Focus on the important stuff, life is short!

airfocus: Prioritize decisions and build more effective roadmaps

Please introduce yourself and your startup airfocus to our readers!
My name is Malte and together with our CTO Christian, I am one of two co-founders of airfocus.io. In my role as CEO, naturally, I set the strategic direction of the company, but I also work a lot on product, the overall user experience and help grow our user base.

airfocus is a powerful, intuitive, and easy to use software solution that helps decision makers and teams prioritize decisions and build more effective roadmaps. It provides a SaaS platform for teams and managers to make strategic decisions, communicate team priorities, delegate strategic projects and initiatives, track progress and timelines, and ultimately, provide more transparency and accountability.

Identifying company and market criteria that drive your business is key for effective prioritization. Is a revenue increase more important than strategic fit? Or is the time it takes to develop your idea more crucial than the marketing dollars spent? This might seem a bit like comparing apples and oranges. When you choose the right factors and criteria to govern these decisions, the impossible becomes possible. We’ve put a lot of energy in building tools and algorithms that help our users prioritize effectively and build and communicate visually appealing roadmaps that get your people aligned.

The company was founded in late 2017 in Hamburg and our platform already has hundreds of users.

How did you get the idea to airfocus?
Before airfocus, I worked as a product manager on multiple digital products and projects. I can’t remember a single instance where the prioritization and roadmapping flow wasn’t completely or at least partially broken. Prioritization is important. In fact, doing the right things at the right time is arguably the most important thing for any company. Surprisingly, many companies put a lot of effort and time into doing things right (e.g. setting up processes), but they tend to just assume they’ve chosen the right initiatives. Quite often, that turns out not to be the case. My co-founder and I were looking hard for software solutions that went beyond excel spreadsheets, but we simply couldn’t find anything.

Frustrated with the situation, we decided to build it ourselves. We knew we didn’t want to build yet another project management application, but had to build something that integrated nicely into the workflows and tools people already use. We started airfocus as a side project for some time before we decided to focus full time on solving the problem.

How difficult was the start and what challenges you had to overcome?
Ironically keeping focus was also a challenge for us (I guess it’s law of nature and physics). What features should we build next? What are efficient marketing initiatives and what investments will most likely not work? Should we outsource content marketing or hire someone part time? These questions kept (keep) us awake at night, but luckily we use a very powerful airfocus-trello-workflow that helps us focus on the projects that matter.

Another challenge was the tedious German incorporation process that distracted us a lot from getting the right stuff done.

Who is your target audience?
airfocus targets decision makers and teams that regularly need to make costly prioritization decisions and communicate those through roadmaps so everyone follows their lead. These are typically product managers, project managers, consultants and and so called chief officers of anything (CXOs).

What is the USP of your startup?
With airfocus decision makers can easily make objective decisions and build priority-based roadmaps. “Objective” in this sense means taking a whole set of strategy-relevant criteria and goals into account when making decisions; instead of simply looking at arbitrary dimensions like “value” or “effort”. Prior to airfocus the setup of such a prioritization framework in excel took days and could only be performed by real experts. With our SaaS it only takes 5 minutes to get started and you spare the pain of losing visually unappealing priority spreadsheets in your email inbox.

Can you describe a typical workday of you?
There’s no such thing as a typical workday at airfocus, but every morning our team (50% remote) gets together on Slack for a 10 minute standup meeting, where we discuss ongoing tasks and whether they comply with our high-level priority-based roadmap for the quarter.

Afterward, everyone gets to work. In my case this involves talking to customers, partners, our developers, and growth experts. Culture is key for us, so we always think of creative ways to make our days (and nights) as enjoyable and fun as possible.

Where do you see yourself and your startup airfocus in five years?
I don’t really believe in long-term plans, but rather in building solid six month to one year roadmaps that are based on actual customer needs and feedback. Nevertheless, I see airfocus expanding into more markets and addressing further customer personas. Objective priorities and well-planned roadmaps are not only relevant to project and product managers but any decision maker, independent of industry and job-title.

What 3 tips would you give other Start-up founders on the way?
1. Talk to your customers and users on a daily basis to learn what they need. No customers, no business.
2. Prioritize ruthlessly and transparently discuss your priorities and roadmap with relevant stakeholders. It sometimes feels like over-engineering, but it always pays off.
3. Have fun, life is short.

Picture airfocus team from left to right Christian Hoffmeister (CTO) Malte Scholz (CEO / Product) and Valentin Firak (CMO)

More information you will find here

Thank you Malte Scholz for the Interview

Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.

Sabine Elsässer

Sabine Elsässer is founder and chief editor of the StartupValleyNews Magazine. She started her career at several international direct sale companys. Since 2007 she works main time as a journalist. While that time she learned more about the Startup Scene, what made her start her own Startup Magazine the StartupValleyNews.

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