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INTERVIEW: Facebook of Latvia, With More Members than Population, Starts New Businesses

Facebook of Latvia, With More Members than Population, Starts New Businesses

What does a com­pa­ny do to grow when it has 100% of its mar­ket and doesn’t want lose its employ­ees?  It starts new busi­ness­es.  With over 2 mil­lion mem­bers in a coun­try of 2 mil­lion peo­ple The Draugiem Group need­ed new ideas to grow.  They chose to offer employ­ees seed mon­ey to start new busi­ness­es rather than lose them to anoth­er com­pa­ny.  It has helped Draugiem grow into a $27 mil­lion dol­lar com­pa­ny with offices world­wide.

We spoke with Davis Sik­snans, the man in charge of Draugiem’s new ven­tures.

You can lis­ten to Davis’s Inter­view here and read it below:

Roy:     My name is Roy Weiss­man from MediaJobs.com. We pro­vide job seek­ers the strate­gic insight into their job search. Today we’re speak­ing with Davis Sik­snans from Draugiem Group in Latvia, who has a very unique busi­ness mod­el. The Draugiem Group is an umbrel­la orga­ni­za­tion that hous­es the nation­al social media plat­form of Latvia, and cur­rent­ly incu­bates 16 star­tups.

So Davis, you guys have a pret­ty inter­est­ing busi­ness.  You’re the Face­book of Latvia, but you’re many more things than that.  So maybe you can give us a lit­tle bit of a sense or a his­to­ry of how this all evolved, and where you’re at at this point.

Davis:  Yes, sure, Ray. So Draugiem actu­al­ly start­ed back in 2004, the same year that Face­book start­ed.  We got an idea for the social net­work from the pop­u­lar social net­work at that time, which was Friend­ster.  And we start­ed the busi­ness as actu­al­ly sell t‑shirts ini­tial­ly, because our founder had a Web site where he sells t‑shirts, and he saw that, oh, if I mixed the social net­work, we could dri­ve traf­fic to this oth­er Web site.  But it went viral back in 2004, and soon we were just in a hur­ry to put up enough servers and to have the infra­struc­ture ready.  And we’ve grown to up to two mil­lion reg­is­tered users at this point, and there’s sev­er­al, at least about one mil­lion unique… peo­ple log in onto Draugiem every month.  And we’ve pret­ty much cov­ered the whole Inter­net pop­u­la­tion of Latvia.

Roy:     I was going to say, what is the pop­u­la­tion of Latvia?

Davis:  Latvi­a’s pop­u­la­tion is two mil­lion peo­ple. So the reg­is­tered peo­ple mar­kets their stuff, some peo­ple from oth­er coun­tries. So for a coun­try of two mil­lion peo­ple, that’s one mil­lion log onto Draugiem every month. And our sort of adop­tion of Draugiem is about two or three times wider than Face­book, cur­rent­ly. It’s one of the few social net­works glob­al­ly that still have not suc­cumb to Face­book, and that’s pret­ty unique. But pret­ty ear­ly, our founders real­ized it was going to be pret­ty hard just to have this social net­work, as Face­book is also on the rise.

And our Founders asked your entre­pre­neurs, so they had many ideas. And they expand­ed. And that’s not just a social net­work we’re get­ting into as you men­tioned, 16 oth­er com­pa­nies. And they are only con­nect­ed by the fact that we’re all in the same build­ing, same loca­tion in Greater Latvia. We share all the same resources, same account­ing, HR and design teams, but they are pret­ty var­ied. It ranges from a drop ship­ping com­pa­ny that prints t‑shirts and framed posters, can­vas, etc., to the GPS track­ing devices for cars or vend­ing machine tele­met­rics. So we’re real­ly var­ied.

Roy:     So how did this evolve?  In oth­er words, here you are, you guys are run­ning the Face­book of Latvia, things are going well.  Why did this whole… these oth­er com­pa­nies evolve?  Weren’t you look­ing to evolve Draugiem more?  Mean­ing, the Face­book site, or what was the impe­tus for all this to evolve?

Davis:  We real­ized that this was going to be very hard for us to grow Draugiem as a social net­work out­side of Latvia. We had a pret­ty strong user base in Lithua­nia and Hun­gary, but Face­book actu­al­ly took those coun­tries over. So we did­n’t see much inter­na­tion­al growth. We were busi­ness peo­ple, we real­ly want to see gross every year, but Draugiem’s pret­ty hard, because we pret­ty much cov­ered every­body in Latvia on the Inter­net.

