Yiannis Gavrielides co-founded Covve with a vision to help people connect, build trust and create opportunities to improve their life and career.
Covve could be described as a Personal CRM that is a business networking and relationship co-pilot. It also is a digital business card and card scanner.
Covve is a team with deep domain expertise in contact and relationship management, leveraging technology to provide world-class products to all professionals, from solopreneurs to multinationals.
What you will learn
- What brings you joy? Yiannis shares what lights him up
- Learn about life as a chemical engineering student in London
- Yiannis shares his journey in building a technology platform
- The advantages of incorporating AI into your business model
- How AI helps to build meaningful relationships
- Find out who the ideal customer is for Covve
- Discover a simple system to scale your customer acquisition
- Yiannis shares the learnings and challenges he’s faced along the way
- Plus loads more!
00:00:02 - 00:01:48
Hi everyone, welcome to The Jeff Bullas Show podcast and today I have with me, Yiannis Gavrielides. Now, Yiannis is dialing in from Athens, Greece, but apparently it's with global warming and everything else. It's very, very hot, 42 degrees. Just by the way, it's just a nice 15 to 17 degrees here today. So, with a bit of rain. So that's the weather report out of the way. Let's get to a little bit about Yiannis. Yiannis co-founded Covve with a vision to help people connect, build trust and create opportunities to improve their life and career. In other words, to connect people, provide meaning of and grow meaningful relationships. Covve could be described as a Personal CRM and Yiannis apparently doesn't like that term because it's a bit technical. So we won't use that again, but it's a business networking relationship, co-pilot to help you build meaningful relationships. It's also a digital business card and card scanner. At Covve, they have a team with deep domain experience in contact relationship and Yiannis is gonna share a little bit about how he discovered that relationships are very important to his business success and career success. So, welcome to the show, Yiannis, I'm looking forward to hearing about Covve and all the things it can do and how it can help people grow. And as we know a lot of people get into networking, they have the networking breakfasts and it's very transactional. I'll do this if you do that and we all know what that feels like. It doesn't feel good, sort of feels slightly creepy. But anyway, Yiannis, welcome to the show. Thanks for coming on.
00:01:49 - 00:01:53
Thanks for having me, Jeff. It's really great to hear. Thank you.
00:01:53 - 00:02:43
So, Yiannis, you've been working in a, you went and did a chemical engineering degree, I noticed. So that was in London and just to, let's go back to that. And so, and then we, I want to explore a little bit of how you went from being a chemical engineer to wanting to start, you know, Covve. So, and a little bit along the way, just tell us a bit of your back story because it looks fascinating and I'm always very curious about what brought people there. But before we do that, I'm gonna ask you a question, unexpected. You can think quietly, you can have a minute's silence. It doesn't really matter. We’re patient here. What brings Yiannis joy?
00:02:44 - 00:03:38
I'm gonna answer right away actually. So, actually connecting with people. I know it sounds cliche but I really love meeting new people. I'm intrigued by meeting people. I'm really intrigued when I meet people that have totally different backgrounds than I do. So when I used to collaborate with a friend of mine who's a director, I'll give an example. And when I started meeting actors, like because the things that make them tick, they were so much different than mine. I think that really intrigues me and understanding their perspective. So I, that's one thing I love. And then to just be comprehensive food, I'm a very big foodie. I cook a lot as well and I barbecue a lot. So food is a very big part of my life. So that brings me joy and then theater would be the other one.
00:03:39 - 00:03:55
Okay, let me ask you a quick question about food. It's got nothing to do with businesses. It's got nothing to do with networking. And I'm gonna ask you a question about when you are preparing and making food and creating it. Does time stop a little bit?
00:03:56 - 00:04:06
Absolutely. I come back very stressed from work. I pour a glass of wine and I just, I'm in a different space altogether.
00:04:06 - 00:04:32
Right. In other words, you enter flow, which is a place where joy happens and bliss shows up. And that is great to hear because I don't think we asked these sort of questions enough and we can then talk further along the way in a little while about, because meaningful relationships mean, having better conversations, isn't it?
00:04:33 - 00:04:39
Absolutely. So, Jeff, you cook as well. I know this is my interview but I can say I can tell.
00:04:39 - 00:05:51
I cook badly but time does stop, but for me it's a little bit stressful actually because I'm going, oh God, I gotta get all these ingredients. So when I sort of did my first serious cooking attempt a long time ago, I spent most of the day finding the ingredients and then the afternoon making a mess in the kitchen. But I can still remember the day. I made this Indian and Thai food with Indian dish and it was so memorable, which is great. So anyway, very intrigued to hear about what brings you joy because I think we need to ask these questions more. Thank you for sharing. That is really cool. And I'm gonna be asking this going forward for every guest. And I think we might turn into a series because I think people need to know what brings humans joy and especially entrepreneurs brings them joy and it's gonna be varied and it's gonna be a kaleidoscope of different elements because we're all different humans and that's what's great. So, alright. So let's go now to why did you go and do a chemical engineering degree in London?
