April 20, 2022

Top Startup in Europe for E-commerce: OptiMonk

Top Startup in Europe for E-commerce: OptiMonk

Hey ICL fans. Today we’re talking about conversion optimization, specifically for Ecommerce brands with Csaba Zajdo. Csaba is the founder of OptiMonk, a top startup in Europe for E-commerce, and Shoprenter. Shoprenter is like the Shopify for Hungary.  More than 65,000 merchants worldwide use Shoprenter to power their online retail stores. And as for Optimonk, more than 20,000 brands are using it and it has more than 400 5-star ratings on Shopify. Csaba is also the founder of Innonic which is a startup studio in Hungary whose goal is to produce some of the top startups in Europe.


Csaba and I discussed:


  • what he and his company are doing to help Ukrainian refugees
  • what Ecommerce companies should stop doing
  • what are some low hanging fruits brands can do to increase conversions
  • the main reason someone should join a startup studio
  • where Csaba’s passion for entrepreneurship came from as well as his love for gaming



If you’re wanting to improve our online conversions and get some ideas on how to make the experience better for your shoppers, this episode is for you. 


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You're listening to Innovators Can Laugh, the fun startup podcast. Welcome to the show. I'm your host, Eric Melchor. We investigate the new topic each week and interview some of the most innovative minds in the startup scene here in Europe. My goal is to turn my guests wisdom, to actionable advice that you can use to grow your business.

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I'm also an American expat living in Romania. If you're curious about other European startups in what they're doing to scale and gain customers or things that they do to differentiate themselves, hit the subscribe button, because you'll love it here.

Hey ICO fans today, we're talking about conversion optimization specifically for e-commerce brands was Shaba Zazu, the founder of OptiMonk and Shoprenters is like Shopify for Hungary and more than 65,000 merchants worldwide. Use ShopRenter to power their online retail store. And as for OptiMonk, more than 20,000 brands are using it.

And it has more than 405 star ratings on Shopify. Java is also the founder of , which is a startup studio in home. Job. And I discuss what he and his company are doing to help Ukrainian refugees. What e-commerce companies should stop doing? What are some low hanging fruits that brands can do to increase conversions?

And the main reason someone should join a startup studio, we also discuss where Chavez passion for entrepreneurship came from as well as his love for. If you're wanting to improve your online conversions and get some ideas on how to make the experience better for your shoppers. This episode is for you.

And if you want to listen to this on YouTube, you can find my channel. Innovators can laugh and check out episode 41. Shabbat. I would like to start with something you shared on LinkedIn a couple of weeks ago, something many people don't know your father was born in Tesco, which is a city located in Western Ukraine.

So the situation that is happening right now impacts you very deeply. I imagine. Can you share some of the things you and your team are doing to help the situation from a humanitarian. Yeah. So actually the headquarters of anal, Nick and optimum is . It's the second largest city of Hungary and we are the about a hundred kilometers from the Ukrainian border.

So we are pretty close in, in, in terms of geography as well. Not just having some roots in in, in, in, in. So, and, and, and of course we also have a couple of people from the Ukraine or again, having equal Tanium backgrounds and yeah, it's a really a treadmill situation and what's going on right now, which I ensure everyone knows.

We started the several charities and funds collecting money and not just from our colleagues, but outside of our companies as well. But again, within the company we encouraged everyone. Donate some money into an we call it an optimum fund and we give the same amount of money. Basically we double the, this these donations with from the company budget so far.

We raised so private within the company from the colleagues more than 6,000. Which might not seem as a big amount of money, but valid. We are still a smart, small startup and we buy clothes. We buy food, we buy it all kinds of equipment which refugees might be needing in, in these times. And I, since we are pretty close, we are transporting all this stuff in our home cars to the borders.

And Val had been in whatever baby. That's great. That's great. Okay. So you're a serial entrepreneur. You founded shoprenter in 2011. You founded Opti monk three years later. And then you also found. I know Nick, did I pronounce that? Right? I know Nick, our Nick. Yeah. In English people, usually I pronounce it.

