Codest
Kamil Ferens
Kamil Ferens
Head of Growth
2021-10-21

The Bulletproof CTO #3 Recap Is Here!

The Bulletproof CTO webinar #3 went down in history. But this is not the end, we are back with a juicy recap full of highlights that are definitely worth your attention.

My personal opinion in case you are interested - it was awesome! If you think it wasn’t – prove me wrong.

via GIPHY

For those of you who are new to the idea of Bulletproof CTO webinars, these events are a series of online webinars that The Codest is hosting quarterly from 2021. The webinars are dedicated to tech and engineering leaders as well as software professionals aspiring to step into engineering management roles. 

The latest episode revolved around marketplaces and I’ve had the pleasure of hosting my guest speakers:Vilius Luneckas CTO at CG Trader (The world’s largest source for licensable stock and custom 3D models), and Oskar Gellerbrant, CTO and Co-Founder at Respaces (Swedish marketplace for flexible workspaces). This time we’ve talked about three highly important aspects for both existing and wannabe marketplace founders. Continue reading to discover the experts’ views!

1. Market challenges and opportunities in building a successful marketplace project

marketplace factors

source

Vilius Luneckas’s key points

  • The chicken and the egg problem (supply and demand). The biggest challenges from the technical and the business side are balancing the supply and the demand.

  • 'It took us a few years to gain traction so that we had enough supply and demand just to focus on features of the products as well as the scalability and the performance. A key challenge for marketplaces is the chicken and the egg problem, what it means for the product or the engineering is that one week you have to work on features in order to gain the suppliers, in the other week you have to switch focus to the demand side, it's a never-ending process.'

  • Vilius’s advice – ‘If you want to help yourself, find big customers and suppliers so you can work on improving the features.’

  • Know your market/trends and products‘In our case, one of the founders was a designer so he knew the market and what was wrong with the already existing products. We would also learn from the competition's mistakes.’

Oskar Gellerbrant’s key points

  • 'We started with the fact that we saw so many unused spaces that were costly to rent and were always empty and we saw many freelancers and startups that didn't have places to work because the available offices were expensive. We thought that we must be able to connect with them – this is when our network was born.'

  • Respaces began with the supply side first by building a strong base of coworking spaces in Stockholm to bring value locally and create a network. Then the company started offering their services to the whole country.

  • Oscar’s tip: find big customers'We’ve been focusing on building more b2b solutions so that we can have large companies coming with like hundreds of employees, where we can offer workplaces for all of them and then it is also easier to come to suppliers and say that we have those customers that were looking for somewhere to work. With all the client base, suppliers would be much more likely to collaborate with us.'

  • 'The value to begin with the whole marketplace is the network.'

2. Testing and killing the features that don’t bring positive results is a must if you want your marketplace to succeed

testing and killing features in marketplace

source

Oskar Gellerbrant’s key points

  • 'High loyalty and bypassing the marketplace is always a risk – no one can offer what the marketplace can offer. Suppliers can perceive your platform as a way to acquire new customers but not as a permanent sales channel.'

  • Network effect'the more suppliers you have on the market, the more attractive your platform is as clients know that with you they can find all they've been looking for – that is what builds loyalty in the long term. On the other hand, we also handle all the payments. It also makes our platform more valuable and builds trust momentarily.'

  • Oscar’s advice: keep control of the process'I need to understand all the batches of code delivered to me by an offshore company team because at the end I’m responsible for that.'

  • Golden tip – gain as many insights as possible, keep improving – think what kind of info you need from the beginning.

Vilius Luneckas’s key points

  • 'Having control is really important to predict the future.'

  • 'We could use services and everything from third-party companies (if those are not important for you) but it can backfire later. For example, using multiple libraries to solve a problem might make controlling competencies hard.'

  • 'The team is crucialhave engineers with real knowledge about the product instead of hiring 5 tech experts – that will be hard to manage.’ Additionally, it will also help you to move faster and stay flexible.'

  • 'Regarding technical don'ts, if you are creating a marketplace, you are kind of hoping that it will grow to a high number. So, then the infrastructure is important, there are areas where you should be flexible but there are also cases when you should prepare for scaling because the system can backfire. Basically, everything is about balance.'

3. Tech Stack choices and tips for wannabe marketplace founders (also non-technical)

Vilius Luneckas’s key points

  • 'We built everything from scratch. If there is some tool or library and it fulfills your needs, I would definitely start with that. In the beginning, you have to deal with business and custom features, then the key actions like listing the products, implementing the checkout etc.' 
  • 'I would probably go with Spree or some open-source solution that would help to have that initial and scalable technical aspect but at the same time a tool that will allow you to build the unique features on top.'
  • Vilius also underlines the fact that he would choose an open-source solution at the beginning and then, as the platform grows, move to another one if needed.

Oskar Gellerbrant’s key points

  • 'We began with WordPress and that was not the real marketplace anyway, it was more like a web shop. It was really slow. We got some positive feedback but in reality, it was not good. And then, of course, we had to build a real marketplace – we’ve ended up with Sharetribe.'
  • 'So basically, I had no setup database for maintaining our data – I’ve been using an API where we’ve just been requesting or updating on the backend. I would say that it saved us lots of time. For example, at the beginning we were doing time-based bookings for meeting rooms. In that case, we needed to make updates about the availability, opening hours, what time the place is booked, and stuff like that – and with Sharetribe I had no problems with that, so we’ve probably saved a lot of time.'

New episodes are coming, just as winter in the Game of Thrones!

Thank you for your interest in my webinars so far, cheers! Also, I have promised our CEO that I will host one more episode in 2022 so I need to make it happen for 2 reasons:

  1. He is a big guy and I don’t want to mess with him,
  2. I always do what I say.

Having said that, I already invite you for the season 2022 finale and episode #4 covering an extremely hot topic – fintech.

As always, I already have my shortlist of speakers I would like to invite, but my doors are always open so if you are an engineering leader with a fintech experience under your belt and would love to share it – contact me by:

E-mail: kamil.ferens@codesthq.com

LinkedIn profile

P.S.

If marketplace scaleups are your thing, feel free to check my grand premiere of episode #1 where I have hosted Mindaugas Mozuras from Vinted and Bastian Buch from Delivery Hero (currently Zalando).

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