Interview with Vera Soboleva, TraffBraza Owner


Here’s an interview with TraffBraza owners Vera Soboleva (https://instagram.com/v.a.soboleva) and Alexander.

A team of 100 employees, a lie detector, and $10,000 in the first month are TraffBraza’s highlights.

Hi, would you please introduce yourself?

Hi, I’m Vera Soboleva, a co-owner of the TraffBraza company.

Great. If you don’t mind my asking, how old are you?

I don’t mind)

I’m 27. I’m from a small town, and I came to Kyiv to study at a university.

Did you graduate?)

haha

Yes, I did. I graduated with a master of laws)

How did you end up in affiliate marketing?

I decided to discover new areas of professional development.

At the time, I was a co-founder of a produce importing company. I was promoted to this position after three years in the company. A well-established workflow in the company allowed me to work without a heavy load, having a stable good salary.

But I started to get a little ‘existential’ since I was about to turn 25, and had nothing to show for it.

I wanted more money and involvement. I wanted a new challenge. I realized that my position offered stability, but didn’t offer any career development. The latter happened to be more important. So I dropped everything and started looking for my place in the world.

I tried coding, but no) that wasn’t my thing. It’s a good thing that I realized this quickly and did not waste much time on training.

Earlier, I learned about traffic arbitrage from Sasha’s friend. But I never thought I’d want to dig into that)

And then a memory came to mind. I started googling, then I called my HR friend, and she gave me the following piece of advice: “Look through job websites, where they’re looking for entry-level juniors.”

For two weeks, I’ve been struggling to understand what traffic arbitrage is and to decide whether I should take this job or not.

I realized that it was very interesting and so I was tearfully ready to continue trying to make sense of the ‘cloak’ term and application. I was ready to take the junior position so that experts would help me acquire certain skills and experience.

I applied to a company, where they hired me as a juniors’ team leader in the remote mode)

I was shocked)

But, unfortunately, they couldn’t recruit enough juniors, so they postponed the position.

Then I applied to a young team, which had been established a few months before that. The company name was ****** ******

If you don’t mind my asking, who was this friend you were talking about? What was he occupied with at the time? And what period are we talking about here?

He was a friend of Sasha’s, who used to work with Sasha on an offline project, then recruited to one of the ********** sub-teams.

This conversation about the traffic arbitrage industry took place in 2018. Back then, Stas was an entry-level specialist.

As for me, I entered the industry in early 2019.

At the time, on what terms were they hiring in the ****** ****** team? Was the company name the same as now? What were your responsibilities at the beginning?

They offered top terms at the time)

A rate of $400 from $2,000 net profit and 50% KPI from $20,000 net profit.

Yes, the company name was the same: ****** ******.

Like everyone else, they were looking for experienced specialists. They weren’t willing to hire juniors, especially in a team where the owner doesn’t work with traffic. Recruiting a team of juniors is risky.

I got a buyer’s position after the interview because there were no separate nets for juniors and middle specialists back then. There was a targeting specialist, who taught me the interface and FB Ads.

And so it happened that the first month I earned $10,000 net profit, and then it all started)

At ****** ****** team, I was a buyer at first. I was working in the gambling niche, looking for creos, composing ad texts, developing designer TDS, testing offers, and looking for new schemes.

At first, I launched a few nutra offers, but then I discovered that gambling offers worked better and focused on them.

Later, I realized I wanted to develop my career, as I was steadily making a good profit and helping the guys in the team with tips on traffic arbitrage. So I offered myself as a team leader and was promoted.

As a team lead, I was working with traffic and teaching juniors. I also gave tasks to middles to test offers and schemes. The team leader was responsible for operating tasks as well. I was also communicating with sellers regarding accounts.

Let’s get this straight. At the time, you had zero experience in traffic arbitrage, hadn’t you? How did you manage to get a buyer’s position upon the job interview? That is, what qualities do you have that convinced them to hire you?

