In July 2014, O2 announced that it had acquired Gorila Mobil (virtual mobile operator). Gorila approached us at Keboola a couple of months before their official launch. They had one goal: “We need to have a data-driven company and we want you to help us set it up.”
The brain behind Gorila is Roman Novacek, a brain that works a bit differently than yours or mine.
It was the morning of April 23rd 2013 and I was on my way to one of the largest tech hubs - TechSquare to see Roman. Back then Roman had started a company called Tarifomat which was offering its customers a way to find the best mobile operator deal and help them switch. Honestly, Tarifomat was a great idea with a very difficult execution path. Their sales funnel is verrrry long. Basically they get paid only a ½ year after the client switches and only in the case that he doesn’t cancel beforehand. The path to getting paid is paved with unexpected traps like “the courier that was delivering the SIM card hasn’t found the address” and similar issues. A perfect fit for us if the client could increase their margins by 30x. We rolled up our sleeves and proceeded with the project. It was a success. It had to be, our VP of Propaganda wrote that companies can count on us and we have to honor that promise.
Tarifomat got a perfect overview of their whole funnel (up to 1500 requests a day). Roman says that it was the first time that he actually understood what was going on inside the company.
7 months later I got a call, it was Roman. He was being as secretive as James Bond and mysteriously speaking about some new virtual operator, but couldn’t tell me more, only that the plan was to design the company from the ground up as a data-driven company. Once somebody starts to send these kinds of signals, I can’t help it, but I lose my ability to focus on anything other than “new data-driven company”. Well, it looked like just a lot of talk, but shortly after that came the walk. Roman sent us the first payment and right after the brief, we began meetings and planning what exactly we would be solving together.
Gorila Mobil was another virtual operator (inside the O2 network) and they tried to be very cool (check out the YouTube channel). But being cool is not the only ingredient for success… you need more…
With our help Roman put together the daily dashboards which mapped out the full acquisition channel down to each campaign/media/type/position/brand message/product. The O2 team was taken back when they saw that. The number of activated SIM cards were growing, expenses were falling - everybody was happy, champagne was being opened…. Only Roman’s team wasn’t celebrating. People weren’t actually using the SIM cards as they had envisioned inside Gorila Mobil. Now what ???
Friday afternoon: “Let’s dig into the GoodData dashboards and solve this!”
Sunday evening: Claim “Gorila mobil - the most of internet, FUP you!” changed to “5 Kč/hr for calls and all the data you need”.
A complete switch in brand positioning, based solely on data! I get shivers running down my spine just thinking about it. While we were chilling in our offices, playing ping pong; Romans’ team was rocking it! 5Kc worked! - they got enough data to support their further visions; they were bold and full of energy.
Roman had a vision that data describes the now as it is and that we should use that knowledge to validate strategic directions and decisions.
And we can see exactly the same pattern in DameJidlo. Gorila Mobil is soaked deep down in data and it works. “There was no time to hide anything; everybody from the O2 call centre to investors and partners has full access to all data” - daily orders, comparisons, value of the orders, SIM activations, number of customers and their behaviour, how frequently/and where they top-up their SIM cards, etc.
Unfortunately, this great ride lasted only 3 months. The Gorila project was over, it was so successful that Telefonica decided to buy it and incorporate it inside the O2 structure.
Roman moved onto a new project, and Keboola was ready. Anyhow, who can say you have a iPhone cover from the real cherry wood? We are very interested to see how they will handle the tricky things like life time warranty for the bamboo iPad cover and what role data will play in that business.
I caught Roman during his trip through China where he was stuffing himself with chicken feet - so here’s a quick Google Docs style interview.
PS: Roman, what was the hardest thing in the beginning of Gorila ?
RN: Convincing O2 that we have to be agile and having NO time for endless meetings. We wanted to focus 100% of our time and energy on marketing and we knew we needed the company to be 100% based on data. In the beginning no one believed this vision inside O2. Today, (after the Gorila acquisition) O2 wants to have the same system as we had (using the sales / activation/ channels activation data from yesterday). Dusan Simonovic and Jiri Caudr are the stakeholders and I hope they will be successful with that. When you know what is going on inside the company, you don’t have to speculate . That gives you real power to make decisions and work hard to achieve you goals; because you know exactly WHAT you’re doing and WHY you’re doing it. No stumbling in the dark. That’s how you oddelis zrno od plev….
PS: What do you mean by “odděluje zrna od plev”?
RN: Well, you can have lots of excuses when you don’t have the data. You can come up with excuses about things that went wrong when you don’t have data to show. Investors have no way to prove you wrong. At least in short term. You can argue that the market has changed, some externalities have worked against you, etc. Once most of your decisions are firmly based on data and anybody can see the results on an ongoing basis, you literally put your skin in the game. If you f..ck something up, anybody can see in the data what happened. What were the circumstances before the decision and how it looks right now. I love this. I got addicted to data driven business and now I can’t do it any other way. My head just works this way :)
PS: This was your second project with Keboola. How was it for you working with us again?
RN: Once I convinced my partners to build a “metrics driven company” the hardest part was to get all the data sources. Network information, info from marketing tables, Google Analytics, distribution and logistics data like post office, couriers, CMS, etc. We got lots of help from Martin Hakl and is company Breezy. They did our web and all the data extractors so the data could flow to Keboola.
PS: Could you show us something?
RN: Yep, I have smuggled the axis a bit….Now you will ask what it is and how we worked with it, right ? :) What you can see in the report is the SIM cards activation in time. The dotted lines are linear extrapolations - trends - so you can see the general trend, growing or stagnation. We have this report on everybody’s dashboard and we can filter it according to the channel where SIM card was activated (for example large newspaper stand network, post offices, lottery terminals, etc.) Exactly in the same way you can see what activations we have according to a marketing channel. If you click on any point inside the report another dashboard opens and you can see how much money we get from that particular set of activations and how these people behave. It’s hard to describe, it is much better to show in reality :)
PS: My favourite question is to ask people if they had any “aha moment.” The point at which you just realize that anything you’ve done until this point was wrong and you have to go 180 degrees different direction. Do you have a moment like this?
RN: We were spending around 1.5M / month on advertising. Marketing wise, our ads did perform super well! When we drilled through the data we noticed that we had some campaigns that were totally bad and dragged down the overall average for our campaigns. The interesting thing was that you couldn’t see this when you looked at total campaigns because we had some campaigns which were super extra good and they minimised the deviation. If we didn’t have the data, we couldn’t have discovered this at all. We had some extra great campaigns and some shitty ones, but the average was OK. We could dig into the details and discover the bad performers, so we can turn them down and start all over again the next day. Everyday we have sent out over 500SIM cards and we knew exactly how much they cost us, how long it will take them to connect to the network, how much they’re gonna spend and how long they will stay with us. We could have calm night dreams, because we had data :)
PS: Now you’re data guy forever?
RN: You got it buddy! In any company starting data analytics will be the first thing that I will be taking care off. Once we see inside the data and what’s going on inside the company, we are better able to take risks and test new things.