Startup School Innovation, Development and Growth: A Startup School Story

Speeches Shim

Wednesday, May 13, 2020
Pavel Skakun at the December 2018 Investor’s Day final competition

Pavel Skakun created his own software, StickCRM, to optimize business processes. The idea of designing a unique CRM system came into him after his market analysis  demonstrated there was no such program targeting Belarus clients, especially one that would take into account local business processes and integrate with domestic logistics companies and services. 

As businesses better understand the importance of customer service rates and quality, the number of companies that use customer relationship management (CRM) systems is increasing. CRM systems facilitate and speed up collection, storage, and analysis of information about consumers, suppliers, partners, and companies’ internal processes.

Pavel realized that with technology quickly changing, his StickCRM software needed updating, but he didn’t want to redesign his software based on the standardized models available in the market because they tend to have an extremely wide and complicated variety of functions that complicate customer use.

After attending the Vitebsk Startup School of USAID’s Supporting Startups and Small Business Development activity, Pavel and his partner decided how they would re-design StickCRM and adapt the system to the needs of small- and medium-sized businesses in Belarus. The streamlined program Pavel created allowed the user to create documents and integrate with Belarusian services and logistics companies with just two clicks.

“From the very first meeting I really enjoyed the concept of Startup School. We openly discussed the problems entrepreneurs face and possible solutions to their challenges, and new ideas were proposed in an informal setting. Every meeting was eye-opening and every speaker provided an opportunity to learn something new and useful,” Pavel noted.

At the 2017 Expert Day, a USAID-supported event held annually with the completion of Startup School, Pavel presented his re-worked product to experts from the local business community.

“The questions that experts asked and the advice they provided were the most valuable to me. Business professionals focused on the overall business structure and not just on the functional capacity. That ultimately helped me to clearly identify my target users and define my development direction,” Pavel said.

The project immediately attracted customers and increased Pavel’s business. A year later, during the 2018 Investor’s Day, a USAID-supported annual competition for startups held in Minsk, Pavel made it to the finals, beating out more than 20 other entrepreneurs. The feedback that potential investors provided helped Pavel formulate StickCRM’s product development approach and supported him in navigating a competitive environment.

Today, StickCRM is improving its functional capacities and entering new markets. The project team has grown to five members, and the business has an estimated value of $150,000. Using StickCRM, small businesses in Belarus are now able to reduce routine order processing time by 3 hours a day on average. The time savings gained by using StickCRM’s software allows small businesses to focus on attracting new customers and expanding their business, thus increasing their profits. 

Since 2016, USAID has been partnering with SIBS to advance startup infrastructure development in all regions of Belarus, with a special focus on young people with innovative ideas who lack expertise for developing a business. Currently, 18 Startup Schools are in operation. Over the history of the activity, more than 10,000 participants have joined Startup School classes, Expert Days, and Investor Days.  Close to 1,000 startup teams and enterprises have benefited from USAID’s support to date.