But I guess those works. So he found it in a NIC, which is the first startup in accelerator program in Deborah chin, which is the second largest city in Hungary. Where did this entrepreneurial drive come from? Did you have a mentor? Or industry role model that helped you out? Tell us about that. My parents were in it, which was very rare in, in, in my age and in my generation to have to be a second generation ID guy, let's say.

And even when I was young in the, in the nineties, my parents talked about bill gates and Microsoft. And how, and bill gates was already the, the most famous and the richest entrepreneur it entrepreneur in the world. And it's really inspired me even when I was in my teens. I actually, I, I remember I have a drawing which I did in my, when I was 14 and I was sitting in Newark and in an office looking at the statue of Liberty and in the background.

And and, and I could see my company there, I have proved that even if I was only 14, I had entrepreneurial aspirations. And validate that here I am. I founded a couple of companies already and hope I, I would establish a couple of. Yeah. I like how you imagine, not just where your company would be, but from New York city, you know, I mean, it doesn't, it doesn't really get much more grander than that.

That's that's amazing. Okay. OptiMonk one of your companies has over 405 star ratings on Shopify. Over 20,000 brands are using this. So, you know, a thing or two, when it comes to conversion, optimism, optimism. When it comes to e-commerce, what is something that many e-commerce sites should stop doing if they want to generate more sales?

Yeah. And so, yeah, the thing is that most company. Really try to sell too much. That's what we usually say. It's a, you know, it's like a forcing if you, if you try to sleep too much or if you, if you try to be too happy, then it's really hard to be happy if you tried to sleep and it is focused on sleeping, it's really hard to fall asleep.

And it's, it's a, it's a kind of a similar stuff with, with selling. So we encourage a change of attitude, can change of my mindset that instead of trying to start, just try to. The visitors and with each, when each lost of conversion is is a homosapien. It's a human being who gets frustrated, who gets annoyed, who doesn't find what he or she needs.

So just try to think in terms of the, are your customers and what they might be feeling in the whole customer experience on your website and try to optimize for customer value. That's what we call customer value optimization to really drive. Imagine where that exact customer is in their own customer journey, what might be that problems if they search for a certain keyword, for example, how you could best have them, if they are in that earlier stage of their customer journey, for example, and they actually are trying to figure out the best solution for the problems, for example, that don't just push, Hey, come and buy right now.

And here's 10% off for example, which many companies usually do, but rather, or. So, how can I add this stage? I can have youth. So your problem, right? Green giving youth education, offering some kind of you know, recommendations or giving you an ebook or, you know, offering any kind of hub, which might have the user in, in, in that particular situation.

And in the context they, they, they, they. Okay. And when people and e-commerce stores hear about Optima, right? When they discover OptiMonk for the first time, what is it? Something that they get really excited about?

So they learn about it. How do they, how do they vision it's going to help their business? Like, what's the main value proposition. Yeah. So and then he found it up the monkey. It really grew out of an, a necessity of not having the right tools to have our e-commerce businesses, because we've already had a couple of thousand of e-commerce businesses, which we've been working so, so far, and we really felt the need to have a duel, which helps you give personalized messages to the right people at the, at the right moment.

So OptiMonk, who can really have you with that. It's it's yeah. Most people just see that it's a pop up too. And yes, it tactically. It's a popup to work, but it's really suitable to give everyone a personalized hat to give personalized as it stands to really make you a master online seller and have there was perish, personalization, kept capabilities, which you know, big retailers, Amazons of the words usually have.

So it can help really small business. Master on my sellers. That's that's our main promise with optimal. How did you know there was a need for this in the marketplace? Was it because you were running your own e-commerce store or did you just look at other stores and he thought this would be great for these stores?

Well, with shop renter, as I said, is a, it's like a, the Shopify of Hungary. I, if I could say it's a, it's a. E-commerce software as a service, it's a e-commerce store builder. And we had, I don't know, maybe two or 3000 stores running on shop renter beat even before starting Optima. And we've been working with with dozens or even hundreds of brands, very closely and, and really trying to have them and figure out their needs, really what we were trying to optimize for our customer value for these users.

And we found that yes, they, they would really need. Do a push personalized messages to her, to certain segments of their users, but they cannot do it. And the technology at that time didn't really allow us with the, with with the current apoptosis and the value. That's why we founded OptiMonk so we can really have this.

