Providing modern manufacturing & inventory software for scaling businesses, Katana is part of an industry that was strongly boosted by the pandemic. Staying at home and not being able to socialise has led to a higher amount of online shopping and higher need of e-commerce tools.
Enterprise planning software is one of the biggest individual software categories, yet the sector has seen the least innovation. In other words, the long-established market leading systems are like horses in the world of Teslas (no longer fulfilling the market needs).
The ability to support both D2C (direct-to-consumer) and B2B (business-to-business) sales channels is crucial for emerging new manufacturing brands. This flexible integration is exactly the need of modern manufactures that Katana is catering.
Katana’s advantage is powered by its ability to provide smart manufacturing in a simpler way. According to CEO Kristjan Vilosius, their service is the world’s most self on-board-able manufacturing software.
🏆 Clarity in the company’s vision – catering to market needs by offering software for every manufacturer globally.
🏆 The simple self on-board-ability – being global from the start and bringing in an outstanding number of organic leads.
🏆 Stellar delivery – surpassing the goals with an ease (revenue growth, churn reduction etc).
Transitioning “making and crafting” into “manufacturing”
Katana’s mission in simpler terms is to find scaling manufacturers that are growing out of Excel and provide them with smart production planning software combined with inventory/warehouse management. Katana has stepped in to save modern growing manufacturers from taking the huge leap from spreadsheets to overly complex and expensive enterprise software.
As mentioned before, simpler and smarter is the magic formula.
They started off as a service for micro manufacturers. But by now, over30% of Katana’s product subscriptions come from the SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) segment. And nearly 50% of customers are located in the USA.
Our readers, who love Japanese culture, probably have a question. Is there any connection between Katana the company and katana the samurai sword?
Indeed, while the founders assembled a pitch to build a Manufacturing SaaS, they met the following term: Toyota Production System. For them, the samurais and ninjas were pretty logical topics to explore. Katana, the cutting-edge manufacturing software won by a landslide. 🥷🥷🥷
Expanding the team and scaling Katana
We can safely say that the boom of e-commerce is not slowing down any time soon. But before Katana can grow their family of manufacturers, they need to grow their own team first.
You might have heard about the product called NordVPN, but do you know the company behind it, Nord Security? The company started its journey in 2012 inside the Tesonet accelerator, and it has rapidly grown ever since. Today, Nord Security is one of the largest tech-companies in Lithuania in its own right, with nearly 700 employees and 15 million users worldwide.
Only recently they stepped outside of Tesonet to separately start building their company culture and employer brand. We talked with Karina Dirvonskienė, Head of HR at Nord Security, about why they are doing this, how it is going and why should the talent care?
First of all, congratulations on starting your employer journey. Could you tell us a bit about how it came to life? Why did you choose to do it now, and what challenges did it bring?
Thanks! Starting Nord Security’s employer journey is indeed a big step for us.
It’s no secret that the story of our company began with the inception of NordVPN, which at the moment is one of the most popular VPN service providers worldwide. It was the 35th project developed inside the ecosystem of the Tesonet accelerator, and over time it grew beyond our expectations. Today we are a team of nearly 700 employees and have expanded our product family by adding four new cybersecurity tools (NordPass, NordLocker, NordLayer, and NordWL). And it’s definitely not the end – we are still growing exponentially.
As it often happens, the new beginning brought us some challenges. In the past, we could rely on the Tesonet brand to fulfil our needs as an employer, but now we have to build our own employer brand from scratch. However, we’re optimistic about it since we’ve already made some progress.
Could you introduce your products to people not too familiar with the cybersecurity market? How are they received in the market so far?
At the moment, Nord Security has more than 15 million users worldwide that trust our products to ensure their privacy online. Basically, our goal is to provide true online privacy and security to as many people as we can. That also means building awareness around cybersecurity issues and their importance in the connected world.
