“And “Thematic Media”, and Stack Overflow at first refused to buy the service”

In 2011, a developer from St. Petersburg Nikolay Chabalowski together with co-founder launched the Russian analogue of the site Stack Overflow — the project “Network of Knowledge”. The startup has positioned itself as “a system of professional forums questions and answers of different topics”. In 2013 edition vc.ru talked to Czabanowska about the development of the project. Co-founder and CEO of a startup told that the “Network of Knowledge” has become self-sufficient.

At that time the Network consisted of 12 thematic forums (such as “HashCode”, “Russian language” and others), the site registered more than 20 thousand users. The company was engaged in search of investors who could invest in its development. Two years later — in June 2015 — it became known that Stack Overflow has purchased a “Network of Knowledge”. The companys founder Nicholas Kabanovsky went to work in Stack Overflow, and the base of questions and answers was partially ported to a new engine. In June, it was launched the beta-testing forum “Stack Overflow in Russian”.

Edition vc.ru talked to Kabanovsky and found out why he decided to sell the project, as it found a buyer, what will become a “Knowledge Network” after the sale and was based on business startup. Edition vc.ru. Tell us about what happened with your business. In 2013, when the interview was published, everything looked good — the project has become self-sufficient, the forums are developing, the number of users is growing, the monetization scheme is.

And now we find out that you bought. What exactly happened, or if something, or the company, on the contrary, only grew and prospered, and Stack Overflow you noticed and decided to purchase?. Nicholas Kabanovsky. In my opinion, to fully understand just what occurred, you must look at the background of the project, which is a difficult and long.

Will try to be brief. By the end of 2012 we have grown traffic to your doorstep when you could get some money from advertising. At this point I was working in “Knowledge Networks” full time. With me working on the project for about seven people.

The second founder of the project left the company and took more or less active participation. At this point I decided to build the sales Department instead of posting “Yandex.Direct”. In parallel tried to monetize the service recruitment. At that time I worked in the company “full time” for over a year, and before that another year in the evenings and weekends.

Personal savings ended and, more importantly, out of energy, as a result, enthusiasm is also decreased. The second founder started planning my departure from the company to reduce costs. Consent was mutual, except for one issue — I thought that it was necessary to finish building of sales Department, from what my colleague was not fully agree. I got a job before we got any profit, but has spent for search of advertisers two months than my friend was extremely dissatisfied.

By the time of my employment with the companion has changed life priorities, he no longer wanted to invest in the project as much as that was required, in my opinion. There was quite a sharp conflict of interests. Soon after employment, I managed to place first advertiser. Just from the moment the idea of creating your sales Department before receipt of the first money on the account its been three months.

Later I was able to build relationships with advertisers, and to the very moment of transition the community to a new domain, the project was profitable. Regarding the benefits of advertising on their own, very revealing, I think, to look at the numbers. Try “Yandex.Direct” on average per thousand impressions we earned 10 rubles, placing ads directly, I was prepared to sell up to 700 rubles per thousand impressions (yeah, thats not a typo, 70 times). The commercial was shown only to unregistered users, no more than three ads on a page without any animation.

The most interesting and important fact that for all time only one advertiser is one, all the others bought the advertisements running. Although we received the “first money” from advertising, the second founder was determined at the completion of the project. He began without any approval to try to sell my share (I even called several times some strange people). Unfortunately, I, too, behaved not the best way, in my opinion, entered into a verbal altercation.

It almost came to court. The result — broken long-term friendship. In the future, I bought his share, gave half the funds from the account and we went. I want to stress is critical, in my opinion, the moment.

Analyzing the situation today, Im pretty sure Im wrongness of their actions. Instead join in the “clash of the founders”, I was obliged to act from the position of a brilliant Director, that is easy to hear the position of the founder, passed by insults and attacks, to put forward the best for the company position and move through negotiation, not abuse. I hope I will ever improve. Why have you not abandoned the project, as proposed by the co-founder?. At the time of dispute with a colleague (by the way, this is a very smart and talented people who relied on mathematical calculations) about the future of the project I was guided by a simple idea.

For two and a half years, several thousand, let me stress, thousands of developers spent their life time to help colleagues in a difficult moment. “HashCode” never was a website, where you solved your homework or humiliated for lack of knowledge. “HashCode” has always been a place where he had spoken very talented people. I just couldnt disappoint all those people.

After all, when the rest of the Runet, sorry, was engaged in self-flagellation — they did the idea of creating a Russian-speaking developer community, these guys are not in word but in deed showed that we are no worse than English-speaking colleagues, we just have to do it. Somehow I thought, and think now that, if not the first participants of the “HashCode”, we would have long heard jokes about “the answers” on Russian-speaking sites. Because of disputes and related experiences I lost about three months. The growth has stopped, investments to seek it was too late, summer begins — a dead the holiday season.

As was the case at the time of publication of the article on “Zuckerberg will call” in 2013. I worked as C++developer in research laboratories of big it companies in St. Petersburg. Engaged in the development of the operating system, about the same, and in the “Motorola”. Schedule of the day was this: On weekends he corrected the defects of the engine.

