“We want to be the leading storage vendor in the world,” shares his vision Boyan Ivanov, founder and CEO of software-defined storage company StorPool. But there’s also a long way to go, he admits.
Founded in 2012, his company has developed a technology that ranks it next to IBM, Oracle, and Google in its specific category – distributed data storage that enables businesses to work with their data reliably and efficiently. StorPool has raised a modest amount of external capital: €200K from local investors LAUNCHub Ventures at the very beginning, then an extended seed round in 2014, and since then has managed to grow organically, finally turning into one of the very few profitable storage companies in the world.
In the past years, the company has been growing steadily to a turnover of several million and profitability last year, securing clients in about 30 countries with a team of 25 people and constantly enhancing its product. At the end of the first quarter of 2020, StorPool announced it has again reached over 40% revenue growth as many businesses started to rely on their online presence.
And this, as much as it is an achievement, is also a challenge for one of the few companies in Bulgaria that we could consider scaleups. StorPool has already found the scalable business model and is growing rapidly but will have to move to the next level now.
Facing the big Silicon Valley players
Although technologically advanced, constantly launching new product enhancements and with a growing business in Europe, the US and the Asia Pacific, StorPool is still early on when it comes to market share. “Among cloud and hosting clients we are already a recognized brand, even though we have a small market share,” says Boyan Ivanov. Clients of the company are usually large public and private cloud builders, enterprises, MSPs, SaaS, hosting, and cloud providers. “StorPool has an extremely high-quality product, wrapped in outstanding technical support, resulting in just 0.96% churn (the rate at which customers stop doing business with the company- ed. n.) and an amazing 73% NPS (Net Promoter Score – the willingness of consumers to recommend your product, ed.n.), way above the top industry benchmarks. These are some of the key drivers of our growth, alongside our amazing team,” explains the CEO in an official announcement about the latest development of the company.
Half of StorPool’s business is currently in Europe and is growing also in the US (30%). According to the CEO, it’s sometimes a matter of one large client and contract that could change this proportion and double the revenues. Boyan Ivanov is convinced they’ve found the right scalable model that already allows the company to attract clients of this scale. Yet to be able to continue on an exponential growth curve and be able to bite a larger piece of the big brands’ market pie, there’s one important next step – to find a way to scale the team and the structure of the company.
“We are in a stage when we’ll have to face some of the strongest players in the world. If we want to be able to get their market share and customers we need to scale and reorganize. There are three challenges StorPool has – to optimize the product management, to re-engineer its product for specific customers on specific markets, and to change the internal structure so we are able to grow exponentially,” says Boyan Ivanov.
The know-how gap: scaling a product company
Given the fact that there are so few product scaleups in Bulgaria, there’s also a lack of know-how about the “micromechanics of success”. He’s now at the point where he needs to turn a 25 people team (and constantly growing) that has just passed the startup stage and feeling into a more enterprise structure.
While hiring for several positions, the company is also looking for ways to structure the teams in the most suitable way for the next big leap. “The flat structure doesn’t work anymore, but we are also quite far away from large scale organization,” explains the CEO who’s currently talking to other founders on the market who’ve been in his situation and trying to figure out a way to reorganize the team. This according to him is also very valuable knowledge that the local ecosystem needs to accumulate to be able to make it to the next level.
In the next 12 to 18 months, StorPool and Boyan Ivanov will be focusing on growth. A next investment round is not excluded, but not a priority. “We need to keep our status of one of the few profitable players in the market while continuing to grow exponentially. To develop the team and the structure will be our first priority,” he says.