SalesDoubler – Timeline of the one Dream
It isn’t easy to put everything that has happened in 10 years into a short article: from a startup to a strong business, from a dream to reality. The path through the thorns of crises and falls and ups to a stellar takeoff can easily take up a whole book without a single drop of “water”. And someday we will undoubtedly write it … But now we will still try to introduce you to the history of SD through a small long read.
Inception. I have a dream.
It started with a solid desire for self-employed work, as most startups do. This desire turned the money saved by Vladimir Sakharov to purchase an apartment in Kyiv into an investment in developing a platform for the future CPA network.
With our friend programmer, we started in 2012 on September 18, and in the winter of 2013, we signed agreements with the first advertisers to place affiliate programs in the SalesDoubler CPA network. And they posted them.
Vladimir took over the search for new advertisers and affiliate managers, Viktor was engaged in programming and improving the platform, and Kristina became responsible for financial calculations. The CPA model in Ukraine has not been developed at all. At that time, we had to explain to online stores what CPA is and how it works.
We understood that we did not have enough resources or the level of development of the current Ukrainian market to reach a high level of automation, as in western CPAs. So we identified high manual human support for advertisers and affiliate managers as our main priority. Maximized consulting, explanation and operational support of both target audiences have become our “chip”, and the main difference between SalesDoubler and its competitors. It was also necessary to deal with fundamental CPA market education, and we accepted this challenge, armed with one of the leading western books on online affiliate marketing. And taught the basics of internet marketing to those partners who needed it.)
It was an exciting year. The growth was swift, but the need for the business’s qualitative and quantitative expansion also grew. In the summer, Vladimir and Victor decided to increase the number of partners to lay the foundations and build the business structurally. So, in the summer and autumn of 2013, three new partners joined SalesDoubler: Yaroslav to build the department for working with advertisers, Vadim to create and develop the affiliate department and Yulia, as the operational director of the CPA network.
We started working in “Chasopys” coworking and paid by the hour for staying there. What seems to be so special here? But this is already a different level for a startup – you earn money, the team and needs are growing, and the responsibilities to employees/affiliates/partners grow. And you pay for a job. We moved from “Chasopys” to the first full-fledged office in Kyiv, Podil area, and opened an office for affiliates in Khmelnytskyi.
The overwhelming majority of our advertisers were from the financial segment, online stores, online education, and travel/tour booking. But we also experimented with other attractive verticals, particularly FMCG and e-commerce.
Yes-yes, e-commerce) Like any normal startup without pitches and rounds, we needed to show traction, in other words, earn our daily bread) Therefore, we worked with “Green Coffee”, “Monastic Tea”, and even “Talking Hamsters” )))) It was harmless but still hyped-based products. So we immediately agreed never to accept offers from advertisers who promise to cure cancer, or other diseases, like psoriasis or diabetes. And to this day, we never did!
We received the first FMCG clients from a leading Ukrainian digital agency, which was a breakthrough in the CPA of Ukraine! Simple targeted actions in promo mechanics of famous international brands, high payouts and insane CR were in incredible demand among our affiliates. But limits on the number of leads, strict requirements for online advertising campaigns and strict compliance with brand books have led to an organic need to select traffic partners carefully. And we found our success formula, so someone of them is still working with us as an affiliate, and others have become our employees))
And, as we mentioned our clients – there were a lot of advertisers with whom we gladly worked over this next 6-7 years period.
It was the year of E-commerce. Top online clothing stores, household and digital appliances, and perfumes. Companies like “Modna Kasta”, “LeBoutique”, “Lamoda”, “Bonprix”, “Allo”, “Comfy”, “Eldorado” and many others. The leading business segments became Travel and Education. We worked with several top travel agencies and online English language schools. Some of them we worked with up to this date.
It was an excellent time for the financial vertical, we didn’t understand much about it, but it was exciting) Affiliates constantly asked us if there would be a “finance” niche in the affiliate programs, and we looked for them everywhere. Connecting affiliate programs of banks without their legal entity at that time was very problematic. First, signing agreements with banks was long, and second, integration took no less time. Many more CPAs wanted to work with them. But a solution was found – at that time, one of the Ukrainian financial CPA networks, Finline, was really on good terms with the financial market and needed some affiliates to attract traffic to bank offers.
And we have decided to become partners, and our affiliates began to pour traffic on Finlene offers just frantically! Then, we started discussing options for a potential merger to become a significant player in the market, but it was not meant to be at that time.
Bottom search and non-stop experiments.
