SYNC with Jonathan Gebauer Founder of ExploreB2B
We recently interviewed Jonathan Gebauer, the CEO and founder of ExploreB2B, the content marketing, social media platform. Their goal is to help companies find other business partners through sharing relevant business content. Jonathan likens it to a dating site for businesses. Having started in Germany, Jonathan shares his thoughts on starting up, growing the platform and working with family. This is a great interview with a real "David" taking on the "Goliath" likes of LinkedIn and others ion the market.
Jonathan has also agreed to join the 2013 judging panel for the Big Awards. We look forward to his leadership.
[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/90137257" params="" width=" 100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]
Russ: Good afternoon, everyone. This is Russ Fordyce from the Business Intelligence Group. Today, we've got Jonathan Gebauer on. Jonathan is the CEO and co-founder of ExploreB2B. Jonathan thanks for joining us.
Jonathan: Thanks for having me.
Russ: You developed this platform that is a content marketing social network platform. Tell us your vision for the platform and how you got started.
Jonathan: The initial vision for the platform was basically to create a dating site for businesses, which sounds weird, but in my opinion, makes absolute sense because what you really need in business is new contacts, get out of your own area and get your business into the minds of other people.
Get corporation's going, just as you and me actually right now. That was the initial vision. What we've developed is basically a social network where you can publish your content, your ideas, your product and connect to others and interact with others about your content and about their content and find, basically, the perfect match for your company.
Russ: Yeah, so we've actually published a lot of articles on this site. We've got interaction with other like-minded professionals. How do you go about enabling those relationships between companies? How do you help others find each other?
Jonathan: First, we've got this system of basically everyone can reach the status being an expert on Explore B2B, which gives himself more credibility and makes others want to contact him. Then, the second thing is basically … a main thing probably is to show everyone the content that is actually relevant for him.
Basically, you publish in your industry or in the industry you want to connect to. Then, anyone in that industry is actually given that content, but only those people who actually subscribe to the content. You always get the content you actually want on Explore B2B. We try to limit them as much as possible …
Jonathan: Again, what we want to achieve is them to get a lot of content and them to get a lot of readers, but actually get those readers that are interested in your content and will then connect to you.
Russ: Yeah, it makes perfect sense. It's like a more refined and more focused LinkedIn type of discussion and type of content platform.
Jonathan: Exactly, it's a content platform, while LinkedIn is not really a content platform. You can use it distribute content via groups and via sending out status updates, but it's not an actual platform for the initial content. What we do is we put all those concepts together in one and so it's a content and distribution platform.
Russ: You initially started the site in Germany. I think you're based in Germany. Now, you've expanded to the US and other markets. Tell us what it was like starting up in Germany and how you guys got started.
Jonathan: Actually, starting in Germany was … looking back on all the big mistakes, plus starting in Germany. Actually, with all things in the new economy and all things, social media in Germany is actually far behind in the other markets and kind of a black box because [inaudible 00:04:17]
Every new social media startup from the US gets copied just for the German market, so we’ve got all those small social networks that are really closed down. Our vision was actually to connect globally. It's going to make more sense when it works globally. From the German market, it's really hard to get out.
The language barrier was a problem, so we had to basically start again with the [NTE news 00:04:50] platform. [Inaudible 00:04:52] also running and it's actually running quite well right now. The news platform started again with an empty platform because we never wanted to buy content.
You can do that. We never did that because we wanted to achieve is that every piece of content has its own person behind it so you can contact the person who wrote it and get in touch and … yes.
Russ: How do you go about managing those profiles? How do you really try to quash the spam bots and the other guys that are just looking for links? How do you try to manage that?
Jonathan: Actually, it turned out that it actually manages itself quite well. We've got a writing system on the side so that people can write good articles that are interesting. Whenever a spam, obviously of course, happens, but it happens very few times, [Inaudible 00:05:54]. Actually, receive emails, I have a look at that that [inaudible 00:06:00]
Right now, we are really, really surprised, actually, at the quality of content we get. We actually expected to get much more content in the beginning, but we have to teach people, “Please, only post interesting stuff,” but that actually didn't happen.
Actually, the really surprising thing is that even people who know use other platforms like LinkedIn for spam actually find really good content on Explore B2B.
Russ: Well, that's great. The site's been going tremendously. Every day, I look at it and it's growing by leaps and bounds. How do you manage through that growth? You guys obviously have a technology platform that's got to scale. How are you guys managing through those growing pains?
Jonathan: Actually, we have some really partners in the technology department. CDL has been extremely great at managing the scale of the platform. In the end, it basically comes down to its how often [inaudible 00:07:14] work and much too little people so we don't get much sleep.
Russ: You’re just pouring man hours in, it sounds like.
