Coronavirus, masks, social distancing, remote working… it’s fair to say that 2020 is going to be remembered by everyone for many different reasons.
But despite these challenges, last year proved to be one of growth and big challenges for Verifa. Here, we’ll take a look at how and why things changed, and what to expect over the coming 12 months.
Recruiting in a pandemic#
Having been able to take stock and look back at 2020, it’s remarkable to think how quickly time flew while so many things unfolded here at Verifa.
Given previous experiments and hires had not worked out successfully, founder Jacob Larfors began the year looking for a company Sales Director. With Verifa Oy’s growth firmly in mind, Jacob decided that he needed some help, as the current team was heavy on the technical side.
Just before COVID-19 hit Europe in March, I was contacted by a headhunter regarding the role and met Jacob to discuss the position. Quite quickly, both Jacob and I agreed that it was the right choice – and we signed a contract.
Then, of course, the pandemic arrived – and Finland shut down along with the rest of Europe. Understandably, the new Sales Director’s immediate reaction was one of concern: will our customers start to scale down their current and follow-up projects?
Following a month of discussions with both existing and new customers, it became clear that our field of expertise would still be required, even in times such as these. And since we were already helping most of our customers remotely, no significant operational changes were required on our side.
A change of focus#
As we were now confident that sales wouldn’t be our main challenge, one key question presented itself: where should we instead focus our limited resources?
The strategic decision was quite obvious. Focusing on inbound marketing and improving our website and content creation would help us with sales in the long run. Furthermore, as the bottleneck was now in recruitment, the improved inbound marketing efforts would be very helpful in this regard as well.
During the summer and autumn months, Jacob and I interviewed dozens upon dozens of great candidates to join our team of consultants. Initially these were provided by partners but, following the release of our new website in August (and its subsequent improvements), as well as the activation of social media and marketing campaigns, organic channels began bringing in the right kind of talent.
Unfortunately, we managed to sign just one Cloud Architect during 2020 – but the work keeps paying off, and we recently signed up another in January 2021. We’re still hiring too, so be sure to check out the advertisement!
Another major activity during 2020 – which arguably took up even more time than recruitment and marketing activities – was the launch of our internal development project for an open source tool, Bubbly.
The Business Finland Crisis Funding enabled us to finally dedicate time and resources to an idea that had been brewing inside the heads of our specialists for some time. We recruited two Golang developers to join our ranks, while one of our specialists joined the team as the third developer. Later in the fall, we also hired Carole, our Growth Lead, and brought in an external advisor to help our business development team.
As of January 2021, I am proud to say we have a working version of Bubbly. And we are now piloting it with a handful of our closest customers to validate the core use cases, before its Beta launch.
Consultancy and product development – two different approaches#
The latter part of 2020 saw Verifa Oy operating two different business models within the company, while also exploring opportunities to bring all Verifa franchisees (Finland, Sweden and Switzerland) more closely together.
This all needed clarity, so the decision to spin off the product company was made – and Valocode Oy was born.
Valocode is an independent company, holding all Bubbly IPR and the people developing it. While Verifa stays true to its mission – being a tool agnostic consultancy company – there are certain family ties between the companies, and we’ll keep on supporting each other with that in mind. Valocode and the further development of Bubbly will be led by Jacob, while I will focus more on the consultancy side.
If you would like to learn more about the tool we are developing, please visit the Bubbly website and sign up for the newsletter.
All change at the top#
Last year also witnessed the change of CEO at Verifa Oy. In June I took over the role from Jacob, which allows him to concentrate on technical leadership, consulting, and leading the architecture of Bubbly.
I must applaud Jacob for having the courage to let go of leading the company he founded, placing it in the hands of someone who, at that time, was a stranger. I know it is not easy for founders and entrepreneurs to hand over the reins of their beloved company – and so I hope I will be worthy of the trust placed in me.
Despite the difficulties 2020 presented, the consultancy business was not really affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the birth of Bubbly did mean we had less people carrying out the consultancy work for which we had increasing demand for.
Verifa Oy invested a significant amount into the development of this new product, which resulted in slight revenue growth for 2020 – although not much of a profit. This was intentional, and will most likely continue in 2021. For now, our focus remains on growing the consultancy business while supporting the launch of Bubbly.
There’s plenty of work to be done, so let’s hope for a healthier and more prosperous 2021 for all!
Disclaimer: Most of the above numbers, headcounts and investments refer to Verifa Oy – the Finnish franchising company. The Verifa brand is also represented by Verifa AB and Verifa GmbH in Sweden and Switzerland respectively. The financial results and growth during 2020 of these two entities are not covered in this blog post.