CEO of Boxmode Max Yarchevsky has been an active in the technology sector for over twenty years, after owning a personal computer at three years old. He first began as a tech entrepreneur by starting Depositphotos, which is “one of the world’s most successful stock photography sharing platforms…with millions of users globally.”
Currently, Max Yarchevsky runs Boxmode, an “award-winning website builder operating across over 190 countries.” Boxmode was born out of Max’s wealth of experience in building tech products for the worldwide market. Prior to Boxmode, he also joined Ning, a “platform for creating social networking websites that’s been on the global scene for 16 years.” He was the company’s COO, and later became the CEO. The experience he gained as an executive at Ning gave him the “necessary industry expertise” to launch Boxmode.
Max Yarchevsky started Boxmode just before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Despite the difficult times and the challenges of facing market giants Wix and WordPress, “powered by thousands of employees,” Boxmode has quietly been making a name for itself.
In just nine months, Max Yarchevsky saw Boxmode has “persuaded 25k+ happy users to entrust [us] with empowering their business.”
In 2020, Max Yarchevsky and Boxmode have also received Quality Choice and Trusted Vendor Awards from Crozdesk, a UK-based business software discovery platform with global operations.
As a startup, you have the advantage of offering cool things for free or much cheaper and quickly growing your customer base. Max Yarchevsky, CEO of Boxmode
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Max Yarchevsky: Thank you for having me. Well, I guess the fact that I got my first PC at age three paints a pretty clear picture. 🙂 I never graduated from university but have always been a great fan of technology. This passion led me to co-create and be the CTO of Depositphotos. It’s a globally renowned photo stock platform. Later, I became the CEO of Ning, a global platform for crafting social networking websites.
Today, I’m the CEO and founder of website builder Boxmode operating across over 190 countries. People keep asking me why I decided to launch yet another website builder. The thing is this market has been growing for the past 10–15 years and is not slowing down.
Besides, almost all the products currently available in this niche are outdated. I know this from experience. I’ve used various website builders for marketing activities when I needed to do something fast. They all lacked functionality. Nothing is surprising about that, though. Most website builders are tailored to meet the specific needs of users from a particular niche — and nothing beyond that. This made me toy with the idea of creating my own website builder.
One of my biggest wins on this path has been to become the CTO and later CEO of Ning. Its product has functionality like that of website builders, albeit less cutting-edge than the modern market requires. But, Ning has active users whom you can ask questions about the product and the necessary expertise in promoting website builders.
Eventually, I got the idea of what a perfect website builder should look like. Boxmode was born in 2017 when we wrote the first line of code. Back then, it was a pet project of mine. We had neither a budget nor high-level professionals to power it. It wasn’t until early 2020 that we launched the MVP..
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Max Yarchevsky: There are so many things that can demotivate a website builder founder. One of them, and arguably the most important one, is that the market has a high entry threshold. You need a considerable investment not only before but also after launching the product.
Money’s necessary for starting a company that can afford to grow as a startup and not a classic business. Classic businesses have to break even almost immediately. Meanwhile, startups in this field are unlikely to reach the break-even point any sooner than five years into operating, even if you start monetizing from the word go.
Being a startup gives you the freedom not to play by the market rules. Current market players undercut pricing significantly. But if you follow their suit, you’ll fail to provide more valuable offerings that are more expensive to develop. Then, the product is unlikely to grow the way you expect.
As a startup, you have the advantage of offering cool things for free or much cheaper and quickly growing your customer base. That’s what we’re doing at Boxmode now.
That said, attracting an investor for Boxmode was the hardest thing I had to do. Many investors I approached said no to putting money into such a long-term project. So, I know how tough this can be. What helped me was sticking to these tips:
- Keep going.
- Be in the know of what’s going on in the market.
- Keep looking for investors actively investing in your industry.
- Define and improve key metrics, which your target investors factor in when making investment decisions. These can be retention, the number of active users, brand awareness and so on.
- Create a pitch deck and update it regularly.
- Look around and incorporate the best practices from other companies into your business.
- Know that one day your efforts will pay off.
No matter how hard things have been, I’ve never wanted to give up. I believe in the idea behind Boxmode too much. Another thing that keeps me going is my team. Assembling my team took me three years, and I’m proud of every one of them. Every time, we manage to find professionals who are better than their predecessors.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Max Yarchevsky: Let me tell you about our biggest mistake instead. 🙂 It was our decision to develop a customizable website builder. Our first users knew what they wanted to do while testing the prototype. But they couldn’t choose which tool to use. The selection of instruments was too big.
Long story short, the project’s first version was not viable at all. We had to remake the interface and simplify the UX to satisfy users with no technical or designer skills. These users account for the biggest part of the market.
What have we learned? Do your research before doing anything else. Don’t use average market data. Interview real users. Find those customers who you want to work with and get real-life feedback from them.
How many customers do you need to interview before getting the full picture? No one knows for sure. From my experience, interviewing three to five users is usually enough. The trick is to be certain they are your target audience.
Being a purpose-driven business is a necessary thing. But I would suggest that only financially stable companies should become purpose-driven. Max Yarchevsky
Jerome Knyszewski: Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.
Max Yarchevsky: I can think of four vital things business leaders should do:
- Understand where and why they lead the company, whose needs it has to meet.
- Gather single-minded professionals. These pros should be more experienced in their fields than the leaders themselves.
- Be ready to pivot. Current goals can change, and it’s OK.
- Engage the team in making tactical and strategic decisions alike.
These are basic things that influence all the subsequent decisions and their outcomes. If business leaders stick to these rules, it’s hard to mess up.
Jerome Knyszewski: Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?
Max Yarchevsky: Being a purpose-driven business is a necessary thing. But I would suggest that only financially stable companies should become purpose-driven.
Until then, the priority should be to build their core product to the best of their ability. This way, they’ll serve humanity with something they are best at.
But your biggest conversion goal should be to convert first-time users into loyal users. Loyal users recommend your product to their friends and can become your brand ambassadors.
Jerome Knyszewski: As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience, what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?
Max Yarchevsky: There are dozens of big and little things that help businesses boost conversion at the top of the sales funnel. Among them are brand awareness and user recommendations. The product being cutting edge or beautifully designed helps the matter, too.
But your biggest conversion goal should be to convert first-time users into loyal users. Loyal users recommend your product to their friends and can become your brand ambassadors. That’s the conversion you should focus on, and here’s where your product comes into play. It should meet the needs of your target audience better than any other product in this niche. That’s the secret sauce.
Jerome Knyszewski: Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
Max Yarchevsky: Everyone uses the same set of tools to create a trusted and beloved brand. These include acquisition, retention, PR, and SMM. There is no need to reinvent the wheel here. Every step has been studied, explained and taken thousands of times.
But before you communicate with your audience, you should understand it perfectly well. It’s insufficient to define social and demographic groups your users belong to. Nor is it enough to know their general needs. What you should do is to talk to people who’ve used and liked or disliked your product directly. Ask them what they find useful and what irritates them. It’s no less important to use the knowledge you get to adjust your positioning. It would help if you also used it to tweak your communication and product strategy.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Max Yarchevsky: I would be glad to connect with your readers on LinkedIn.
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!