In the beginning, it wasn't even a separate product, a separate company, but it was more like just a side project. We didn't shop printer, but then we sold that, Hey, this is working actually. And. Yeah, customers and merchants really have great results with it. So why should we just limited to shop renter?

Why wouldn't we can, why would it be, you know, make it available for everyone, including Shopify Virgin. Yeah. And then you have like this entire user base and you could test new things about the product already. So that, that is fantastic for an e-commerce store. That's using Optum monk. What is like the average uplift in revenue?

That they can expect if they're using it in a smart way. Yeah. So we have a lot of case studies where we have between 10 and two 80% uplift in revenue. If someone is really using to generate, to build their SMS list, for example, we've seen more than doubled people, merchants, what? A double Darren.

Yeah. It's really, I mean so I really encourage this holistic view of the customer journey. So it's not just about pushing one message, one pop and signing up on people, but really working and continuing this this user journey through other channels, videos, email, and SMS. But really we. As a, as a popup to, and the optimum, it's a, we have a 10% guarantee actually that just setting up in the way we suggest it will be guaranteed that it will give you a 10% lift or as we give you our money back.

But usually we have better results than just standard. That's awesome. I mean, most applications don't make that guarantee when it comes to e-commerce. Yeah. Yeah. So let's say, let's suppose there's an e-commerce store out there and they're doing revenues somewhere between, let's say 50,000 to $200,000 annually, but they're not doing much in terms of conversion optimization, in your opinion, what are some of the biggest, low hanging fruit.

That you would suggest they start doing things that don't require a lot of, you know, a lot of money, a lot of effort, but in your experience, you know, what would be your, your recommendations? Yeah. First of all, it really depends on the type of the brand. I mean, if you talking about the DPC brand that had direct to customer.

Having a lot of traffic from paid advertisement than setting up some great exit intent pop up on the landing pages and converting these Val abandoning visitors into email or SMS subscriber, or even both we have quite some use cases which can help you capture both. And then setting up some outer responders for the child is a rooster is really a low hanging fruit which I think needs to be done.

Then again, if we have some other use cases for this other segments. So for example, for those who have just purchased, it's a really on the URL. Thank you page. It's really a great opportunity to really base the, the, the, your relationship with its user and to, to get them. By getting that feedback by offering some specialty discount in exchange for this feedback for the second purchase or for returning users you can have them continue where they have left off in the previous session.

And we have the we have a use case which basically outwardly shows you those products, which you have visited and viewed in the previous session. And and again these, all of these use cases on their own. Can't add a couple of percentage in terms of revenue, if you use them in combination.

Well, that's when the real magic usually. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. What are some of the other applications that you recommend to some of your clients to, to, you know, you mentioned getting more SMS, subscribers, getting more email addresses, right. Are there specific platforms out there that really work well with Optima and Shopify and other e-commerce platforms?

Like what are the top two or three that you like. Yeah, actually. So we are integrated with more than a hundred different platforms, so that it's, it's, it's a huge list. And there's a huge list of companies which can provide some basic level of email or SMS marketing on Shopify it's, south Cleo, attentive and postscript, I guess an SMS bump, maybe this.

At the beginning and also recap by the way is uh, which is a really growing but it has a really solid feature to set. So, yeah, but I would say, I think I'm sure there's at least 50 more

a merchant can choose. It's really about how we use it, but we've noticed, and it's not, not so much. That's yeah, it's through really how, how, how well you can think in, in customer perspective and really optimize for the customer value that that's what really counts and not the technology. It's.

Yeah, that's so true with any with any sort of SAS product out there. I think most people probably use 20, maybe 30% of the overall feature is out there. But the ones that really know how to use that tool, they can just get the most out of it. Let's jump to, you know, Nick, what was the motivation for creating this startup studio?

Right. Yeah. So actually we started with our printer as our first SAS productivity. E-commerce, you know, system builder and then came Optimo as one of her first spin-offs and the antibodies in that, Hey, they're actually, it's working pretty well and we are doing, and the optimum is growing. We're growing nice.

And we have this theme really that a lot of talent. People in the company. So why don't we make more more and more of them and Saturday grading van, a new spin-offs and in, in the beginning, and then dedicating a separate team for each new product and then later, all right. So we figured that the me, they actually, we have some, even more ideas which might be versed in pursuing, but we don't have the capacity for it.