00:05:52 - 00:06:44
Okay. I'll be totally honest. So I grew up in Cyprus, so I grew up in a small community, a relatively small community. And then in Cyprus now, education has developed quite a bit since I was there. But in Cyprus, a lot of us used to go abroad to get education. I was always practically minded. So I wanted to do a practical degree. I was too good in Maths, et cetera, physics. So engineering, I wanted to do a powerful engineering degree and then I was between chemical and mechanical and to be totally honest with you, I said, okay, mechanical, I've seen quite a bit. So I went to chemical engineering and it's because both chemical engineering and mechanical are quite broad. And I wanted a very strong degree to give me many options afterwards. I never actually practiced chemical engineering.
00:06:44 - 00:07:20
Yeah. Sometimes a degree is just a ticket to an entree to a career that can be to a career. And I was a teacher, I actually went and practiced. So I was a secondary teacher, taught in private schools. But essentially, I stuck to it for about six years because I didn't want to disappoint my parents. And essentially I hated it because I was teaching people that didn't want to learn, they're called teenagers.
00:07:21 - 00:07:25
Yes. I know the sort.
00:07:26 - 00:08:03
So yeah, and, but it opened up a, I went and did it for me. I'm interviewing myself by the way now. Don't worry about you. I went into technology sales. So I got involved in the computer industry when the PC revolution was taking off and I had the best time. So, get a degree and then it's quite often a passport to a life you never imagined quite often. So, alright. So you got your degree. Fantastic. What did you do after that?
00:08:04 - 00:14:25
So in my degree, I very quickly realized I liked the business side of things. So back then our university, 50% went into engineering, 50% went into, well, back then it was banking and consulting and that's where the cool places to be in London. Not anymore. And so I went into consulting. I loved business. So I worked for a large multinational consulting firm doing like I was consulting businesses on management consulting, basically processor engineering, like big tech implementations back then. And then, I got a call, I got headhunted by strategy consultancy. So moving from management consulting to strategy consulting, which was I loved it, but it was, it pulled me, what I realized after doing it is that it pulled me away from people, I mentioned people before. So it became a bit more theoretical and it had less, we had less commitment to work with it. So, we would do a very good strategy piece on acquisitions. And we used to work a lot with private equity firms, advising on acquisitions. But then what happened is it pulled me away from the people skills that I had which I thought was the thing I enjoyed and I was good at in management consulting. We had to work in a company and get trusted by the people who always were very cautious of us. We were consultants and I win the trust and actually deliver something, started consulting that pulled me back into a very interesting learning experience and sphere which I loved, but then pulled me away from the everyday work with people. So then I moved again into a bank but in a division where it was all consultants, it's McKinsey's Boston Bay and et cetera LAK. I was in LAK. So it pulled us into it, put me into this team where we were all ex-cons consultants. So we would do project based work, but then we would implement. So we had the ownership risk which I loved. So that's where I started realizing, as I was learning about myself, I started realizing that I wanted the responsibility, I wasn't afraid of it. So I wanted the responsibility of actually advising something and then actually implementing and then seeing whether it would work or not.
So that's where, so that's so my corporate career was developing through that. And then I, the crisis I had moved from London to Athens by that time, and Athens was hit by a big crisis that was 2010 around there, nine, 10. And then what happened is actually the crisis helped me because if you, it's funny, Jeff, because if you asked me back in my high school days, what I wanted to be, I would say, yeah, well, in the future I wanna be and I want to have my own business. That's what I would have answered, but then getting into the career cycle, it was really hard. I never looked at it again. So I always thought it would be something I would do in the future and the years were passing by, and then what happened is when I hit the crisis in Greece, I stopped getting promotions. And, because I had a quite a fast career that started to slow down. So I started reflecting a lot. And then with a very old friend, a childhood friend, who was in law, we said we're gonna quit and we started before Covve, we started building small businesses. So it was the first time I started entrepreneurship, I did a bit of entrepreneurship. And then I had a realization that and I did quite tech and media and food. We actually opened an award winning bar as well. I can talk for ages about it. So I'm not gonna dwell on that. But then I think we did theater production as well. So it was a very interesting part of my life. And I think what I realized was that what ticked and what made me happier, which was the first thing I told you as well was meeting new people and building relationships that were fruitful and I could get on the phone and get advice on something or get an insight on something that I didn't know. And then I looking at it, it shocked me that through this journey from uni to being an entrepreneur, the number one thing that helped me through it were people. So it were people that I started like selling because I was building trust with people. I wasn't in sales, I never was in sales. But after in consulting, we were expected to bring in work. And then, so I realized that whether I was advising a client, it was all about building relationships with the stakeholders of the company so that they would trust me and then I would be able to advise successfully. When I was selling, it was all about building a meaningful relationship with someone that would come back to me. When I didn't you say that you offered this service? I'd love to like, find out more. So again, it was based on a trustful relationship. When I went into entrepreneurship that went, hey, I mean, everything was about relationship, like reaching out to advisors, reaching out to service providers, finding recruits, everything was about relationships. So, I got frustrated because we were discussing with Alex, my co-founder in Covve the fact that we were not properly trained to do this. So, whereas, I mean, you mentioned networking before, like a networking breakfast or a networking like event over wine. And this is now it has such a negative connotation. It feels we're gonna go in a room like sip wine inconveniently trying to chat another person and not wanting to and being in a comfort zone, such a negative feeling. So, we were frustrated that the fact that this is not what it's about. So we wanted to help people understand what building relationships is all about and give them the tools to help them build a habit of building relationships and that's what took me to Covve.
