Interview with Toggl founder and CEO Alari Aho
In a first of a series of interviews with Estonian startups, we sat down with Toggl founder and CEO Alari Aho in their downtown office to discuss Toggl, their success and the Estonian startup climate in general.
Hi Alari. First off, thank you for having us. Tell us a little about Toggl. What makes it so special?
Toggl is essentially a software company founded in 2006, so we’ve been active for 9 years now. We offer a cloud based software solution with the United States as our main market.
The concept of the software is very simple. In essence, it’s a timer! You define what you’re doing and start the timer. After a while, the user interface gets populated by activities you’ve logged. For example, it shows you on what project you spend the most time on and what was done. Simple!
So at the end of the week, your whole team gets a log of all your activities with graphs, showing you exactly the time spent on any specific project.
What makes us special? Although the market is full of products that allow you to track time, our philosophy has always been that time needs to be measured when you’re actually performing the task. For example, in the US, it’s very common for consultants to charge by the minute. Toggl makes it easy to track and measure exactly how much time was spent on a task and what was actually done.
Who are your clients?
Our clients range from consultants who charge by the minute to people who love to log every possible activity in their life. It’s surprising how many people want to measure every possible second! I think it’s just something very natural for humans to do.
Our user base is distributed fairly evenly. The top six countries are: United States, Canada, UK, Australia, Germany and the Netherlands.
What about other big market such as China, Russia and Japan?
We don’t market based on geography. Instead, our vertical market strategy focuses on specific trades, professions or group of customers with specialized needs. We visit target markets personally in order to better understand the needs and problems of our clients not only from a business point of view, but also from a human perspective. ‘
What unites most of our user base is a specific mindset – our clients are usually early adopters and not conservative business people who don’t yet trust cloud based services. We are not bound by location, as all our marketing is done online. So our user base is quite young.
How important is the UK market?
The UK market is definitely a priority market for us. For example, London metropolitan area has the most users per square meter!
Where did the core idea for Toggl come from?
We were a usual software company when we founded Toggl in 2006. The Estonian market is small and if you want to grow big, you have to expand. Our goal was to create a cloud based product that we could market globally. With Toggl, we actually tested 9 different products. All others failed. Surprisingly or not so surprisingly, the simplest idea succeeded! It sounds crazy that you can build an entire business on such an easy concept, but that’s exactly what we did.
How difficult was it to „internationalize“ your product?
Well, our intention was to build a „international“ product and we’ve been been competing on a global scale from day one. We didn’t „enter“ any markets, as we have alwas been a global company!
Estonian startup scene has exploded in recent years. What is so special about the our startup climate?
Good question. We have some great examples, like Transferwise, who have clearly established themselves on the global market. The Estonian startup climate? It’s really hot right now!
Toggl is a UK-Estonia TechLink partner. More on them can be found here.