In today´s interview you will meet Ovi Negrean, Chief Executive Bee at SocialBee.io , Dreamer. Builder. Entrepreneur and Mentor at Founder Institute Frankfurt & Bucharest but a remote Startup Advisor nowadays based in Frankfurt. More about him bellow
Ovi, tell us a bit about yourself, your story, why are you in Frankfurt? What do you do?
I’m Ovi — the Co-founder & CEO of SocialBee.io — where we offer Tools, Training, and Teams, to help Companies get More Leads with Less Effort.
And love has brought me to Frankfurt 🙂
My wife is in Accademia, so since we started dating — about the same time I started working on SocialBee, almost 5 years ago, thanks to her I’ve lived in France, Singapore, and now Frankfurt, where she is an assistant professor at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management. And as I can work from any place with an internet connection — here I am.
What is the big issue that you and your company are addressing and what value do you bring to your clients?
Almost all businesses nowadays have an online social media presence, but most entrepreneurs don’t have the time or sometimes the knowledge to maintain and cultivate such profiles.
This is where we come into play.
We help companies save time through our Social Media Management Platform that puts your social profiles on Autopilot. (Just Set it and Forget it.)
Plus, we can even go full-cycle and provide a growing number of subscription-based marketing services, on top of our platform. These services are delivered by actual humans — our Concierge Bees as we call them.
Can you highlight some, top mistakes or funny situations you come across in your experience working in your industry?
Whenever I talk to entrepreneurs, I always encourage them to start working on their marketing as soon as they start working on the product, as good marketing takes time to build up.
However, we did not really take our own advice in the early days. This is because we had a couple of good (but) one-off marketing campaigns that brought in customers who then also offered a good steam of word of mouth, so we relied too much on that.
I guess that the saying about the shoeman having holes in his shoes is repeated for a reason.
We’re now massively scaling up our marketing, but we sometimes still find ourselves dropping some of the things we do for ourselves if customers need additional firepower.
How is it to manage your team remotely from Frankfurt to Cluj?
Well, now with Corona, it’s easier 🙂
Before Corona, we had a nice office in Cluj and almost everybody except myself worked from that office. The remote CEO for an in-person team.
This is a bit tricky where some context and information is lost because you’re not on site.
In spring, when the Corona cases were starting to grow, we’ve been one of the first companies in Cluj to close our office for the safety of our colleagues. Since then, we’re all working remotely from home.
We’ve been a “remote-ready” company from day one — maybe also because I kept living in other parts of the world from the early days.
We’re heavy users of Slack, Google Docs, Video calls, and the like. It was even funny that sometimes you could be in our office, where there was relative silence, and you can hear a burst of laughter from everybody as a joke made its way through our Slack.
But now that everybody is remote it makes things easier by leveling the field. Plus, I don’t feel like I miss out on the great vibe we had in the office, as we still have a good vibe on Slack.
On a similar note, how do you see the differences between ecosystems ClujX Frankfurt when it comes to Entrepreneurship?
Cluj is one of the top software outsourcing hubs in Europe (if anybody needs connections to outsourcing houses there, let me know).
I’m sure that most of the people in Frankfurt are using technology that was partially developed in Cluj. From BMW, Siemens, to LinkedIn — there are a lot of top companies who are outsourcing some development work to Cluj.
This also means that even though there is great technical talent, Cluj still has to grow and improve on the product, marketing, and business site.
But things are starting to change and improve as more and more talented people are trying to build their own products.
I feel this is a bit the same with Frankfurt. Not from a software development point of view, but from a finance point of view.
The many financial institutions in Frankfurt take up a lot of the talent on the market — be it technical, marketing, or business talent. And when you have a good, steady job, at a major company, it’s even harder to give that up to strike out on your own.
Frankfurt, as well as Cluj, have more and more startups but are missing a few major successes that show other people that there is a good alternative in the startup path.
Also, as an international founder, what is your opinion of the diversity in the Startup ecosystem in Frankfurt?
One of the things I love about Frankfurt is how international it is. From this point of view, it’s great to see founders from all over the world.
From a product perspective, I feel that the financial and B2B startups prevail — which is a good thing. It’s good to have some specialization and to work with your strengths — even as an ecosystem.
A curiosity, was your industry affected by Corona?
In March, when most of the world started to realize that Corona is a real threat, we were strongly affected by it.
We’ve had customers cancel, we’ve had customers who were in trouble — and for whom we’ve extended a helping hand in the form of 50% discount across our tools and our services (so we were losing money by delivering those services), and we saw a slowdown of new customer growth.
The situation looked really bad for a few months — so we also did everything we could to reduce expenses and to weather the storm.
Since the summer, we’ve seen again an uptick in new customers — a positive trend we welcome. Plus, we’ve had our best Black Friday campaign until now, showing that entrepreneurs are itching to get back to business.
I hope that the authorities will keep pumping money and supporting the most affected sectors to help get back the world-wide economy to pre-corona times and beyond.
Where can people find you in our Valley?
Once Corona is under control, you’ll be able to find me at WeWork labs again. But for now, I’m working from my home office in Frankfurt, and am always happy to have a (virtual, for the time being) coffee with any Frankfurt Valley founder.
Finally, personal goals for 2021?
I hope that towards the 2nd half of 2021, the world-wide situation will be as such so we can start traveling safely again — in which case I hope to visit all the places we had to skip during this “gap year”.
Until then, we’ll be busy growing SocialBee and extending our product line.
I’m always happy to meet entrepreneurs, so feel free to contact me at ovi at socialbee dot io.