00:14:26 - 00:14:33
Cool. So it's almost like a platform to facilitate people to network in the best way possible.
00:14:34 - 00:18:44
Yeah. What is, yeah, what Covve is a platform that has what we've built Covve to be today is a platform that has the education and the tools to help you build relationships. So to make it a bit practical, what that means is that when you meet someone, you exchange your business card. So what we do is we offer, so as a first step, we offer tools to do that. So we offer a business card scanner that quickly like digitizes the information that's on the business card. And then reminds you to put a few notes on that, I met Jeff, he also cooks. And so, you know, some things that make some people, that you have to report on, that is very important. And then it reminds you to follow up. I mean, that's the scanner. Also, there's a digital card that now that, we're living in digital times, we also offer digital cards either on an app or on and NFC, like Near Field Communication and QR codes. So that's the beginning of the relationship. So that's our simple connecting tool. But then we offer a quite sophisticated solution that is like we want to use a personal CRM. Yeah, that's what the niche password is in the market. But we see it as a fitness app for your network. So it's something that reminds you to make it a habit and spend time to reach out to people. Reminds you on, when you last spoke, it encourages you to take notes and that's nothing we should to be ashamed of it. It's like a, some people tell me, how should I take notes? Yeah, of course, we should take notes on things that interest the other person because you need to understand what's, I mean, if we're building a relationship, I need to understand what's a priority for you. So I can actually help if I can. And then you need to understand what's a priority for me. That's as you said, what makes me tick? And then that over time, if we do actually become reciprocal and we reach out and we learn more things about it, about each other, then we could build a report and trust. So what Covve does it help? It reminds you to reach out, it gets you in a workflow to take notes about personal things as well. Like I have three kids and three dogs and a wife and those are very much one of the most important things in my life. So, and that's quite important for someone to know if they want to connect with me. So, and then we also offer tools like, let's say that I'm not into football, but you're a big football fan, for example, then I can add hobbies and things about your life and we will scan automatically the news to find the latest things about things that my contacts like, and then we have some AI tools as well. We can speak about them later. But the whole idea is how do I get someone in the habit and like a fitness app, show them stats and try to encourage them and gamify this experience so that people spend time connecting with other people. So our focus is people like, our focus is relationships and then the other side. So that's tools and then the other side is education because what we fail to see a lot of times is why we should be spending time connecting with people and how. So what we did is we connected with many experts, like Doug Lester, he coaches at the Harvard Business School. He coaches the MBAs, he have and also advises Fortune 100 companies on how to, for people, how to progress a career to relationships. So he works with us on sharing knowledge about how you do it, why you should be using a system, when I say system, it doesn't mean an app could be your calendar. It could be but a system why you should be systematic about it. We work with Bob Anel, he coaches companies like really large companies. I'm not sure which ones I'm allowed to say, on how business develop through relationships. Again, we're working with him for sharing knowledge. And what we do is we create short videos that people can instantly get value through these experts on what to do and then they can dig in and learn more.
00:18:46 - 00:19:28
So what tools do you plug into it? Because essentially is it just you plugging in all the contacts you have or is it got an element of something like LinkedIn where you are building and well creating a network effect. And as we know in the data in the internet and the web, the network effect is, whereas the platform gets bigger, it becomes more valuable. So tell us a little bit about that. Is that what you do or is it just personal or is it basically, do you plug into LinkedIn? Tell us a bit about that. How does it works?
00:19:29 - 00:21:24
Yeah. So it's very personal and private. What it does is it connects with your contacts, but all the way it syncs two ways. So it helps you be seamless about it. So what we do is we connect two way with we connect and sync two way and encrypted with your contact and your Outlook or Gmail or whatever you have at the back of it, not your emails, your contacts and two way sync. And what that means is that if I meet someone new and I add them in my Outlook or I add them in my contacts in my phone, Covve will pop that contact and say, hey, here's Jeff. Do you want to create a relationship with Jeff? If I say no, that means that Jeff remains in my contact in my Outlook and that's Jeff. If I say yes, then you go into this workflow that says, okay, where did you meet Jeff? How often do you want to be in touch with him? What hobbies does he have? And then that becomes a multitude relationship for your private use. So what happens there is that you will be reminded to chat to Jeff, encouraged to take notes about Jeff. So you go to you will see how it fairs against other relationships. So it becomes one like a subset of this big network. So as you said, this huge network we have on LinkedIn or on our or this big contact base we have. What we have on Covve is a subset like over an average of 500 let's say relationships. Some people have many more, some people have many less like on a Covve. And those are relationships you want to proactively manage and proactively be in touch with. And that's a private, the data doesn't go on a network. And it's my personal network that I proactively stay in touch with so that I build relationships with that group.
00:21:25 - 00:22:15
So in listening to that, in terms of it sounds like Gmail or it's not Gmail but email is the primary communication tool within the app or a platform. Is that correct? Or do you have the support other things like Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger and so on because we have entered an age of we have all different preferences for communicating and chat apps, for example, you know, basically, you know, have taken over the world. So email is still like the, I suppose business communication tool of choice that's available to everyone and then we sort of have the splinter of communication apps. So do you use other apps as well?
