On this week’s episode of the Full Stack Leader, we’re talking with Marek Mrazik, the Founder, and CEO of Allfred.io
Marek loves to improve things. This talent combined with an analytical mind and tech skills makes him an incredible entrepreneur who represents and owns several tech companies under the collective “Devin Band”. Born, raised, and living in Devin he is the biggest local patriot in the band. He plays piano and is a hobby wood craftsman.
During the conversation, Marek talks about his own background with creative agencies, the need for specialized and unique collaboration tools, and how he plans on implementing them in the future.
We hope you enjoy the episode. You can find even more Full Stack Leader episodes here: Full Stack Leader
Ryan: Hello everyone and welcome back to the Fullstack Leader. We’re here with the Special South by Southwest 2023 Edition. , and today I am here with Marek Merak. He is the CEO of Alfred, as well as the CEO of Devin Band. Two great collaboration tools For the tech , and product industries. It’s great to have
Marek: you here, Merick. Yeah, thank, thanks for being here.
Ryan: Awesome. Well, I’m, I’m looking forward to hearing a bit about the way your collaboration tools. Work and help people, but also the future of collaboration tools, and I’m so excited to talk about that.
Maybe you could tell us a little bit about, \ , the, \ companies that you run.
Marek: Yeah, I’ll just, uh, start with, uh, with a brief, brief background. So, uh, I started my first company, uh, when I was 20 about in the university, and it was a creative agency. And, we started, really small and after a couple of years we run up to 50 people.
So we start another office in another city in Europe, in, in. And it went really well from zero to 18, like four, four, uh, four years. And, uh, after that I re realized that my passion was not in the marketing side of the business, but in how companies stick from inside, how they run, how they are smooth and efficient.
So we get, uh, CEOs running the agencies, , a really great ceo. So, so thanks to their job. I could make good, make, uh, my, my dream a little bit true. And it was, uh, making, uh, workflow too, especially for marketing agencies because, Aware how agency work from inside? So the first, uh, uh, tool we’ve built was, uh, social media approval and collaboration tool called.
Which was, uh, really special at these days because it was the early days of social media and that were not enough tools out there for support the workflow that people were, uh, using. And, uh, there were, there was YouTube and other tools, but they, what they lacked from our perspective was the idea of, making the approvals for the agency really easy.
So they focused only on collaboration, but the approval part wasn’t great enough. Uh, and then our, our approach was to make it as easy as possible for the, uh, for the people running the show to get the content approved on multiple layers.
Ryan: There’s a, there’s a surprising amount of collaboration that goes on within the social media, , process.
I think sometimes people think about it as just kind of an. Images, text go live, but there’s really advanced calendar, content plays, like all kinds of different types of assets that have to come together. And you really have to have a process when you have teams doing stuff, especially with brands, to pull that off.
Marek: So The fan part takes only a small part of the process, the. Uh, you put the creative, the, the copywriter and the graphic designer together to create the gist of the idea and when the idea is live. This is really the, people think this is the whole process done, but actually what?
It’s only the start because you have to run through multiple layers inside of, uh, even midsize agency to get the content approved to be really on spot. On brand and to be sendible to the client. And then, you start again, the same thing. It depends on the client, whether there is one level or maybe I even seen clients with three levels of approval.
First of all, the marketing, these, people. Yep. Then, uh, then some other brand, uh, guardian. And then you have compliance running the, running, the final approval. So, the, the idea is super fragile at start and it’s really depends on the way how you present your work to all these people. But you do not, communicate to directly synchronously, but only sending the thing for approval.
So it really depends how easy it is for them to understand.
Ryan: And that takes time to go through that process too,
Marek: right? Yeah, of course. So, so in shorten the time, by making it easier for them to understand, the idea, it shortens the time and it, uh, dries up the ratio of approval of the work, which in the then, uh, cost agency lower money.
I mean, it’s not about one teacher and one, one text, uh, multiple times. It’s about an orchestration of multiple posts in several. Only, or in several channels, somehow communicating together. And the approver has to understand , the whole what will be happening in maybe one month’s time or different channels in different times.
So this is, this is where it comes complicated. This is where you can rely on like, Excel sheets or PowerPoint, uh, decks for approval, which is the normal case , before collaboration tools like.
Ryan: Wow. Yeah, it’s not just the marketing side of things that you’re trying to, um, create some automation and, and efficiencies for you.
Also, were looking at the financial side as well with
Marek: Alfred, right? Yeah, I mean with uh, experience from the agencies. a Canino, the social media collaboration tool is used by over 3000 agencies around the. So I think we’ve got a pretty good job there. And after, uh, let’s say solving this issue here, I thought I’m, come across another pan of agencies and it’s how the whole agency workflow is uh, going from day one of the project, like from a budget of proposal to through.
