Riding a wave: How We Launched an HR Service and Helped over 30 International Companies in Three Months
Hello! My name is Sergey Sigalov. I’m going to share the experience of launching a great project — Wind4Tune, an international HR service for working with remote teams. I’ll tell you how in three months we helped more than 30 international companies to boost morale and bring their teams together!
There is also a bonus at the end of the article — a link to the document where we put together international practices that make employees happy.
Backstory: turning point
I’m not a student, I’m in my early thirties. I have business development experience in various industries starting from banking (Sberbank) and education (Skyeng), up to artificial intelligence (North.ai, Mail.ru). I started my career path not with a corporate job, but with entrepreneurship (online stores, marketplaces). I never gave up the idea of coming back to the other side of the barricade.
January 2020, before the pandemic and national lockdown I flew to Silicon Valley on my own initiative. The purpose of the trip was to find potentially attractive projects and ideas for developing AI’s business in the company where I was employed at that time. I held 5–6 meetings a day with startup founders and investors. All the guys were enthusiastic, dreaming and driven by their ideas. Their energy awoke my memories when I was dreaming, creating, and facing new challenges every day, as something was always going wrong😊
When I got back to Moscow, I could not stop thinking of giving up my career and starting my own project. It was hard, but in February I took this step. Inside the company we agreed that I would support the business for three months until they found a replacement.
Launching the first concept: online travel in real time
I can still remember very clearly, May 1, finally I can take a break from corporate routine and develop ideas.
I created a Google doc with possible concepts based on the current market needs, called my old friend Evgeny Syzrantsev (founder of the marketing agency Kite) and we brainstormed them together. After an hour of heated discussion, we agreed to dig deeper in the direction of online travel.
On the same day we arranged a landing page, reached out to 30 guides around the world with a collaboration offer and the next day agreed to have a trial in Japan.
None of us knew how to stream or interact with the audience as no one in the world had ever done this before. Streaming from home was the maximum available, however it is not the same as guiding a real-time tour in the center of Tokyo. The first trial was perfect. I prepared instructions for the guide’s technical equipment, route planning, recommendations for communication with the audience. And we scheduled the first trip for next Saturday, May 8.
That week was super productive, we launched targeting, contextual advertising, posts in telegram channels, advertisements in coupon services, TimePad, created guides’ profiles on competitive sites, etc. At the same time, we wrote to 20 new guides every day to increase the number of destinations and to convert the first sales into repeat sales.
The first trip was great: 25% of the audience made a purchase for the next trip on the same day. More than 1 000 tickets were sold in the first month. The result was achieved by systematic work and continuous improvement of the product. After each trip, based on users’ feedback, we were upgrading our product (guide’s communication, expanding communication channels, adding virtual elements etc.) Time to summarize the information.
The following conclusions were drawn:
- Despite potential growth, target audience for online travel is small on the Russian market: according to my rough estimates195 million rubles.
- Project’s economy in B2C segment will be recovered only in 3–4 years
- It makes more sense to spend 3–4 years on the market with a larger audience, i.e. English-speaking.
Global Market Test and B2B Direction
June: the team is growing
There are already three of us, me, Eugeny (partner), Ksenia (marketing manager). All overwhelmed by ambitions, setting tasks for the month:
- to test B2C concept on the US market;
- to test the concept of corporate online travel in Russia.
B2C on the US market
At first, we decided to test the US market without using paid traffic and offered free trial travel through Tripadvisor, Airbnb, Couch surfing platform, publications to FB groups, Twitter channels, etc.
The results of the first month:
- did not pass moderation on Airbnb, there was a block for an online excursion format;
- Tripadvisor and CouchSurfing did not give any result;
- more than 500 requests from fb and twitter, but all of them were from Nigeria, India, and none of them was converted into money.
Concept of corporate online travel in Russia
I have been working in the HR sphere for a long time as a contractor (Skyeng, North.ai). That made me think of turning project in the direction of corporate online travel. I assumed that common positive experience will help teams to boost morale and to unite them.
We made a presentation offering corporate online travel, as well as arranged a separate page on the website for HR professionals.
We partnered with all major HR communities in Russia and launched a series of trial travels for HR.
Results of the first month: 2 payments and a funnel of 3 potential customers. First-time clients became returning, employees were enjoying traveling, so we joined hands with HR and started planning new destinations.
Conclusion: we need to keep testing.
July: the team is growing
There are five of us now. My old acquaintance Alexey Nagovitsyn joined us in a strategically important role of B2B Business development director on the international market, and Anastasia joined as an Operations Manager.
