Watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves — Price & Cost makes your project budget management easy and efficient

Company:  Price&Cost

Started playing:  Q3/2016

Joined the band:  Q3/2017


Project and portfolio management market has been valued at €2Bn in 2016 when 62% of companies used project management software to capture time/cost of projects. Price&Cost is leveraging this growing demand for simple to use and well integrated project management solutions.



Price & Cost Interview


We had the pleasure to have a chat with the man of margins, Andrei Bernovski the founder and CEO of Price&Cost. Through years of frustration of using complicated project managing tools in his work, Andrei and his team resolved to invent a user-friendly tool for tracking cost and keeping projects in the budget.


Icebreaker(IB):

Hi Andrei, excellent that you had time to have a chat with us. How is everything going?

Andrei:

Hi guys! Everything is good here in Estonia. We have a lot of cool stuff going on, so nothing to complain about.

IB:

Before we dive into what your company is all about, could you tell us a little bit about your background?

Andrei:

Yeah sure. My studies focused on International business administration which I majored in 10 years ago from Estonian Business school. Since then I have worked in several consulting agencies on various projects. My whole professional career has been in project management.

I started my career as a consultant in Estonia and later moved to London where I have spent a share amount of my professional career in different world-famous agencies. Through the years I worked myself up from project manager to head of a department in these companies.

IB:

How did you end up founding Price&Cost? And what is it all about?

Andrei:

So, Price&Cost is a project estimation and budget-tracking tool. It focuses on monitoring project's financial health, allowing you to track key metrics as the project progresses in a user-friendly way.

The idea of this grew up in the back of my mind, during my years as a project manager. The agencies where I worked sold “people’s’ time,” shortly meaning that they provide their employees’ workload and rely on the profit margin. As we all know projects usually never end up exactly as planned and more time and effort has to be put in to finalize the project. Usually, agencies offer fixed prices for their clients, which means that the profit margin of the agencies shrinks due to the larger amount of workload put into the project.

After working several years in the field of project management, I realized the importance of keeping close track on the costs and the prices, the essentials in every project. To manage these correctly, you need to use appropriate tools for it. The more advanced cost management programs are costly and challenging, alternatively use Microsoft Excel but it quickly becomes a whole jungle of sheets, and mistakes can easily occur. In whatever size of a company I worked in, I stumbled on the same problems.

After a mistake made by myself while using Excel, I realized that there must be a more efficient way of doing this, which was the tipping point of starting my own project managing software, Price&Cost.

IB:

Who is on your team and how did you all end up founding Price&Cost together?

Andrei:

Hence I came up with the idea I reached out to my good friends, “The Borissov Brothers”, a.k.a. Kirill and Jefim who are the two other co-founders of Price&Cost. I have known them for almost 15 years, and we have also worked together over the years, so I knew they were the perfect fit for this project. Kirill works as the CCO and is responsible for the software design, and his brother Jefim works as the CTO at Price&Cost.

IB:

You mentioned about other software that can be used for project management, how is the competition in this market and how is Price&Cost different from them?

Andrei:

There are a lot of applications built for that purpose, and they can be roughly divided into two types: ERP (Enterprise resource planning) and PSA (Professional automation service) systems. PSA systems are maybe more like what they need to be. They include all the different elements of a project; accounting, time tracking, CRM and so on, that are integrated into one software. Even though they might sound fantastic, they are very expensive, around 150k a year, so not cheap at all.

Both types are extremely challenging to use and built for very complex use cases. Not from the functionality perspective, but they are simply not made for humans to be used. They are super complicated which forces many to use Excel instead. Excel, on the other hand, is user-friendly and a good tool but mistakes can easily be made. The formulas quickly become very complicated, and errors start to occur. I also experienced it when I calculated the margin incorrect and realized it two months into the project. Even though I had done it hundreds of times before.

