ILYA RADZINSKY | SaaS industry is the present and the future
About 8 years ago Ilya and Victor Radzinsky built a custom software system for a tax practice, and watched it grow from 10 to over 70 staff in as much time.
“We realized we had a “secret sauce” to building operational success, and if we could make our proprietary software available to other firms, they would stand to benefit as well. And that’s why we launched TaxDome in March 2017.”
– You were studying Finance at university. Which profession did you dream to get in childhood? Did you have the aim of starting this business when you were a student?
Ilya: Looking back, I think I always had an entrepreneurial spirit. It manifested itself in different ways throughout my adolescence.
Initially, my dream was to own a restaurant. I dreamed of having my own table in the corner in a neighborhood restaurant. The closest I ever got to this dream, was becoming a busboy at the age of 15 to get my “foot in the door”. But, the work was too hard, so I didn’t last longer than a week.
I understood that I have to be creative, so I started my first business. At that time I enjoyed playing video games and used to sell virtual items on eBay. That was before the idea of “Farms” with small groups of people playing video games for the sole purpose of selling goods online. It was at the very beginning, before eBay banned the practice.
In retrospect, I could have probably turned that into a career! But my parents urged me to do something more serious, so I followed in my older brother’s footsteps and entered a Finance school.
After graduation, I worked at a bank, and then as an analyst at a hedge fund. Several years later, my boss was going through a divorce and we shut down the fund. Meanwhile, my boss took a 3 months sabbatical.
During that time I looked to my brother again, who was getting into product development. He saw a big opportunity in this field and we decided to team up.
I never envisioned that I would be doing what I am doing today when I was a child. But I also never envisioned selling virtual swords on the internet. I try to adapt with the times and look for new opportunities 🙂
– Why have you chosen the SaaS industry? When did you realize it’s profitable?
Ilya: It’s the present and it’s the future.
Every industry is being revolutionized by software. If you aren’t using software to better your business, you are behind. That’s the present.
And in the future, people won’t be interested in buying software once and paying for upgrades. When you pay a predictable fee, you expect that there will be continued improvements to the product. Every industry is going in this direction – it’s no longer a novelty but rather the norm.
Look at this the other way – the guys who developed steamships and then railroads in the 19th century probably weren’t “into steam”. They just saw that industry as the place where progress was made and you can make the most impact. The same can be said about software today – it’s the next cycle of the industrial revolution.
– How has TaxDome started? Are you a co-founder from the very beginning?
Ilya: Yes, I am a co-founder. We were previously an internal IT for a large accounting firm.
Before the idea of remote work became widespread, our main task was to build a system that would allow the firm to communicate with their clients remotely, to manage their growing team, and to ensure that they can manage the project well as they grow. The firm enjoyed great success, and we saw how accountants work, and what their end-clients need to make a working process seamless.
As we saw SaaS businesses proliferating in other industries, we saw an opportunity to bring the same disruption to the accounting industry, and thus we started TaxDome.
After working on the system for 2 years we launched and started marketing in April 2019. We’re in for the long haul – we’re working to become a household name. We’ve attended accounting conferences across North America — Nevada, Massachusetts, New York, Florida, Las Vegas, New Jersey, Toronto, New Orleans, and more. We have big plans for 2020 and looking forward to meeting our clients across the globe.
– What is the main concept, idea of TaxDome? Is it hard to be unique on the market?
Ilya: Every business has the same operational ailments, regardless of the industry. Every business needs project management, a CRM, a way to track accounts payable and receivable, a way to communicate and keep track of tasks. In the past, all of this was managed with pen and paper. Currently, it’s being managed with disparate programs that don’t speak to each other.
What makes TaxDome different and unique is that it is truly a one-stop shop that an accountant or tax preparer need to run their business, no matter if they are a 1 or 100 person shop.
So, if you are still using pen and paper, it’s time for a change. And, if you are still cobbling together solutions with 5 different vendors, it’s time to change. Once you have all tools in one place, you will wonder how you even survived without them in the first place?
There are other cloud-based services that practice management solutions. Many software companies are building internal software from scratch. But, there isn’t an off-the-shelf software, like TaxDome, that can help small/medium-sized firms (1-25) scale quickly & easily.
