A new name, dozens of new clients, and investments from J&T Ventures. Aptien’s system for everyday company agenda administration boasts a great number of innovations and fast growth this year. “And we haven’t even started doing real business or marketing; the customers just keep coming on their own account,” describes David Melichar, the founder and CEO of Aptien Labs.
When did you notice that there was still room for something new among all the company tools on the market?
Originally, we were dealing with IT consultancy, helping companies with the implementation of systems. And we saw that the same situation kept reoccurring - growing companies acquired SAP or Helios, but they couldn’t fit a lot of operational information into them, because these systems are too large and non-flexible, and so they returned to Excel, or to card folders. There was a space opening up between Excel and SAP for a service with the qualities of a large database system, yet holding on to the freedom of the said Excel. Therefore, the idea of a universal system for company administration and support of the everyday functioning of employees came into existence.
What is the company agenda Aptien deals with?
We are not an accounting system, or a financial system; we are also not a payroll system. We are rather an operational system, combining tasks with filing systems, and the cooperation of people on top of it. From the point of view of an HR officer, it is a system for managing relationships with employees - improvement of onboarding, i.e. the employee’s start of work, monitoring of trainings and certificates, sharing operating information. From the point of view of a trader, it is a tool to monitor contracts and relationships with suppliers. From the point of view of a property manager, it is a filing system monitoring maintenance dates, revision dates and everything that must be done, all by itself. And all that results in specific tasks for the employees.
So, you make sure nothing is ever forgotten in a company, and nothing is ever lost?
Just like we placed ourselves half-way between Excel and SAP, we’re also half-way between e-mail and workflow systems. Typical task tools of Trello or Asana type are built on the fact that tasks flow from people to people. In reality, however, most tasks are generated by the company operation as such, and they flow from things to people - a contract has a deadline, company vehicles need technical inspections, there’s an end of warranty period for computers. The filing system generates tasks, which, thanks to Aptien, will be right there before people’s eyes in one environment.
How does your solution fit in the ecosystem of common company systems?
In larger companies, we mostly fill in gaps not covered by the existing system, because as I’ve already said, the companies often file these in spreadsheets and other drawer filing systems. Moreover, areas like filing and onboarding are still largely underestimated. Smaller companies either have nothing, so we really do replace Excel and card folders, or they need more sophisticated task management enhanced with a filing system, once Trello and similar services are no longer sufficient. Therefore, we do not struggle for the market share occupied by large systems - we do not consider companies from an accounting point of view, but rather from an operationally-practical one.
So, can small companies handle the Aptien setup as well?
The system is so flexible that, actually, it doesn’t matter what people want to do with it. Thanks to the preset templates, anyone can use it, even with zero technical knowledge, and if they are not sufficient, people can create any filing system to suit their needs literally within a few minutes. Naturally, all services claim to have a flexible system, but in our case, this is really an essential quality.
Is the simplicity and focus on smaller companies your main competitive advantage?
Growing small and medium-sized companies, which are continuously coming and being established, form a substantial part of our portfolio. On the contrary, large corporations are not so dynamic. There’s always competition, but the market is not saturated, and it keeps growing. It is so large, that there will always be enough space for growth. Moreover, the current times are really favourable for digitizing. We have competitors in the individual areas we cover, but within the overall scope, there are only units of tools.
Why did you choose J&T Ventures as a partner for investment?
We negotiated with several subjects, but J&T Ventures appealed to me thanks to their pro-Western approach. During valuation, they save space for further rounds of investments, which I was used to from Silicon Valley, where we passed an acceleration programme. However, this is still not the rule in all cases of local investors. The investment allowed us to relax a little; we can concentrate on finalizing the product according to our notions, and on team development. And new options open up in marketing, which we haven’t really dealt with actively so far.
Do you focus on any specific markets?
Generally speaking, it is an English-speaking web environment. Thanks to our focus on natural, operationally-practical problems of companies, we get a lot of demands from the web. And we can no longer influence the fact whether the customer is from America, Great Britain, or Singapore. The point is that the client searches for ways to resolve their needs, and in that process, they find us. We are aiming at the needs, not the individual markets and regions.
So, you basically created a product and the customers started to address you via Google?
Yes, in a simplified way it really was like that, and it still works that way. It has turned out to be the right way. Customers keep coming, because we deal with real needs and the operational pain of people within the companies. It is therefore not a stimulation and creation of a new market, because the market already exists, and we merely respond to its real needs. We don’t have to worry about demand dying out, which would force us to revive it with lots of effort.
How large is Aptien now?
We are a company of ten people, and as of now, there are approximately 15 clients. Our growth is practically doubling annually, and we haven’t really started with any marketing efforts. Trade is rather organic, and the benefits of investments are yet to show in our results.
This year, you changed the brand name from OneSoft Connect to Aptien. What was the main motivation?
Our name collided with a name of one American company, and there was a growing risk of disputes and problems with brand recognition. At the same time, we carried out some more profound changes in the product, both from the point of view of design and function.
How difficult is it to change the brand name in a well-established service, especially towards the customers?
At that time, we already had approximately 120 clients, so naturally, we were a little worried. We managed to communicate the name change well, it was accepted without problems, and many users actually didn’t care in the end. Until then, we never really invested much in regular marketing, so the original brand name was not so well-established after all. In the end, the actual product is what matters.