So we remained the nation­al social net­work. And we start­ed these oth­er com­pa­nies to expand inter­na­tion­al­ly. And pret­ty much, I think all main… more than half of these ideas are geared inter­na­tion­al­ly, because the Web site is going to be in Eng­lish. And also, Draugiem founder now lives in Los Ange­les and may have a sub­sidiary reg­is­tered in Cal­i­for­nia. And we work with many new ideas that are geared towards the Amer­i­can mar­ket. We employ Cana­di­an and Amer­i­can Lat­vians, so they are descen­dants of peo­ple who actu­al­ly left Latvia when the Sovi­ets came in after the World War II, and now some of them have come back to Latvia and they know Eng­lish real­ly well, and they can help us with the pro­mot­ing, PR and copy­writ­ing, and they also speak Lat­vian, which is great.

So if you take a look at our Web sites, you’d see that it’s… it’s not very easy from the start to real­ize that these guys are from Latvia. And yes, so we expand­ed a lot. And also, our founder, who always had the idea that he is ser­i­al entre­pre­neur, and he wants to pro­mote that also with­in the com­pa­ny. And we saw some peo­ple who actu­al­ly left our com­pa­ny, start their own projects, and there was one guy who start­ed a suc­cess­ful gam­ing com­pa­ny, he worked on games for the social net­work. And we want­ed to keep those best peo­ple inside our com­pa­ny. So we’re start­ing… we start­ed the incu­ba­tor for our employ­ees to keep the best peo­ple intrin­si­cal­ly moti­vat­ed and stay by the com­pa­ny.

Roy:     So now, you say you have a US office in Los Ange­les, I think you said?

Davis:  Yes.  And specif­i­cal­ly, we have an office in Bur­bank.

Roy:     And how many peo­ple do you have work­ing there?

Davis:  Right now, we have just three peo­ple. We’re… because all the PR, mar­ket­ing and sup­port devel­op­ment hap­pens in Riga, where it’s cheap­er, and where we have all the best staff. But what we do in Cal­i­for­nia is we made the prod­ucts and we ship the phys­i­cal prod­ucts. Some of our prod­ucts, like startupvitamins.com, which sells moti­va­tion­al quotes on posters, t‑shirts and mugs to start. You have to ship those prod­ucts from the Unit­ed States to have your reli­able deliv­ery times and track­ing codes and every­thing.  So those peo­ple in Cal­i­for­nia and Bur­bank, they are work­ing with the print­ers and the t‑shirt print­ing and pack­ing and ship­ping stuff.

Roy:     So tell me about some of the big suc­cess sto­ries out of those 16 com­pa­nies that you guys have built, and give a lit­tle his­to­ry.  Where did the peo­ple who start­ed come from, when they were employ­ees, and how did it orig­i­nate?  Give us a lit­tle bit of a cou­ple of sto­ries here.

Davis:  I think one suc­cess would be a com­pa­ny called Ven­don.  I men­tioned that they do vend­ing machine tele­met­rics.  This Ven­don, the vend­ing machine own­er has the abil­i­ty to track what’s hap­pen­ing in his vend­ing machine in real time, remote­ly.  So he sees when he’s out of stock, or if he has some issue with the vend­ing machine.  And this busi­ness is grow­ing most­ly in Europe, in West­ern Europe.  And actu­al­ly, it came out from peo­ple who had a… one of 16 com­pa­nies was the next name and com­pa­ny, Text2Reach, because on Draugiem, when you buy mutu­al prod­ucts, you pay with SMS.  That’s how most Inter­net pay­ments were in Latvia back in the day.

And those guys just expand­ed and did anoth­er busi­ness, which was this vend­ing machine busi­ness.  And I don’t know how the idea specif­i­cal­ly came to mind, it’s just one of those ran­dom brain­storms we’d have.  Some­times you just stay long after the work and engage in some social drink­ing and stuff, and that’s where a lot of ideas come from.  And you just jam with the founders.  So yes, so they did the vend­ing machine busi­ness, and it’s been two or three years, and they’re grow­ing pret­ty quick­ly.

Roy:     And it’s called Ven­don, V‑E-N-D-O‑N?