TaxDome is unique on the market due to:
- Integration: all the business processes that an accountant/tax professional requires to run their business are in one place. We don’t believe that small firms should be utilizing 10 different vendors to accomplish their needs (CRM, Invoicing, Client Portal, Mobile App, Workflow, and so on)
- Ease of use: Did anyone teach you to use your Netflix? Perhaps, but most people are able to figure it out, because it’s so easy and well-designed. That’s our viewpoint – make software that is easy to use, yet powerful.
- Transparency: Our prices are right on our website. And we have a simulated account anyone can play with before they even sign up for a trail. So everyone can see how easy our system is to use for all different system roles – the firm owners, their staff, and their clients.
Links to websites and social media pages
– Tell me about the biggest problems at the very beginning. What was the hardest for you? Does location matter in your business or not?
Ilya: Prioritization. In a startup everything seems urgent. But it’s important to build quality products that keep the system easy-to-use. You can’t just slap on the new features. Everything has to flow together. Balancing is a key. Rolling out new features with improving old ones is always a challenge, but we try to have a balance. And, of course, we insist on quality.
– Have you ever used some investments for TaxDome?
Ilya: We have not taken venture capital funding. We’ve been lucky in being able to raise the necessary funds from friends and family. When you raise funds from venture capitalists, you are essentially beholden to investors, who may have different views of the product or different goals.
We are not looking to blitzscale. We are perfectly fine with growing at a healthy pace that doesn’t jeopardize our vision to become a household name. At the same time this keeps us fiscally disciplined. We’re not playing with money of the monopoly-like investors.
– What are the plans for 2020? Do you have a revenue goal?
Ilya: Our goal for 2020 is to continue to invest in the product. When we say we want to become a household name, it isn’t by simply investing in awareness with media. We want people talking about how great TaxDome is, how much it’s helped their business. Every time we see a new review come in, we share it with the entire team. Every developer, QA, designer, etc should see the fruits of their labor and how much we are impacting the industry.
– What are the main steps in SaaS startup launching? What can help to succeed?
Ilya: Organization, organization, organization.
Everything must be documented, procedures must be in place for every step of the process, including onboarding.
– What are SaaS trends in 2020?
Ilya: SaaS allows businesses to invest in new tech cheaply, without deploying large amounts of capital.
This is a massive benefit, and I think you will continue to see SaaS grow as an industry.
– What is the movie anyone should see?
Ilya: I love Shawshank Redemption, because it’s a movie about hope.
When there is a lot of hard work ahead of you, it can be easy to get down on yourself. But if we rally as a team, we can refocus ourselves on our mission and we charge ahead. With hope, anything is possible.
One of my favorite quotes — “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of the things. And a good thing never dies”
– What is the book, that every businessman should read?
Ilya: Measure what matters by John Doerr. It’s the modern way to think about focusing on organizational goals and keeping your team on track. It helped us tremendously to become more transparent, more diligent and moving towards our goals and objectives.
I also really like Elon Musk’s Biography. Especially the part where he bans all acronyms that he does not personally approve. It really cracked me up. It sounds crazy, but it is genius at the same time. As an organization grows, it is critical to make it accessible for new entrants. Small things like this can make a huge difference.
– Few words for young entrepreneurs. What is a must-have? And what they shouldn’t do?
Ilya: Listen. It is a single most difficult thing to learn to do. Most people believe entrepreneurs have to be the most vocal in the room. But, it is by listening that you can figure out the needs of your consumer, the gaps in the market and the internal dynamics of your team. Prioritize listening, always.
Do not try to ‘win’ in meetings, but try to find the best answer, incorporating all feedback. Especially when you grow and have people report to you. Listen to their feedback. If you always speak first in meetings, they may be hesitant to contribute. Make other’s voices heard – they will often have great ideas that you may not have thought of.
– How to make a revenue of over 10 million in 2020?
Ilya: To get to 10 million, you must first get to 9 🙂
- One day at a time – growing healthy and steadily.
- Focus on quality – growth for the sake of growth is pointless, we’ve seen the cautionary tales.
- Champion the team – it’s the people you surround yourself with that take you from 0 to 100.