There are plenty of big players in this market segment providing ERP, PSA software but according to our research, we found out that there is no one in our category, with a usability and a price point such as ours. I realized that this is something that would be needed in the market.

IB:

When did you start with Price&Cost and how did it turn out?

Andrei:

At the time when we started in Q3/2016, it was only a side project for all of us. I lived in London, Kirill in Scotland and Jefim in Tampere, so it took a while to get out the first Beta version. We reached out to possible users through our blog, emails, and early adaptor communities. Over the course of a couple of months, we saw a clear pattern of interest which showed that the problem is real and must be solved. The first private beta version was horrible, but we continued to get feedback and further developed our software. So, it has been a tough journey from the illusion of building a SaaS B-to-B business to the reality of doing it.

IB:

It seems that you want to differ from the other solutions on the market. Which group of users are you mostly targeting?

Andrei:

In the beginning, we targeted smaller companies and offered our service for a small monthly fee, which they afforded to pay. During the events that we joined, such as Slush and Latitude, we spoke to potential customers that were shocked by the pricing and thought that we had missed out a zero in the end. We realized that we were under-priced which scared away the more serious customers, they felt that a well-functioning project managing software can’t be that cheap.

Recently we have changed the pricing and started to see that we are getting fewer conversions, but the ones we get are much higher quality. In the start, we thought of building a tool for everyone, but that didn’t turn out to be the best way to go for us. Now we focus on professional service businesses that operate on a project basis.

IB:

Is Price&Cost your first entrepreneurial experience?

Andrei:

This is not the first time I am doing something own. Back in the days, I founded a kiosk-based advertising company. Kids nowadays might not know what they are, but basically, they were super fancy big advertising computers located on the streets. Back then they were cool before the iPhones came.

In my hometown, Tallinn, which is a very touristic city, these type of kiosk-based advertising monitors were placed near tourist attractions and in Hotels. It started running fairly well, but due to the financial crisis, the tourism decreased and so did our advertising contracts. It was a fantastic experience even though it didn't end in the best way.

IB:

Is this entrepreneurial mind-set of yours, something that you always have had?

Andrei:

I think I always have had it in me. If I found a solution to a problem where my knowledge and understanding is strong, I would go for it. I believe my first entrepreneurial experience taught me much and Jefim and Kirill also worked with me on that project, which showed that we work well together as a team. My career in project management was all about pulling strings to make things happen and adapting to new situations, in which I see a lot of similarities with entrepreneurship.

IB:

How has your life changed after you left your corporate day job and started as an entrepreneur on full time?

Andrei:

I wouldn't say that it has changed that much unless we take the salary into account. I have always worked in a team environment, and now we only have a different team, an even better one. So, I haven't changed my way of working, and because we all have known each other for years and worked together, it wasn't a new situation for us. We could directly start focusing on the actual work.

I tend to be very enthusiastic about things I do and put a lot of effort in developing and fix the problems that exist in the corporation. In my former jobs, I wanted to change many things and with multiple levels of hierarchy with complex organization structures in became very hard. Now I can do things in my way, which I like.

IB:

Would you recommend this type of carrier to other people?

Andrei:

Yeah definitely. I think in every field you can find some elements that can be improved. In every business, there are inefficiencies that either can be restricted or automated, and that's a great way to find an idea. Our idea grew out of a peculiar pain point. If I hadn't worked at the several agencies during my career, I wouldn't have seen the need for this type of solution that we have developed. Also, the knowledge that you collect throughout the years gives you insights into the industry which will be useful. So, I think it is essential to first get an understanding of the field before starting to fix it.

IB:

How has Icebreaker been of help during your journey?

Andrei:

Funding is necessary for the beginning, but money is money. Investors differ a lot from each other, and I think Icebreaker has done a tremendous job to help us further and been very friendly investors. The guys at Icebreaker has opened us many doors and given us essential leads. We have got the opportunity to meet a lot of great people through their community and learn from them.



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