As I’ve already mentioned, our story began with NordVPN – currently the fastest VPN on the planet, built to protect our users’ online presence from cybersecurity threats. To put it simply, you can secure your internet data and safely access personal information while browsing with NordVPN.
We also built the same solution for businesses to ensure their employee privacy online while working – NordVPNTeams. Then, there’s NordPass – an easy-to-use password manager used for storing and creating credentials. NordLocker helps to store and share confidential files securely. Finally, NordWL – a collection of tools, know-how, and infrastructure for building your own VPN products.
These five products form the Nord Security productfamily and have gained global recognition with high praise from major tech outlets and cybersec experts alike. However, we’re always looking for new opportunities to grow, so the product line-up is definitely not final.
In your first month as a separate entity, Nord Security already became the 4th most popular company on MeetFrank in Lithuania. Clearly, there’s a lot of interest from the jobseekers at the moment. What’s special about working for Nord Security? Why should people join your organization?
Where do I even begin 🙂 Well, first of all, we’re a fast-growing company with a very dynamic environment set up for professional growth. The essential thing is that every person joining our team gets to build global solutions that solve relevant problems. You can be sure that you’ll be working with top experts from all over the world and gain valuable experience.
Knowledge sharing is vastly promoted in our company and is, in fact, one of our key values – we have various initiatives, internal and external events, and even separate programs designed for personal and professional growth. Nord Security is also a very diverse company that gives people the freedom to act – you will find plenty of opportunities to express yourself and show initiative.
Could you list some of the perks that your employees enjoy?
Our colleagues enjoy numerous benefits focused on increasing their well-being, like private health insurance, mental health programs, bonus vacation days, in-house physiotherapists, flexible work hours, and more. Also, we’re famous for our workations and various celebrations.
However, in our opinion, all these perks are simply an addition to our main benefits – a great team, ambitious goals and exciting projects to work on.
What about employee dynamics – do you hire more local or global specialists, and does this put additional strain on your HR team?
As our company was founded in Lithuania, we currently have more local team members. However, we’re actively growing our international ranks and have colleagues working in Belarus, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Romania, Turkey, South Korea, Japan, and Brazil.
Hiring worldwide and expanding our reach is certainly more demanding than hiring locally. It’s a challenge to extend a feeling of belonging to team members working remotely. However, the current pandemic situation benefited us in this regard: It accelerated our remote work practices, and now we feel that we’ve become stronger as a global employer.
How many vacancies do you have at the moment? Which departments of the company are you expanding the most rapidly?
At the moment, we have more than 80 vacancies waiting to be filled, and mostly we’re looking for professionals to join our teams of Frontend, Backend, Mobile, and Marketing. However, we’re actively expanding other teams as well – take a look at our Career page – I’m sure you’ll find several options, including challenging leadership roles.
What are the most important qualities when hiring new people to the Nord Security team? Do you have any tips for the applicants to be successful in your hiring process?
We look for people who are passionate about tech and eager to learn new things quickly. The cybersecurity and IT markets are constantly changing. Breakthroughs are coming every day. As a team, we have to be ready for the shifting environment and the challenges it brings.
We place a high value on people, who challenge the status quo, look for better ways to do things, and do not agonize over decision making. There’s also a lot of focus on teamwork – we believe that magic happens in teams, so there are no individual agents here.
Katana, modern manufacturing & inventory software provider, has just recently raised $11M in funding. This together with the e-commerce boom will significantly fuel the Estonian SaaS startup business growth in 2021.
This left us wondering how the everyday work and life at Katana looks like these days?
We talked withPriit Kaasik, the co-founder and CTO at Katana, and asked him tonnes of questions. The conversation went deep into their technological backbone (full stack or function based delivery? in-house development or external services?). Also, the open discussion revealed a product mistake and how heavily underused their office PS5 is.
Take a look at the interview below 👇 and get a glimpse of Katana’s mindset. Or as Priit puts it “Why become a unicorn when you could be a unicorn 140 times over?”