So why don't we find. That indeed the, you know, young and she, she was yesterday can entrepreneurs who would be able to to do them. So we actually, we found this, this model, this, we call it startup studio and it's, it's, it's different than an accelerator. Maybe some are different. Regular status effect rate.

So we basically, we have some ideas which we pre-validated kind of, and then we start to find founding team for for these ideas and to give them the initial funding and then let them do the job actually. And of course they got a huge chunk of debt. And if it's working, then we have them raise a next round of funding as well.

Fortunately we, even in Hungary, there's quite some opportunities to raise funds for startups and we have I don't know, maybe four or five, six or five startups already raised second round money and they are growing when the first big exit will happen out of the. But I am very positive that it will happen soon because we have some very interesting talks ongoing even around.

That's fascinating. That's fascinating. Now what's something that you wish everybody, particularly those who work in startups or are thinking about creating a startup, what do you wish they understood about a startup studio versus some other, you know, generic accelerator out there? You know, what are like the main reasons somebody would join in unique?

You know, what are the benefits that they.

So I actually once we provide and accelerator is not just the three months a short-term boost. But it really it's a, it's more like a long relationship, I would say. We are very heavily invested in, in all of these companies, not just with. But we try to provide assistance with right. We give guidance, but actually we have a Sentra Sr theme, I would say, which can provide how in in, in, in, in difficult situations.

Of course it has its limits because it only, it means that the baby have just, you know, so much. And we cannot run hundreds of, I can work with hundreds of different brands, like an x-ray. Does we need to limit us ourselves to maybe a dozen companies and value right now to be, to be totally honest with you?

We are rather, we feel rather fool and I, we, it, it would really have to be some great opportunities. To stay. Yes. And and the four, our focus is really us. It was really just working with the existing startups and letting the having a few exits few successes before taking on new projects and new opportunities.

How many startups are currently involved right now? I would say 11 11, maybe, maybe a dozen, but I guess

yes. Okay. What's one of the most interesting projects you're working on right now, you know, at the studio, I'm sure you would say all 11 are very, very interesting, but you know, what's one that you would like to share. Well, one of our latest investments is actually a fiance, which does not relate to e-commerce and most of them are e-commerce.

But this latest one is actually saying it's some kind of biotechnology. So they, they are building a new form of buy reactions. Well, we have produce I, I actually, I don't know the English word for it. I'm so sorry about that. I should have preferred the line English vocabulary, but it's situation.

What's the Hungarian words. It's it's it's okay.

I'll look up the translation and I'll include that in the show notes for the word.

I got a CV. I actually it's. It's similar. It's I'm, I'm not sure if I'm pronouncing it correctly. I'm so sorry. Yeah, it's it's a hungry and team and we've been talking about all this stuff in Hungarian. I guess that's one of our advantages as well of being able to communicate the Hungary.

And so, but I guess it's only an advantage for Hungary and entrepreneurs and. Not really US-based companies. Yeah. Okay. So w the other question I had for you, we're going to get into some fun stuff. So the audience could kind of learn about your personality in just a second here, but I wanted to know you're juggling two different companies, plus, you know, Nick, you know, you've got shop, shop builder, ShopRunner OptiMonk and, you know, Nick and.

What is, what is some things that you do? So that way you can have a good balance in managing all three. Do you carve out, you know, one or two days a week? You focus on one? Just tell us more about that. Yeah, so actually just to, because she'll print, her has already had a half exited. We call it the health exit because 51% of shop renter has been acquired by a huge.

A bigger bullish competitor of ours, and it has its own dedicated team already. It has a people team of like a hundred people widows, senior team. So I'm wandering into like a one, one board board member and I have a monthly meeting with the team and that's all. So basically I would say that's a, that's just the advisor RA.

Well, in terms of, in terms of active work and operational stuff, I'm really involved in, in Optima. So I spend like 80% of my time within up. Running the business and trying to make a build a unicorn that's as Rico. It could be with that to build a unicorn out of Optima. And the remaining 20% is I usually spend just talking to my other startups and giving advice whenever it's.