00:22:16 - 00:24:33
So yes, so basically Covve, when you reach out through Covve, what it does is it you, you can reach out through email, Whatsapp, call. You can call someone. And what we do is we give links to your main app. So if I click to email, I mean, you can draft the email with AI on us, but then based on your previous communication stuff, but then when you send it, you will be sending it through your Outlook and we won't be touching that. So we're very private with Covve. So what we do is we will link to Whatsapp, but then we're not gonna read your Whatsapp. When you come back, we'll ask you if you want to take a note or on email specifically, which is the main, if you call someone. So I can be reminded to call. Let's take a use case. I'm reminded to call Jeff. Here's Jeff. As soon as I'm reminded, I can click a button and say, hey, these are the previous notes you had on Jeff. These are the notes on his family or whatever. These are news affecting his company or his blog or his sports team. So I get up a bit of a briefing, quick prep. I hit call, goes into my phone, I call you and then I get a debrief. So do you want to take an important notes on this? Do you want like, this is your next schedule reminder in four months? Do you want to change that? So there's a debrief mode and then you're back in action. Now because as you very correctly pointed out most of our users use email as the main form of communication. We also have a new AI natural language. AI basically engine that uses natural language to actually converse with like an assistant to help you manage your network through your email. So what it does is you're a Covve user. But then let's say I receive an email from you. I can forward it to my assistant at covve.com and say, hey, add Jeff as a new contact, remind me to reach out every four months. Here's what we discussed about and summarize the email he sent me below and in my notes. And then that you write that in natural language. And then what it will do is it will read your signature, extract the phone, extract the email, create a new contact, add the note, add the communication, add the reminder at the calendar and then everything will sync back. So we because we know email is a big one, we allow people to have an assistant basically to actually manage that network.
00:24:34 - 00:25:05
Okay. Right. So that's, so let's do a little bit into AI, so AI is changing almost every corner of business. So but before we get into that, I just have a quick question about you're developing something that sounds like it's quite technical and you need people that are programmers to build something for you. How have you found that? What are the challenges being of because you're not a software engineer? Are you?
00:25:06 - 00:25:09
No, I'm a chemical engineer. That doesn't really help.
00:25:10 - 00:25:16
So, how have you found the journey of building a technical platform? Because essentially that's what you're doing.
00:25:17 - 00:28:27
Okay. I love that question. I'll tell you, it's, I'm gonna, it's gonna be a surprising answer. What I did is Alex, my co-founder. He's a computer science degree. And then when we started Covve, we wanted to make it very technically sophisticated. And I think that would be the best. One of the biggest challenges we've had was the fact that we were very technical, very early on. And that's a problem. I was an engineer, Alex was all computers. And then our first recruits which are now our senior team, technical team were all software engineers, full stack really guys really deep into the engineering. So we built a very very sophisticated platform. Now this is very nice and we're very proud of it right now. We're very proud of it on that scale, seamlessly stuff. But the problem is, Jeff, and you, I mean, I've been reading your blog and I'm sure you know this. But it's interesting because looking back, I would never have done this again like this. So basically what we did is we went all tech and then that made it to answer your question, that made it really easy to hire technical people and to go deep in our tech and micro services and doctors and I mean, my team is very proud of that and I am as well. But if I had to do it again, I would go the totally opposite way. And the reason is one of the biggest challenges of building a personal CRM if you'd like to call it or a relationship co-pilot or relationship management app is the fact that we get reviews. Like, where have you been all my life? This is like, I've been looking for something like this for 30 years now. That's not necessarily a good review. That's great, but it means that people don't know how to look for us or they don't even know they need us. That's a very dangerous review and that's a very dangerous space because it's a space that people don't say, hey, I'm in sales. I need the CRM system. CRM. Here is the best CRMs out there. So people are not searching which means you need to create awareness and that's very expensive. So basically, what we started doing afterwards was understanding how we can create awareness out in the space in a clever way and not by splashing marketing money. And, we are doing many things around that we can discuss about. But going back to your question, what happened was we went straight into the tech developing this platform without understanding how are we gonna go to market? How, who is looking for this and how, who's my customer? I mean, and it was interesting because once I was pitching because I was pitching to any when I was pitching. Yeah, of course, everyone was like, wow, that's a thing like this does exist, but I didn't understand the intricate of like actually having to, having me pitching like in front of so many users. So yeah, it got really hard. So my hurdle was not getting technical resource. Although today we obviously have a challenge but we are very good at it. What my hurdle was understanding the go to market. I would have preferred if I did that earlier on. So there was a team full of engineers and I wish that we had the marketeers as well.
00:28:27 - 00:28:47
Okay. So it sounds to me like you sort of, and this is, I've been interested in what you have experienced with as you've grown it and learned along the way is that you went and built a Rolls-Royce when you maybe you should just have bought a Fiat from 1950 instead. Is that correct?
00:28:47 - 00:28:54
Absolutely, absolutely spot on. I love those Fiat, by the way, I don't know why they get those Fiat but yeah.
00:28:54 - 00:29:32
Well, it was the fiat 500 or something or? Yeah. Very simple. Most overpriced small car in the world. I think almost apart from a Clarence sports car which is a bit bigger, but so minimal viable product, MVP is the acronym for that. So, and I'm sure you've read the book Lean Startup by, I think it's, yeah, so, right. So let's now move on. So you've built a Jumbo Jet Airliner and now you gotta work out well, how am I gonna fill it?
