Perfony is one of those startups that’s not broke, not in the seedy part of town, and not run by twenty-somethings. It’s quite a different animal: it’s one of those startups done by established entrepreneurs who got an idea, raised funding through their existing network, and quietly started building a business leveraging their business experience.
In other words, a recipe for success! CEO Lionel Pasco is a well-spoken forty-something partner in a consultancy. With an MBA and countless years in business consulting, he makes for an excellent CEO of a startup. His co-founder and CTO has similar credentials, plus all the tech skills you can hope for. So team-wise, this startup scores high points.
The real-life problem they are trying to solve is that meetings in large corporations are a big fat waste of time. Now – I know that’s stating the obvious, but what is being done about this? Changing corporate culture in a megacorp is trying at the best of times. Making explicit that actual money and time are being wasted, Lionel points out that you should take the duration of the meeting, and take all the salaries of all the people around the table, and calculate the cost of a meeting that way. And even that’s understating it – those fancy conference rooms themselves also have an associated cost, plus potentially people travelling for the meeting. All with all, a big fat waste, and a big cost-sink for your typical megacorp.
The solution that Perfony offers is to make meetings more effective. They do this by offering a web-based tool that helps people prepare for a meeting, that allows you to run a meeting more effectively, and to get a clear ‘action-plan’, with follow-up after the meeting. It’s also a reporting tool – it uses a complex set of criteria to determine the quality of a meeting, that can be used as a tool for high-level management who is unable to attend most meetings.
Their special sauce is two-fold: first of all, no one has ever built a meeting-centric tool like this. Even though in reality the feature set overlaps with more common task management tools, the meeting centric aspect is truly new. The other part of their special sauce is that the reporting part is based on their expertise from the consulting branch, and really tries to do a root-cause analysis – insofar that’s ever possible with current-era technology. But as a poor man’s consulting session, it’s potentially very effective.
The business model is a classic SaaS play: you pay per user per month. The exact pricing is ‘somewhere between €10 and €18 per user per month’.
So far, so good. But doesn’t common sense dictate that these meetings are a waste of time, no matter how effectively they are run? Shouldn’t these people be behind their desks doing their actual job instead of talking endlessly? Can’t this meeting be replaced by a group email? This is where it becomes visible that the disconnect between traditional big-business and the consultants that cater to it, and the modern startup world, where, the word meeting has all but vanished from the dictionary, is truly a gigantic canyon.
Does this mean that the tool is pointless? No. The culture of large companies, for better or for worse, will continue to exist. Every small incremental improvement is a gain of time, money, and ultimately, sanity, so this tool definitely has its place, and if you’re going to attack this particular problem, this is definitely the way to do it.
Perfony also avoided some classic startup mistakes: They talked to their clients extensively while building the product, showing sketches and partial versions and asked for feedback. It should be noted that they did this instinctively, without ever reading The Lean Startup or Steve Blank’s wise words.
Their funding situation is what you would expect: partially funded via the consultancy, and some angel money raised through some angel investors in their existing network. They hope to do a VC round in 2013, and are mostly looking across the Atlantic for that.
Whatever we think of megacorporations and their archetypical endless and pointless meetings, the sad reality is that they will continue to exist for a long time to come. So any and all efforts to improve them, or at least make them mercifully shorter, should be applauded. Perfony is a rock-solid execution machine, gaining traction quietly and efficiently. I expect shorter meetings any moment now!