Davis:  Yes.

Roy:     Okay.  So in essence, do you have to have a spe­cial vend­ing machine for this to work?

Davis:  Ven­don is com­pat­i­ble with a wide array of vend­ing machines, so it sup­ports most of them.

Roy:     So lit­er­al­ly, you just have a, I guess, Inter­net-ready vend­ing machine, I’m not in the vend­ing machine busi­ness…

Davis:  Well, the way… the device actu­al­ly talks back to the Inter­net through GSM net­work.  So it has… each device has a SIM card in there which talks to the Inter­net wire­less­ly, like your phone would.

Roy:     So it lit­er­al­ly calls you on the phone and says, “Here’s what’s hap­pen­ing at this machine.”

Davis:  Well, it sends data through GPS and does stuff.

Roy:     So it lit­er­al­ly com­mu­ni­cates what’s going on with the machine.  Now, aren’t there oth­er com­pa­nies doing that?

Davis:  Yes, there are some com­peti­tors doing that in this space, but our biggest val­ue propo­si­tion, or how­ev­er you call it, how we’re dif­fer­ent is the inter­face, the vend­ing machine inter­face, when actu­al­ly the user logs into Web and can see every­thing.  We pay spe­cial atten­tion to user expe­ri­ence and things like that.  So I think that is where we excel is actu­al­ly… it’s pret­ty hard to make hard­ware which is cheap in Latvia.  Most of the peo­ple out­source pro­duc­tion in Chi­na, so that’s where we excel, is that inter­face, which can­not be copied.

Roy:     So now, this ser­vice, how many peo­ple work for Ven­don?

Davis:  Ven­don is grow­ing quick­ly.  I think it should be at least 10, 15 peo­ple.

Roy:     Ten, 15 peo­ple.  And then you’re actu­al­ly going out and sell­ing the ser­vice to com­pa­nies… peo­ple that own vend­ing machines, obvi­ous­ly.  Com­pa­nies that are vend­ing machine own­ers?

Davis:  Yes.  Yes, yes.  This is just one exam­ple.  I want­ed to also give anoth­er exam­ple which shows… I think I should explain to you more about the way actu­al­ly the incu­ba­tor works for us.  So, the idea is that every employ­ee can come to the founders and pitch their idea to the founders.  “Hey, I have an idea for this ser­vice, that’s an app that does this, and this is the mar­ket, this is what we need.  I need a Devel­op­er and Design­er to do this, and we hope to have it done in X‑amount of time.”  And if the founders like the idea, they actu­al­ly pro­vide you resources.

You can assem­ble your team from the whole com­pa­ny, we have 115 peo­ple, so you can assem­ble the team from all these peo­ple, have them come to your project.  You usu­al­ly build the first pro­to­type in your 20 per­cent time, but we have also, well, Google has also 20 per­cent, and we have that too.  That means peo­ple on Fri­days can work on their own ideas.  Twen­ty per­cent time can also be used for some non-busi­ness… like, it does­n’t always have to be, you know, where you have to make your own start­up.  But then we can build the pro­to­type and bring it to mar­ket, and if it has trac­tion, then you have the abil­i­ty to form an actu­al com­pa­ny.

So the way most oth­er, inside the com­pa­ny, like in LinkedIn.  LinkedIn has an incu­ba­tor.  You can’t real­ly form a com­pa­ny with your own idea.  So what Draugiem does is that we allow employ­ees to form a com­pa­ny and have equi­ty in that idea.  That means that they are more moti­vat­ed to work that and devel­op that, and advance it.  And one inter­est­ing thing was, in Draugiem, they have an adver­tis­ing depart­ment that sells adver­tis­ing on the social net­work.  And one employ­ee was work­ing there, and he noticed a prob­lem that a lot of adver­tis­ers strug­gled to com­mu­ni­cate effec­tive­ly on social net­works, and the spaces also like Trig­ger and Face­book and Draugiem as well.

So he not­ed that there was Hoot­Suite and oth­er options who includ­ed Face­book and Trig­ger, but there was no tool that includ­ed also the Lat­vian social net­work, which is impor­tant for the Lat­vian busi­ness­es.  So he went out and made this ser­vice called ProDesk.com, which is the social man­age­ment plat­form for all three impor­tant social net­works.

Roy:     And that’s ProDesk, D‑E-S‑K?

