Value vs. technology: which is more important for product growth?

Emilija Jankauskė

December 9, 2021


Tech innovation is a central aspect of competitors among technology companies. However, it's not enough to create a great product and release it to the market. There are numerous factors at play that can turn a young company into a world-class tech market player. So, in this interview, we talked with Donatas Tamelis, a Managing Director at NordLayer, about what factors you need to focus on to drive exceptional product growth.

Bearded, beanie wearing Managing Director of NordLayer smiles at camera

Helping businesses grow

First, could you introduce yourself and what you do here at Nord Security?

Hi, my name is Donatas, and I'm a Managing Director at NordLayer. We provide an adaptive network access security solution for modern businesses which helps organizations of all sizes to fulfill scaling and integration challenges when building a secure network access solution. I know, sounds rather complicated, but our main goal is to help businesses thrive and grow while staying and keeping their work secure. My main role is basically to identify friction points and reduce them so that we can grow our product and provide greater value as a team.

How would you determine your success at NordLayer - are you growing your product? What data could you share with us?

Well, it depends on how you look at it. I can say that the product we built very quickly achieved quite a solid market adoption, and for us, it was substantial growth. However, to always stay ahead and sustain that growth, we constantly improve and roll out new features. Looking at the date, we see that a variety of use cases are expanding, the list of customers and partners is growing, and retention is very healthy. To back it up with data, I can happily share that more than 4000 companies and more than 40.000 end users use NordLayer as part of their cybersecurity stack.

NordLayer journey

NordLayer was first launched as NordVPN Teams and just recently went through brand uplift. Why did you decide to take this step?

To be honest, the decision to rebrand came rather naturally. It was mainly driven by market factors. Of course, the pandemic fueled demand in the category and definitely accelerated our growth. So, with a growing list of customers and the broader visibility on the challenges they face with the distributed workforce, it was clear that we need to expand our offering beyond just a VPN service.

As a young product, we've been in the process of figuring out and polishing our identity, and with all the signals that came from the market, we've finally shaped our vision. And considering the current tech landscape, it is probably no surprise that we landed at a SASE framework solution. VPN still remains our core technology at NordLayer but defining ourselves only as a VPN service provider is like telling only a part of the story.

As you already mentioned, NordLayer switched to the SASE framework model - how do you think it will impact your results and work?

Well, According to Gartner, in 2024, the SASE market size will reach $11 billion overall, and its compound annual growth rate will be 42%. So based on this, we can project a solid wave of demand for the category, which is expected to be driven by mid-market companies - the segment NordLayer aims to. I think that backs our decision plenty - we see lots of prospects here.

Key factors to successful scaling

From your own experience, what kind of factors are needed to scale tech products successfully?

Well, the one I truly believe in and would like to emphasize is that you must deliver on your promises. Many companies spend their resources on perfecting their products while paying little to no attention to their further advancement and value factors. In my opinion, that is a huge oversight. You don't really need perfection if your product delivers value to your customer.

Another important factor is building and nurturing a well-balanced team and setting a certain clarity around your mission, goals, OKRs, results, and initiatives. Not having a structured picture and plan in place will hinder your progress and bring on frustration to you and your team. Scaling is all about managing a thousand various factors at a time, and the maturity of your team plays here as the main ingredient of success.

How much does technology impact business scale in the tech market? Does it have to be really inventive? If so, why?

Well, being in the tech market, of course, technology has a huge role here. However, your success won't solely depend on it. In fact, it's mainly about how clearly you understand the nature of the problem you're trying to solve. If your fundamental hypothesis is wrong and your product isn't delivering value to your target audience, you will have nothing to scale. Technology in itself becomes critical in the context of the competition, but the scale of a business is more often defined by how fast you move on executing your vision, meaning that you must be quick and flexible so you can offer what your market needs today in the fastest way possible.

And speaking about people’s role in business success - what qualities and skills should a managing director possess to successfully scale products?

Personally speaking, I'd say that for a managing director, it is crucial to understand what is achievable with a current team set up and what needs to be added in terms of knowledge and experience in the near future. To successfully reach the next milestone, such a person must perfectly balance the growth of separate business divisions, understand cross-functional alignment, and clarify dependencies.

Future plans

What are the next big steps planned for your product in the near future?

Next year, in terms of product, we'll bring a full focus to execute our vision based on 4 pillars of features and solutions: Security, Visibility, Customization, Integrations. Having improved each of these characteristics, we'll then plan to enable our customers with tools for real-life challenges they face. And last but not least, we plan to further improve our network access solutions.