Hey friends! Startup Radius interviewed Team O’Clock – a company that created a platform for team stand-ups, meetings and retrospective sessions. Why we need another team productivity and communication tool, you may ask? Well, what if we tell you that Team O’Clock is focused not only on the technical part of the meeting and teamwork process, but actually on people the team consist of – platform allows teams to have structured meetings, more engaged sessions, better focus, and more! You can use any teamwork environment in your company, but with Team O’Clock you will save time and make your team happier more productive.
Learn how Team O’Clock entered such a competitive niche, why solving the existing problem is the best business idea possible, how they started with a free-for-all pricing model, why focusing is important, and more!
Can you tell us about what you are working on? What is Team O’clock?
Team O’clock is aiming at making teams work smoother together and constantly improving. To do that we have set up some meeting layouts/flows that move things forward, promote open communication and help participants being positive. So far we have two meeting types, related to scrum, which are for standup and retrospective meetings.
Additionally, we have a very popular Slack integration for teams doing planning poker. The Slack command provided is very simple also being able to remember voters per channel and automatically suggest the average vote.
Using Team O’clock admin interface people can see the full timeline of all their meetings and planning poker sessions as well as analytics about performance of each team. Additionally, from the admin interface you can customize various aspects of meetings and planning poker tailored to each team’s needs.
The whole setup is promoting agility and, like said before, smooth collaboration between peers to make everyone happier.
Why are you building this? Was there a particular source of inspiration or money-making idea?
It all started from a need we had while having standups. It was obvious that standups spanned too long and people felt like they were reporting to the person that said “Ok, now it’s your turn to speak”. The facilitator, which usually was the Scrum Master, assumed a role that required attention, authority, decision while everybody else shared their updates and engaged in questions that took the conversation going forever.
So standup meeting was the first meeting we implemented aiming directly on the above pain-points. Team O’clock assumes the role of facilitator and manages time for everyone. This motivation and direction helped us while building the retrospective meeting, where we tried to add the same principles, let people do the talking and Team O’clock handle the tedious parts.
Time for bragging! How big you are – traffic, users, anything else?
We’ve been running Team O’clock for 2.5 years now. Since July 2018 we have introduced a simple pricing plan, but until then it was a free service. With that disclaimer in place, we are currently serving almost 2.5K active users performing around 300 standup meetings, 100 retrospective meetings and 4K planning poker tasks per month.
Since the beginning of the service we have a total of 2K company accounts that tested the service along with 17K users that at some point had logged in. I believe that our free vs. pricing direction played a big role for these numbers.
Who are your main competitors, and how good/bad they are?
It depends on the feature. For our synchronous standup facilitation we are one of kind and there is no competition there. However for the standup area in general you could say that our main competitors are geekbot, standuply or tatsu.io, however all the above focus on asynchronous standup for remote teams.
On the retrospective area, our main competitors are Retrium, Parabol and Sprintlio. Our key differentiator is that we are focusing on fast paced, simple meeting flows versus going vertical with too many features and high complexity.
For planning poker, on the Slack area there is no competition, but for digital planning poker one could mention planningpoker.com with similar features but not in Slack scope.
Who uses Team O’clock? What is your perfect buyer persona?
Team O’clock is used by teams focusing on fast paced action and alignment. This is the broadest characteristic of all teams in Team O’clock expressed in various means, from only performing planning poker sessions in Slack to totally embracing all tools offered for daily standups and retrospectives. The ease of embedding planning poker is pretty obvious from the numbers shared above, you don’t have to do anything just keep using Slack like you’re used to. Retrospective and standup meetings require some more effort from the teams that’s why they are not that adopted yet.
Regarding a perfect buyer persona, is a company with multiple teams that want to perform better and faster their job and make everyone happy along the way. The teams have reached at a point that they see how their existing practises don’t add to their performance and want to improve. So the element of trust plays an important role in their decisions. Trust essentially means giving control and validation that everything works as expected – plus two more on top of that! -.
We don’t like to position Team O’clock as a solution to scrum/agile enabled teams as the benefits of a standup and especially a retrospective span bigger than that. We have teams using our services from various fields, not only IT companies, which is an indicator that teams all over the spectrum want to improve and be better. And that is a good development for everyone!