Davis:  Yes. ProDesk.com. And I think it was… like in Amer­i­ca, we hear that peo­ple are very entre­pre­neur­ial, they are ready to take risks, but in Latvia, the whole 50 years of the Sovi­et occu­pa­tion did­n’t real­ly help entre­pre­neur­ial spir­it, and the com­mon econ­o­my, it did­n’t have the cap­i­tal­ism here, so we’re just learn­ing more about busi­ness and pro­mot­ing that.  Latvia is, I think, my col­league, Janis, who did ProDesk, he would prob­a­bly not have done his idea if it was­n’t for the sup­port of Draugiem, engag­ing big lead time to break even, and also gave him the team who can build this.

If he would have left the com­pa­ny to recruit team and basi­cal­ly not pay them and promise some rev­enues down the road, it would be much hard­er.  In Draugiem, he can take these big risks and new ideas, and still don’t wor­ry about job secu­ri­ty, because the social net­work and oth­er com­pa­nies who are prof­itable in our growth, we use those prof­its to invest in all the oth­er star­tups, and start­ed ideas.

Roy:     That’s fan­tas­tic!  What… so now, any of these com­pa­nies that peo­ple… what’s the old­est com­pa­ny in your pro­gram?

Davis:  Well, the Draugiem, that’s the old­est.  But the old­est is actu­al­ly the first one, the first com­pa­ny called MapOn.com.

Roy:     M‑A-P-O‑N?

Davis:  Yes.

Roy:     Okay.

Davis:  So if you actu­al­ly look at all 16 com­pa­nies, you know that even some of them are relat­ed.  You’ll see MapOn, Ven­don, you’ll see they’re sim­i­lar.  So what MapOn is is a car fleet man­age­ment sys­tem.  It’s also a pret­ty crowd­ed space, but back when we start­ed it was pret­ty new.  So it allows you to car your car fleet via GPS.  Also, you can track how much fuel is left in the tank, like for exam­ple, Sta­toil, a big Nor­we­gian oil com­pa­ny is using that to track whether some­body’s not steal­ing the fuel from their big trucks who deliv­er fuel to the Gaus­pans, so.

Roy:     I have a ques­tion.  I noticed… I went to MapOn, and it looks like a great prod­uct, but obvi­ous­ly you don’t seem to be… you seem to be, I guess, mar­ket­ing to East­ern and West­ern Europe, pri­mar­i­ly?

Davis:  Yes.  The MapOn is actu­al­ly the prod­uct which is strong in Latvia, and expand­ing in Ukraine, Lithua­nia.  And the Ven­don is most­ly for the West­ern Europe.  And what I actu­al­ly want more is an idea basis that… you know, it’s very hard, because we have 16 com­pa­nies who still work.  So I actu­al­ly work with ideas with the founder, who is in Los Ange­les.  So we’re a pret­ty glob­al busi­ness in that sense, that we cov­er Europe and Amer­i­ca.

Roy:     Well, I was going to say, it would seem like there would be unique oppor­tu­ni­ties to part­ner with Amer­i­can com­pa­nies, giv­en that you have such great tech­nol­o­gy.  You could sub­stan­tial­ly grow your busi­ness­es by part­ner­ing with Amer­i­can com­pa­nies.  Or, just start­ing it here, either way, it’s up to you.  But do you have plans to try to expand in the US?

Davis:  For MapOn and Ven­don, no, not yet. We’re still grasp­ing the vast Euro­pean mar­ket. We pop­u­late just a small frac­tion of the vend­ing busi­ness in Europe, which would be bil­lions of dol­lars prob­a­bly.  So the Euro­pean mar­ket is large.  We actu­al­ly… I think we had offers, some Amer­i­can com­pa­nies want­ed to buy out MapOn, and we’ve had those offers once in a while.   But Amer­i­ca isn’t like in Europe.  Europe is not a uni­fied mar­ket, but it’s a big enough mar­ket on itself if you want… you don’t have to go out of Europe.

And also the same, that’s why we have the sub­sidiary in Cal­i­for­nia, because we noticed that there’s a lot of nich­es that would just not work in Latvia.  Because the coun­try of two mil­lion peo­ple, an econ­o­my is real­ly small just like the econ­o­my would be the size of… just like some nor­mal size city in Amer­i­ca would have the same size econ­o­my as Latvia.  So there’s a lot of nich­es that does­n’t work in Latvia.  When we start­ed those ideas and busi­ness­es in Amer­i­can, it’s a big uni­fied com­mon mar­ket, and that niche just is more suc­cess­ful there because there’s much more peo­ple, and you can mar­ket pret­ty much in almost the same way in all the Unit­ed States.

