“Invest More Time And Efforts Into Properly Researching the Product-Market Fit” Startup Advice with prooV CEO Toby Olshanetsky

01/08/2018 08:08 am ET

“Sometimes you fall in love with a solution and go about developing it without constantly checking in with your target audience for feedback and ideas. They are the ones with the pains, they know best. This is something I have made point in performing these past several years and cannot stress enough how important it is.”

I had the privilege to sit down with Toby Olshanetsky, CEO of prooV, a fascinating company in the corporate innovation and enterprise space. Simply put, prooV let’s startups and enterprises collaborate with a PoC (proof of concept) with close to no headache or risk to either side.

Who is Toby Olshanetsky? Can you give me some back story of how you got to where you are today. 

A serial entrepreneur with great passion for technology and innovation. I have been creating and leading companies in the enterprise software space for over 20 years, with a strong focus on Cyber Security and Financial solutions.

What were some of the pain points or experiences you had that led you to think of prooV?

During over two decades of working in tech companies selling to enterprises, I was required to run PoCs on a regular basis in order to prove my products’ capabilities and compatibility. This process always seemed to be dragged out, difficult and inefficient and although the years past and technology advanced, it stayed the same. Throughout several discussions I came to realize that not only was this painful on my end, as the vendor, but also for the client, the enterprise. We both had a shared goal and interest of working together and implementing new solutions, but had to overcome several obstacles to make that happen.  This is what let my co-founder, Alexey Sapozhnikov, and myself to founding prooV.

How does your company help people?

ProoV is an end to end 'PoC-as-a-Service' platform that manages and streamlines the entire Proof-of-Concept process. From the discovery of innovative solutions to testing, comparing and evaluating them. We are a young startup in years, but are experiencing rapid growth across all verticals by solving a real pain point for both sides, as mentioned above.

Can you share your top three challenges in scaling prooV into what it is today?

  1. There are of course many challenges in scaling a company, some of which we experience and cope with daily. Things like company culture, which is of utmost importance to me as CEO, but is challenging to maintain as the company expands.
  2. Another example is ensuring that both startups and enterprises get superb service from our team, again something that becomes increasingly difficult as the company works with an increasing number of customers.
  3. Finally, finding the absolute best talent is always a challenge when working on a global scale, and our case is no different. ProoV hires only the A team people, and that is always a challenge.

What is the biggest mistake you’ve made?

Looking back at my first companies, I probably should have invested more time and efforts into properly researching product-market fit. Sometimes you fall in love with a solution and go about developing it without constantly checking in with your target audience for feedback and ideas. They are the ones with the pains, they know best. This is something I have made point in performing these past several years and cannot stress enough how important it is. With prooV, for example, after coming up with the idea and before developing one line of code, we interviewed over 170 global companies to see if we were in the right direction. This helped us determine how the solution should look, the requirements our prospects had as well as crystalized and validated the pains we are addressing. All prooV features and versions that are released since then are a direct outcome of the same methodology – feedback from our customers.  

How do you keep the startup feeling of excitement and passion among your employees as you grow?”

  • With new developments and challenges,
  • new lines of products,
  • an entrepreneurial spirit
  • and fun activities to break the day-to-day.

One of the things that give me the most joy is coming to the office and seeing how invested and caring each of our employees are. I truly believe that passionate employees are key to making our solutions and company a success and feel lucky to have this particular group part of our magic sauce.

What do you wish someone had told you about building a company at this scale?

  1. Dream big and don’t be scared. I love pushing boundaries and disrupting new markets and in order to do so, sometimes you need to resist those skeptical faces and internal doubts.
  2. I think it’s also important to understand how time intensive and intense it is to build a company like prooV. We all glorify the startup/innovation life, but few realize just how much blood, sweat, and tears goes into achieving success.

How do you walk the thin line between startups and enterprises? Those are such different worlds. Can you tell me about that?

Great question. Our solution addresses two audiences, with different pains and requirements, that have a common interest in working together. We recognize this and by leveraging this common desire, we try to find the balance between the two. The right amount of start-up flare, agility and innovative spirit mixed with an understanding of the enterprise thought-process, size and need for a competitive advantage.  

Are there things that you would like to improve about your company?

We are aiming to build the absolute default solution for anyone looking to run a PoC. We are one by one, crossing new features off the list that our customers are asking for. Things like the ProoV Red Cloud that ensures a PoC can withstand any and all cyber-attacks before being deployed, among others. We want prooV to be totally bullet proof and to address any and all needs that companies have, when running a PoC.

Thank you so much for your insight. This was awesome!

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