Barbara Sołtysińska is CEO and co-founder of indaHash.com, a global technology platform with offices in London, Berlin, NYC, Warsaw, Johannesburg and Singapore, that connects brands and agencies to over 300k digital influencers to create authentic, original branded content. Prior to indaHash she founded another successful company – LifeTube, which is now one of CEE Europe’s biggest YouTube multi-channel networks (MCN). It gives managerial services to the biggest Youtubers. Since launching indaHash in January 2016, it now operates in over 70 global markets and influencers on the platform have a combined reach of over half a billion followers.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
I come from an entrepreneurial family and have always been interested in the world of business and technology. My motivation comes from my passion to create new things together with great people.
After starting as a trainee at one of Poland’s biggest PR agencies, I was promoted a few short years later to Vice Managing Director. It was then that I was approached by a friend who was a YouTube artist to start doing managerial services for him. After that, I partnered with another Youtuber and co-founded a company called Lifetube.
When it was time to sell LifeTube, it was one of CEE Europe’s biggest multi-channel networks. It also grew to have a talent management arm, influencer agency and production house. I exited the business in November 2016.
When looking to scale the business, I soon realized that there was a huge potential in mid-tier influencers who don’t have talent agents, but have extremely engaged audiences. At the same time, more marketer-friendly social media platforms were coming to the foreground. Instagram in particular was image-rich and enjoying really high engagement levels. Thanks to technology, the process could also be automated – allowing for scale. Thus, indaHash.com was officially launched in January 2016.
Tell us about your business.
indaHash is the first and only fully automated tech platform that connects brands directly to mid-tier social media influencers via iOS and Android app to create original, authentic branded content campaigns. We work with over 300k influencers worldwide in over 70 markets, and have recently expanded into the US market. We have run over 1000 campaigns for Fortune 500 brands including Coca-Cola, Kraft and Visa and was profitable within 5 months. Our biggest campaign ran over 15 markets simultaneously.
The platform allows clients (brands and media agencies) to harness the creativity of multiple influencers at scale, quickly and cost-effectively. Clients set a “task” for influencers and define the campaign parameters. To give more context on our campaigns, check out these case studies we did with Lee denim and Sephora.
indaHash has influencers of all sizes, curated for their engagement levels, aesthetic quality and following – approximately 1 in 5 are accepted. We focus on mid-tier “power users” with 1,000-100,000 followers as these tend to enjoy greater engagement levels than “celebrities” as their audiences are smaller but more tightly focused around their interests. A typical indaHash campaign has engagement rates between 4-11% versus an average of <1% for celebrity campaigns.
I have been lauded as;
- EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year (new business category)
- Businesswoman of the Year
- IAB Mixx Awards Poland’s “Man of the Year”
indaHash has been awarded with;
- Accenture ConsumerTech Awards
- Newsweek Innovator Award
- Festival of Media
Where is your business based?
Indahash’s HQ is in Warsaw, Poland, and has offices in London, Berlin, Johannesburg , New York, Dubai and Singapore and operates business in over 70 global markets. This year we will open up to 20 more including Brazil, Indonesia and Israel.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
When I realized the need for a fully automated platform like indaHash, the first step I took in starting the business was building the right team and trying to prioritize the most important tasks. It’s very challenging if you want to grow and at the same time, develop a product that opens new business opportunities while answering clients’ needs.
As we started growing very rapidly, we introduced new recruitment procedures to build a strong team, and we are still improving them to find and attract the best talents. Right now we use several tools like Lever as the platform, StrengthsFinder and MBTI to identify people’s talents and create strong teams. As we recently opened three new offices, the actual challenge came with keeping company culture and managing different time zones. It is important for us to still keep flexibility, be open for insights from clients and influencers and develop our product.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
Our influencers have been amazing at getting us noticed. We’re at 300,000 global influencers now and it’s growing everyday. Influencers part of our platform see it’s a great tool and an easy way to make money on their passions, so they will recommend us to their friends and we continue to grow that way. Usually one of the first campaigns they see in the app is the campaign promoting our own app.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
That there is only one of me! In the early days of indaHash it was difficult to convince our first clients to come on board and to adjust product to the market. We had to be patient and listen carefully to what people wanted to tell us instead of just trying to explain why we are so unique. We had to adjust our offer and work hard on the product. Within 18 months we grew from having a dozen team members to over 130 people on board on 7 markets in different time zones. It’s also tough keeping up with the growing and changing demands of running a global business. We’re opening up 20 new markets this year, so as you can see, we are very busy!
How did you overcome these challenges?
Again, it’s all about surrounding yourself with people that want your business to succeed as much as you do, and of course, love what they do. We have a very thorough recruitment process to get the right people on board. My staff helps me overcome the challenges that come with the ever changing landscape that is our business. We try to find people who are really passionate about what we do and want to take responsibilities and ownership.
To manage our fast growing team we also introduced Objective Key Results in the company – a framework invented by Intel to create measurable ambitious goals that are clearly assigned to all teams and shows how they contribute to accomplish our mission and vision.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
We want everyone in the company to feel really empowered and responsible for part of the business we do together. That is why we try to keep clarity with our mission, goals and encourage people to improve our work everyday. That is also why we all work on new ideas for our product, company and also management. Besides that, every few months we organize global meetings, all our heads work with an external coach. We also invest a lot in trainings and organized a Book Club – an initiative in which people order books they want to read and then share their views.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
We are different in that we give an end-to-end technology solution. We can run campaigns in dozens of markets simultaneously with live reporting and optimization. We focus on mid-tier influencers since they are more engaged with their audiences and produce more thoughtful, original content, which is what brands want these days.
We also have different pricing models;
- CPM – Cost Per Mille
- CPE – Cost Per Engagement
- CPV – Cost Per View
- Cost Per Content
We created a media product and also offer brands full control over the entire process by giving them the option to pre-moderate the content. We offer very precise targeting via hashtags and audiences of influencers. As a majority of our influencers are mid-tier people, they are very authentic with their audiences and have extremely high engagement rates. We also give clients digital rights for the content so that they can reuse it in their ads or on social media channels.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
Expect the best, be prepared for the worst.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Don’t be afraid of anything, have strong faith and keep doing new things and improve them endlessly.
What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?
I love using Asana because it saves your email for your real work. Most importantly it keeps internal communications organized with the use of assigning tasks and deadlines. What’s worse that waking up to 200 emails from a chain about where to have the next team happy hour?!
I also love using Zoom for meetings since we have so many global employees and it’s a nice way for everyone to see one another from different parts of the world. And it’s so easy to use. Some other tools I cannot live without are Google Docs. I also like Calendly for arranging meetings and Wunderlist for creating different to-do lists like a list of movies to watch or books to read.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
- “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari
- “Faster Smarter Better” by Charles Duhigg
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
Cultural differences in communication and e-learning that we are introducing to facilitate new employee induction processes.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
Introducing a new, better dashboard for advertisers and giving them even more precise targeting options. We are always looking to innovate and be better. Another goal is to continue growing into new markets and expanding our bank of influencers.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.