Startup Of The Week: MELP
On a mission to help leaders develop teams and personalize employee benefits, thus fitting every individual’s expectations, the MELP platform help attract new talents, retain high performers, and keep employees loyal and engaged.
Meet our Startup Of The Week – MELP and read a great interview with Juozas Sargūnas, CEO and Co-founder of MELP.
Tell us about your startup. What is MELP? And how does it work?
MELP is an Employee Benefits Management SaaS and a Marketplace. It consists of an online platform for Employers and an app for Employees.
Employers can easily budget, create, assign and communicate benefits for their teams. Employees can see benefit value and description, choose benefits they want, spend assigned benefit value in the marketplace.
What are your competitive advantages that work? What are your competitors?
We see a global market opportunity in the underserved market of small and medium companies, that grow fast, strive to attract and retain talents, care about their employees and provide them with various benefits. Some existing solutions for the market, such as Benify, Rippling, don’t offer a marketplace, others, such as TBS or Inspiring Benefits, aim mostly at large corporates and are both complicated to launch and very expensive. We offer attractive pricing, great UX, and easy onboarding.
What were the reasons behind coming up with this idea and launching this product?
Our founders come from the markets of the most popular employee benefits in the world – insurance and wellness. We also saw that many service providers are looking for new ways to sell their products and don’t have a modern way to serve their existing clients through an app, for example, many insurance brokers don’t offer such a possibility. A platform that connects all company benefits for employees is a unique channel for sales of service providers as well as helps employees get more value from their employers.
When exactly did you launch, what were the main challenges before launching?
We have launched the product just last month and started the sales process recently. We have outsourced the development for the prototype and MVP, so the biggest challenge was to start assembling our own IT team. We are happy to have a core team in-house already and start working on Marketplace functionality as well as many integrations.
The early stage of working on the idea coincided with the peak of pandemics, so it was a challenge even to meet and do workshops physically. Many hours were spent online discussing the product, getting feedback, selecting priorities, etc. We are glad that we are able to go to the market directly now and improve our pace.
We target SME customers in developed countries, which already use benefits to attract and retain talent, but cannot afford complicated benefit management systems offered by large providers. We aim at fast-growing companies, as their teams value flexibility and the possibility to choose their own benefits from a marketplace. We start primarily in Nordic, Benelux, and UK markets, but our product is perfectly prepared for adaptation in virtually any language and localisation to most of the markets in a matter of days. We have closed a few contracts already, but there is a long way ahead of us, which we are not afraid of – our team has lots of sales experience and we love doing them. 😊
What are the biggest challenges while working on this product and how are you overcoming it?
Most challenges are related to prioritising and planning. How to make a sustainable development plan that addresses the problems of our target customers and helps them to achieve their targets? How to develop a product which not only solves quick pain points now but also builds good foundations for international growth in the future? The answers may seem simple – you have to listen to customers more, discuss internally a lot, and pilot. Having in mind time pressure always is easier said than done, but we believe that structured processes and consistency are the drivers of progress.
Tell us more about funding. How did you get it? Do you seek extra funding?
We have raised a total of 722 000 euros investment already, which makes us probably the most funded HR Tech startup in Lithuania. More than half a million came from founders, employees, and advisors of the project, it shows both the big ambitions of the team, as well as their trust in each other and the product. The first round outside of the core team was done with angel investors and 70 Ventures accelerator, which makes a great add-on to the project – they have lots of experience organizing professional sales processes with B2B SaaS.
We will soon start working on the next round, which should take place in the first half of 2022. Our plan is to secure investments for a 12-18 months period, which would allow us to enter a few major international markets and scale marketplace functionality internationally.
Please introduce your team!
We are proud that our investor team consists of 7 former CEO’s and Founders in different businesses, so we’ve got professional expertise in various areas. Amongst them:
Juozas Sargūnas – CEO and Co-founder of MELP. During his 17+ years of experience in sales, Juozas was managing 40% of the Lithuanian health insurance market portfolio and running several businesses as co-founder and CEO. Juozas is an extremely optimistic and vibrant personality, with a salesman DNA.
Robertas Šaltis – Chairman of the Board and Co-founder of MELP. Robertas is a visionary thinker and an inspiring idea generation “machine”, never tired of asking challenging questions. Robertas has 30+ years of experience in the insurance business and sales.
Vidmantas Šiugždinis – Co-Founder of MELP. Almost 10 years in the health and fitness industry, as CEO and Board Member of Impuls and Lemon gym fitness clubs. Launched the first budget fitness chain in the region and was honored with IHRSA European Leadership Award in 2019. Has a marketing background and loves chess.
- Renata Kaškelytė – Customer service executive.
- Simona Kačinaitė – Product owner.
- Martynas Sipavičius – Senior font-end developer.
- Vytautas Civinskas – Senior integrations developer.
- Edvinas Karalius – benefits advisor, sales lead.
- Dimitri Tsulaia – benefits advisor, sales lead.
Strong startup culture isn’t something that can be created overnight but it can be worked towards with some conscious moves. So what are your moves towards this?
Our values are teamwork, responsibility, and integrity. As we started our business during the pandemic, some of the people continue working remotely (e.g., some are spending winter months in Spain), while the others choose to come to the office every day. It’s all about trust, and we encourage that by all means, including open communication.
We also believe that being physically active helps our energy levels and improves our health, so we always look for common activities in this field. MELP team participates in the walking challenge at the moment and we plan to embrace an active lifestyle in our company.
Bonus question: what’s next? Tell us about your future plans.
We have big plans but try to work on them one step at a time. So now main targets are to close sales leads and onboard international clients on our platform, launch new features at the beginning of 2022, and to do necessary steps to attract investment for further growth. Partnerships are an important step in this journey, so we are starting to talk with various international service providers to get more value for our clients with integrated easier processes or in the marketplace.
Thank you for the answers, Juozas!
Find more interviews with promising Lithuanian startups here.