The events of late 2013 and early 2014 shook Ukraine and the world. They affected both the offline and online economy. We worked hard, recruited a team, made plans and developed projects. We set the mission, values and principles of SD, which formed the basis of all processes: from micro-decisions (how to act in a particular situation or how to respond to a partner) to the selection of colleagues in the team and determining the strategy for the year.
We started doing financial reporting and planning at a high level and met with wonderful business mentors who became partners and friends of SD for years. And the economy continued its smooth lowering: no loans were issued, big brands cut advertising budgets, online sales had fallen, and so did we…
What can we say? These were challenging years, the years when SD survived despite the decline of the market, the years when we were forced to say goodbye to our colleagues because we could not give them a good salary, the years when we were forced to close interesting and promising internal projects (own sites with smart solutions), barely starting to implement them(…
It was a time when part of the shareholders went looking for work to unload the company’s payroll and let the company survive, retaining a minimum of a team. But we did not give up. We worked with inspiration, connected affiliates and improved the conditions for advertisers.
We looked for opportunities everywhere: we sold traffic to CPC, opened a new vertical, “Online games” (desktop) – signed contracts with a dozen game manufacturers and even Wargaming, and successfully made money on “tank upgrades”. Then there were the first to attempt entering foreign markets and connect offers with multi GEO, like Tripadvisor (DE, PL, ES), hotels.com and others. There was little foreign traffic, and they mainly earned in Ukrainian E-commerce and FMCG.
Growth: PDL UA descent, first experiments with Crypto vertical.
And even though the first PDL UA offers started with us in 2014 (Credit365 offer was initiated on 01/14/2014, and now they are one of the Ukrainian market leaders, Moneyveo, on 05/15/2014), then consumers of loans preferred running “9 circles of hell” for a chance to obtain the bank loans. There was not much faith in the PDL product. Like everything new, online microcredits caused perplexity and fear, and a significant %, compared to the bank loans, finally tilted the scales in favour of the second.
However, after two years, the situation began to change cardinally: active advertising of PDLs online and offline and the low salary in a country where the economy had reached its bottom stimulated people to try this product to cover their urgent needs. Month after month, more and more new players appeared in the microloan market, and each wanted to get their share of the rapidly growing market. The demand for a “payday loan” was getting higher, the competition between advertisers for affiliates’ online traffic was increasing, and we were growing with it. The negative expected balance became positive, and the cash flow allowed us to sweeten the team and launch new projects. And PnL pleased shareholders from month to month)
At the strategic session of the year, at the beginning of 2017th, we set growth plans of x10 and achieved them (!), and the motto «Великі цілі досяжні!» organically entered the SD brand book and became fundamental for us forever!
This year we rejoiced like children, worked with inspiration and saw excellent results, held corporate parties and parties in a crazy “student” style, and launched new projects without hesitation.
One of them was our small media buying team experimenting with the Crypto niche. The push for this project was the question we once heard at one of the conferences. We were asked: “Do you have an internal media buying team?” We again answered: “No, because it is wrong when the CPA network has its arbitration team and can use successful cases of its affiliates and blah blah blah”. All “smart” western books were written this way, and we believed them sacredly. And we heard the answer: “Well, fools, because everyone has one” ))). Thoughts about our buying one as diversification has been moving around for a long time, and we made a decision – it was time to create it. Moreover, such a team would not copy the success of others and would not follow them, but would create their cases, would be the vanguard in terms of traffic flow and would share expertise with other affiliates.
The results were tremendous and multiplying. It seemed that it would be a new multi-million dollar project, but the year 2018 came, and the crypt collapsed, with it the project’s income. But instead of crying, we laughed) The PDL UA niche was waiting for us!
PDL UA Rocket, International, Covid and on the rise again!
Watching the rapid growth of the PDL vertical at the beginning of 2018, we made a difficult but fateful decision to curtail the e-commerce vertical little by little. Online stores generated less and less share of earnings (compared to PDL) and, at the same time, took tangible human resources for maintenance/integration/financial tasks. We decided to focus maximum efforts and internal investments on microcredits in Ukraine, where we have already accumulated some vast expertise and good relations with advertisers and a lot of affiliates.
And it paid off because the market continued to snowball, and we, little by little, found ourselves on the top of the PDL wave far ahead of all competitors. New players entering the market could not bypass SD as the main generator of online financial traffic. We were recommended to advertisers and affiliates, and we generously shared our expertise, attracted traffic and developed new partnerships. Most of the affiliates working with e-commerce started to redirect their traffic to PDL and earn much more.
These were excellent years of successful experiments. The SmartMoney arbitration team deployed a powerful infrastructure for media buying for various verticals (primarily for PDL). Automation, smart solutions, unusual traffic channels and analysis of user actions have become a real breakthrough in traffic monetization! Our affiliate team alone has become a powerful player in the traffic acquisition market for PDL product advertisers in Ukraine.
