History of HRBOX

Hello everyone! I am Vasilisa Sokolova. I am one of the founders of HRBOX, the platform which helps companies around the world to automate HR processes.

Vasilisa Sokolova, HRBOX CEO

In this article I will share the history of HRBOX creation, tell you about our team and plans for the future. And I’ll also open up the secret of how we came up with the raccoon which our users often meet floating around our solution.

Before HRBOX

My career began at the largest Russian system integrator CROC. There I got my passion for IT and automation of whatever may be automated in this world. Then I got an MBA in one of the leading business schools in Europe. For six months I lived in the USA, where I gained valuable business experience. When I returned to Russia, I continued my HR career at Svyaznoy Group of Companies, and then joined the young and ambitious team of VseInstrumenti.ru. There I was able to promote measures to automate HR processes, and was given a free hand to create my own corporate portal.

The birth of the idea

One day I got a call from Alexander Vasilyev, director of customer service development at the Deceuninck international company. He was recommended to come to our office for the exchange of best practices. At the meeting, in addition to sharing the secrets of working with the team and clients, I also showed our portal which we were meticulously creating at that time. Sasha ended the meeting with the phrase: "I have only one question: when will you start selling this system outside?". I answered without any back thought: "In a year!" as we had already discussed such plans with the team.

I remember that day I wrote to the corporate portal team: "Guys, we need to start selling the portal in one year!". Nobody was surprised when they heard this idea.

Alexander Vasilyev (Deceuninck)

"Now or never!"

A month after going freelance, I realized that I can’t get rid of the idea of ​​creating an ideal platform for working with people. In fact, there are quite a lot of similar solutions in the market, and you know many of them: i.e. solutions from SAP, ORACLE, 1C. There are smaller market players, but very well known as well. I have always been fascinated by the functionality of their products and by the fact that they started solving HR problems with automation so long time ago. And yet, in my opinion, they also had quite significant disadvantages.

For example:
  • painful and long integration
  • launch with a team of expensive external consultants
  • low system flexibility without trained IT staff
  • outdated interfaces
  • high cost

I wanted to create a platform that any HR could run and manage without any special IT background. The one that would be user-friendly and fun to work with, both for admins and regular users. The one that would have a modern, stylish and simple design. The one that could be customized without hiring a separate development team. And, of course, affordable, so that companies that do not have huge HR budgets could afford it. This is how the definition of the future product was born: an HR platform created with love for people.

I called Yura and we realized that this idea still inspired both of us. We decided: "Now or never." Yura left his job. We quickly found three developers, and starting March 2019 began working at top speed.

First team and clients

As you see, we started off with a small team. I am responsible for the formulation of the requirements to the system from HR stand point along with sales and marketing management. Yura is our technical brain. He is responsible for architecture, nice coding, security and best solutions. Ruslan created almost the entire user interface, that is, everything that our users see.

While the guys were putting the platform together, I got back to Alexander and re-confirmed his intention to become our pilot client. Colleagues from Deceuninck took an active part in testing the platform, shared great ideas and improvements. This resulted in an excellent partner tandem.

Meanwhile, I was searching for potential clients. As it usually happens, first I shared our idea and presented working prototypes to my mates from the HR-community. We also managed to test the idea for viability — many people were giving us an honest feedback, shared their pain points. This helped us tune up our MVP.

Six months after the start we launched a platform for Deceuninck. A month later divan.ru and ESFORCE became our clients. Just within five months of the platform's operation, we received 4 clients, and all of them are still with us.

HRBOX actively participates in professional exhibitions and conferences

Now our team is growing. We have set the client service and sales departments in 2020. At the beginning of 2021, we made our first marketing investments. We actively keep in touch with international HR community. We make presentations at conferences, write articles, share our experience and case studies, openly share lessons learned with clients.

The team lives in 7 different cities, and so far we have never met all together in real life. Imagine, every morning we hold video conference together and share our progress, ideas, questions, doubts. Sometimes we argue over interfaces until we make it just perfect. Frankly speaking, I love this part of my working day!

