Persollo co-founder Olga Oleinikova can sum up her advice for aspiring entrepreneurs in two words: “be courageous”.
Ukrainian-born Oleinikova left her job at a major market research company to launch the social commerce and influencer marketing start-up with co-founder Kyrylo Medvediev in mid-2015.
Making the jump will always be risky, be can ultimately be hugely rewarding, she said.
“If you want to try new things it’ll always be a risk – the other option is to stay and do nothing,” Oleinikova said.
“The higher the risk the higher the reward. The personal choice for people is if they want to risk it to do something life changing and get the reward, or choose a comfortable life with a stable job, but with a lack of creativity and ability to make decisions.
“If you have an idea, try to implement it and if you fail, that’s fine. The experience will be amazing. It’s better to regret your failures than regret that you haven’t done anything.”
Persollo offers a “world-first platform for targeted social selling powered by data and artificial intelligence”.
The Sydney-based startup provides a single-page instant checkout feature to its clients, facilitating click-through payments straight from a social media network post.
The initial idea came from frustration with the amount of clicks required to purchase something online, and the lack of sales this caused.
“We wanted to simplify the journey of the buyer from seeing a product on social media they like, to purchasing it,” Oleinikova said.
“Today’s experience on Facebook is someone is following New Balance, they’re shown an image of some new shoes on Facebook, and then to buy them they’re redirected to a website.
“They then have to leave the platform to start that journey and go through seven or eight clicks. It’s too complicated and brands are losing people through this complicated and exhausting process.”
The company has now worked with over 700 businesses in 16 countries, including heavyweights like New Balance, Sunglass Hut and Marie Claire.
The company has also discovered a new category of clients that its offering benefits greatly: social media influencers.
“Influencers can coordinate with a brand, and include the instant checkout in their post,” Oleinikova said. “We’ve married e-commerce with influencer marketing. They haven’t had any means to sell on social media – with us they just include the instant checkout and earn a commission.”
Oleinikova previously worked in market research at TNS Global in the Ukraine and has also completed a PhD in philosophy from the University of Sydney. She also serves as an advisor to the Australia-Ukraine Chamber of Commerce and is the co-founder and director of the Ukraine Democracy Initiative.
The startup initially working with small sole traders and micro businesses before evolving the product for larger clients.
“Three and a half years ago we were serving small merchants like people handcrafting soap at home, so they didn’t have to create websites,” Oleinikova said.
“That’s evolved into working with brands and agencies, mostly with bigger brands and agencies. They’re using our technology for influencer marketing and instant checkout with analytics.”
The Persollo team has always worked closely with its own customers to find out what they want from the product and to guide its development.
“Everything we have on our platform is what people asked us to build,” she said. “We started very small and very simple with a one-page checkout function that allowed you to make a transaction, and a dashboard to see all the orders. It was as simple as that.
“The clients started to ask for more features and we delivered that. The way the product is today and how it works today is all based on the user’s requests. We never built anything before we knew there was a demand, and we’re still building.”
“For us it was quite a smooth journey from development and delivering results, and it was all based on consumer demand.”
Providing analytics to go with the instant checkout service is the next step of this natural journey, Oleinikova said.
“We’re tapping into the analytics space, with tools to analyse and measure influencer performance,” she said. “Just a few companies are doing that so far and it’s a fantastic market opportunity.”
Persello’s team is now made up of 12 people in Sydney and over in the Ukraine. The start-up’s founder have successfully completed two accelerator programs: the University of Sydney’s Incubate program and Telstra’s muru-D.
“We were pragmatic from the beginning, and then we raised some money and that helped us to scale,” Oleinikova said. “We had a good combination of paying clients and were pragmatic in spending as well. Pragmatism and practicality helped us to get where we are today.”
Olga Oleinikova will be appearing at the ACS NSW event Smart Money: Innovation and Disruption in Fintech in Sydney on 30 May. Tickets are available here.