Realizing our high dependence on the Ukrainian market, we decided that we needed to go into the international microcredit business. In 2018 we launched a new direction and a large project – PDL International. Decision made – quickly done! Already in September, we provided affiliates with offers from Vietnam, followed by the Philippines, Sri Lanka and many other countries. And today, these three GEOs remain one of the key ones, and Kazakhstan came out on top.
We continued to plan growth many times over the year, and the development dynamics were remarkable. Then Covid came (… and hit the International market, then the Ukrainian market. Truthfully, Ukraine “dipped” for a short time, but the International part of our business revived for a long time.
In Ukraine, for several months, the FMCG & Services vertical became our saving island: water and food delivery services became wildly popular! And then streaming/telecom services were added) We had all of them in operation, and the sales department quickly added a few more offers to each vertical. It helped to hold out for several months while the Ukrainian PDL restarted. We were back on track again! The year 2020 has begun, and it promised to be no less attractive)
At the beginning of the year, shareholders agreed to merge SalesDoubler and Finline (negotiations continued in 2019) into one extensive CPA network under the SalesDoubler brand. It was a brilliant deal when 1+1=3. SD was the leader with a massive base of arbitrage partners (rdr traffic) and had good relations with all UA PDL advertisers. In contrast, Finline had strong API solutions and partnerships with all Ukrainian banks working with the CPA channel. The unification, which did not take place in 2013, became a reality after seven years)
“A Kind of Magic”, right?) And we prepared a communication and went to all advertisers and major affiliates to announce the news before the official release, not to “scare” the market.
The highest rise, painful fall, and unbending character: the story continues.
2021 has been, without exaggeration, the most powerful and successful year in our history. We became a part of the prominent fintech holding named Treeum, with new opportunities, challenges and plans. It seemed nothing was impossible because every time we set a new bar, we overcame it. Again and again, we proudly said to each other: “Великі цілі досяжні!”. And continued to run towards as fast as we could and even faster)
The undisputed leader position in Ukraine, the largest, unprecedented campaign for affiliates, a large number of new tools for traffic partners, excellent relations with advertisers and affiliates, the dynamic growth of the International direction, webinars, round tables, super parties – we can’t even remember everything)
This year we had the largest team of professionals, we got incredible financial results in Ukraine, we were inspired by the dynamic growth and development of PDL International, which resumed after Covid, and there were even more plans for 2022. They gradually began to be implemented in the first two months of 2022th. We would continue to dominate in Ukraine and compete for traffic leadership in several other countries by opening representative offices there.
And the next day we woke up and there was a war.
The team was unprepared, although the SWOT highlighted this risk during the annual planning. We could not influence it, only consider our response in actions.
And we did and still doing it. We have started to actively grow SalesDoubler as an international CPA fintech platform in 2022, connected new GEOs and affiliates from all over the world, and diversified the business.
That became the cornerstone of our plans after everyone recovered from the shock a few days later. It helped us to keep most of the team and business. During the first months of a full-scale war, we concentrated all the “heat of the soul” and the energy in this direction. And, thanks to the dedicated work of our team, our partners and affiliates, we have made significant progress in PDL International. The income of this direction in the summer of 2022 increased by 2.5-3 times from pre-war indicators.
We launched nearly 20 new GEOs and became one of the leaders for advertisers among CPA networks in Kazakhstan, opened an office there, and replenished the SalesDoubler team with professional colleagues from this large, promising and friendly country)
We have grown in other GEOs, launched and continue to develop the Crypto vertical, restored Ukrainian e-commerce, and looked for new “blue oceans” in the CPA world.
We completed the redesign of our site and aimed it at the whole world, rolling out a few more valuable tools for affiliates.
Today we offer traffic partners a good selection of various affiliate programs in different countries and niches: PDL, banks, e-commerce, crypto, insurance, services and FMCG. That means the affiliate has many alternatives for monetising their traffic and choosing the offers/verticals/countries that will get them a high profit. And then rise there)
And while I am almost finished telling our story, I would like to sincerely thank:
Affiliates – we have grown and developed together. The “wheel” of the CPA mill has been spinning and will continue to do so, thanks to the “water” of your traffic;
Advertisers – for steps towards individual rates, competitive conditions, sponsorship of promotions and simple faith in us;
The whole SalesDoubler team – for these ten years of existence of our CPA network. You are SalesDoubler. Thanks to your inspired work, we achieve incredible results, recover from falls and again move towards Big goals, which (as we certainly know) are achievable!