And in Europe, you have to have rep­re­sen­ta­tives and dis­trib­u­tors in each coun­try, and you have to mar­ket in the way French peo­ple like, and you have to trans­late your prod­uct.  It’s much hard­er to do here, to do here than in US.  And we’re lucky in that for Star­tupVi­t­a­mins, we just put on a Web site and mar­ket to every­body in the same way, and I think it’s great about Amer­i­ca.

Roy:     Well, that’s why a lot of peo­ple… that’s why a lot of peo­ple try to sell their prod­ucts in the US because it’s a rel­a­tive­ly homo­ge­neous mar­ket, ver­sus like you said, all the dif­fer­ent coun­tries.  Each one is a dif­fer­ent cul­ture, it’s a dif­fer­ent approach.  I mean, no ques­tion, there’s a lot of mon­ey to be made in Europe, both West­ern and East­ern Europe.  It’s just like you said, each coun­try may require a dif­fer­ent approach, or slight­ly dif­fer­ent changes.  Can you give us a sense for your whole com­pa­ny what kind of over­all rev­enues you guys are doing?

Davis:  So, I don’t have the data for 2012 yet, because I don’t think that’s pub­lic, but back in 2011, we did about 15 mil­lion Euros in annu­al rev­enue and man­aged to get about 1.2 mil­lion Euros in prof­it. If you go on DraugiemGroup.com, you actu­al­ly see that infor­ma­tion as well there. I could actu­al­ly… we’ll prob­a­bly update it soon.

Roy:     Oh, okay.  So have you seen your rev­enues grow­ing year to year?

Davis:  Yes. We’re grow­ing every year, yes. But we’re grow­ing the fastest when we start­ed with the social net­work, and then there’s peo­ple that are still adapt­ing it. When we hit it pret­ty much the 100 per­cent expan­sion of pop­u­la­tion that grows slow, and that’s why we start­ed this incu­ba­tor to kind of work, fol­low­ing the lean char­ter prin­ci­ples to work on these new ideas, grant­i­ng the min­i­mal allow­able prod­uct, putting in the mar­ket and see if there’s trac­tion, so to have the same growth rate that we used to have, we actu­al­ly have to inno­vate real­ly fast.  And I think that incu­ba­tor is help­ing us to do that.

Roy:     Well, there’s no ques­tion that obvi­ous­ly, Latvia is a rel­a­tive­ly small coun­try, and there’s only so much you can get out of it, and as you observed, for your adver­tis­ing on Draugiem, do you get out­side, oth­er than… you know, non-local adver­tis­ers on there?  Do you get a lot of those?  Or, is it just pri­mar­i­ly Lat­vian?

Davis:  It’s pri­mar­i­ly Lat­vian, there’s a lot of inter­na­tion­al grounds, like Sam­sung and Nokia, you know, all those inter­na­tion­al brands of agen­cies in Latvia.  So when they do a big glob­al cam­paign, they do it both on Face­book and in Latvia, they do it both on Face­book and on Draugiem.

Roy:     Oh, okay.  So you’re pick­ing up some of that adver­tis­ing.  But obvi­ous­ly, you’ve seen that by adding new busi­ness­es, you can grow your busi­ness.  So that makes a big dif­fer­ence.

Davis:  Yes, yes, def­i­nite­ly.

Roy:     We have a zil­lion com­pa­nies up here.  So of these com­pa­nies that you have, is there any one that you can talk about, that you think is real­ly the up and com­ing one?  Some­thing that’s rel­a­tive­ly new, but you real­ly think is going to explode?