There is no good way to hide that I am a process guy first and technology guy second. I aim to be the facilitator of technological advancement to best serve and innovate Katana’s manufacturing platform as a service.
Being a hybrid describes me well – excelling at combining various aspects, never in a singular discipline like coding. My strength lies in defining and driving towards the technological impact that needs to be achieved (I hope others would confirm this).
That said, my favourite pass-time is assembly and tinkering with small-factor but powerful gaming PC-s. I assemble about 2 per month for friends (for their kids) and for people who know this hobby of mine. Some may consider me a gamer, but I‘m really hanging in there because of the technology…
How would you characterize the fundamental values of Katana’s development team?
We emphasize the importance of putting on theend user’s hat and understand the business better – using full stack development and User Stories. Other main pillars would include:
💡 product delivery in increments and iteration,
💡 never reinventing a wheel,
💡 the meaning of “minimal viable”,
💡 writing cloud-native software that is robust and scales with the business.
Mainly, the development team is on a quest for a smart solution.
Let’s talk about Katana’s technological backbone. What stack do you use?
We are currently focusing on adopting Kafka more widely (lessening the importance of internal API to serve dependencies) to scale the service better horizontally.
Micro frontends are something we concentrate on – to improve parallel delivery and deployment from different product teams. And as a product, Katana has set our eyes to solutions that help us to become a manufacturing platform with a popular app store.
Click on the picture to find more info about Katana’s tech stack
Katana uses Heroku, which limits people who enjoy deployment pipeline building. What kind of developers would be a perfect match with Katana?
The limitation is similar to any other choice of technology. It’s just a combination of Bitbucket Pipelines and Heroku Pipelines – a Katana flavor of it. It would greatly benefit if you:
✅ Like pattern-based engineering, building Lego blocks for yourself, your team and teams.
✅ Appreciate full stack development and the need to understand a customer.
✅ Enjoy working in an Agile team.
✅ Being a self-sufficient engineer, without the need to be actively managed and supported, is a treat we value a lot. Because we really prefer to manage people as little as possible.
A person, who enjoys tinkering and overpolishing solutions, will have a hard time at Katana. We look for engineers who understand that their value lies in their ability to dish out the “right stuff at the right time”. Not in the code worthy of a monument now and 10 years later (we value good code but not overdoing it).
What aspects are not developed in-house, but bought as an external service?
Let’s say that the scope of what Katana is doing, is roughly described here. And in order to deliver it, we use following services in Katana:
It is also important to note that Katana doesn’t have any technical operations nor DevOps people on-board. We consume data (Postgres, Redis, Elasticsearch, Kafka, Bull etc.) also as a service.
The cat or dog person question. Full stack, or front end & back end separately?
Full stack. Regarding customer features and end-to-end transactions, it’s far superior compared to function based delivery.
I have observed and participated in such designs in various top notch software development companies. In the case of web-based SaaS, I would always choose full stack to win it at the market.
It’s a focus thingie – eventually a product team has to be full stack and cross-functional, you have to work with the engineers you are able to hire.
In which case would you consider hiring front end and back end specialists instead of full stack?
To compensate for a weakness, bolster skills that are lacking or not represented enough in the company, but are important.
Looking back, what were the technical mistakes that you wish that could have been avoided when building the product? How did you fix it?
Just one thing pops to mind right away. We decided to upgrade our backend node.js framework LoopBack3 onto version 4. It has turned out to be a very expensive work with very little benefits (other than LB3 is no longer supported).
Should have assembled our own modification from a more lightweight backend framework a la NEST.
What direction are you scaling (horizontal/vertical etc)?
In all directions, of course!
But seriously, in the engineering team we emphasize the importance of horizontal scaling and the code supporting it.
Vertical scaling is for the emergencies, when the performance need is miscalculated and a performance issue quickly needs addressing. That is another reason why we chose Heroku, it really excels at this type of performance management and scaling.
Let’s imagine, I’m a newly hired engineer. How will my first days at Katana look like?
