Connecting SMEs to Business Partners with Enterprise League’s Atanas Georgiev
We sat down with the co-founder of Enterprise League to discuss the challenges of growing a startup during COVID. With Enterprise League, businesses can leverage partnerships with other SMEs anywhere in the world. Connecting with companies to collaborate on projects, share knowledge, experience, and trade products are the essence of our online platform.
Enterprise League – Understanding eCommerce readers, enjoy an exclusive 20% off with the code WELCOME-UEC when signing up.
Good afternoon. We are here today with Atanas Georgiev – and hopefully, I didn’t kill that too severely – with Enterprise League. What is Enterprise League?
Enterprise League aims to be the world’s B2B collaboration platform helping small and medium enterprises and startups collaborate more closely – through finding clients, establishing partnerships, and learning insights from each other.
Why do we need another platform? We have LinkedIn; we have other outlets. Why do we need another one?
The core of the idea came from a personal issue that my co-founder had while working for small companies. She was looking for a particular type of service for evaluating a product to obtain a certificate for a product in Germany. It was tough to find this specific type of company, and just the searching of this particular issue brought us to a situation where we thought how great it would be to have one place or search for these types of services you’re looking for.
We had a look at the market, what was back then, the only way to find this was through directories; however, directories have many old companies that are not active.
And technically, companies don’t sign up for directories, but they’re just plugged in through some data channel, and you have a bunch of company data for them. These companies don’t even know that they’re on this directory most of the time and when you contact some of these companies – they don’t know that you’ve contacted them through there. You come out of the blue, so there is already a disadvantage.
What we’re aiming to do is to have a platform where companies have signed up knowingly. Other companies can reach out to them for collaboration.
When did you start this?
We started working on the project in 2018; we launched it in late 2019.
How many companies are on the platform?
There are a bit over 100,000 companies at the moment.
What kind of feedback have you been getting?
It depends on the different functionality. We’ve been getting feedback that there are many ways to search; sometimes, users are even overwhelmed by the amount of information that comes through. We’re working on simplifying this because users want something fast and easy.
Initially, we went through a powerful engine that gives you a lot of information. That was probably some of the most valuable feedback that we got. Others have found precisely what they’ve been looking for—for example, a software development company for a specific issue. We’re talking about something particular in some small country where it needs to be linked with one of their banks which has some specific software. These sort of things. Also, finding new suppliers has been a great function that companies have liked.
And we’ve had some interesting suggestions on increasing collaboration, which we didn’t initially anticipate, but companies came looking for that.
Initially, we wanted to give them a place to do business. But it became clear that companies want more collaboration. We’ve been pleasantly surprised by their suggestions, so we’re working on even more features in that area.
How many languages do you support?
Currently, we only support English on the platform. We wanted to avoid having an option where a company, for example, in Germany, sends a message to a company in the UK in German, and we have to take care of the whole translation between companies. This is why we said we keep it English until the market says otherwise.
How many countries are you currently serving?
We have companies in 93 countries at the moment. We’re primarily in the UK, the US, South Africa, Nigeria, India, and Eastern Europe, including Macedonia, Ukraine, Romania, and Poland.
Is this your first startup?
Yes and no, the first official – we had worked on one idea before, but after six to eight months, we realized that we gave up on the idea once we made a proper market analysis. So, I would consider it the first vision.
Is it the two of you – you and your business partner?
Two of us are the co-founders, and we have ten people in total in the team.
Are you bootstrapped, or do you have outside money or equity?
We’re entirely self-funded with the help of friends and family. We’re looking to see how it goes and maybe get funding in the future, but we haven’t even tried to get funding so far.
As a startup, what has been the biggest challenge for you?
One of the biggest challenges for me – since I look very closely after the product – has been what we envisioned. We designed the product to work in an ideal scenario where we have many users, and everyone knows how to use the platform. This has probably been the biggest mistake.
We should have understood that we have a vision of where we’re going and understood that users would not know how it works initially. Also, there won’t be as many users, so we had to revamp our thinking completely.
We had to start building step by step; I would say this was probably the most significant challenge since we spent a lot of time without actually getting feedback, and when we launched – it was a bit of a shock for us.
That’s common when people start up do startups. They ignore the market and try to build something, and then the market tells them what they really should be doing.
We didn’t ignore the market, but the way we looked at it was the ideal scenario. If we had understood that back then that all the companies won’t know how to use the platform, it would have been easier. It would have been great, but that’s the piece that we were missing.
What makes the collaboration piece so unique?