Jonathan: Right now, we are, because … ask any [inaudible 00:07:29] actually we are tremendously understaffed. In the end, we manage and we manage really well right now. Then again, I think we’ve dropped, I don't know, a couple of hour’s downtime in the last year or so. Yes. I'm actually surprised how well we actually manage to keep the platform going. Sometimes we are [inaudible 00:07:59] but it works and we are happy.
Russ: Good. Now, you've also developed the platform to have a premium model that allows for experts and users to … I guess the initial subscription model there is for, I guess, analytics and to see who's viewing your articles and to get some analytics about it. How's that going? I see you have other tiers in stage. Are you guys working towards development on those? How is the overall subscription model going?
Jonathan: The subscription model is actually developing well. It's developing slowly, but it's developing well. What we have right now on site is, as you said, statistics. Also, what our premium users get is … in case their reader is coming directly from [inaudible 00:09:02], we get them the exact person who's interested in their content.
That is basically something that no other social platform can really give you. Who is the actual reader of your content? LinkedIn can show you whose been visiting your profile, but once it comes to the content itself, the stuff you post in LinkedIn groups, they can tell you who read your article. That is something we can do and that is of high interest for people who actually marketing things on Explore B2B.
That is the [inaudible 00:09:42]. We are actually working towards relieving a lot of new [inaudible 00:09:49] I can’t really tell you when it’s coming, but it’s coming soon. That would go in the direction of … We are basically having more interaction points and more options to actually get in touch with the readers and be proactive there.
Russ: We’re going to have to keep an eye on the site and keep an eye on the news for that. You, actually, started the platform in an hour working, I think, with your sister in developing the platform. How is that family relationship working out for you?
Jonathan: Family relationship, yeah, everyone wants to know about that. Founding a company with your own family can be really stressful, but founding a company is always stressful. Actually, known stories of friends founding companies together and in the end they turned out suing each other. Actually, when you found a company with your sister, you’re much less likely to sue each other, basically. There’s always that family bond that is much stronger than just friendship. That really is a plus on that side.
Russ: Both of you have studied mathematics extensively. I think your sister holds a PhD in mathematics. How has that helped you in that startup world? Has it given you stronger algorithms? Is it giving you more analytical skills? You would think that a content marketing social media site would be more marketing people, less mathematics. Tell me how those mathematics degrees and studies have helped you.
Jonathan: It helps a lot in understanding technology and Explore B2B still a technology company. I have to say my sister holds a PhD mathematics, but after that she spent five years in strategic consulting and that’s where the actual business idea and the actual problem we want to solve originated. My role, actually the more technology oriented one because I not only studied mathematics, but computer science as well.
While I’m not a developer on Explore anymore and I’ve actually never developed Explore B2B itself, I happen to develop it before and it helps a lot in talking to technology people and [inaudible 00:12:42]. I’m basically the product manager of the company. It really helps when developing a tech company but it’s not that important for the business side of things. Apart from giving more analytical approach on solving problems, I guess.
Russ: If you could wave your magic wand, what challenge are you having right now that you’re struggling with that you’d like to go away? What’s your biggest challenge in growing the platform in the community?
Jonathan: If I had a magic wand I would probably just … basically, encourage growth. Basically, it’s still hard, because we are now on a global market, it’s still hard to reach out to all smaller markets that you’re actually trying to transform into one market. I’m not sure I know how to do that with a magic wand or how to make that quicker with a magic wand. This is something we are facing and that is what we’re working on and that is what I would improve with a lot of small things. To be honest, if I had a magic wand I would just speed up development time. Because we have so many ideas that we want to fix on the platform and want to improve on the platform. Basically, development takes time and money and things are always much too slow.
Russ: You mention time a couple times here. You’re putting in 120 hour weeks and you get an hour off. What do you like to do personally? What are you doing with that hour other than sleeping and the other stuff?
Jonathan: We are both a huge fan of dogs. I, actually since my girlfriend’s got another dog, I now have two dogs and one is a family dog, which we share with our whole family. We found that you can actually [inaudible 00:15:16] if we have an hour, we call him our data security watchdog. Apart from that, I take a lot of liking in photography and videography. Sometimes I like to do that in my scarcely available free time. Apart from that, I’m actually kind of forgetting what I used to make my life [inaudible 00:15:47] before I founded this company.
Russ: I appreciate you taking the time with me this morning. This has been Jonathan Gabauer from Explore B2B. Jonathon, I really appreciate you jumping on with a big award [inaudible 00:16:02]
Jonathan: It was fun that you had me and I’m liking your project a lot, actually. I’m happy that we met.
Russ: Yeah. It’s been great working with you. Thanks, Jonathan.
Jonathan: Thank you.