CEO Roy Man and CTO Eran Zinman
Insight Venture Partners, Entrée Capital, Genesis Partners, and Avishai Abrahami
Early this month, Dapulse announced that its name was being changed to monday.com. "We chose the name because it arouses strong emotional responses, both positive and negative," said CEO Roy Man. "The new name is designed to start a real and sincere conversation about the challenges that arise when people work together – the very challenges that we’re working very hard to solve."
This is exactly what monday.com does – it develops enterprise project management tools. If you work, or have worked, in a company, it is likely that you have come across at least one such tool. Some enterprises use joint spreadsheets, but this solution is not necessarily efficient.
This problem engaged Eran Zinman and Man, who developed Dapulse, a project management tool suitable for teams and enterprises in different sectors and of various sizes. When you ask them how they define their product, they smile. "It sounds like something that I wouldn’t want to use," Man says with a chuckle. "Actually, the company was founded following our painful and unsuccessful use of other tools on the market."
You're talking about a project management tool – a functional and not very sexy product.
"That’s true," Man admits. "The problem we’re trying to solve is the fact that today’s tools don’t really help work management and synchronization. They do help make a list of tasks, and that’s what we mean to change. We connect everyone, and with transparency. We’re actually the first tool in the field that works under the assumption that there is transparency in the enterprise. What’s important is not the employees’ performance but carrying out the task. Remember the table of employees’ performance from the beginning of the week you saw on the tour we gave you when you came in? Our employees don’t care that everyone sees it. On the contrary; they help each other meet deadlines for tasks."
Although monday.com’s product is unexciting, the company’s offices in Tel Aviv exude a different message. In line with the fashion led by companies like Facebook and Google, little monday.com also tries to give an impression of openness, with as few doors closed as possible. There are doors only to conference rooms, the human resources department’s interview rooms, and the acoustic music room offering a break playing on various instruments ("It was the employees’ choice"). All the rest of the space is open. Management sits in open space, and everyone’s performance can be seen by everyone else.
monday.com currently has 80 employees. "We’re not necessarily interested in employing more people," Man says. "We take care to keep people with us who care. The hiring targets aren’t numerical – just to bring good people. We don’t care about failing on numbers. There are many jobs that are always available with us, such as marketing and development, and they will probably always be available, because we’ll always want more. For us, marketing is the new development."
As is the case with quite a few startups, monday.com’s founders share a common military background – not in the IDF's 8200 signals intelligence unit, but in Unit 9900, the visual intelligence unit, which is also fertile ground for technological innovation. "Several startups have already come from there," Zinman says.
Man says that he became an entrepreneur at an especially young age. "I’ve been building things since I was in seventh grade, and I want people to use them. I had two startups that weren't terribly successful, but you learn from your mistakes. There a big difference between building something good and building another company. Today, I know that I built companies, but they weren’t good enough." Man was an employee at Wix, where he got to know Avishai Abrahami, the CEO of Wix, which later became monday.com’s first customer. "Avishai is on our board now, and he later helped us identify the challenge of harnessing a group of people to work in a certain direction," Man remembers.
Zinman : "We worked in high-tech companies, and felt that the existing tools didn’t really serve the enterprise. Both of us were constantly frustrated about this. Other project management tools may be able to help a small team, but they don’t have synchronization with other teams and the rest of the enterprise. We wondered why there wasn’t one tool that got everyone working together that was both intuitive and enjoyable to use, something that didn’t require learning, implementation, and difficult courses."
Man : "The existing tools, which always require a long time to learn, also make the users their slaves. That makes people hate them, and they especially hate 'that thing that bothers me and reminds me to update and use it.'"
Zinman : "I worked at Conduit (now Como), and those tools were useful for me vis-a-vis the team, but my colleagues never used them. I said that it made no sense that there wasn’t anything that simply helped you communicate…." "Communicate like a human being," Man finishes the sentence.