We’ve wondered why companies still want to collaborate on our platform even though there are places like Linkedin and Facebook groups. I’m personally in some of these Facebook groups for entrepreneurs, but I think they want to share knowledge still.
Traditionally, they usually do this on blogs. As a company, you typically have a blog, and you try to build up this trust that you are an expert in something. The collaboration explores the concept of having another company somewhere else in the world doing the same thing as you’re doing or something very similar. Learning from their experience has been mind-blowing for some of our users because now, in Australia, someone might be doing the same thing that we’re doing here in the UK, having the same problem. So why not just get together, share this knowledge and help each other grow.
I noticed that your product has three tiers. Can you explain that?
We offer three plans – first the basic plan where we allow everyone to get a feel of the product and get a sense of what functionalities – you can do publish a deal, visit companies, comment on other companies or message them – but all the features are limited to a point. Let’s say a limited of five deals per month or something similar.
This is the free version, correct?
Yes, we offer the basic version for free. The next plan is what we call the standard version; It has a bit more um functionality in terms of how you can get them featured on our blog, shared with thousands of entrepreneurs, and on our social media channels.
the final option is the premium plan, where you can have unlimited access to everything, and we help you optimize your profile on the platform so that you can target the specific
Companies you want to reach you – what fields you complete, what kind of products, the description for the products, or maybe licenses and certificates you have.
If you remember, I mentioned, in the beginning, the initial problem was related to certification, so we’ve included a specific piece in the platform you can add what kind of certificates you have.
Then you have the different sections – some of it’s about lead generation, some of it’s about collaboration. Can you walk us through that?
Yes, we offer four main areas. The first one, deals, was the very initial idea we had for the platform, where you post what you’re looking for so that other companies can submit a proposal. For example, suppose I’m looking for a software development company which is based in Poland. In that case, polish software development companies are going to apply to this say, “Hey, we’re doing this this this and why you should choose us.”
You go through this list of applications and choose which ones to respond to. In the end, you select the right partner, the same thing if you’re looking to sell something or buy some product. The same concept you choose a buy or a deal based on your needs is the deal zone; the next one is the directory, simple as the name suggests. A search engine based on various criteria where find a company that you’re looking for.
Then, we have a marketplace. It still needs a lot of work, but the essence is you publish your products here. You can search by-products and find the products you’re potentially interested in. when I’m saying products, I also mean products and services.
For example, you can contact the company to find more information about this service or product I’m interested in or collaborate this way.
It is more of a passive way to get leads. When you’re posting a deal, it an active form of looking for something.
When you post your offerings – products and services – you’re putting out there what you offer, and other companies can reach out to you. That’s the marketplace.
Finally, we have what we call the knowledge hub. At the moment, it’s a simple post of what we expect to be something useful for other entrepreneurs and companies on the platform, but we’re looking to make it a lot more structured.
For example, there are three types of posts in the knowledge hub. one is a specific tip on a topic linked to particular categories, so different companies can benefit from this. Then you have specific insights on what we are sharing or learning. Lastly, we will be repurposing our content from the blog, which is highly specific from experts on entrepreneurship, into the platform; we also benefit from some companies’ expertise in creating content in the knowledge hub.
What type of companies are attracted to the platform? Are you looking at smaller companies? Bigger companies? What does the average profile look like?
I would say 90% of the companies have less than 100 employees. We’re very intensely focused on small to medium companies. This also includes startups because we know they have limited resources to do some of the things we’re trying to help with.
For example, if you’re a big company, it’s no problem for you to pay someone to find you a lead or as a new supplier. But when you have limited resources, then it becomes a lot more complicated. This is our target audience; small and medium companies help them grow and empower them to collaborate. We want to unleash the potential of small companies.
Beyond some of the other challenges that you mentioned, how has it been growing a team? You started with two founders, and now you have a bunch of folks working for you. What’s that like?
Honestly, I love it. It’s been so exciting inspirational, and I’ve interviewed every candidate that we’ve had joining our team. I like meeting new people and learning something from everyone, and trying to get the fit of people whose skills complement each other.
Different backgrounds create diversity. How that all comes together, resulting in new ideas. I’m very focused on getting everyone in the team to give their flavor to the product. I don’t want to be the only one saying this is what we’re going to do or why because I don’t know the client sets over the data set, I still want to get a feel from everyone’s opinion.
It’s been challenging at times, but in general, I enjoy just growing the team and envisioning where is the next step. Now we have ten people in the group, but what’s the next step when we get 20 to 30 to 50? how will we organize a team? to me, that’s very exciting, and I look forward to scaling and getting more people involved in this ambitious mission.