I like to say that I don't want to push my ideas on anyone too much, but if they are interested in my opinion, then I'm here to ask any anytime and we'll grab a beer or to have a talk or to get a former advice in, in Anopheles, which I feel capable of giving advice. Yeah, absolutely. It seems like those that are a part of, you know, Nick can fell faster.

Right. And then they also just get sort of the wisdom and guidance from people who've been there before, like you, so I definitely see, you know, the benefits of, of being part of that community or in unique. What I usually say actually is that I cannot really tell them what to do and what will. But I can usually tell them a lot of things that will not work and I can save them, but I guess save them a lot of Strava.

I can say that a lot of unnecessary spending and efforts, because I've seen that at this stage, you are in, right? No, this is really not something that you should spend your time on and I can give them a huge list of stuff, which they shouldn't spend that time on. It makes that decision. It's easier in the remaining few other items adoptions.

Well, that's, that's the, that's the greatest gift you could give them because you're giving them time. Right. You're showing them, this is stuff that you could waste a lot of time on, you know, and just pointing that out, helps them to focus on, you know, whatever it is on stuff that's not gonna work. So I wanted to ask you, yeah, go ahead.

Go ahead. You have one, you have 24 hours. Everyone had spent the day for hours and it's a very limited budget. And there's so many things you can spend your day on. Really. There's, there's a huge amount of stuff. So really finding your focus and focusing on that very few. That you can make a difference. I think that's, that's how the magic happens.

If you spend your time on a, I don't know, dozens or hundreds of different things, and it just, you know, juggling with, with, I dunno how many plates then it's not very funny. I've never seen that work. So really focused on a few things at a time. Absolutely. Absolutely. If you don't mind sharing just some high level numbers, what is the forecasted revenue for Optima for 2022?

Wow. The LA the last year, it was $2.5 million U S dollars. We hoped to learn to reach 3.5 this year. So far we are on track and then help it to be it. But we value it's really the very beginning of 2022. So it's, it's really early to say unfortunately we have a nice growth Trek and we will really like to reach a $10 million in ARR in, in, in the next three years.

So have you have to hurry and the number of employees.

It's almost 14. It's almost what the people 30 some people. Okay. Okay. Okay. A couple of questions just to get us, allow us to know your personality, better Shabbat. First question for you. What is an unusual object inside your home and unusual objects inside your home? If you have one. Well, I am, I'm not sure how many people.

I used to be a pro gamer, a pro I used to play a game called StarCraft very competitively before I found it in most of my companies. And I have a lot of really Excel and the items related to stock ups. There's like this Zurich figure. I I'm, I'm sure it doesn't say so. There's all kinds of creatures in this game and I have this real three alive, but I have this model, this, this small items which are related to this.

As a, as just, you know, mental ascend to remember, interestingly, because, you know, gamers nowadays can make a lot of money. There's all these tournaments there's even universities that are offering degrees free for gamers that that's, that's so bizarre. Yeah. Opposite of the many, many of these gamers actually are more money than, you know, professional.

Athletes. I mean, non athletes, butter, real physical athletes in my time. It w it wasn't so much about the money and they tell us about fun and about traveling. I traveled to this verse sidebar games. This was in South Korea three times. It was like the Olympics of, e-sports and I competed as the champion of hunger.

And I got beaten very badly, by the way, I cannot say that I reached some super great results but it was really fun. It was in my early twenties and I, I learned a lot, actually the Toby the, the founder of Shopify, he's also a big fan of StarCraft and he used to play. And I, I read an interview with him saying that in the beginning and he he found people starting, Starcraft's that's how he found his first colleagues.

And, and I also feel that those who, who placed that graph the valley, they have a campus CTO for for, for being able to see both the strategic side of things and both the micro level, you know, the operational side. And then I think a bit. Was a lot of skills, which StarCraft taught me is really useful in, in building the business because.

It's really like a big game in terms of I have to manage the macro and the overall and the long-term and that the gender. And I also have to focus on the short-term and, you know, making the budget and and, and, and, and hitting the numbers right now. Yeah, no, I believe you, there's a, there's a book, there's a book you may like called Ender's game.