Through, , resource planning, through project management communication, and through financial, uh, analysis at the end. And this is a really tough project, uh, uh, because, uh, in the, in the social media, uh, workflow, you only work with marketers and maybe some legal staff on the, on the end, but, in the whole agency work, There are so many diverse people, and the rage is so, so, broad, , of people that have to collaborate on a cer certain thing together, that it gets really complicated.
I would say the creatives have a total different need than the financial people. Like the need of creatives is getting freedom, and if you give them any rules or any co. They’re trying to avoid them in any way they can. Mm-hmm. on the other side, you have financial people who are, most of the time, decision maker of the tools that the agency use because they, they make the decisions and, uh, I was talking to my cfo coming from a corporate to us after 20 years of, uh, of, uh, big companies and she couldn’t believe in the first month of being with us how the creatives cannot track.
Because he was like, it’s a rule and if, if it’s a rule, everybody has, applied to this rule, right? Yeah. So it took us time , for people from finance to understand that, the creatives are totally . Different. To any kind of other people. So have these two extremes. And in the middle you have project manager or eco managers in agencies, which try to make the, bridge between these two total different.
, and it’s not the only thing they do, they run the project, they run the budgeting, they communicate with the client, they have responsibility for everything. So, , in my like imagination, the eco manager is like an octopus with so many things on their plate Yeah. Right. That he has to cope with., apart from, connecting these two worlds, so, The idea of the tool, , was to make the work of the eco manager in the middle as easy as possible.
the tool is called Alfred Double L Alfred. And, the idea comes from, the movie Batman, who has his Alfred, uh, Butler Alfred, who had taken care of everything in the break. So Batman could be the hero. So this is what I’m imagining for the agency. So they can be the heroes., so much stuff can be done, uh, in the background for them automatically, or, uh, process assistant, so they don’t have to do any Dell work.
So this is what we are solving.
Ryan: That makes sense. And being the hero really comes back to this concept of the way people collaborate together and create, uh, a more efficient workflow in, in unison with one another. And I think today I wanted to chat with you a little bit about where you saw some of the, the future of collaboration going.
Um, In, in the next, seven to 10 years, , by the time we hit 2030. What does some of that look like? Because there’s, there’s obviously a, a, a, a major set of, uh, changes that have happened over the last little bit in terms of AI releases into, , workflow toolkits. obviously Chat g, PT and, and Dolly and a variety of different tools.
How does this affect the types of businesses that you’re doing and what do you see like the opportunities.
Marek: Yeah. Maybe be before I jump to ai, I think if, uh, I see an ai, I see the AI is a 1% per participant of the collaboration and before adding another participant, I think you have to make the, the basics the fundamentals.
Uh, because, uh, if you don’t have good collaboration without AI and you add another, another, if you add another participant, it just gets. And this is also the, the idea of output is having one tool for everybody, even though they are different from different fields, to have an environment where they can understand each other and make them as the collaboration easy as possible.
Do, do you think
Ryan: even an AI could. Replace like a, a single human entity, or is it a lot of ais that are gonna be
Marek: involved? I mean, it really depends on, uh, how it will, I mean, AI is just a, AI is just a technology and you can use it for several purposes for creating, uh, creating, uh, creative stuff. This is what was, uh, what visible in the last.
Months that, uh, AI started to create suddenly pictures and people started to realize, alright, AI is gonna replace creatives because it was visible from the first place. But, uh, there was AI years ago, creating text and automated things, right? where a AI AI can help also is to facilitate the process itself.
So when you are creating a budget proposal in. We are suggesting you, items that were previously for the same clients. In terms of assistance of the process. So this can be also, you can, you can use also AI for doing this even in a better way. So I think AI will be helped not only in generating the, the output of marketing, but also to, guiding the fraud to the process even easily.
So you, so, so you make less. Or warning you in things that might be a problem in future, because in. In, avoiding mistakes and problems, you can, save so much, so much, , energy, which really needed. Days where the payrolls are going through the roof and, uh, claims rates, I’m, I don’t know.
Uh, but they definitely don’t go up that high. You are have to really work on
Ryan: efficiency, on the efficiency quality. Well, and I think that is the goal of these kind of collaboration tools as well, because even when we make estimates on. If we forget to put in times for like, the amount of connection meetings that have to happen, the amount of decision making, stuff like that, we really, , it impacts , not only our margin, but also the cost to the client.
