Interview: Mr. Avinoam Nowogrodski – CEO & Co-Founder (Clarizen)
Avinoam brings over 20 years of experience in sales, engineering and business management positions to Clarizen. Avinoam co-founded Clarizen with the vision to simplify the way companies manage their projects. Prior to establishing the company, Avinoam co-founded and served for 10 years as the Chief Executive Officer of SmarTeam Corporation, a leading provider of collaborative product life cycle management solutions.
As CEO from 1995 – 2005, Avinoam’s leadership molded the company through many phases, from its early entry into the market via an indirect channel through the creation of an enterprise product lifecycle management solution portfolio sold and supported by IBM. In 1999 SmarTeam was acquired by Dassault Systemes (DS) and Avinoam served on the DS General Executive Management team for 6 years. At his departure from the company, SmarTeam had 3,500 customers across diverse industries and over 100,000 users worldwide.
Mr. Nowogrodski holds a BSC in Electronics Engineering from Tel Aviv University.
Can you tell us something about yourself your education, professional experience, interests, etc.?
I am a second-time entrepreneur. The first company I built was called Smarteam, which helped engineers to design collaboratively. It played well into my education background; I hold a Bachelor’s of Science degree in electrical engineering. Dassault Systemes bought Smarteam early in its lifecycle, just three years after I founded it. This freed me up to build Clarizen.
Can you tell us something about Clarizen? How did the journey start and where do you see yourself in the future?
Clarizen is work management software, in other words it helps people work smarter and faster by providing a context and system for project planning, execution and communication. We built Clarizen with the end user in mind, so employees can manage their workdays, while managers and executives have the information to optimize resources, make decisions faster and minimize risk. I started Clarizen with the vision to change the way companies run their business and this vision keeps growing as we continue to grow. I see this growth continuing so Clarizen becomes a go-to tool for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
What is your opinion of cloud computing? Do you think, in spite of some of the recent reliability and security concerns such as the Amazon outage, that cloud computing is the technology of the future?
Cloud computing is here to stay because of the influx of devices people use on a daily basis for their jobs. Personal computers will be used for “heavy lifting” on the job, but mobile devices will take over for management and communication. Since businesses need to access their projects and data from anywhere, cloud computing will be an essential part of business infrastructure going forward. Just like other technologies it will evolve and change to meet these demands. This means improvements in reliability and security are inevitable.
What is Clarizen’s Unique Selling Proposition? Who are your customers?
Unlike other project management software on the market, Clarizen connects the islands of information within a business or between vendors and partners. For example, marketing can share tasks within a project with accounting and vice versa when bills need to be paid. Also, Clarizen is cloud-based so anyone can start using the product within minutes without involving IT. For this reason it’s easy to scale for enterprises and projects of all sizes. Our customers include Websense, Fujitsu, NBC Universal and MarketShare. We also have several professional services companies using Clarizen to provide high calibre client service.
What do your customers say about you? Do you have any quantifiable data on how you’ve helped them?
Our customers say Clarizen has saved them time and made them more efficient, which feeds into their bottom line by improving work output. I’ve heard one customer say Clarizen saved them 10 hours per week. That’s 10 hours that individual gets back to provide better service. Additionally, we hear the software is easier to use than other project management systems, which makes it well suited for non-project managers. Customers say Clarizen is powerful, yet easier to learn and pretty intuitive compared to others on the market. Finally, we get praise for our customer service. We’ve heard customers say we go out of our way to provide great support. But you don’t have to take my word for it; we have customer reviews and testimonials on our website.
Who are your current competitors in the cloud-based project management space? How do you differentiate yourself?
As far as I know there are no other cloud-based project management solutions on the market. There are client-based project management solutions out there, but Clarizen is uniquely positioned since we began within the cloud. This has influenced our simple user-interface and ability to adapt quickly to customer needs in terms of product development and innovation. In terms of the project management spectrum, we offer more flexibility and collaboration than Microsoft Project while providing more structure than say Basecamp. In fact, several of our existing customers outgrow Basecamp and end up upgrading to Clarizen.
I noticed that you also have an iPhone app. Can you please provide some details?
We developed the iPhone app because today’s workforce is mobile and we wanted our customers to have access to Clarizen whenever they need it. You can bring up relevant task lists and attachments you might need to update or complete a task. You can even upload on-site photos or notes so the entire team has access. People can download the Clarizen app in the Apple App Store.
How responsive is your customer service? What kind of turnaround time do you offer on service requests?
We take surveys from customers consistently throughout the sales process, and one of the primary reasons customers list for choosing Clarizen over the competition is our customer service. Clarizen offers over 30 live, free webinars each week where customers can ask specific questions and get ongoing, customized training. Further, rather than just give a customer a generic call center phone number, we give customers a dedicated success manager a project management expert who can address specific issues when they arise.
Additionally, we have an open dialogue with our customers and they influence how we develop Clarizen. In fact, I personally meet with customers on a regular basis to learn how they’re using the product and what they’d like to see down the road to address their needs. Finally, we have a Customer Advisory Board where we invite individuals from key accounts to join. Our product team discusses features of upcoming releases and gets their feedback.
I noticed that you offer a 30-day free trial. What kind of conversions have you seen with people signing up after the 30-day period?
We have amazing conversion rates with our 30-day trial period because companies realize how Clarizen brings clarity and a feeling of zen when there’s real-time transparency and efficiency to work, hence the name of our company. Every day, more than 200 organizations sign up to try Clarizen and 80 percent of our customers increase their organizational use of Clarizen within the first six months.
Is there anything else you would like to add to this interview?
We have some exciting developments coming in version 5.3 that will help transform email from unstructured communication into organized and actionable tasks. We believe this product release will change how teams interact with tasks, projects, team members, managers, vendors and customers.
By Sourya Biswas