Interview With Eric Edelstein
Describe your product or service:
“SaaS products to [help] bookkeepers, accountants, CFO's, and auditors become more efficient.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“To transform the way businesses interact with their outsourced or internal accounting and auditing teams.”
How are you funded? I.e. venture capital, angel investors, etc.
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)
“The DOKKA team is currently 40 strong, spread over multiple countries.”
How did you come up with and validate your startup idea? Tell us the story!
“We had built an interesting, innovative technology to extract data from financial documentation and were accepted into a well-known accelerator program. We spent a couple of weeks validating a number of avenues we felt we could take the technology forward into. The validation primarily consisted of speaking to people over Zoom. Lots and lots of conversations with people who had businesses we would want to sell to eventually. We wanted to understand the need, the competitors, the size of the problem, and the size of the market. These conversations quickly showed us which path we should focus on.”
How did you come up with your startup's name? Did you have other names you considered?
“It's always a process to come up with a good name. In this case, our business is all about documentation, so we wanted to include something about documents in the name. So, we think DOKKA is the perfect name. Initially, we didn't have the dot-com, but we really wanted it, and we were fortunate to be able to purchase it a short while after the business started.”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“I got the entrepreneur bug at the age of 10 when I made my first "real" money selling my books and comics at the local craft market. Actually, I probably got the entrepreneur calling before that. My grandfather was a medical doctor, but his passion was buying and selling stamps and coins and antiques, etc. — long before eBay was around. When I was young, I used to go for walks with him and would constantly find coins along the way. It was only when I was older that I figured out he was distracting me and throwing coins along the way and then directing me to them! I moved to Israel six years ago and wanted to build another startup, so I spent months "startup dating," until I found the right person to build a business with.”
Did you encounter any roadblocks when launching your startup? If so, what were they and what did you do to solve them?
“Initially in the very early days, we were building a B2C [business to consumer] play, but our small team had greater strengths building a B2B. And here in Israel, most startups are B2B [business to business], so there is more VC appetite for B2Bs.”
Who is your target market? How did you establish the right market for your startup?
“We currently have three products aimed at different markets. We have a product for businesses with internal finance teams, we have a product for outsourced bookkeeping and accounting companies, and we have a product for companies that do auditing. We established the right markets by trial and error. Sure, we did a ton of research and validation, but that can only take you so far.”
What's your marketing strategy?
“Due to COVID, nearly all our marketing is digital — SEO, paid advertising, social media, etc. We're looking forward to being able to get involved in the real world again, sponsoring conferences and events.”
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
“Through sweat and tears. We wanted to build a product that customers actually wanted and would benefit them. So, we used the famous quote of LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman: “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late.” We convinced early adopters to start using DOKKA from very early on, and they guided us to what was really needed.”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
“SaaS has matured, and doing a Google search will quickly give you the recommended KPI's for SaaS products. If I had to pick four, it would be the number of new customers monthly, amount of new MRR monthly (both from new customers and from upsells), overall MRR, and our churn rate.”
What's your favorite startup book and podcast?
“I'm a big fan of Michael Gerber's book, ‘The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It.’ I try to re-read it every few years. And you can often find me listening to a Gary Vaynerchuk podcast while I'm commuting (although I work mostly remote and don't commute that often).”
Is there a tool, app, or resource that you swear by to help run your startup?
“We find Hubspot and Slack indispensable.”
What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?
“From the outside, it looks glamorous, but it's the exact opposite. It doesn't matter how successful you have been in the past. Startups go through ups and downs, and you need to learn to manage your emotions on this rollercoaster. Also, it's very difficult to just stop thinking about work on a holiday or weekend. It's a very different feeling on a weekend when you're an entrepreneur.”
How do you achieve work/life balance as a founder?
“With difficulty. I don't think I've managed to achieve this. When I'm not doing a startup, it's all ‘life.’ When I'm doing a startup, it's all ‘work.’”
What is a strategy you use to stay productive and focused?
“Set a primary objective I want to complete each day. No matter how much or little I achieve, finishing the primary objective gives me a feeling of accomplishment and also keeps me focussed.”
Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success? If so, what are they?
“Focus on what's important. There are always too many things to do, and you won't get to everything. I used to feel the need to answer everything and reply to everyone. Rather than focus first on what will lead the business forward quickest.”
What was your first job and what did it teach you?
“I worked for a large global corporation as a Financial Analyst. It gave me an understanding of the resources, processes, and systems in enterprises relative to small businesses and startups.”
More on DOKKA
We were fortunate enough to hear some valuable insights during our interview with Eric Edelstein of DOKKA that will inspire, motivate, and teach aspiring and established entrepreneurs alike.