So like, we really have to think about it over and over again, and we don’t always do that. So getting, how do we get more efficient on a, on a variety of these different things makes a huge difference to everyone in the
Marek: process. Uh, first of all, I would, I would say, Many companies and creative agencies, uh, def definitely are trying to solve this efficiency problem in, , in adding more tools and what it, what it, where it ends up is only adding mess to the whole process.
Yeah. Because, uh, I mean, uh, you think you will solve a particular thing, but it will definitely, um, it’s like the final in, in sales. Every step you add to the final, you double the, bigger chance of break. Yeah. Bigger chance of break. Yeah.
Ryan: Yeah. So, so my question is really this like, With knowing that that like level of efficiency is at the, at the core of these collaboration tools, like why they exist, what are some ways in which that can really change over . The next, five to seven years?
Like if we’re not just throwing more tools at it, like how do we, uh, how do we envision like a better method of communication between people?
Marek: Yeah. I. What I think, , the problem is in using general tools for many types of businesses. So they are, I I really love Asana, man. In click day.
I am making a fabulous job in their, in everything. But, they don’t suit everybody, right? They’re really great for everybody to a certain. But they are not, ideal. So if, people would ch choose a specialized tools for specialized, things, they’ll get a better outcome. For example, at agencies are, I mean, from experience in, in, in running two big agencies, my understanding was that, many.
Tend to think agencies are similar to it, companies and technology, and maybe you can prove me wrong, but, , when you run an, software development company, you only work with people and their time and sell this thing. If you run a show as an agent, an agency, you do this the same thing. You sell creative, time, but you also buy stuff like media and production.
It makes up for 80% of the project. So if you get a project from, for a hundred thousand, dollars, let’s say 70 or 80% of the money goes only through your agency goes up. So you have to combine these two things together, to get the client profit, profitability To write, yeah. To understand better.
And, here is where, specialized tools with great focused, AI might really, , really. And understanding the particular field because if you use like a general tool, uh, will not help you help it as much.
Ryan: Yeah. And, and you are really having to optimize for that 20%, and make sure it’s there.
You’re right, it is a little different than, than it firms which are a little more kind of like project oriented. Like you might have a thing that has to deliver very specifically like this. You might have a few third party tools that are involved in that, but, but really you’re not putting a large portion of the budget towards.
Some kind of a performance based environment. So that’s, that’s definitely a difference. What do you think, what do you think about, the future of ad creation in general and assets and, how’s that gonna work?
Marek: Yes. I mean, creative were breaking out some months ago because there were some really nice pictures generated by, uh, d and, and.
Other, other ai, graphic, uh, uh sure to a generated platform like Whisper and Dream and things like that. And, I’m happy, the first bubble is over and they are trying to realize that, alright, hope in, uh, in, in some things, but it wouldn’t, will not take their jobs. Yeah. So how we are thinking in the, in our agencies about this is, and I’m really happy our creative director is, really understanding how to get.
These things, right? So we are viewing the AI as one of the tools or collaborators to the process. So formally you have creatives, people like copywriters, graphic designers, idea makers working together on a, on an idea, and now we’re adding another participant to this, to the discussion and to the creative.
He’s not able to make the whole work on his. And, but in, uh, taking him to the process, you can really make the process, , making better outputs. So I would compare it to a, a copywriter, uh, thinking of a campaign on his own compared to a team of three people from different fields working on a campaign.
The output, surely. Yep. So I think AI is only the full participant to the party. It’s really important to involve him even for efficiency for agencies because they are, and they will be agencies, working and using , the power of AI to generate ideas. But the selection of the ideas is a total different topic.
I think AI is really great in making the, the, like the hard work it’s executing on. Yeah, like, like doing the, heavy lifting. But, you have to be, really have experience in what the client really needs to having, the idea to maybe shape , the best amount of ideas to certain direction mm-hmm.
for, for having a good outcome. Yeah.
Ryan: So you, you’ve brought up a couple times the concept of, uh, adding another participant to the, the system. And really looking at the toolkits as we more or less a participant. At what point do you think in the life cycle of, like, you know, deep learning and AI and like where it’s, where it goes in business integration, does it become an actual entity that we are engaging with?
Um, in, in knowing?
Marek: I think, is really important in the start , of the process. Mm-hmm. and the more, later you are to, to the final result, , the more you have to rely on, , specialized, expert work and experience to get the final, final result.
Uh, final. Yeah. Yeah.
Ryan: Okay. Well, that was wonderful. I, I appreciate all of your insights and your thoughts, looking into the future, into what’s a, a field that’s got I think a very big couple of years coming where there’s gonna be a lot of innovation and new things. So we’re excited to see , how your . Businesses do and how we keep improving the collaboration
Marek: amongst everybody.
Yeah. Thank you very much for having me here. Yeah, it’s great to have you. Thanks so much.