Once we agree and assemble the work gear and software set with the engineer – wintel, mac and/or Linux – you will be ready to go. You choose between onboarding in the office or remotely (your gear will be delivered at home). We use Slack and Whereby to communicate and run meetings etc. Also, this setup works really well with onboarding.
We also have a compensation system to expense the cost of home office setup and including headphones with active noise cancelling (must-have product these days).
When you’re comms-capable, the first weeks are for meeting fellow katanauts – learning the heartbeat and key information sources. In software engineering our current gold standard benchmark for the first day is to get the development environment up and running by noon, join our food club, have team lunch, fix a bug and get the fix to live by the end of the first day.
Fully remote or office?
Nobody is working fully in the office nowadays. That said, we are eagerly waiting for situation improvements, so we could restore the office experience to its former glory.
Even during the pandemic (when approached with precaution), our office has its perks (heavily underused PS5, barista-grade coffee etc). And our lunch club is still functioning! About 15% of people use the office at the moment, wear masks, and have spread out. Our office is new, roomy and really well ventilated.
Actually our new office will be ready by summer. It will be located in the newly renovated building next door to Põhjala Taproom at Noblessner. Even with new ways of working, we decided that having a joint workplace and meetings in person will remain an important part of our culture.
Double up the size of the engineering team each year!
The aim is to build a team to become a world’s leading manufacturing platform able to challenge SAP and such. You cannot really catch them otherwise – why become a unicorn when you could be a unicorn 140 times over?
But (there is always a but), business also has to grow accordingly, and so far we have mostly been hampered by lack of features to fully tackle SMB/SME manufacturing space.
Sounds like your cup of tea? Check out Katana’s current openings and apply!
Together with early stage investments, 70V offers an acceleration program to help founders to build and scale their businesses. Useful connections, diverse knowhow and licence to show brilliant ideas – an attractive career path for people that love to see the birth, growth, and success of a company.
In the light of their recent 1st startup exit, we talked with the 70V’s associateAivaras Rastenis, who honestly admitted that he didn’t expect the first exit to arrive this soon.
Despite that research shows that90% of all global startups fail, 70V is a safety net for talents. In the worst case scenario, good performers (the growth journey lovers) will have a secure place in another startup as soon as possible. 💪
How do they do it? Without further ado, let’s jump and find out! 👇
We gave a little introduction to 70V, but you, as an insider, could you please open up more. What is 70V all about?
Imagine having a business idea that helps other businesses to reach their goals. And you want to go global, but lack of money and knowledge sets its limitations. What to do?
No need to be alone in this – fundraise and find partners with experience! This is where accelerator funds, like us, come into the picture.
70V invests in ambitious B2B entrepreneurs globally. We help them to build and scale predictable sales machines with talent from Lithuania. Our predictable revenue playbook has been already used with more than 70 companies.
70V partner Jean-Baptiste Daguené has said “I eat SaaS for breakfast, B2B sales for lunch and data for dinner”. Is there still something new to offer to the table?
Oh yes, there’s still plenty of room on the table!
The B2B tech startup ecosystem is an exciting space to work in. It’s a very fast paced environment with tonnes of possibilities for stellar growth. All the top Lead Research Specialists (LRS) and Sales Development Representatives (SDR) in our portfolio have been promoted within 8-12 months.
Higher risk comes with higher reward. Seeing the birth, growth and success of the company is something extremely special. Do 70V portfolio companies share their achievement stories with each other, or you keep them strictly apart?
This is a very good question!
Working in a startup and B2B sales is challenging. That’s why building a B2B community is a top priority for us. We can’t wait to get back to normal but we are very proud that we moved our community online.
Every month we connect talents in our portfolio to share their triumphs and their mistakes. Also, 70V rewards accomplishments highly through our portfolio leaderboard where SDRs (Sales Development Representatives) compete for monthly cash prizes.
Could you share with us, what is the next big thing?