Initially my partner and I shared completely different approaches to the team management. My experience taught me that you need to clearly set goals, build up regular management, set deadlines and arrangements. Yura promoted a new management style, the so called "turquoise" approach at top speed.

And we decided to use his vision. We fully trust each other as much as possible, we do not do micro management and track the hours that a person "worked". An individual schedule can be agreed for each team member who will then work at his own pace. We give our team members the opportunity to leave work for personal matters or vacation when needed without any unnecessary paper work and approvals. Recently we have accidentally approved simultaneous vacations for two of our employees sharing same responsibilities. However, we let them go as promised managing this extra workload ourselves. Previously I would definitely do my best to make one of them change his mind.
Kirill is the most thoughtful and calm of our developers who is the best in dividing complex tasks in pieces.

At the very beginning we also had Zhenya — the most untypical IT guy: he was a hilarious and a very social person specializing in solving key system tasks.
We don’t read the riot act for bugs and mistakes. We just go ahead and solve issues and help overcome tough situations. And this attitude "backfires" on us with the incredible engagement and responsibility of everyone. It seems I’ve never been so confident in my team as I am at the moment.

As is -> To be

In 2.5 years, we have created a full-fledged product that now covers several critically important HR tasks for any company:

  • fast communication and creation of a single information field for geographically distributed teams;
  • the opportunity to give a transparent company structure and share knowledge with peers;
  • the chance to store important artifacts for the company (the best employees files, photos, news, etc.);
  • interactive online learning with in-depth reports, webinars, calendar of events;
  • setting and tracking employees' goals;
  • feedback from the team through custom surveys, 360 degree, Internal Customer Satisfaction Index (ISCI), real-time feedbacks and collection of ideas for business development;
  • automation of routine processes, applications and approvals.
Design and additional settings of the platform can be customized in accordance with particular brand book of our customers. HRBOX can also be applied not only for internal use, but also for creating a community with partners and customers. In addition to the web and mobile version of the platform, we launched the first the mobile application for IOS and Android in 2021.

Now we have huge plans to develop "HR" section: we want to add various personnel reports, basic personnel records storage directly on the platform. This storage is useful for young growing companies that, for one reason or another, do not use other personnel systems.

We also plan to develop project management tools on HRBOX platform. And a separate big module for us would be a launch of recruitment automation.

Raccoon, who are you?

Finally, as I promised, I will reveal the secret of our raccoons.

When Yura and I realized the seriousness of our intentions, late in the evening we began to get creative about the naming of the product in the messenger. As we were generating ideas, right away we were checking the availability of the domains for our future web site.
There were lots of variants: HRportal, HRcorner, HRstone… And suddenly Yura suggested trying to use different animals after "HR", for example, HRenot. When I received the message, I did not immediately understand what the joke was. And then it dawned on me that everyone would not read or say "HR enot" ("Enot" is a racoon in Russian language), but simply "khrenot" which in Russian language sounds a bit like a slang word for "heck". So my partner’s idea seemed to me simply brilliant! Someone from our environment believes that the platform itself should have been called that way.

One way or another, despite the fact that we called the project HRBOX, the "khrenotiks" or HR raccoon stuck with us. My friend is the illustrator, and when she heard this story, she got was so inspired that she asked me if she could draw a couple of raccoons just in case for different needs. Now we use them on error pages, in postcards, and in daily work — all of our development tasks are carried out in a system that we affectionately call: "HRenot." For the first line-up of the team, we made individual "khrenotiks". Try to guess who belongs to whom.

Our clients

This story could not be complete without mentioning our beloved clients.
We are really very thankful to the Deceuninck company for their trust and for giving us a chance to launch a pilot version of the platform. Within the first year we signed contracts with ESFORCE, divan.ru and FCG - companies that became our real brand ambassadors.
Now more than 50 companies work with HRBOX. Each of them comes with its own problems and tasks, and we do our best in solving them. Each new client becomes our full-fledged partner, offering ideas that help develop the platform and making it better and more efficient every day. Join us!

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