Meet the Masters: Viktoras Jucikas, YPlan
With just over two months to go before the 2015 Digital Masters Awards, we caught up with the winner of last year’s Excellence in Product category, Viktoras Jucikas, Founder of YPlan about keeping it simple, the challenges of hiring, and of course, Pharrell.
YPlan launched at the end of 2012. Since then you’ve brought the app to over 1,500,000 customers worldwide. What do you think has been the secret to such rapid growth?
The value of simplicity and convenience can never be underestimated. Dropbox, TransferWise, Uber, they all have a simple proposition that is easy to understand and a product which satisfies a genuine need. Before YPlan, if you wanted to book tickets for something you had to search multiple listings sites, find a vendor to buy tickets from and then print them off. It was a time consuming process. With our app you can browse a curated selection of the best events, book in two taps and go. It takes all the hassle out of planning a day out, and Londoners are particularly time poor.
Arguably, the genius of the YPlan app is its simplicity (it takes just two taps to book an event). How did you approach this from a product development perspective?
Understanding our MVP was crucial. Before launching YPlan we stripped everything back so that only the core features were left. We tested a prototype on as many friends and family as possible so that we could get feedback quickly. That early testing, coupled with a relentless focus on customer data helps us stay in touch with what people want. We can adapt our product accordingly to ensure that we’re always giving people exactly what they need.
You’ve quickly rolled out the app in London, New York and San Francisco. How were you able to scale so quickly in multiple markets?
Rather than thinking of it as expanding an existing service, we considered each location as a completely fresh start. People in different cities have different tastes and needs, so we needed to make sure our product was a good fit for them.
Where’s next for expansion?
We’ve got a number of exciting product developments that we plan to ship throughout 2015 so have grown our engineering, product and developer teams to account for that workload. Once the roll out is complete we’ll turn our to growing our international footprint.
What are you most proud of when it comes to the YPlan journey so far?
It’s hard to choose, but hitting 500,000 customers in just on year; closing our $24 million Series B round and launching in New York with Pharrell Williams (who subsequently joined us as an advisor) are definitely all strong contenders.
In the past you have commented on the difficulty of finding great product talent in Europe. Why do you think this is, and what do you think needs to happen for this situation to improve?
We need to create long-term incentives which encourage development and integration. Universities should work closely with technology companies and start-ups to nurture the next generation of developers and labour laws should be made such that anyone willing to work for a UK start-up should be granted that right within days not months.
What qualities do you most prize in a potential hire?
Obviously you want to make sure that the people you hire are experts in their field, but more than that, they need to be a good fit for the company culturally. As an organisation grows, making sure that everyone feels comfortable in each other’s company and is open to collaboration (whether you’re working in the same department or not) helps ensure that the team stays unified. If you understand your core cultural values in the early stages it gives you a criteria you can recruit against.
If you weren’t doing this job, what would you both be doing instead?
Playing basketball. My Co-Founder Rytis and I met on the basketball court I’m still a massive Kauno “Žalgiris” fan.