How I Started an
Online Price Monitoring Tool
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Misha Krunic, 49 years old. Back in 2005 I founded WEBCentric as a roof company for many of the ECommerce / software projects I was involved in.
Prior to this, I was one of the pioneers in Serbian Ecommerce (with first online sale dating to 1998), and by 2005 I was already running 5 separate online stores, with joint proprietary backend. In 2005 I have started a new line of business – outsourced software development for Western companies (also, one of the pioneers in Serbia).
In 2011 I started Price2Spy, one of the first online price monitoring tools – a SaaS which now makes around 95% of WEBCentric’s turnover.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
I have a MSc degree in Computer Science , but much before that I was passionate about computers – I got my first ZX Spectrum when I was 12 years old. Pretty soon, I was bored of playing video games, and I tried to make games of my own (I was 15 when I wrote my first football manager game)
My hobbies are travel, especially travel for big sports events (I’m passionate supporter of FC/BC Red Star Belgrade, and Serbian national team). Apart from that, I love books (especially poetry) but I’m afraid that my CEO-time has taken up all my poetry time 🙁 I love History and Geography, which fits very nicely into my passion for travel.
The idea which led to Price2Spy was born out of pure necessity – one of our online stores (Tako Lako) needed a way to monitor it’s competitor’s prices. So, in 2010 we have started working on a software which was meant to be used internally. However, after a couple of months – I figured out that the idea had much greater potential. In Spring 2011 we launched Price2Spy – at the time 3rd online price monitoring tool, globally.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
Back in 2011, our focus was on outsourced software development, so very little resources could be spared for Price2Spy development. Further, our ECommerce business was growing, and it needed a lot of my attention.
Apart from my own time – there was always a lack of development resources – as other projects were getting higher priority. As the number of clients rose, I saw that Price2Spy needed support resources – building such a team was a challenge in it’s own right.
However, the largest problem was that market was not ready yet – at that time, online price monitoring, and any level of automation was considered avant-garde (unlike now, when it’s considered kind of standard for large online stores!)
Who is your target market?
Our main clients are online stores who use Price2Spy to monitor prices of their competitors, in an automated way. So, our largest client group are online merchants – who are by default very smart and efficient guys, always short on time, making only highly rational decisions. Such clients do not fall for ads / marketing campaigns, they are driven by pure performance of the tool they need in their day to day work.
Second largest client group are brands / manufacturers, who use Price2Spy in order to monitor how their retailers are pricing their products (a product sold at a price which is too low can jeopardize product’s market perception).
FInally, the third largest group are Web/ marketing agencies who use Price2Spy as a source of data they process and present to their clients.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
Back in 2011, we started Google Adwords, and we are still running these campaigns. We’re keeping a very close look at the costs and performance on Adwords – over time we have segmented our campaigns both geographically and by use case.
I was also trying to keep pace with posting interesting blog posts (both topics which concerned Price2Spy, and ECommerce in general), but simply didn’t have enough time to keep that pace. This has improved in the last couple of years after I expanded our marketing department.
In the last couple of years, another marketing channel has become particularly important for us. These are software review websites, which require us to regularly ask our clients if they can post a favourable review. Some of these review websites went commercial, so that requires a budget of its own.
Last but not the least, we have been experimenting with ads on YouTube and LinkedIn.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
Price2Spy is a service which can be used in many different ways. Practically, each and every one of our clients has something specific to it. In the beginning, I was Price2Spy’s only customer support resource. In 2013, I hired our first Account Manager, who helped both retaining existing, but also onboarding new clients. Nowadays we have 20 colleagues working in Support and Sales (these are mostly shared resources since the type of work needed is practically the same.)
We try to respond to each and every customer enquiry within a couple of hours, and we pride ourselves for no-nonsense kind of support. This results in the fact that in every single customer poll (not only done on our website, but on software review websites as well. The quality of our support was rated 5.0.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
Company culture is not a thing that you can easily describe, one has to experience it. We try to promote the following
- Your colleagues will be there for you, meaning that you should be there for them as well
- Each colleague is treated like an individual human being
- We promote family values – although we have more than 100 FTEs now, we still try very hard to act like a small family business
- We hardly hire any seniors. Instead, we hire young engineers and gradually train them for more and more complex tasks. The same counts for our Sales and Support team
- Weddings and childbirths are some of the happiest moments in our company
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
- CRM: we use Price2Spy’s built-in functionality, but this is going to change in the next few months
- Accounting: custom built
- Productivity tools: Redmine
- Integration with the above is all done by Price2Spy’s development team
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
Looking back, I would probably be more focused (spending even more time on Price2Spy, at the expense of legacy projects), and somewhat more ambitious when it comes to growth.
I have made many mistakes along the way, but when trying different things, mistakes cannot be avoided – it’s just important not to repeat these mistakes.
Some of Price2Spy components were not evaluated properly before the development was started. The result is a module used by very few clients, that used a lot of our time and energy. Equally, I should have recognized the gap in my sales activities earlier, and found a partner with a better know-how when it comes to sales efforts.
All together, I think I would keep the same at least 80% of the things I’ve done.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Freedom. I love the fact that I can think of an idea, and then go for it. I also like the fact that I manage my own time, which usually ends up with 12-hours working day 🙂
Before COVID-19 I also enjoyed travelling for work, as I always combine it with touristic or sports activities.
I must not forget the team – I enjoy working with young, smart and energetic people – makes one feel younger 🙂
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Constant worry, which can easily turn into anxiety.
One has to constantly think of:
- How to improve the service, to makes clients happier
- Competitors – each year a few more serious competitors arise
- How to keep the ever-growing team happy
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
To be honest, I have read very few business-related books. I consider literature the most important form of art, therefore when reading, I do it for pleasure, not for business-related purposes.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
In 3 years from now, I would like to find a partner who will help us reach more large (enterprise-level) clients. That will probably mean that I myself won’t be a 100% owner any longer – and that will be a significant change that I will have to learn to live with.
Yes, I would like Price2Spy to grow further, maybe reach 350K USD MRR, however, with no more than 150 FTEs. Though, the past couple of years have taught me that one should always expect the unexpected! I expect a bumpy ride more than a cruise, but I’ll try my best to enjoy it 🙂