Zinman : "That’s right. Our idea was to create a product that solves this in the most visual way possible. Whoever opens the product can see and understand what the process is, where things got stuck, and what has been achieved. You can see what’s happening with a single glance. That’s exactly what our system does."
The idea for this system came up in late 2012, but the first product was officially launched only in 2014. During this time, they studied the market. Man: "We saw a lot of managers in the first year, and that’s how we understood their problems. They were mostly from high tech, but even then, we realized that with everyone, what is difficult and challenging is communication with other people. It changes companies. Sometimes, it’s just someone not knowing to what extent and why his delay is holding up somebody else’s work and harming the entire company."
They claim that this can be prevented.
Zinman : "In every company we met, there was some mysterious Excel sheet. It gave us the inspiration that there was an urgent need to simplify things."
Is your target market enterprises of a specific size?
Man : "At the beginning we aimed only at what we knew – mainly high-tech companies. Today, however, we see that we have success everywhere, and 70% of our customers are even non-tech. If you want numbers, we now have customers from 135 countries. Our customers have between two and 1,300 teams, and are from 200 different sectors, such as construction, architecture, and catering. Uber is also a customer of ours. Since we founded the company, we have been doubling the number of our customers every six months. We now have 16,000 paying customers; a year ago, we had 4,000.
"Our bread and butter is letting the team know what to do without the manager telling it. The software development industry has advanced a great deal in recent years, and tools like Scrum have been created (a tool for managing software teams, S.D.), but the rest of the world uses different methods. We’re bringing the same method to everyone.
"The product not only sounds simple – it also looks that way. A file appears on the screen in which the columns can be ordered in a table according to different needs and the specifications, with different colors, urgency, and updates. Every "brick" is clickable, and can be used for access to email, and so forth."
You spoke about transparency and openness. What about discretion? What if someone doesn’t want everyone to know that he or she is the slow one holding up the process?
Man : "If someone is supposed to be discreet, a board can be created to which only some people are invited. But there’s something habit forming about finishing tasks and having everyone see and know. With us, if someone does something well, everyone praises them, even from the other end of the world."
It can also work the opposite way – everyone will know who's not good enough.
Man : "It depends on the enterprise culture. We’re in favor of an enterprise culture in which there’s support and help for someone experiencing difficulties."
How can a technological tool designed to improve communication also save on the most human thing – just talking about it?
Man : "The problem we took it upon ourselves to solve is the way people work together. In the past 15 years, the idea was born that work should be fun, and people should feel that they are making a difference. That’s exactly what’s happening with us. Work on the product is becoming addictive – for example, seeing clearly in a graph how all the tasks are being completed. Our vision is still to solve problems of working together, and I don’t think that we’ll ever solve it completely. We may be the leaders, but there will always be something more to do."
Man : "We set up a sales department only early this year. Before that, everything was online. We also don’t try to enter a company immediately. We usually start with one team that became interested, and it grows upward organically."
Do you have competitors?
Man : "We’re a very different tool in the market, because the market is very varied.. We’re not just a substitute for Excel and Dropbox. Our competitors are many tools for different verticals. Professional entities, such as architects, for example, have specific niche tools. We compete with these very well. They’re not good at handling transparency, connecting with more people or hooking up to mobile, which we have, and we make it possible to send alerts."
Zinman : "We’re not saying that we have a better understanding of enterprise management. We’re simply creating communication between a lot of people working together towards a specific goal, and our challenge is for it to be easy and enjoyable."
The original name, Dapulse, referred to the organizational pulse. Why did you choose the name monday.com?
Man : "There were two reasons. The first was that we felt that Dapulse wasn’t really going over. People didn’t remember and didn’t understand. Maybe it was the ‘da’ that didn’t go over well in the US. monday.com speaks exactly about the vision – it’s the workday of the week - for most of the world, at least. For someone who loves their work and its challenges, we represent the challenges. For someone who doesn’t, it represents exactly the problem that we want to solve. It’s also technically easier to remember."