00:29:33 - 00:29:39
I like that. I'm trying to fill it. Yeah, we're filling it in now. Which is great. But, yeah, it's, been a long journey
00:29:39 - 00:29:44
Instead of getting someone in the front of the Fiat and having a conversation in the front seat.
00:29:45 - 00:30:18
Yeah. Absolutely, Jeff, that's, but that was my biggest and actually now because I work with many, many entrepreneurs, I love working with entrepreneurs advising and I wouldn't call it an advisor. It's like exchanging ideas. Yeah. Like that's the main thing, MVP. And you know what you learn about it and then it's not that no one told me the problem is that many times you have to like, be the one that learns the hard way until you understand it. If you know what I mean? It wasn't, I didn't read it. I had read it but I still build the Jumbo.
00:30:19 - 00:30:57
Yeah. Well, the only way to learn is to do so, you know, hats off to you for doing and acting. So that's the only way you really learn and that's the painful part. Okay. So let's step into the world of AI a little bit because it's top of mind for everyone. And I think just about everyone, even the top scientists, we're almost in a world of overwhelm of AI, so tell us quickly how you use AI in the simplest way you can. So how do you, I think you mentioned a little bit before. So how does AI help someone to build meaningful relationships using Covve?
00:30:58 - 00:31:10
Do you mind if I start the question by why we decided to incorporate it because it's not, it wasn't just the hype and then, or do you prefer if I answer directly on the call, it's up to you.
00:31:10 - 00:31:12
Go why and then how, let's do it.
00:31:12 - 00:32:26
So, yeah, I think the why was important to us because when AI, we started playing with AI, of course, ChatGPT brought it, I mean, it brought it forward. We started playing with AI in 2019 when we were building our scanner. And then we soon realized that a lot of the work of founders like ourselves or like CEOs and the managers and all this, a lot of it will be automated. We started realizing now we realize even more. So being automated, this would lead to the CEO or the manager or the founder spending much more time on leadership and creativity and like building relationships as we said before. So it said, okay, absolutely. I mean, it's been automating so many tasks and so we started reflecting back and said, how do we automate tasks that we do like as Covve, but without affecting the relationship because the thing is we didn't want to automate the relationship. That's I mean, that's beside the thing is to free up time to have more time to do things like motivating your personnel, building relationships with your personnel with your clients, et cetera.
00:32:27 - 00:32:28
So that was the why?
00:32:29 - 00:34:43
Yeah, so why would we use AI and how and then, so it was why do we use AI? We said we will use AI because we need to free up time for people to go deeper on the things that will matter in the future more which is the leadership, the understanding, the challenges, the remote workplace has made it even harder to actually connect with people. So how do we free up time? So that, so with AI, so that was the why let's use AI. And then we started again at a high level saying, so how do we use AI in Covve to actually free up time but not replicate the, not affect the relationship. So that we don't want AI to be conversed. And what we did is first, we had to do a proof of concept. So we do work MVP nowadays, we've learned to work MVP. So we said, okay, let's start by a simple. So what we did, by the way, because this is interesting, what we did is we sat down, we had two big workshop sessions, we brought in AI experts as well. We wrote down like 30 ideas and we started prioritizing them based on impact effect and effort. And then we started very simple. We built a tool that said, okay, so you're about to, I'll use you as an example again, reminder to reach out to Jeff, I say, okay, help me draft an email. And then you say, okay, I use my follow up template, for example. It drafts a more personalized email on the follow up template. But that's not me writing, that’s the AI, so I can add a few points and then it can learn on my style that I talk with Jeff and draft an email very quickly, very grammatically correct. But and then I can change it to, I can press a button and make it casual professional reform and et cetera. And that points like, but also mentioned the wedding and it helps you very quickly draft an email and slowly on my style as well. So that was simple, it was quite intriguing and sophisticated, but it was a simple tool that also helped my team. So it would help someone very quickly write something, but it would also help my team play with the technology quite a bit. So we launched that very quickly in February.
00:34:43 - 00:34:49
So your first simple MVP tool was helping draft an email.
