more problems than benefits.
We have to remember that certain resources are limited and finding the right balance between using them effectively and building market competitiveness among customers is perhaps the most difficult element in building an organization's maturity.
Currently, we try to evaluate the cooperation with the customer from every possible angle: both financially and in terms of effective use of resources and development of our product.
In terms of these types of decisions in our history, they were simply due to a negative assessment of the sheer profitability of this type of collaboration. So we didn't want to devote certain resources to creating something that would not be applied to other customers and that would cause delays in our development.
7. Sales Team in PushPushGo started with you and Artur Łabanowski. With the growth of the business, it developed from 2 persons to 8 employees. What were the main challenges while building a successful sales team? Is there anything you would do differently?
I think the very fact that the PushPushGo founders were selling and building processes from the beginning was a very important factor in our growth. This allowed us to impart solid knowledge to new hires on the one hand, and on the other hand to study customer needs on our own, understand the market better and prepare to build a team.
The most difficult elements we faced were certainly recruiting new people who would fit into our organization and identifying the right category of customers who would stay with us for the long term and the regions where we want to focus our sales efforts.
Would we do anything differently starting over? I think not, and we need to be satisfied with what we currently see and learn from previous actions.
8. With a bigger number of people on board also arise such important aspects as hiring new talents, their motivation and development, keeping yourself motivated, delegation of the responsibilities, avoiding burnout and so on. Based on your experience, what are the main lessons you learned on how to be a good and effective leader?
I think this is a very broad topic that we'll probably be covering soon in the new medium of communication that our podcasts will be. Let me just outline what I think are the most important factors.
From my perspective, the most important elements are trust, giving people freedom and responsibility in doing their job. All of these factors will not be possible if we don't approach the recruiting process properly.
Typically at PushPushGo, when we recruit, we want a minimum of three people to participate in the process. With such an approach the skills of the candidate are assessed by several people and we limit ourselves from making a mistake.
If we manage to recruit a person for a given position, we try to give maximum freedom and responsibility so that both we as an organization can develop in the long term and the person is able to develop their competencies.
9. Did the COVID situation somehow slow down or affect the growth of PushPushGo?
From our perspective, we have not felt the impact of COVID on our business. Admittedly, there was a lot of concern at the beginning of the pandemic, but ultimately clients did not decide to cut investments in channels such as web push. I think that for the digital industry, it was a period of increased activity, which we can also see from the analysis of traffic and the number of notifications sent by our customers.
The only industry in which we recorded temporary downtime was the travel industry. For this type of customer, however, we have prepared special support programs so that they could continue to function without having to abandon the activity regarding the web push channel.
We approach each client individually and the COVID period has shown us that this type of approach brings results and builds trust in the long term.
10. What are you most proud of regarding the company?
I think the most important factors are that we have reached the point where we can develop with our own resources and that this has been going on for a long time, so it's not temporary and it's not an accident.
This allows us to think calmly about further development and to plan ahead for several years.
Another important event is the recent transaction with Vercom S.A.
We are glad that such a big listed company believed in us and decided to cooperate.
There are not many successful paths in Poland from the seed stage to the exits to the industry investor, so we are happy to be a company that paves the way and shows that such transactions are also possible in Poland.
11. Recently Vercom bought 67,42% shares of PushPushGo. Why did this transaction happen now? And what does it mean for the future of PushPushGo?
We entered into the negotiations some time ago, while they have only been finalized now, probably also in large part due to the fact of Vercom's recent IPO.
As for what this transaction will bring to PushPushGo, I think it should be treated in a multidimensional way and I will briefly try to list the main factors that will take place here.
The first factor is the know-how that we will gain through cooperation with Vercom and the companies that are linked to this organization. This type of exchange of knowledge and experience will allow us to avoid many mistakes and will give us a different perspective on our business.
The second factor is credibility, both in terms of current and potential customers, but also in the eyes of potential new employees.
The third factor will be the ability to resell the services of the entire group (e.g. SMS or e-mail) and as PushPushGo, we will gain access to many thousands of potential customers associated with the companies managed by Vercom.
12. What is your vision or objectives for the further growth of PushPushGo in the nearest few years?
We will certainly continue to improve our product together with our customers to make it as effective as possible from both a product and business perspective. Our daily customer support and assistance at every stage of cooperation is definitely what we want to continue maintaining and developing.
At this moment we are still focusing on activities aimed at further expansion in such regions as LATAM, the Balkans and Poland.
Soon we will also present in more detail our plans for new functionalities and what we want to develop. It will be quite interesting and will allow us to gain a real competitive advantage and strengthen our current market position.
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