Jakub Lenski is founder and CEO of internet startup companies Ecom Pilot and Afiliatree. Ecom Pilot is a subscription-based multi-marketplace search platform that automates product research for online sellers to discover and validate the most popular products based on data analytics from the largest online marketplaces.
Afiliatree is a social enterprise that aims to offset the carbon foortprionts created by e-commerce by planting trees when its users place orders on partner sites. Lenski was formerly a software engineer at semi-conductor company ARM where he worked in their digital solutions group.
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We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Jakub Lenski: I am the founder of Ecom Pilot and Afiliatree, two platforms that are changing the e-commerce landscape. Ecom Pilot is a product discovery and validation tool for e-commerce sellers. We simplify product research by tracking thousands of products across multiple supplier marketplaces like CJDropshipping, AliExpress and US/UK based suppliers to provide real demand data. We remove the guesswork from finding out if a product will sell well by providing real data for our sellers to base their product sourcing decision from.
Afiliatree is a social enterprise that uses affiliate commissions to offset carbon emissions caused by an e-commerce purchase. Long story short, we plant trees for free when you shop online. We’re currently partnered with around 90 UK-based businesses ranging from Asos, JD Sports, Body Shop, Boots and are constantly expanding to reach more shoppers and make shopping online greener.
My expertise and passion lie within tech and e-commerce, which is why you can see that both startups I’m involved with are around implementing new technologies to improve e-commerce. I am democratizing e-commerce and making it green.
2020 and 2021 threw a lot of curve balls into business on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past couple years, how can businesses thrive in 2022? What lessons have you learned?
Jakub Lenski: The pandemic most definitely sped up the disruption across many industries. The reason I say sped up the disruption is because we were all heading toward a remote age either way, with so many technological advancements being made in the way we communicate and work; it just so happened that the pandemic forced the adoption to occur faster.
While I don’t expect a disruption of that scale to happen again any time soon, it is important to realize how much faster the world now moves with the technological advancements made within our societies and industries. What used to take years now takes months or even weeks, which also means it is important for businesses to be fluid.
The fluidity of the business dictates whether it floats or sinks. What I mean by fluidity is its ability to react to current events or trends, be it in a specific industry or a world-event.
I’ve chosen the word fluid carefully; your business shouldn’t be reactive since that indicates you’re not really in control of your mission or strategic direction. Fluid means you respond to the market around you, whether that’s frequent communication with your end-users to ensure you stay on top of trends and new opportunities or making sure you’re in a positive cash flow state ready to capitalize on any event that may occur in your industry.
The pandemic seems to keep on disrupting the economy, what should businesses focus on in 2022? What advice would you share?
Jakub Lenski: 2022 will be a difficult year for businesses with a very high burn-rate and no way of generating revenue or profit. If you’re in that position, you must focus on these two options. First, you can look at ways you can increase revenues. Is there a way you can better serve your current users and increase the lifetime value of each customer?
Or perhaps there’s a new market segment you can access if you switch up your messaging. The second option is looking at ways to reduce burn-rate by reducing costs, and yes that sometimes means making the hard decisions of facing reality and checking people’s performance or certain unnecessary expenses. The former option is always the preferred one, but if it’s not possible, you must go with the latter.
How has the pandemic changed your industry and how have you adapted?
Jakub Lenski: The e-commerce world has significantly increased in size due to the pandemic. There was a surge of Amazon sellers, drop shippers and arbitrage sellers starting online businesses selling everything, from remote working products to the thousands of other niches. Since Ecom Pilot started during the pandemic, we didn’t necessarily need to adapt, but rather ride the wave and help as many sellers, both the new and experienced, find in-demand products to sell online.
What advice do you wish you received when the pandemic started and what do you intend on improving in 2022?
Jakub Lenski: Again, we started during the pandemic so there was not really an opportunity to compare before and after. I will say, however, in 2022 we have been working on improving the way we reach out to potential users and partners. We are building a community, for both Ecom Pilot and Afiliatree, and are working hard to bring value to each of these communities.
Online business surged higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for 2022?
Jakub Lenski: 2022 is turning out to be a hallmark year for us in terms of the level of interest we have received for our two platforms. We expect both businesses to see growth and an increase not only in awareness but of the important role Ecom Pilot and Afiliatree will play in the e-commerce landscape.
How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen?
Jakub Lenski: Too many, especially if we also include phone usage. The only real time I am not in-front of or looking at a screen is when I go on a walk, to the gym or read books. Those hobbies and habits are the only things saving me from all-day screen usage.