00:34:49 - 00:38:38
Within Covve. So with all the data that Covve already knows using the data, yeah, within Covve. And then we embarked on the second one, which was that this is our second, we have like a plan for many more. But the second one which launched actually in beta a week ago. So it's very recent. The second one is what I was describing before, which was okay. So you have a tool we have, you have Covve that helps you stay in touch and take notes and follow up with people. But it's now locked in an interface in a standard interface in an app. Okay. But behind Covve, behind the app, we have a very big platform that has a relationship engine, like a scanning engine, all the things that I mentioned. So we said, okay, why does it have to be an app, an app is great if you're on your phone, but maybe it, when you're driving, it could be voice. When you're on your email, it could be text. So we said, okay, how do we create a much more versatile interface to this app? To this platform? Not the app, to this platform. So and the why was what's the easiest way at any given point for someone to take notes on their interaction so that it helps their relationship. So the first beta that is out now what it does is it interfaces with the platform of Covve through natural language. That's what it does. You give it a natural language instruction and it process that natural language instruction to actually take an action like you would with your assistant, like I would say, hey John, can you please add Jeff as a new contact for me? Put a few notes on what when we met and then in the future, I could just tell John, hey John, I have a meeting with Jeff. I haven't prepared a summary, I need to prepare for the meeting. So it facilitates again the relationship, it prepares me and it debris me for the relationship. So what we did is as a first version going practically as well because this is out now as a beta, the beta, what it does is you have an assistant at covve.com. You have an email box, a mailbox and you can send instructions about the relationships in natural language and even forward. So let's say I get an email about a new deal through a contact of mine. I can forward and to my assistant and say, hey summarize this email below. Add it to my notes about Sam that we were speaking about this deal. You I don't even need to say about Sam because it knows from the forwarded email. So it picks up the email says hi, this is Sam. It's in contact, here's the note, I create a note, remind me to reach out to Sam again in two weeks, adds a reminder, send it to my calendar. Also know that through this conversation, I found out, I'm not gonna say all that also know that she has like three kids. So such years old. So that's gonna go into my family notes and this is like the beta. So the beta would converse one way through natural language with our platform, the platform structures, the information and then adds it to that relationship. But the whole idea is that we want this to be an interface that you can do whatever you want with it through four relationships. So then before my meeting, then my assistant could brief me on it. Actually. What it does today is that every Monday morning you'll get an email from your assistant. So, here's how you did last week. But you're missing out with these guys and these people. Why don't you follow up with these people this week. But then it's gonna get more intriguing. So, the whole idea, so what we're doing again, going back to the, what we're doing there is saving people time using AI that can process vast amounts of info very quickly and in natural language and that creates also a very nice flexibility for our users to actually use our platform.
00:38:38 - 00:38:51
Alright, cool. So using AI to help you craft great emails that use the data, natural language to actually help you and then you're actually using it to prepare for meetings as well, which is your latest feature.
00:38:52 - 00:39:10
To prepare for me, but also to actually add a lot of info to the platform. So you're adding info, you're adding reminders, you're adding. So you're actually instructing the platform in natural language to add new notes, to add new reminders. It's much easier right forward and even summarize it, add it.
00:39:10 - 00:39:21
So and that way because AI feeds off, generative AI feeds off data. So the more data you have, the better it gets as it learns.
00:39:21 - 00:39:22
00:39:23 - 00:39:55
Alright. So let's put on the marketers hat now. So the customer you thought you were chasing was the customer it was? Tell us a little bit about how you discovered your perfect customer. And did you get it wrong or partly wrong? I'd be intrigued by it because then it comes down to the whole messaging and marketing and platforms and everything else. So tell us a bit about that, how you found your ideal customer.
00:39:56 - 00:41:26
So in the beginning, because you asked about the journey as well. So in the beginning was it, we thought it would be the consultants. It was our experience as well. The service providers, the lawyers people that were very, they needed to sell, but it was, they were not sales. That was our first assumption. People that needed to business develop, but they were not sales people, they didn't have CRM systems if they had, they were not using them. What we found out along the way is that it became very broad, which became very difficult as well to market. So we started getting realtors, we started getting, the US is our main market by the way, we started getting real to, we start getting so brokers of all sorts, insurance brokers, real estate brokers, we started getting many entrepreneurs. We got life coaches, and career coaches using the platform. These are like the big and then senior managers in large firms. Like we had like people from like one of the leading like people from leading banks from leading consultants, etcetera. And so we realized that there was a lot of business after COVID, what we realized many are all actually adding personal stuff too because we do, by the way, we do a hundred email exchanges every month with users, 40 survey responses and about six face-to-face interviews every month with users. That's how we know a lot about our users.
00:41:26 - 00:41:30
So surveys are really important for you to get to know your customers.
00:41:30 - 00:43:13
Yes. And then we do six on average face-to-face interviews with users every month. And then yeah, and then what we realized was that people were using it for personal as well. So it was both their personal and their professional contact as well. Now this became really hard marketing wise because I mean, it wasn't a specific set of people. It was a but then we started looking at what actually described these people and it was people that first of all valued relationships quite deeply. So it was people that realized and that's why we want more people to realize now. So it was people that realize that they need something. So everyone was, they were throwing things like but this is the place to keep notes about people. So they said I keep notes about everything, but I don't have a place to keep notes about people. So we realized that these people were not takers, these people were productivity buffs. They wanted to hug themselves to become much better using tech. So this and these people were very aware that they wanted to be systematic about relationships, which is what we hear about. Everyone we speak to who's an expert in the field, talks about systems, building a system. But these people knew that they needed a system already. So these are where. So, although they came from different professional backgrounds, if you like, they were very aware of the need to be systematic about their relationships. So marketing wise, we are trying to prepare the funnel from the high end and that's where our education helps to actually explain to people why you need to do this and then trickle them on their account.
00:43:14 - 00:44:06
Okay. So you've identified, I suppose the key characteristics of your perfect customer. And that's where up, in other words, they value relationships. They want to be more systematic, they want to be, they're basically productivity nuts maybe. So, let's ask the next question. So typically for most companies that are wanting to grow startups specialist, how, what's your, you know, you don't have to give too much away. But I've been, I'm intrigued and very curious about how, what's your growth strategy? Is it Facebook ads? Is it LinkedIn ads? Is it cold calling? Okay. I'm sure it's not. Is it content marketing? Is it email marketing? What have you found a system that helps you scale your customer acquisition marketing strategy?