We search for the next big thing in the Nordics and Baltics. Each month we make two to three investments in various B2B companies. Fintech, adtech/marktech, legaltech, accounting solutions – just to name a few.
Our portfolio companies might go after the same customer but with different value propositions.
As we speak, we have already invested in 35+ companies and all of them compete for the best talent!
Want to see the full portfolio? Click on the picture and find our out more.
70V together with its portfolio companies provide unique career opportunities. However, we cannot avoid the elephant in the room –the startup 90% failure rate. How does 70V provide job stability/security?
In short, 70V is like a safety net for talents. Once you pass our application process and prove that you can deliver, we will hold your back no matter what.
As investors we also think how we can minimise the investment risk and maximise the returns. We focus on identifying the top founders who are 100% committed to their business venture. It takes at least 7 qualification steps and only a small fraction of founders we meet get an investment.
In the worst case scenario, If you are a good performer and enjoy the startup journey, we will definitely secure you a place in another startup as soon as possible. When you join one of our portfolio companies, you join the 70V community as well.
Mad respect that you’re not trying to claim that the 70V portfolio always falls on the successful 10% side. The startup life can be tough and not suitable for everyone. Who are the people you are looking for to join the team?
We look for people who enjoy working with customers and are born competitors.
If you are a go-getter, speed is your religion and discomfort attracts you, then we’d be a perfect fit. However, if life is happening to you and you’re full of excuses, then it’s a no go.
The top performers earn 7000 EUR+ monthly and all of them share the values written in our B2B Sales Manifesto.
How do you usually find the candidates to hire? What % of hired candidates have been sourced and headhunted?
It is really the top talent that we’re looking for. The top 10% of the ideal candidates.
We combine both passive and active sourcing. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone who’s reading this article was already approached by us. 🙂
Sometimes the best talent comes to us through referrals or platforms like MeetFrank. I’m extremely happy that talents who already work in 70V startups keep recommending their friends to join.
70V has only one religion – the TARGET. What is the key to motivate team members to make smart decisions and take responsibility for the consequences?
It’s about the mindset. When you have a sense of ownership then all of that comes naturally. We look for people who care about delivery.
The main motivation comes from the dynamic environment, speed of decision-making and clearly seeing the impact of our actions.
In the end of the day, 70V is the best B2B sales school in town. We cultivate a training-intensive environment that inspires to learn, grow and lead by example. Each new talent goes through a 2 weeks onboarding program with clear steps and training. People keep saying that after the 1st month here they feel like 3 or 4 months have passed already.
You have probably sacrificed some of your weekends and holidays to work. Be honest, has the startup hustle killed your social life?
Haha. True that. However, I don’t label that as a sacrifice. I really enjoy what I do here and understand the scale of my impact to our startups and new hires. On the contrary, I have improved my social life by focusing on building meaningful relationships and giving my undivided attention to the people who are the most important to me.
And of course, the industry I am in is plenty of networking opportunities. Almost every day I meet new people and reconnect with people I know.
Sounds like your cup of tea? Check out the 70V openings and apply!
70V is recruiting for Lead Researchers, Sales Development Representatives and Account Executives. Recently they have opened a new vacancy called Sales Operations Specialist. Read more about career possibilities on 70V’s website or check out the MeetFrank app:
💡 Besides investments from pre-seed to series A, 70V offers an acceleration program. They strongly believe that the success depends on the success of their startups.
💡 The company has invested in various B2B sectors: fintech, adtech/marktech, legaltech, accounting solutions. Their portfolio companies might go after the same customer but with different value propositions.
💡 B2B sales is the key element of success. According to 70V, the best solution is to start having meaningful customer conversations even before building a product.
💡 70V is a safety net for talents. When you join 70V portfolio companies, you join the 70V community as well – stellar performers are always secured a job.
💡 Working at a startup is a risk with a huge upside. The top performers at 70V earn €7000+ monthly and have been promoted within 8-12 months.