Since the start of his tech career, Karol Bzik has always enjoyed jumping between lead generation and product design. His ongoing curiosity and a proactive approach led him to become the first product person in Divante and co-founder of its two key products, Open Loyalty and Vue Storefront.
Karol started his career in Divante over eight years ago, when the company employed only 40 people (now it’s well over 200 and still growing). On his way, he has gained experience in different positions, from marketing through to project management and as the director of a department. Karol has constantly looked for new challenges in which he could combine growth hacking with data analysis and design.
Before switching to products, he built the eCommerce Performance Department from scratch. It was a team of eCommerce marketers focused on growing sales for top online stores by using marketing and UX. Karol was responsible for managing the team, hiring talents, growing their skills, and acquiring new clients for a variety of services.
“I have always mixed UX, marketing, and analytics and been hungry for new challenges. I think I went through every career level at Divante: intern, independent contractor till a team manager, a director, and a product founder. On the way, I learned many hard lessons about business and management. It was quite a ride that shaped me as a person.”Karol Bzik
At the end of 2016, when Tom and Piotr, the founders of Divante, told him that they wanted to invest in Divante’s own products, Karol was keen to take on the challenge—even though the actual idea for the product wasn’t yet known. In fact, he’d already reached the same conclusion that products would be an important part of the company’s future.
“My one-year tenure as the Marketing Director at Divante pushed me into products. While digging deep into the company’s strategy, results, and market analysis, I saw that adding a product component to the offering could help us significantly hack growth. It didn’t matter that we didn’t know the specific product we would build; it was important that we were heading in that direction.”Karol Bzik
How was Open Loyalty born?
In the beginning of his time as a product owner, Karol was in charge of a small product team responsible for experimenting with various ideas and proof-of-concept projects.
The first area of focus was in the Marketing Technology and Big Data space. The goal was to build a tool that could improve sales for our clients by using data. In his previous positions, Karol was extensively using tools like Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Emarsys, HubSpot, and HotJar. These experiences gave him a few initial ideas for the product.
“While experimenting with product concepts, I realized a few things. Almost every retail client was struggling with similar challenges: too many one-time buyers, high customer churn, and a high cost of customer acquisition. On the other hand, everyone was talking about omnichannel and using data… but almost no one had offline data or tools for transforming insights into marketing triggers. We realized that loyalty software could be a perfect direction for our product. From our experience with Magento, we understood that introducing the open-source component to the loyalty industry could bring a ton of value.”Karol Bzik
Open Loyalty was the third approach to product building in Divante. The actual work on Open Loyalty started in the middle of 2017. Karol was the owner of the products and led the initial product team from the idea to the first commercial implementations with clients.
On the way Karol was also a member of an initial team of Vue Storefront where he helped deliver the first PoC version of the product and populate it on the market.
In 2018 he decided to focus completely on growing Open Loyalty. Within three years, the solution became recognizable loyalty technology and was used by companies from Asia, the Americas, Africa, and Europe. Companies like ALDO Shoes, Prudential Vietnam or Asia Commercial Bank now use the Open Loyalty solution on a daily basis.
Lessons from founding products
While looking for the right niche for Open Loyalty, Karol did a lot of research to understand the loyalty industry. He started by analyzing the market and investigated the strategy and mechanics of countless successful loyalty programs.
“After the initial research, I created a draft of a functional backlog and USP (Unique Selling Proposition). Then I prepared mockups of the prototype and the landing page before moving on to the validation of the product concept. Thanks to Divante’s network, I managed to arrange over 50 meetings with potential clients. Over the next four weeks, I was traveling and pitching the product. On the way, I polished mockups and our sales narrative. I also organized and kick-started the development of the prototype with an external development team.”Karol Bzik
For the purpose of an elevator pitch (a quick pitch which you perform in front of a potential buyer), he created an analogy of “Magento for loyalty”. That helped quickly explain what Open Loyalty is to everyone who has at least a basic knowledge about technology.
Since the loyalty industry is completely different from eCommerce, building a scalable lead generation engine became the second main objective. Karol conducted market research to understand the basic buying process for loyalty software. Previous lessons on selling for Divante’s enterprise clients were also helpful.
“Building a good foundation for the lead generation engine took me 4 weeks and contained things like product visualization, landing pages, SEO, paid ads, and an initial market entry strategy. After doing so, I switched to weekly marketing sprints with continuous testing. I experimented with various value propositions and ideas for pivots. When we got the momentum, I started involving additional people (internal and external) to help me extend the lead engine.”Karol Bzik
From the launch of Open Loyalty to the end of December 2019, Karol generated 5,845 leads. Read the full details
Hiring and engaging the right people from the organization is the most important thing while building a product. Knowing when to step aside to let those people take the initiative is even more vital.
“At a certain point, I had to hand over product ownership, management, and sales. It wasn’t easy—in some way I was giving my beloved product away—but it was worth it. Having a supportive team of super-smart people whom you trust is priceless.”Karol Bzik
The change in responsibilities gave Karol the time to focus on things he enjoys the most—working on perfecting the product and scaling the lead generation.
Forming a committed core team itself wasn’t a piece of cake. Sharing responsibilities was the easiest part. Building an aligned team and true ownership for the product was the most challenging aspect. In the end, he succeeded with the help of many great people from Divante.
“My part in the success of Open Loyalty wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our founders, the core team, and some great advisors. I’ve then been able to hand the leadership over to Kacper Cebo and Cezary Olejarczyk, who have really moved Open Loyalty to the next level.”Karol Bzik
Karol decided to write some additional notes to document the beginning of Open Loyalty and the lessons he learned as a founder here.
“Doing great things at Divante is addictive”
Looking back, those eight years with one company are a long time but they have passed in the blink of an eye.
“My story wouldn’t be a reality without the open-minded and supportive people I’ve met here. Doing great things at Divante is addictive. It’s a place to work hard, reach beyond your limits, and change the industry for the better.”Karol Bzik
At this moment, as the founder of Open Loyalty, he’s working on making the product a leading technology for building dedicated loyalty solutions. You can follow him on LinkedIn and reach out to the Open Loyalty team if you want to know more.
If you are looking to build a career in a place where doing great things is addictive and you have the chance to move from intern to the founder of a global brand, check out our careers page and see where you might start your journey.
Published July 30, 2020