00:44:07 - 00:46:38
Yes, we did find I'm trying to think on how much I want to share here. That's why you see me thinking. Yeah. No, I love the fact that you pointed it out. We found specific channels. I'd love to mention them in private. I don't want to mention the blog, but we found specific channels that worked very, very well on attracting this audience. And then we actually cross. So we started cross selling a lot of our tools and up so cross selling and up selling our tools to two different ones. So we have the channels that work for different tools that we have. So we, and they scale so we bring in users and then we cross sell between our tools there. And then the other thing. So the other thing that has really worked for us, we started collaborating with very big companies which we didn't do B2B up to now. And that create so when we locked B2B then that creates a big jump every time obviously because when we enroll a company, then we get many, many more users. and lastly so sorry, I'm being a bit vague. But last so, and by the way, Jeff, we do Google ads, we do Facebook ads, Google ads have been much more effective for us to be a bit specific. We do outbound email marketing in a certain way that works for us, but it needed a lot of testing to get right. We don't do cold calling. No, of course not. But, yeah, and then we do and, but we do now try to give a lot of value through our education. We want to, this is our new strategy and it's been working up to now. But let's see how it scales. We try to give a lot of value before we want something back. So give a lot of advice, give a lot of tangible advice without anything in return to actually educate the audience or understand and engage, see who's engaging better and create a sub audience that actually engaging with the brand quite a bit. And then get that and even give free networking email courses to that and then see who engages a bit. And then we create a funnel that actually is feeding constantly there with a very cheap acquisition at the top because it's a lot of free information there. And then once it goes in, then that creates an audience that's much more as we said, aware and why and understands that they need this and then that's where we acquire.
00:46:38 - 00:47:01
Right. Okay. Well, basically you’ve following old marketing 101 which is collaborate with who's talking to your customer already. That's what it sounds like you're doing. Okay. Then you mentioned that you're doing content marketing at the end, which in other words, you're adding value before you're asking and build credibility and trust. So, do you run a blog on the site?
00:47:02 - 00:47:29
Yeah, we run a blog, a quite popular blog and very active, we do like three releases every month. We run workshops. We run a workshop with Charles Vogel and another three, like three very, very impressive speakers back in June. And then we create a lot of material from the workshop. So that was a live workshop. We create a lot of material from the workshop and then we actually distribute that both in our blog and in social.
00:47:29 - 00:47:55
Yeah, because marketing is just so complicated anymore because any specialist and every like a Facebook ad specialist different to a Google ad specialist is just these the platforms and more expensive as well. So do one question around that too. I'm curious about is a blog and creating content is very good for getting free traffic from Google through search. Is that part of your strategy as well?
00:47:56 - 00:48:11
Yes. And we get a lot of search in the beginning. We had to iterate quite a bit because the blogs that were getting a lot of the volume were not necessarily as relevant as we wanted. So we had to iterate between like quantity and quality of audience.
00:48:11 - 00:48:19
Right. Okay, cool. So how long ago did you start Covve? I didn't have an answer to that.
00:48:19 - 00:48:47
So we started quite a long time. So we started in 2014 and we started with B2B only. So we did like a solution for companies and then we pivoted in 2017. We pivoted to like a more app focused tool. And we started getting some traction and, but then to the platform that you see today, we actually, it's been two years that we've been focusing on the, what I described.
00:48:47 - 00:48:54
Right. Okay. So you've basically gone, you do B2B but you also do B2C
00:48:55 - 00:49:25
No. Yeah, no. So we went B2B, be to professional, B2C and now we are getting pulled into B2B which we like. So before we went, we were just hitting really long sale cycles and stuff. Now we're being pulled into B2B, which is amazing. It's B2C2B if you'd like, we're getting pulled. So we've used your platform. We love it. Can you give us a quote for the company? So, that becomes much nicer than the long sale cycles that we experienced to date when we were doing B2B.
00:49:26 - 00:49:31
Yeah. So it sounds to me like you went fishing for sardines and now you're fishing for whales.
00:49:32 - 00:49:36
Well, I like that.
00:49:37 - 00:50:10
Yeah. So what one, a big sale quite often is easier than one small sale. So that's very interesting to hear. Okay. Just wrap things up. It's been fascinating and how you've sort of made it complicated, then you had to go back to minimal viable product, identifying your customer, all those things fascinating. Okay. So what have been some of your biggest challenges and what have been some of your biggest learnings along the way? Maybe the top two or three that you could share with us.