Taking into account the stress of separations and prior year schedule is a little exhausting. What is the final result. Salary in the research center corresponds to rather interesting and more or less complex things, which I did. The companys profit (revenue minus costs) in most cases, the percentage was greater than 100%, excluding spent me time. In absolute terms it was one to two monthly salaries a very good developer in Saint Petersburg.

The project ceased to grow. I started to get tired. The biggest problem and mistake was that the company was only on paper. In fact, there was one hyperactive young man with great knowledge who tried to be “in every hole gag”, and several students-freelancers from Ukraine.

At some point I realized that in its current form the project will not grow. According to my expectations, it could lead to the fact that in case of a big company in a niche, for example, Stack Overflow, all, for whom I worked on the project — community members “Hacked” and accumulated for several years, the knowledge base could be “overboard”. In the same vein, and before purchasing shares of co-founder, I decided to find a core partner, to put it simply, to try to pass the project to someone who can take care of him better than I. At the time I thought about the two companies.

“Thematic Media” (the company, which owns such resources as “O”, Geektimes, Brainstorage and so on) and Stack Overflow. I will emphasize, not in front of me had the task to sell the project for a fabulous price, or find somewhere to work. Work in the laboratory I loved, the money I also all enough. I wrote in “Thematic Media” to their founder.

In the message he tried to explain that, in my opinion, “Habrahabr” is certainly an interesting project, but only in the context of the hobby, and the company earns service recruiting it professionals. In the case of joining the Runet Stack Overflow, most likely, the developers will prefer Stack Overflow Careers. My mistake was that I offered to keep the entire “Network of Knowledge”, which included a lot of non-thematic sites for “Thematic Media”. I refused, and after a few months start the Toaster.

After I wrote to the founder of Stack Overflow. I did not answer. With the knowledge of magic get at least some response, two weeks after the first letter I got Joel answered me, I wasnt interested the project. In General, it would be possible to put an end to this story.

The project is not growing, but growing tiredness and the pressure of her relatives. I decided to take a break in a few months and not to engage in a project (in a few months created a small project in Unity and have read a few books). As a result, I very clearly realized that the Russian-speaking community is an inseparable part of my life. Was, is and will be.

And that the project is critical, because alone I am unable to provide a decent level of service for the guys. Because in my understanding the “site questions and answers for professional developers” was very different from how it was seen by children from the “Thematic Media”, I decided to once again contact only with Stack Overflow. Wrote guys. And then there was the most interesting — I was told.

Just a week Joel denied me one more time. The whole point was the wording of the refusal. If last time I was told that the project is not fun, this time I was told that, “maybe in the future when Stack Overflow will reflect on the Russian-speaking community, perhaps they will contact me, probably”. Proposed to be connected by correspondence every six months.

The next time I wrote in Stack Overflow in three months. To me began to chat Jay Hanlon, Vice President of the company responsible for the growth of the community. Correspondence was rather long and ended by a call, where I explained the position of the company. At Stack Overflow believe in people who work on the product more than on anything else.

The guys believed that the main driving engine of the community “HashCode” why was I. They said that if I am ready to join Stack Overflow as the head of a Stack Overflow in Russian, they will also take “under the wing” of the communities “Knowledge Networks”. After weighing all the pros and cons, I agreed.

This was followed by a series, as I recall, four videooborudovaniya via Google Hangouts with different employees of the company, and then a written test task. When the guys tested my knowledge, began the evaluation community. From all sites “Network of Knowledge” requirements of quality, format and size meets only two. “HashCode” and “Russian language”. Then a few months spent on the coordination of legal and financial issues.

The whole process from the beginning of the search for a partner prior to the signing of the final documents took fifteen months. Then followed another five months of preparatory work on the transition community to a new engine. For me, the transition to the new platform meant that now the community is in safe hands.

I fulfilled my obligations to the guys who once believed in me, brought the project to the product about which they were told, we — “Stack Overflow in Russian” — a community of professional software developers, programming enthusiasts and system administrators. Were, are and will be. Only here the “cross” commitments actually became heavier. Now I am responsible not only for their confidence in me community, but also for believing in me guys from Stack Overflow.

Joel Spolsky, Jay Hanlon, Tim Post and many others who made decisions about how to “of Hacked” has become part of a friendly international family of Stack Exchange, as Stack Overflow in Russian. On what built the business “Knowledge Networks”. That brought more money advertising or related services. Were you able to find any more ways to earn money.

In the summer of 2012 we realized that business recruitment is not for us. All just. The average check is relatively small, a lot of customers, as a result, it is necessary to have a large staff of sales managers with all the ensuing consequences. Another thing — advertising.

Several major clients with whom I worked directly and independently. Something more interesting to not find out, but a lot of experimenting with the payment model of advertising. Tried options with payment.

The formats were different too. Thus, the lions share of funds received through advertising. I understand that investors are not found.

Why. After realizing how much time and effort is spent on the interaction between the founders of the project, I tried to imagine, how much will I spend time on interaction with the investor. Given the scale of the project and its growth rate at that time, for me, definitely a good decision to stop any interaction with investors.