Have you, have you heard of that book and there's gain? Yeah. Yes. Well, there's a. And I'm a big fan of breeding as you probably see. And this is only just a very small collection of our library. Actually, there's more than a thousand, more than a thousand books in, in the company library which is available for everyone.

And actually even since the very beginning, Buying books was always free and unlimited for any colleague and within the company. So, you know, we said that if you really want to learn and you are willing to read a book, right. It should be really the least thing we can do is to buy it for you. So, absolutely are a big fan of, of reading.

I look at books as being like second degree mentor. Right. You know, people always say, do you have a mentor? And a lot of people say I have a mentor. And whenever I hear that, I always think kind, I've got so many mentors, you know, out of the books that I've read and it can go bad back to countless times and read more and more about, okay.

One more question for you Shaba before we go, you have to fill in the blank on this one. Okay. The social elite in Hungary are paying thousands of dollars to experience Shabazz blank. The social elite and Hungary are paying thousands of dollars to experience Shabazz blatant. I that's I'm I'm trying to figure out, could you give a couple of examples, but other people might the same for.

Well, I was thinking there's a couple of things you're gaining strategies, right? That could be wondering, you know, your conversion optimization strategies. Maybe you're a really good cook. I don't know. You have some other hobbies that you you're really good and not too many know about. This is something that you're not going to see on your LinkedIn profile.

Well, I'm actually, I'm, I'm a big fan of has to living and I'm all these obviously preaching. How to live well and eat well. And I have some, some people would say I have a few creepy eating habits but I would say these are just new and, and happy. So people wouldn't really pay, but I usually eat only one time a day, for example, or the only was the only ones I only dinner.

It's. Strict intermittent, fasting regimen and dire then following. And I've also trying to follow some Quito. I'm also trying to be half vegan. So that's quite some, you know eating habits, which I'm trying to mix, but the value, I feel that with all of these tactics, I am really super energized throughout the day.

And I. Keep my, my weight in check and it always thought I had, I had some physical problems with my my ankle up in my shoulders. And all of these problems are kind of solved thanks to my my, my diet. And yeah, I really, I think it has me in, in so many ways. And I tried to convince as many people as I can and who is willing to lose.

They are definitely not paying for my advice. Maybe I'll leave it with that time, but yeah, I, I think there's yeah, there's, there's a lot of things you can do for your house and your. Wellbeing. If you are just, just, just eating. Well, you never know people are going to see this interview and they're like that guy look how healthy he looks.

I really want to know his his dieting and eating advice. So you never know, and that's going to be an extra revenue source for you. After this interview here. Thanks so much for thanks so much for being on the show. Where can people learn more about you and connect with you? That's the easiest thing to going to feed me is through LinkedIn.

I would say it's only one job as I do in the whole LinkedIn and the whole art. My name is quiet. It's quiet, quiet UNH. So if you, if you search for my name, you will definitely. But I, you can just write me an email at for Java dot zeto@optimum.com. I guess that's a that's again, an easy way to reach out.

If you need any advice on eat on eating or on StarCraft or maybe on e-commerce or marketing, it just I can have in each of these fields, what a great conversation with Shaba there's a lot here e-commerce brands can benefit from as Shabbat is an expert when it comes to conversion optimization. My favorite takeaway here is that you shouldn't try so hard to sell just like when you can't.

But you're really trying to make yourself fall asleep. It's just not going to happen. Same thing for e-commerce. It really starts and ends with helping customers providing value and using tools like Opti monk that make the shopping experience more enjoyable. And other things Shaba talked about that open minds.

With gaming and how it helped him to be able to juggle the task at hand, as well as the overall strategy of what he is doing. Something that has helped him become successful. And growing two companies, I've included links from this show on the ICO website and newsletter it's number 41, if you forgot. And if you enjoy this.

Feel free to give us a review and as our, as our ways. Thanks for listening. Keep hustling out there. And this is Eric signing off. Thanks for listening to the show.

Csaba ZajdóProfile Photo

Csaba Zajdó

Founder & CMO

Serial Entrepreneur, founder of OptiMonk, ShopRenter and Innonic, the first Startup Studio in Debrecen.

If it has to do with conversion optimization and ecommerce, I'm interested. I've spent my entire career building and optimizing ecommerce sites, and am looking for the best and brightest to do something game changing.