Davis:  Yes. That’s actu­al­ly our lat­est project, and that’s a com­pa­ny called Print­ful.  The Web site is ThePrintful.com.  And it just start­ed out.  It’s a drop ship­ping ser­vice with an API.  Actu­al­ly, when we start­ed… some of the busi­ness­es, like Star­tupVi­t­a­mins, sells posters, ini­tial­ly we want­ed to out­source the pro­duc­tion of posters to some­body else. But we could­n’t find a drop ship­per who works through API, mean­ing that when the order comes in to Star­tupVi­t­a­mins, it would be auto­mat­i­cal­ly pushed to the drop ship­per and they would deploy… they would ship the prod­uct to the client.  And also, we could­n’t find the ser­vice that would con­cen­trate on print prod­ucts.  I mean, t‑shirts and posters, screen prints, greet­ing cards and so on.  So we just made our own.

And we just launched it a month ago in a pri­vate beta, and we’ve seen an over­whelm­ing response.  But that’s also most­ly because we had a pret­ty good audi­ence for StartupVitamins.com, and you just send out an e‑mail to all the fol­low­ers of Star­tupVi­t­a­mins, “Hey, here’s Print­ful.”  If you want to make the same kind of busi­ness like Star­tupVi­t­a­mins by sell­ing posters and oth­er print prod­ucts, here’s the tool that you need.  And all you have to wor­ry about is just hav­ing to put up the Web site, hav­ing it be able to accept pay­ments, and have prod­ucts and designs.  And for­ward that design to Print­ful, and we’ll drop ship your prod­ucts to your cus­tomers from Cal­i­for­nia.

Roy:     Now, I’m sure you must be famil­iar with Cafe­Press and Zaz­zle.

Davis:  Yes, Cafe­Press and Zaz­zle, but they don’t…

Roy:     What are you doing that’s dif­fer­ent, bet­ter, what­ev­er, than them?

Davis:  I think our dif­fer­ence is that we will have a very ele­gant and fast API, so that you don’t… you just have the Web site up and run­ning and all the orders go straight to the Print­ful sys­tem.  So that, okay, they might have a lit­tle more var­ied selec­tion of prod­ucts, but they’re adding new brands and new prod­ucts every day on Print­ful.

Roy:     Now, do you offer… I know they offer Cus­tomer Ser­vice.  So if some­body uses the API and sells some­thing and then there’s a prob­lem, you can call the Cus­tomer Ser­vice depart­ment of Cafe­Press and Zaz­zle direct­ly and the store­front does­n’t have to deal with that.  Do you guys offer that too, or…?

Davis:  No, we don’t offer that. We dis­cussed that in the team, and they decid­ed it would cre­ate too much prob­lems. We offer Cus­tomer Ser­vice only to extend that, if your cus­tomer receives a bro­ken item, so let’s say a mug was bro­ken in the mail, we would han­dle that. But our clients com­mu­ni­cate with their cus­tomers direct­ly. And actu­al­ly, one of our ear­ly cus­tomers said that he does­n’t like the Cafe­Press and Zaz­zle’s Spread­shirt because they brand every­thing, or they brand their prod­uct and they ship it, and they does­n’t have the full con­trol.

Also, the store­front is host­ed by I think it was the Spread­shirt com­pa­ny, in this case. They would mar­ket the Spread­shirt ser­vice to their cus­tomers who used it, basi­cal­ly hijack­ing them. I think that our cus­tomer used the term that’s basi­cal­ly, you know, some­thing you should… it’s faster, I think, I think he referred to as, it’s wrong how they exploit­ed this new cus­tomer base for their own good. When you use Print­ful, you are in com­plete con­trol of your plat­form, you don’t rent the ship prod­ucts in any way. So you might as well… your cus­tomers might as well not know that you don’t real­ly make that…

Roy:     So in oth­er words, when I set up your API with Print­ful, and I sell my t‑shirt, you guys make it and you ship it to my client, my cus­tomer, and the return address is me?

Davis:  Yes.  Return address could be you, could be us, you can choose your own return address.

Roy:     So in essence, it’s total­ly what they call “white label.”

Davis:  Yes.

Roy:     So that’s inter­est­ing.  Because you’re right, I know through Cafe­Press and Zaz­zle, they don’t even give you the cus­tomer’s names.  So not only don’t you find out who bought your prod­uct, you have no way to com­mu­ni­cate with them unless you con­vince the cus­tomer to give you their e‑mail address, or what­ev­er.  So def­i­nite­ly an oppor­tu­ni­ty for a white label ser­vice there, no ques­tion.  No ques­tion.  So is there any­thing that I did­n’t ask you that you want­ed to men­tion in our inter­view here?