Why have I. A couple of million rubles I could invest. I thought possible the resulting stress from communicating with them much more than the received capital. For me, in the case of projects focused on a small market without the possibility to access external (which was “the Knowledge Network”), there are two models of work. Either hire me or I hire.

In my opinion, in most other models of the interaction efficiency of the company as a system will be too low to reflect the realities of reality. What will happen to the “Network” after your transition in Stack Overflow. Only the good.

“Knowledge network” is primarily people. During the transition to the Stack Exchange platform, we tried to consider the interests of the majority of community members. Lets face it. If the community really was, it became a part of Stack Exchange.

What exactly acquired Stack Overflow — technology, product, team, all of the above. From migration to won all. Community got the best engine in the world questions and answers, which are constantly improving, and expertise of the team working on the English community. Stack Overflow got the best in the space of the Russian language community of developers and, hopefully, very responsible, smart and hard-working employee.

I, oddly enough, received more all. Understanding that did not disappoint guys, highly interesting colleagues, access to a huge administrative resource, a good “exit” and free time in the evenings and weekends on the family. You now work in Stack Overflow, what about the rest of the employees “knowledge Networks”.

In Stack Overflow I switched one. To all the guys who worked for a long time, paid out bonuses in the form of several salaries. Almost all of them were from Ukraine and Crimea, and there, as you may know, at some point there were problems with the job search. Paid that is “out of their” solely for gratitude and expressions of support.

On the completion of cooperation reported for two and a half months. Officially I am the only English speaking employee Stack Overflow. The challenges are many, I dont always have enough hands and skills. In such cases I tested attract guys who worked on “the Knowledge Network”.

What do you do in Stack Overflow?. Documented, I hold the position of “Manager of community” (Community Manager). In fact, Im doing everything the same, and in “Knowledge Networks”, with the exception of sales and programming. I think “community Manager” does not reflect what Im doing, so a wide range of people I get introduced as “Evangelist Stack Overflow in Russian”.

My boss (jokingly) calls me “Chief Russian Officer”. My ultimate goal is the development of the project in the space of the Russian language. The main objectives can include.

In which city are you currently working on. Now Im in Denver, but legally I work remotely from St. Petersburg. In Stack Overflow highly-developed corporate culture of remote work.

In the offices, in the majority, only work sales managers. Almost all developers, product managers, and the guys from team community development working remotely. This allows you to hire the best of the best worldwide. For example, in my team, which is focused on the development of Stack Overflow (in all languages), work guys. Japan, the Philippines, Russia, USA and Brazil.

If you work in Stack Overflow, you can choose. To work remotely or from office. You can work in any of the three offices. In new York, Denver or London.

If any of remote employees working from the office, the company will assume all costs for the relocation, will issue a work visa or green card if required. The beauty of remote work for me is that I can send the query to work from any office and I will allocate a room for me at a specified time. Previous month and a half I worked from the office in new York, now in Denver, in the summer I plan to visit the office in London.

More than a few months to work in the States for me very hard for two reasons: What are the areas of work, Stack Overflow is in Russia, what are the main priorities. Our only priority is Stack Overflow in Russian.

The main task is to do everything possible so that Russian developers have finally started to treat myself with respect and to help each other, simultaneously creating a freely distributable applied knowledge. What percentage of Stack Overflow users from Russia. If we talk about Stack Overflow in English, from September 6, 2015 October 6, 2015, according to Google Analytics, from the territory of the Russian Federation was registered 4 858 410 sessions. On Stack Overflow in Russian during the same period, according to Google Analytics, there have been 987 089 sessions.

For the English speaking community the number of pages for session is 2,37, Russian — 1,7. Nothing ordinary, if not for one thing — the Internet is different from the English-speaking Internet. Almost all over the world there is only one search engine, which is used by all. Im talking about Google.

We have two of them, and Yandex dominates. Look in Analytics and see that “Yandex”, without regard to location, Stack Overflow in English received in the last month 475 876 sessions, during the same period, Stack Overflow in Russian from Google has received 819 428 sessions. The whole point of these figures is that in the English-speaking community 10 000 300 issues in Russian — 300 67. Yes, thats right, three orders of magnitude less.

“Yandex” does not index just Stack Overflow, neither in Russian nor in English. The result. 0.4 transition to the question in the month compared to 0.8 for the transition in question for Stack Overflow in English and Portuguese during the same period (for employees Yandex [Ticket #12092811392022612]). A small addition.

In Stack Overflow there is the rule of “public by default”. According to him, all information available within the company, it may spread out, unless otherwise noted. For example, all stats access Quantcast.com. Now ru.stackoverflow.com is in beta stage.

How long ago it started. What are the main tasks of beta testing. What indicators are there now. In order to understand the meaning of “beta”, is best:

To sum up, in stage “beta” is the community itself, it has nothing to do “beta-testing”. Our current tasks: At the moment Stack Overflow in Russian is the fifth (one hundred fifty) the website of the network Stack Exchange by number of issues per day, one spot higher than Server Fault. On an average day in the community is asking 100 questions, published 140 answers. During the same period, the site visits 33 thousand users who view thousands of pages 56.

Source: google.co.uk/blog/startup-agency-one-way-past-founders-can-help-new-ones/

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