00:50:12 - 00:53:46
So definitely we mentioned one of them. The MVP situation was definitely a huge challenge in the beginning as we mentioned that a big learning. So, and now we've changed the way the team operates and whenever we are going to build something new, we've first have a very good business case for it. And then we build an MVP even within, like now we build MVPs within the product, obviously. So that's one big one. Another big challenge is attracting great talent and retaining it. So at the size we're in and at the market that's as hard as the one we're in. So we've been, and my co-founder is amazing at this and also the leaders in the team. So we've been, we want to, we are in a region where there is a lot of technology talent, but it's not as broadly aware. And I mean, knowledge is now disseminated much better than it used to when we started. But our engineers are very, very strong, but very, very deep in what they do, not very broad in what they do. So, we did have a problem getting the team up to speed because we are in a region of the world that doesn't have the agility and the sophistication that you find in San Francisco obviously or Tel Aviv or London. So we had to get the team up to speed because that's where we're competing with, so getting the team like aware and doing courses and like interacting with people and friends and relationships in places where there's knowledge share and like attending events but also leaving those events with knowledge. So summarize one of the biggest challenge was recruiting a team that's good enough, but also training it to be extroverted and understanding the intricacies that take place in our target market, which is the US. So that's a huge learning for us. And the detention is really, really interesting how you, we managed to retain in an environment where everyone is being pushed and most of our people have been with us since the beginning of war, have not left since they joined. Another big one has been definitely and I think it's still on, to be honest with you, Jeff is, it's been the go to market, I think, understanding marketing which is and that's why we read people like you as well. Understanding go to market and marketing while it changes so fast and the prince and it's interesting because the way technology, I don't know, I'm gonna be naive here, but the way that technology accelerates marketing is also very dangerous that you start seeing like a CPAs and numbers and like an engineer, whereas the basic marketing principles still apply. So we a lot of times we're driven into the like numbers and the AI that drives them forgetting like how important brand awareness or the creative or the creative, I mean of the ad and like the basics of marketing are like the start going back to the basics. So who's the audience? What message will resonate? What will they see after? So a lot of times I need my team, my marketing team to step back to basic marketing principles before we dive into the new technology market. And so I think this is an area we still learning how to tackle because the new performance teams are very, I mean, they're talking numbers and stuff like that and then we might be missing the whole point of what we're showing.
00:53:46 - 00:53:56
Yeah. And the challenge too is there's so many new marketing tools. We've got the rise of AI marketing tools now. So you can spend a lot of time chasing the shiny new objects, can't you?
00:53:57 - 00:54:06
Exactly. And we do because we're all engineers. So we start constantly have to proactively step back and say, hey, it's not all about tech.
00:54:06 - 00:54:47
Yeah. And it's not all about tech, it's about going back to what you actually are doing is trying to build meaningful relationships with your customers and those that actually are already talking to your customers. So that's fascinating. Okay, so just one final question. What is, basically been working on this since 2014. So we're actually nearly nine years in as an entrepreneur, what have you learned along the way that you could share with our listeners and viewers?
00:54:48 - 00:55:51
I think I'm really afraid not to be cliche here. But I think the number one thing I've learned is you have to build relationships. I'm not saying just about the product, to be honest. I'm saying it as an entrepreneur, the things that have been fundamental for me and it's not just creates life, it's building relationship with people that first of all share a different perspective that you can learn from. Then people that a support group that is around you in the bad times. And I mean, you need people around you in the bad times and the good times having a very good circle. So I'm turning from to personal, but I think personal is really important in business. So for me to remain on target through the storms as well and keep a team motivated to remain with me on target and stay on shape and like continue to grow. You need to be in a good state of mind and I think relationships are fundamental to being in a good state of mind. So we, I love talking with other entrepreneurs. Did I lose you, Jeff?
00:55:52 - 00:55:53
I'm back. I froze.
00:55:54 - 00:57:54
So I love to learn with entrepreneurs that have been through storms as well and we exchange situations and it's not just the learnings from what you hear, it's also the psychological aspect of it, like sharing something that is really troubling to you and then hearing something that's traveling to other guys. So that's the other thing that helps a lot then in sales and business development. It's so, I mean, that's all that. It's all about relationships. Like the reason we're working with Doug and Mo and Professor Dunbar of Dunbar's Number, we've done a very nice show with him. And, but the only reason we do this because we are connecting as humans. I think that's the main reason why then we love working with these people and they love working with us. So business development and recruitment again, all about relationships. So our recruitment is all about relationships, our sales are relationships, our ideas come from relationships like speaking with you and I'd love to. And I'm honest now, I'd love to continue this discussion and learning about your experiences, advisers that have around us. So I think the one thing, so you said, I think the most important thing for me is actually understanding that whatever thing you're gonna start, you need to be very, very adept and proactive in building relationships and quoting Dunbar, Dunbar says that's 150 people is that you can have a meaningful relationship with give or take. So if it's 150 people, the fact that we are reactive about it. Hey, John just called me. Oh, I haven't spoken to. We're being reactive. So this 150 people shift. And we don't. So that's our most important asset in my opinion. And then, and in many professionals' opinions, we realize that we are leaving it to chance. So there’s 150 people on chance. No, they shouldn't be. We should be very proactive on who these 150 people are and very active. So that's my number one thing is be very proactive on who the 150 people are.
00:57:55 - 00:58:06
Yeah. So in other words, and if you are proactive and keep an eye out, you'll actually be communicating with 150 people that matter.
00:58:07 - 00:58:08
00:58:08 - 00:58:27
Yeah, cool. Thank you Yiannis for sharing your insight. It's been an absolute pleasure. And I look forward to meeting in real life in some stage that would be great. And just coming in for a glass of wine and watch you cook and while we chat, that would be fantastic.
00:58:28 - 00:58:38
Jeff, thank you so much for having me. But this is an open invitation on recorded whenever you're here. I'd love to have you over for a while and a feast.
00:58:38 - 00:59:09
Love to mate. That'd be fantastic. Enjoy the rest of your day in Europe, in Athens and we're wrapping it up here. It's gone dark here and thank you very much. It's been an absolute pleasure to have a conversation about life as well as being an entrepreneur, I think and trying to work out and discover more about building relationships, meaningful relationships that matter. Thank you very much.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.