Were there any early ‘growth hacks’ or tactics that have contributed to your current success?
I’d say the most important ‘hack’ if you can call it that way is focus. Focus in terms of what we build, and most importantly on what we don’t build. Since day one we focused on as few tools as possible and took a deep dive in them. We still do that, try to facilitate incoming feedback on what it’s already there instead of going wider. This way we have focus and priority to existing teams using Team O’clock and try to help them in their direction, being more successful.
Another thing that we have for quite some time in place is feedback loops. It’s been almost a year and a half where we have set up our strategy reaching out to teams that are engaged or disengaged with our services. We tried to strike a balance of reaching out without being too abusive, always having in mind that teams might equally want to hop on or hop off our services and we try to be honest on our messaging over there. Who can’t relate to a story “Hey Mike! Why do we still have service X if no one is using it?” and all the pain that comes when you’re trying to dig deep for an answer to that!
What were some of the biggest challenges while building Team O’clock early on and how did you solve them?
One of the biggest challenges, which we still try to improve, is how to create a digital facilitator that stands directly in the middle of the machine and people without requiring more attention than needed. This is mostly a UX issue yet it’s big enough to make or break a tool that is meant to be complementary on meetings! Meetings are already very hard to master and keep in line, adding another worry for participants can easily stir things off. Our direction in solving this problem is try to minimize the effort needed to use the tool and reduce obstructions, so no notifications, intuitive functionalities and small hints to move a actions forward.
Another challenge we are still working on, are ways to help teams move faster and improve by providing insights on the meeting behaviours they have already displayed. For example, for teams performing a standup meetings we try to expose team’s data on the standup ritual: Is it performed at a specific time? Usually how long is it? Is attendance high or low? Based on these data we want to propose changes to improve it further.
If you could give a marketing advice to other companies, what could it be based on your experience?
Marketing is a field we just started exploring so we don’t have any deep knowledge or hints over there! Our plan moving forward is to start reaching out one marketing channel at a time so that we can focus our efforts over there and be able to quantify and relate results to each channel. So far we have tried reaching out Product Hunt which we consider as quite successful. Part of the positive results is this interview along with a lot of useful feedback and more marketing channels and ideas to explore! So we consider the focus on one channel strategy a good one, yet our experience is not that big!
Looking forward we plan to explore more on content marketing, refining and using better our landing pages for SEO and ads, promotion with press releases and articles in tech news sites and portals. Again based on our understanding of the marketing field we will try to focus on a single channel per time.
Which marketing channels you prefer and why?
Again, our experience with marketing is minimal so this is more of an opinion or an educated guess than a “this actually works” thing! That being said, channels that help and promote communication between people or come as a proof that works might work better. Platform’s like Product Hunt, Twitter or emails offer the possibility to get actual social proof from other people and engage in productive dialogue about your tools, better highlighting the value you offer via specific examples. In that sense, content marketing is another way to expose the value you offer.
Is Team O’clock monetized? Why did you choose the current monetization method?
Team O’clock is monetized since July 2018. When we started thinking about monetization we had a series of exercises with different models and we reached out to some of our users at that time to get their feedback on what we were thinking. This process led us to the model we ended up using, which has 3 plans based on active users and features that teams want, ending at $59/month where you have all features included and unlimited users.
We concluded to these plans as we thought that it would be fair for our customers to know beforehand a flat cost of services and not adopt this in real time as more users entered the service. We feel strong for our features and tools and we believe that we can get more people to join our highest plan on features instead of extra seats.
What are the top 5-10 products/services you use in your company and why do you like them?
- Heroku to run our infrastructure, totally removing operations headaches for our small team
- Sentry for error monitoring, a true lifesaver to catch all the bugs that are not reported!
- Trello for internal coordination, prioritization and keeping a record of actionable feedback
- Twitter as said before, for marketing and promotion material
- Freshdesk for support, very easy to setup/integrate and be up and running with a few clicks!
- Paddle for subscription management, with the main advantage being automatic invoice management and great support.