Friday Interview: Olga Makarova

Olga Makarova is a strategic thinker and creative leader. She brings innovative winning solutions in challenging situations. I had the pleasure of meeting her this week.

Inspired by web technology power and passionate to break the traditional conception that quality, cost, and speed of market research service are mutually exclusive.

Currently working hard on Proved.co – a smart cloud-based platform for concept testing, MRMW 2015 Best New Technology Winner. We’ve automated all the processes that don’t require the human touch. That keeps our costs down, makes the service hassle-free and lightning-fast.

Tell us a bit about your company.

The company was incorporated in Russia 9 years ago. It’s a full-service market research agency with revenues over 1 mln British Pounds, one of the key independent agencies in Russia. The team of 25 people deliver market insights to big corporations mainly from telecom and retail industries. Our core areas of expertise are in segmentation studies and new product development research.

How did you come up with the idea for Proved.co?

Within the market research paradigm there had, until recently been a conception that quality, cost and speed of service are mutually exclusive.

It was clear to us, that market research products had fallen behind in their ability to develop such solutions, relative to other industries, which had been able to provide off-the-shelf solutions for a number of applications. The only products available on market which came close to such a goal, were DIY market research tools, a number of questionnaire builders like SurveyMonkey.

The reason for this stems from a number of factors, reports are often difficult and complex products which generally require a nuanced understanding of how they should be constructed to ensure accurate data collection, not only that, but the skills required for interpretation are a high skill area of the field.

We understood that three distinct problems needed to be overcome.

  1.        Although DIY products provided cost effective solutions, they lacked the depth crucial for the assembly of meaningful questions that avoided undue bias and confusing orders or constructs,
  2.      DIY solutions did not provide a base of respondents,
  3.       And crucially, DIY tools lacked the sophisticated knowledge required for accurate interpretation of survey results.

We came up with the idea to combine and automate professional instrumentation, professional data collection and professional reporting.

We developed Proved.co – a smart cloud-based platform for professional, fast and affordable concept testing. We found ways to automate all the processes required to generate quality reports at price levels that redefine what the market can deliver, with both new and disruptive innovations that satisfies even the most demanding client’s expectations.

Do you feel that the working culture between Russia and the UK is very different?

I would say, office working culture in Russia is very different. Nine to five is not the case for Russian people. We come by 10 or 11, start the day with a cup of coffee chatting with colleagues about the families or recent political news. Lunch time can take up to 3 hours.

Surprisingly, the deadlines are met, and projects completed even faster than in the UK. The reason for that are long hours in the office and the ability to work effectively under pressure.

In fact, I’ve learned about work-life balance concept only in the UK.

Any advice for new entrepreneurs on how to do their market research for a low cost?

New entrepreneurs, being on a limited budget, often ignore market research, thinking this step is not worth their money. Another rather frequent case is that entrepreneurs are either scared to get negative feedback, or afraid that their ideas will be stolen.

Thus, they lack feedback from the real world from the very start of their business. Just think, you’re building a product/service for the real world, not for yourself or your mom. So ask the real world what it thinks about your idea, your pricing model, your packaging, your offers before you start investing money and efforts. Wrong assumptions are much more expensive than market research costs.

Though market research industry is far behind others in automating and thus bringing costs down, there is already a range of free or affordable market research online tools that can help you.

Facebook: proved.co
Twitter: @proved_co

Olga is one of the mentors at the Migrant Business Accelerator.
If you wish to help migrants become entrepreneurs and change their lives for the better, get in touch with This Foreigner Can Social Enterprise.