Podcast: The early years of Quorso and what we learnt along the way

Last month, Julian and Sophie were invited by Startup Secrets to chat about building a technology idea into a global business. They share their experiences and learnings from the perspectives of a CEO and CMO respectively.

Listen to the conversation in full in the player above, otherwise read on for our highlights from the discussion.

The original idea that Quorso grew from

  • Julian was in Germany working for a car hire client. He visited one branch which was fantastically run, despite the remainder of the company struggling.
  • The question he began to ask himself was how businesses could find the managers who were getting it right in specific branches, stores, restaurants or hotels – and replicate their success across the whole organization, making those exceptional locations the norm for the business.

What clients does Quorso help?

  • Quorso works best for sectors that have strong operational processes at their core, with weekly or monthly management meetings to review performance.
  • As a result, we tend to work mostly with sectors than are reliant on these weekly meetings as part of their operations: retail, fast-food restaurants, and hotels.
  • The world is talking about giving these companies more data, but if you really want to drive performance improvement, you'll need to focus on strengthening your operational processes and your use of this data.

Have any of your assumptions changed?

  • We started off focusing solely on the front-line managers, but came to appreciate that the layers of management throughout the business are vitally important.
  • We now think more holistically about a network of managers, regional managers, and central teams – throughout the hierarchy and across functions.

Did you have to be forceful in getting clients to adopt the tool, or did uptake happen easily and naturally?

  • The uptake has been great – 92% of Quorso users take action to improve their businesses every week. That's not just a log in – that's deep engagement.
  • In addition to its intuitive interface, the collaborative element of Quorso has been key to driving engagement and quality of output.
  • Of the actions that managers take, 70% drive improvement. 30% destroy it. Learning rapidly which actions lead to which outcome is invaluable information.
  • Quorso measures the user's individual contribution to overall business performance improvement, so they can get the satisfaction of seeing their impact in the same way they might quantify and track their health through apps.

For people thinking of starting a company, what does the first year look like?

  • It took a solid four months to work out the statistics and core maths that drives the system.
  • It was then about finding a way to build it – after reviewing options we decided to build our engineering team out of Ukraine.
  • On the fundraising side, we bootstrapped for two years before going for VC funding.

What's the process of going from an idea and an MVP, to a fully functional product that can go to market?

  • It's all about finding the right people – you'll have to kiss a couple of frogs before finding the right fit. If you compromise it won't work out.
  • We feel really lucky to have curated an engineering team who are deeply excited by the mission, and keen to take on the challenge of what is a very difficult build.
  • The most crucial bit is the initial few hires to the team – good engineers want to work with good engineers.

How do you keep connected across a global team?

  • The right culture and ethos are important – collaboration, energy, and fluidity between roles.
  • Tips for making remote working work: co-locating people when kicking off new initiatives; visiting each other frequently; speaking a couple of hours a day via video conferencing; pairing across geographies; live streams of offices into others.

What was your funding journey like?

  • We started with the ambition that we didn't want external funding. We didn't want to be torn between what was right for investors and what was right for our customers.
  • After a couple of years, it became apparent that the solution that was required was just too big to bootstrap, so we took funding – about $12 million so far.
  • We deliberately tried to find investors who had experience and therefore an empathy with the problem we were trying to solve.

What are the branding and marketing challenges for a complex tool like Quorso?

  • Quorso has a lot of different applications for lots of different businesses. This makes it a challenge for marketing to communicate the benefits in a succinct yet cohesive way, as they are so diverse at a granular level.
  • Quorso streamlines and digitalizes the entire performance management process. This involves a four-stage cycle:

1) Surfaces opportunities – the analytics part of the Quorso platform carries out a robust analysis to fund opportunities at the store level, then serves these opportunities to store managers in a prioritized and relevant way, suggesting the specific, granular causes of poor performance.

2) Drives action – having been guided as to which opportunities to focus on, frontline managers create plans within the Quorso app to state how they will work toward achieving them.

3) Measures impact – the tool then looks at the data week to week, tracking every action taken and reporting on the impact that each plan is having on performance.

4) Scales success – poorly performing plans can be stopped in their tracks, and successful ones can be shared throughout the business to create a dynamic playbook of best practice and fresh ideas.

  • Individually these are powerful pieces of functionality, but the impact when they're put together into a single process is far greater than the sum of its parts. You begin to drive critical momentum to business improvement.
  • The key differentiator between Quorso and its competitors is that they're only point solutions which deal with segregated parts of the process: Quorso seamlessly and frictionlessly does all four. That's the primary focus of our proposition, and hence our messaging.

What do the next few years look like for Quorso?

  • Growing into the US, to be bigger than we are currently in Europe.
  • Transform store performance and restore profit to some of the world's best-loved brands, to make sure they're still with us all in the future.
  • Deliver a self-serve approach that allows for an even more rapid set up for businesses. We can already get clients up and running in 2-3 weeks, but we're confident we can streamline this to deliver even more immediate positive business improvement.

Any more tips?

  • Get the right people on board who bring intelligence and energy.
  • Engineers are critical – if your platform doesn't deliver, then the business won't work out.
  • Just go for it. Enjoy it! And work with the best people you can because that's what's going to make the difference.

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