This week Easygenerator moved into a new office and that gave me the “startup feeling” all over again. We moved our entire Dutch office with one small trailer and one hour later we were working again from our new office. I realized what we have achieved in a bit over two years. In this post I will explain why that is so special and why that is so important to us and to our customers.
A bit of Easygenerator’s history
In fact Easygenerator is (in e-Learning terms) an ancient company. We date back to 1995. The first edition of Easygenerator was a CD-ROM tool based on Authorware. In 2005 Easygenerator was acquired by ISM, a large Dutch e-business company. We developed our second generation of authoring tools, already cloud based, focused on professional developers, competing with tools like Articulate and Lectora. I joined the company as CEO in 2010 and we were doing OK, making a living, serving customers mainly in The Netherlands, some in Europe and a few outside Europe. Neither me nor our shareholder ISM were really excited with what we were doing. There was plenty of passion for e-Learning, but our tool did not really reflect that. It lacked passion, it lacked a dream, it lacked a goal.
My real dream is to democratize e-Learning, to make e-Learning accessible and available to everybody and since we are an authoring tool it simply is:
Enable anyone to share their knowledge
This meant for Easygenerator that we should facilitate people who do not have an e-Learning background. Make it possible to share their knowledge in an easy way. I proposed this to the shareholders and they went for it. Incredibly enough they allowed me to change everything and they made it financially possible to do this. We reinvented Easygenerator from the ground up. I guess this makes us maybe not a start-up company but a restart company. The feeling is the same.
We did have to reinvent ourselves completely. A new product, a new marketing approach and strategy, a new sales strategy (and team), a new everything. Just to give you a small example how big this change has been: 2 years ago we sold 99% of our licenses through a network of partners. Today 99% of the sales is done direct. 2 years ago 90% of the sales was in The Netherlands, now 85% is outside The Netherlands and The USA is our largest and fastest growing market by far.
With our ‘old tool’ we were in a race with our competitors for functionality: Who has the most and sexiest features. That has completely changed. Now it has to be simple, which is a challenge by itself (see my recent post on our interface improvements). We translated the dream into a business mission:
Anyone should be able to create a course or a quiz with Easygenerator without any training or prior eLearning experience
This helps us greatly in determining what to develop and what not to develop. Who to focus on and how to approach them. But what does this mean for us and for our customers?
The old focus was really on the tool and how it compared with our competitors, we were very much focused on functionality. The focus has now shifted to the customer instead. They used to be indirect customers (via our partners), now they are Easygenerator customers. We interact a lot with our customers now: First line support, Q&A sessions and one-on-one sessions with customers. We are much more connected and therefore we understand much better what their need is. Now one third of our development time is spent on customer ideas, requests and enhancements.
We used to develop our software in an agile way, but we only had two releases each year. Now the product is updated every week and the goal is to achieve continuous delivery (update whenever we have something ready). Imagine; someone reports a problem and two hours later it is fixed. But that agility goes beyond that. The whole organization has become agile. We can move and change with the speed of light for marketing, sales or whatever. We can respond to the dynamics and opportunities in the market in a way that used to be unthinkable. The age of our team also plays an important role. I’m an old guy (53), but most of our 25 team members are in their twenties, which brings his own dynamics and energy with it. And I love it.
Shared dream and mission
Our team is spread out over three countries. The headquarter and marketing and sales are located in The Netherlands. We have our own incredible development and customer support team in Ukraine (already more than 10 years now) and we have since a few months a marketing and sales support team in Sri Lanka. But all of us now share that same dream and that same mission, giving direction and focus to whatever work we do. We are developing, moving and growing in a way and with a speed that I never imagined possible. And we are just starting up!