Davis:  Okay, the one thing I did­n’t, I think, I am actu­al­ly, myself, tak­ing advan­tage of this busi­ness mod­el we have here.  And me and my col­league, the Design­er, had an idea for a Mac app called Inboard, it’s InboardApp.com.  This is a Mac, we noticed like in my work and in his work, as a Design­er, we take a lot of screen shots of cool ideas we found on the Inter­net, like a cool bus, or a cool idea how to con­vert more cus­tomers, and oth­er things.  And those screen shots just pile up in a Find­er and it’s very hard to sort through the Find­er.  So we made an app called Inboard.

It’s a Pin­ter­est-like user-inter­face, it means that there’s not just the small thumb views of icons like in Find­er, but it fills the screen even­ly.  The screen shots you get back, then sort them.  You can take full page screen shots from Chrome, et cetera.  So that was our old prob­lem.  We sort of scratched our itch and made a prod­uct, and now we’re bet­ter.  And the founders believed in that idea, and now we can do that.  And I also think we would not have done this if it were not for the sup­port of Draugiem Group.

Roy:     That’s fan­tas­tic!  So let me ask you a ques­tion.  So your role there is, you run the ven­ture fund, I guess it is?  The Incu­ba­tor?

Davis:  Well, it’s not a ven­ture fund, because we don’t invest out­side of Draugiem, so yes, I’m work­ing at this idea, which we evolve these new ideas.  The way it works, we ini­tial­ly work in this sub­sec­tion of com­pa­ny ideas, and you work on this new idea.  When you make it, and it’s final­ly can be your own inde­pen­dent com­pa­ny, then you grad­u­ate and move to the dif­fer­ent parts of the com­pa­ny, so did Ven­don, for exam­ple.

Roy:     And your role is to over­see all of these com­pa­nies, is that cor­rect?

Davis:  Yes.  Yes.  And I also work direct­ly, on my own projects, so.

Roy:     You have your own projects.

Davis:  Yes.  For exam­ple, Inboard is my own.  So I do that.  We’re not big on titles here at Draugiem Group, because it’s chang­ing so fast, we don’t care that much for that.  We only… we want to keep the small start­up sort of cul­ture, even though we are grow­ing, and we are already 113 peo­ple.

Roy:     So let me ask you a ques­tion.  So now, the peo­ple that are lis­ten­ing to this, what if you have some­body out there who’s a great Devel­op­er, or just a great busi­ness per­son, has some great ideas.  Would you encour­age them to com­mu­ni­cate with you to see if there’s an oppor­tu­ni­ty to work togeth­er on it?

Davis:  Well, for Devel­op­ers and busi­ness peo­ple like that, you would kind of need to move to Latvia to work with us.  But we always are look­ing for part­ners in Amer­i­ca who can help us pro­mote our prod­ucts, or also in Europe who can help us, like re-sell­ers and PR peo­ple in agen­cies who can help us to reach audi­ence in Amer­i­ca.  So I would sug­gest, if you take a look at our Web site, if you real­ly like some of the prod­ucts you see, just write us in, we’ll see what we can do.

Roy:     And how would they reach you?

Davis:  Every­body can reach me at davis@draugiemgroup.com, or davis@ideabits.com.

Roy:     Davis, or, what’s the oth­er one?

Davis:  Davis@ideabits.com

Roy:     I‑D-F‑S.com, okay.

Davis:  No, Ide­abits, like the incu­ba­tor name.

Roy:     Oh, Ideas.

Davis:  Yes, Ide­abits.

Roy:     Why don’t you spell that for every­one?

Davis:  It’s I‑D-E-A-B-I-T‑S.

Roy:     Oh, Ide­abits.  Okay.  Dot com.  Very good.  Very good, well, I real­ly appre­ci­ate your tak­ing the time, Davis, to share some of what you guys are doing.  I think you guys are a very dynam­ic orga­ni­za­tion.  It’s tru­ly a busi­ness mod­el that every­body should take a look at and com­pa­nies should think about, how could we grow?  And you guys have solved an impor­tant prob­lem being in a small coun­try, how do you grow the busi­ness?  You kind of like an amoe­ba, you just let all kinds of peo­ple come up with ideas and you start a new busi­ness.  So just… I real­ly appre­ci­ate you tak­ing the time, and it’s a great inter­view, and we appre­ci­ate it, and thank you very much!

Davis:  Thank you!

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