- to test B2C product on the Canadian market;
- to continue testing the concept of corporate online travel on the Russian market;
- to test the concept of corporate online travel on the international markets
B2C on the Canadian market
Briefly, Canadian B2C market is a challenge. The main difficulty was that Canada is a multinational country and as a result there are no centralized sources of information, at least we did not find them.
Conclusion: There is no point in blowing budget, time, and energy in the direction where we cannot get payoff. So, it is necessary to stop spending efforts there and focus on strengthening of profitable directions.
Corporate Online Travel
It was clear to us that corporate online travel market had not been developed yet, so we decided to name the product — online team building. And it was the right decision.
Once the name was changed, instead of surge in applications, we received negative feedback. However, that was a good sign because negative feedback gave us a clue of the right direction!
Why was the feedback negative?
Online travel energized the team, gave them new emotions but did not unite them, which is the primary goal of team building. That’s why we kept the initial name and simultaneously we continued working on a new product based on feedback from HR specialists.
We used the following tools for promotion on the Russian market:
- earlier techniques: working with HR communities through trial travels;
- PR through the media;
3. engaging sales partners.
On the US market:
- promotion on linkedin, twitter;
- article in HR magazine “Workology”
- first international client;
- 2 returning B2B clients since previous month;
- 3 new corporate clients in Russia;
- first international sales partner.
- Focus only on B2B market;
- The product of online team building should be developed;
- Sales team needs to be expanded;
- It is necessary to get ready for IT-structuring.
August: the team is changing and growing
Unfortunately, Eugeny left the team, because focusing on Wind4Tune started giving an adverse impact on the main business. But I am grateful to him for his help at the starting point. Our international sales team became bigger, we hired managers in Israel, England and France.
We also have a team of developers: iOS and back-end developers, cool guys with a lot of experience.
August was the first month when we focused on the HR market. We changed our positioning on the website: we organized the corporate online travel and also tested online team building. We already had satisfied corporate clients both in Russia and abroad, but we perfectly understood that this was just the beginning.
Wind4Tune appeared in social networks and on media platforms.
Following the earlier sales techniques, we came up with 3–4 new concepts every week.
- hosted 8 webinars with HR specialists, after that, we launched a new online team-building product, which was sold twice in Russia the same month.
- signed a contract with a new international client for online travel;
- got 3 reorders and 4 new orders for corporate online travel in Russia;
- engaged two new sales partners.
1. keep B2B direction development,
2. prepare to stand out from competitors
3. carry on with research on new product directions.
September- October: team is growing, full change of the project
Business development managers from Canada, India and, as peculiar as it sounds, just now from Russia😊 joined the team.
Head of operational managers Yevgenia:
Also, two strategically important partners joined the team:
- СРО/ СТО — unfortunately, his name cannot be revealed, our development team is classified at the moment;
- CMO — Vladislav Mironov- brilliant marketing specialist with marketing development experience in 15 countries (Founder of the GrowStartup agency)
We outsourced through Kwork and Freelance almost all operational tasks that do not affect the quality of services. This helped us to offload operationally without increasing our staff.
Research on team building efficiency
We analyzed international markets and identified main trends, conducted research on team-building efficiency, found cases related to productivity improvement, satisfaction, and engagement of employees. Then, we combined these results with business metrics of companies.
We have completely repositioned the product, now Wind4tune is a full-fledged HR service where an HR team can find the following tools for working with remote staff:
a) Online travel for boosting team’s morale. More than 30 clients travel with us at least once a month;
b) Online team building for bringing your team together. The product was developed together with HR specialists. More than 10 satisfied clients who recommend us;
c) Online fitness, yoga, mental care for balancing your physical and mental state. The trend is actively developing both abroad and in Russia.
d) Online Corporate Events for maintaining team’s morale. A range of activities starting from online games and quizzes and up to online travels and Dance Parties.
We launched webinars and articles where international HR companies and founders of HR Tech projects share their experience.
If you are an international HR company and want to share your experience, contact me to make a cool webinar and article! )
Benefits for you:
- we will write and publish an article on VC (rus) and Medium (eng);
- additional PR for your project among Russian and English audience (e.g.,more than 1,700 views);
- strengthening of your HR brand;
- personal brand development.
Our project started with corporate travel, so we have created our own streaming platform:
This is just the first image of our future IT platform. Unfortunately, I can’t reveal more details now. However, no worries, once it is launched, we’ll definitely publish a review.
- Online travel increases engagement and motivation of remote teams — proven by demand;
- Online team- building replaces offline events — based on feedback from HR experts;
- It is necessary to take care of employees both physically and mentally — proved by HR experts’ feedback.
Friends, as promised, I want to share with you 10 creative ways to keep employees happy right now — from virtual painting nights to virtual Olympic Games
Use it, energize, and unite your teams, it is very important for them!