The majority of executives use stories to persuade and communicate in the workplace. Can you share with our readers examples of how you implement that in your business to communicate effectively with your team?
Jakub Lenski: The reason stories are so effective is because of how easy it is for them to resonate with people. Compared to simple statements, stories include context such as the emotions, the people and location, all of which paints a clearer picture of the message or moment in their minds.
Whenever I try to teach something, or I’m explaining a decision we’ve made, I like to incorporate a story that will resonate with and give the receiver a greater understanding of the concept, moment or decision. It’s important to realize that stories are only as effective as their relevance to the point you’re trying to make. If you’re trying to explain a product change decision that came from customer feedback, don’t start talking about that life-changing experience you had on a holiday a few years ago as it will just muddle the conversation.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
Jakub Lenski: As an early-stage startup, with my background in technology and bootstrapping previous endeavors, I’m always interested in operating as lean as possible to reach a goal or a point with maximum efficiency. With Ecom Pilot, while we are expanding our affiliate programs and partnerships with various businesses and influencers in the space, we are currently doubling down on ensuring product-market fit by speaking directly with our testers and users.
Even with a product that is generating steady revenue with paying customers and has already helped countless sellers, we want to continue improving the product so that it has its own blue ocean and really does guarantee e-commerce product success. The number of insights we’ve gained from them even in the last few weeks have been tremendous and greatly help us ensure that what we are building is going to help millions of sellers worldwide.
With Afiliatree, we are figuring out how to get the product to go viral. Since it’s a Chrome extension that is completely free to all users, it’s all about building brand awareness and getting it to have a massive impact, first in the UK and then globally. We have a few strategies already in progress and it’s only a matter of time before Afiliatree blows up.
In 2022, what are you most interested in learning about? Crypto, NFTs, online marketing, or any other skill sets? Please share your motivations.
Jakub Lenski: Online marketing, leadership and delegation/team management are the core skills I am concentrating on this year. Based on where Ecom Pilot and Afiliatree are right now, these skills will help propel my startups to the next level. These skills are timeless and transferable enough to really invest in, as they will help me throughout my life and the many other challenges I’ll take on.
A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September in 2021, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation. 47% of people plan to leave their job during 2022. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. Do you think leaders see the data and think “that’s not me – I’m not that boss they don’t want to work for? What changes do you think need to happen?
Jakub Lenski: People’s paradigms, or perspectives, tend to mean that everyone sees the world in their own way. The only way to break it down is by being honest with yourself and speaking with your employees. Remove the ego and put yourself in other people’s shoes by speaking to them and really listening.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Jakub Lenski: Some call it a skill, others may call it a business superpower – delegation. I believe if one was able to delegate the right task to exactly the right person or agency, at the exact right time, the improvement in quality, efficiency and effectiveness would be immeasurable. As someone who’s always relied on getting things done myself, whether it’s getting two startups off the ground or working a full-time job and multitasking a degree, I am still new to effective delegation.
I am getting better, but there is still room for some improvement. As a technical solo founder, I have so many responsibilities, tasks and duties stretching across so many areas that it would be amazing to be able to be a superhuman delegator.
What does “success” in 2022 mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Jakub Lenski: I’ve always taken a philosophical approach to thinking about success and for the past few years I’ve realized success for me surrounds life fulfillment. Rather than basing my success on external or materialistic outcomes such as a certain amount of wealth, fame or impact, I base it on intrinsic factors such as my actions that I do have control over.
While having as much positive impact as possible and building wealth is a goal, I don’t let it define if I am being successful or not. By basing success on whether I am pushing myself far enough, taking enough challenges on, seeing the personal and business growth over a set amount of time, I respond positively to all situations, making me more resilient and enabling me to enjoy life that much more.
When I feel under pressure or perhaps working hard or seeing something not go exactly as planned, I’m able to smile and appreciate that I am fully utilizing my life and experiencing all of it, the ups and the downs. It ties in quite closely to Nietzsche’s view of ubermensch, or the overman/superman, in which he describes that a fulfilling life is one of overcoming, where you’re able to set challenges and goals and work toward overcoming them.
Compared to the hedonic treadmill that identifies you’re never happy as you’ll always want something bigger and better, the idea of overcoming is setting your own goals, regardless of size, to have something to work toward. This will provide trials and tribulations as well as joy and pleasure. I’ve made sure to align my goals with my passions as a tech entrepreneur and working toward making Ecom Pilot and Afiliatree great and having as much impact as possible. This is what gives me that drive every day.
Jerome Knyszewski, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Jakub Lenski for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Jakub Lenski or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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