An Interview with Idan Hershko, VP Customer Success, dapulse
“Project management tools are dead” reads the dapulse website - but the message is really a lot more complex than that. Their claim is actually that project management tools as we have known them are dead. They don’t meet the needs of today’s project teams and focus on the management of projects, not people.. Project management tools today must focus on the needs, transparency, and engagement of everyone on the team and not just be a reservoir of information for the project manager.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with dapulse’s VP of Customer Service, Idan Hershko. We had a wide-ranging conversation that not only covered the concepts and goals of the dapulse product, but also covered the role of a customer success team and his view of the key to success for any startup.
HostAdvice: Please tell me a little bit about yourself and your background.
I actually started my professional career as a lawyer - big mistake!
When I graduated from law school, I did my legal internship at one of the top law firms, doing commercial litigation. It was a great place to work – if you wanted to be a lawyer. But I really wanted to do something else.
While I was in law school, I co-founded a startup with a few friends. It was a WIFI-based advertising platform, which was installed and operated at over 50 locations, such as coffee shops, restaurants, and malls. We ultimately had a staff of 7 employees, but after a few years of operation the partners decided to end the company's activity and we each went off in our own directions. This was a very valuable experience for me, as I learned a lot about entrepreneurship and the importance of teams.
I have always been drawn to high-tech and startups. However, when I decided not to pursue a law career, I didn’t really have any relevant experience in technology, internet marketing, or anything like that.
After listening to the Entrepreneur on Fire podcast, I was inspired to start my own podcast to interview entrepreneurs. I figured that this would give me exposure to top CEOs and startups and hopefully I would impress someone enough for them to offer me a job. My plan worked - after the third episode I got my first job offer and after my sixth episode I met Roy Man, CEO of dapulse, which soon led to my joining the company.
HostAdvice: Your title is listed as “VP Customer Success” – what exactly does that mean and cover? How big is your team?
To be honest, I didn’t really know what customer success was when I started. It is a flexible concept and means different things to different people and companies. It can range from being glorified customer support, to a forum for preventing customer turnover, to a team that is focused on expanding current customer accounts.
At dapulse, we do all of those things. We offer customer support and shaped our policies to reflect the way companies like Amazon and Zappos do it. We prioritize whatever needs to be done to keep our customers happy, at any cost. We also help our customers grow as a result of using our tool, which leads to successfully expanding current accounts
Our customer success team is made up of 10 team members, which is a lot for a company with only 50 total employees. We are looking to grow the team even further over the course of this year.
HostAdvice: Let’s start talking about the dapulse tool. What exactly is it? On your homepage you state that “You don't need a project management tool” and that “Project management tools are dead” – and yet you also state that dapulse is “The fastest project management tool”
Yes, please let me explain. Traditional project management tools are meant for project managers, to enable them to manage their team. What we are doing is very different. We are not looking to provide the project manager with the tools to succeed. We want to give everyone on the team the tools to succeed!
We work hard to make it both simple and fun for everyone on a team to use the tool. People like to get recognition for their work and they like to get people to comment on what they’ve done. dapulse changes project management into transparent collaboration and the sharing of information, instead of just chasing information.
HostAdvice: How do you define your market? Who is your specific target audience within that market?
Our target market is anyone who manages a team. If you manage a team, have a computer, and can access the internet, you are a potential customer. A company’s size or industry does not matter to us.
HostAdvice: Who do you see as your main competitors?
There are a lot of players in our field and relevant companies that come to mind include Jira, Asana, Trello, Basecamp, and SmartSheets.
The truth is, however, we don’t really see them as competitors. No one is doing what we do. Our solution is for project managers who aren’t focused on software development and may not even be tech-savvy. It’s for everyone.
HostAdvice: How do you see dapulse as different and/or better than their tools?
dapulse is targeted to people who want to collaborate or manage a team, but don’t have the right tools to do so.
In terms of the product itself, I have to say that dapulse’s design is super attractive, it is an intuitive technology, and it is genuinely fun to use.
It also comes with a great customer success team… [smile] I truly believe the level of service we provide is unmatched. We are available to our customers on whatever platform they prefer. That means email, phone, Facebook, Twitter, etc. or even a 1-on-1 demo, if that is what they need. As I said previously – we will do whatever it takes to help our customers and keep them happy.
HostAdvice: How many active customers do you have today? Where are they mainly located?
We currently have nearly 10,000 teams using dapulse in 120 countries around the world. The largest percentage of our customers are in North America, but we also have customers across Asia, Europe, Australia, Africa, and South America..
Since we are not only targeting the tech industry, our tool is also used across over 200 different business verticals, including:
- Religious Institutions
- Interior design
HostAdvice: How would you describe your current typical customer?
Our typical customer today is a team leader or member who realizes that there is a problem to be solved and is looking for a tool to enhance team management and resolve collaboration challenges. There is typically a minimum of 5-6 people on the team.
HostAdvice: Who are some of your biggest customers?
HostAdvice: Let’s talk a little bit about pricing. Specifically, why don’t you offer a free tier, like most of your competitors do?
The answer may be a little surprising, but we made that decision from a product (not a pricing) perspective.Customers using a free tier may be using the tool in very different ways and with very different needs than paying customers. It is important to us that we incorporate all client feedback and as a result, chose to limit that feedback to paying customers. It is essential that our product continues to improve and we feel that in committing to us financially, paying customers will be most helpful in pushing us in the right direction for the long term.
We would obviously have a lot more customers if we provided a free tier but those users would have a lot of needs and requests and wouldn’t necessarily be the same as they would be for paying customers
HostAdvice: How do you see project management and collaboration evolving in the coming years?
Project management has evolved a lot over the years and there have been many great tools. We are trying to simplify things and to make the work process more transparent. We are changing the focus to managing a team’s most important resource, their employees. By doing so, all of the team members become more aware of the project status and therefore, more able to excel and help out as necessary. The job of the project manager will also be greatly simplified.
HostAdvice: What are your future plans for dapulse?
In terms of the company, we are planning to continue to grow very quickly and to accommodate this growth, we are about to move into new offices.We are working on our next round of funding that will allow us to scale rapidly.
In terms of the product itself, we don’t have different iterations of the software. Similar to other SaaS (Software as a Service) applications, such as Facebook, there is one customizable version to which we are always adding and improving features, both big and small.
One major feature we recently added was “the timeline” and we will soon be adding “tags” so that you can categorize and search for specific objects. Other features that are currently in different stages of development include:
- Integration with other products
- Time tracking
- Batch operations
We are also constantly improving our mobile application to be as good and as flexible as our web application.
HostAdvice: How many employees do you have today? Where are they located?
We currently have a total of over 50 employees. My customer success team has two members in the US and eight located in the Tel Aviv development center.
HostAdvice: What do you have to say about your experience in this startup?
I think that the most important thing I have learned about building a startup is that defining KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are critical. Once the KPIs are defined, both the path to progress and what needs to be done to get there becomes very clear. Of course, you need to make sure that everyone on the team is aware of the KPIs.
At dapulse, we have large monitors all around the office with dashboards displaying the different KPIs for every team. For example, for the customer success team, we defined a KPI of a six minute average response time for all customer emails and a KPI of customer satisfaction ratings.
HostAdvice: How many hours a day do you normally work? What do you like to do when you are not working?
It really depends on what is going on, but I normally work 10-11 hours a day. I don’t believe in being a workaholic. What is important is to work hard and to be focused. It is also important to know how to delegate tasks to other team members.
When I am not working, you can find me playing guitar. I have been playing guitar since I was 13 years old and love to play any kind of music on the guitar.