Savage Beta Corner: A Talk with Chamaileon CEO and Co-Founder Roland Pokornyik
- by Radu Cotarcea
Preparations for the Savage Marketing 2017 Conference are in full swing and, in preparation for the event, Savage sat down for a brief interview with the leading start-ups that will be present this June in Amsterdam to learn more about their services, their hopes and goals, and what participants can look forward to learning from them at the conference. Here is the first in our series of interviews, this time with the CEO and Co-founder of Chamaileon, Roland Pokornyik.
S: To start, tell us a bit about Chamaileon and what need you were looking to address when you started development.
RP: Back in 2013 most emails were not optimized for mobile devices. The market lacked an email builder which is platform-independent and could produce bulletproof mobile-friendly email templates.
So we decided to focus on this need only, and create a flexible email builder software that can replace email hand-coding in the long-run.
We built a responsive email builder and generator engine – aka EDMdesigner – which is optimized for white-label integration into any software. We have clients from Australia to the US, and the list is still growing.
In the last couple of years, we have been approached by so many businesses – including various enterprises – who still haven’t found an email builder which could fit their design needs.
Chamaileon shifts away from the integration focus and is going to be the only email builder which mixes easy to use – Canva like – experience with flexibility to truly provide a software which can serve email design needs of small, mid-sized, and global email marketing teams.
S: 4 years into the start-up, what have your main challenges been so far and how did you overcome them?
RP: As an entrepreneur you just have to accept that startup life is not a fairy tale and overnight success doesn’t exist. You have to work hard for years before you would exit or earn the same salary as your friends, who work in a boring, but still well paying role at a multinational company.
I could compare the last 4 years to rock climbing – although I’ve only tried indoor climbing. It always requires strength, experience, and certain technique to move upwards.
If you make a mistake maybe there’s the rope or your fellow to save you from falling down. But if you have nobody to work with or a very thin rope, you’re going to fall down.
Plus, you have to accept that the road up there is not getting easier. It has new challenges for you all the time and if your endurance is running low or you just refuse to learn from previous mistakes you’ll fall.
Thankfully we were always strong enough to believe in ourselves, even when we had to invest all we had into the company to be able to turn it into a cash-positive business a couple months later.
Once you build an entrepreneurial mindset and accept the dark sides of the journey together with the bright sides, you’ll start enjoying it.
S: If you could go back to the drawing board when you first started, what, if anything, would you do differently?
RP: It would be hard to list all the things I would do differently, so let me just highlight a few of the most important ones.
I would revisit our talent pool and would maybe look further to find a truly design-oriented key employee early on, who could have helped us question everything we designed and built into our software.
I would involve my developer co-founders deeply in customer development and wouldn’t let them work on developing the software until we figure out truly what to build.
I would come up with a very limited MVP instead of what we considered as an MVP. Maybe even start as a “service” company, and later figure out how to build the right software which helps us create responsive email templates faster.
I would invest more resources into UX testing and innovate more on the visuals and fancy functions of the software.
I would invest much more time into influencer relations and super high quality content marketing from day one.
I would turn our business early on into a data driven company, even if that requires continuous development and marketing efforts.
S: What’s the next step in the Chamaileon story?
RP: We are fixing the mistakes we made with the launch of EDMdesigner. We started with a “silent” launch of the website, the blog, and are continuously testing the software with a closed beta tester group.
We question everything we build into the software, and collect feedback from testers and also from prospects to truly nail the feature set of the software.
On the marketing side, we invest loads of time into quality content production and influencer relations. We aim to become experts in email design and be known for our in-depth, meaningful blog posts.
Once we polished the usability of the software and built-in the most essential features, we are planning to launch an open beta of the software.
Additional features – we have tens of things on our list of feature request, all based on repeated user feedback – will come later on, and all of them will be measured and tested with our user base.
S: You’ll be attending the Savage Marketing 2017 conference as a Savage Beta partner — what aspect of the conference are you looking forward the most and why?
RP: We chose to attend Savage Marketing 2017 since it seems to be an ideal opportunity for us to show off our new email builder and test not only the software but the messaging and visuals we use.
Since email marketing is a very important part of today’s online marketing mix, we’re sure that we can meet several marketing managers at the conference, even from enterprise companies, who have sophisticated email design needs that Chamaileon.io will be able to serve by then.
We also have some existing clients and couple prospective business partners in the Netherlands, who we always wanted to visit in person, so it feels like a great opportunity for us to meet with them.