Yes, I had zero experience. All I knew were theoretics I studied on the web for two weeks before that. 

They hired me because they liked the way I think. At a job interview, they asked me to think of a creo for gambling and nutra offers, and I had to come up with something clever at that very moment, a call to action. I came up with a few good creo approaches, and the guys liked it.

They knew that there was no point in asking me about FB Ads settings or ad campaign optimization because I had no relevant expertise. But they wanted to discover my creativity.

So I demonstrated to them how I was going to operate and create schemes. And it turned out that they were right about me)

How long did you work with the ****** ****** team? Why did you leave the team and which position did you occupy at the moment?

I’ve worked with the ****** ****** team for almost a year. I was a team lead for the last five months.

I decided to leave after much consideration and after I studied the pros and cons. I put my heart and soul into my work. I had a good relationship with Sasha, and I liked the job. So it wasn’t an easy decision.

I was proposed to establish a legal business with large venture capital investment. It was a major project, and I was supposed to make the list of founders.

For me, it meant discovering something of my own. And I’ve always tended to business activity rather than dependent employment. After I studied the pros and cons, I realized that I wanted to be involved as a co-owner, so I decided to leave ****** ******.

Hence at that point, it meant not only leaving a team but the entire industry?

Yes.

But still, you’ve stayed in traffic arbitrage) What was your next step? Have you worked solo? And how did you establish your team at last?

It turned out that my project did not start at all. It just never happened. There were only talks, but no action.

My Sasha decided he wanted to try traffic arbitrage too. He wasn’t involved in it before.

He started several offline businesses, so he decided to start the new team the same way.

He was open about the fact that he was happy my project never happened. So I got involved in his traffic arbitrage project and we started to create a team together.

Have you had an opportunity to work solo between ****** ****** and the time you’ve established a new team?

No, I never worked solo.

Tell us of TraffBraza origin. Why this name?

SASHA

The decision to start a company was spontaneous. Vera already had experience in traffic arbitrage. At the time, I was developing my one-year restaurant project. Vera and I spent much time together, so I witnessed many things regarding the topic. Although we barely talked about work, I have had time to form an impression of the industry. One day we were on our way to the airport, and while Vera was having a work-related conversation on the phone, I flashed the idea to start such a business, which would make all my wishes and dreams come true.

Of course, I didn’t become an entrepreneur right away, I was hired for five years before that. I had great supervisors, but I know firsthand what toxic teams are like. And I dreamed of creating a small company with an aura of friendship, team spirit, and success, where people would treat each other with respect.

Considering traffic arbitrage is a high-margin industry, you can start a small team of specialists with a good income, keeping your principles and values unswayed. Hence the TraffBraza name.

How did you recruit people into the team and what terms did you offer to buyers?

SASHA

Recruiting people was hard at first. No one wished to join a young team, because we had nothing except for the idea and the start-up budget.

I interviewed over 100 people just to hire four specialists who undertook a venture with me. I offered much the same terms as they are now: $400 rate and net up to 50%. It’s up to 40% now.

In your opinion, what level of development has the team approached by now?

SASHA

We’ve gone sky-high in two years. The total staff approaches 100 employees. The turnover went up a lot, too. The team constantly evolves, we discover new sources and verticals and start new projects.

We set the bar high and intend to go far. Compared to other teams, I think we have an excellent level of development. We have a complete infrastructure that allows us to implement and build business processes for any source or vertical.

What’s the team’s turnover now? You can name it in $ if you don’t want to give away numbers.

Sorry, but we don’t discuss these issues for business security reasons.

I can see that you don’t talk about finances, but I can’t help but ask a question Yury Dud-style: “How much do you make?)”

I make 50% of the company’s net profit, and the rest is Sasha’s))

Do you work with gambling and betting only? Did you test any other verticals?

SASHA

We rarely work with betting offers. For now, our key verticals are gambling and crypto-currency. We’ve started working with crypto-currency this August and invest heavily in it at the moment.

How is the profit distributed between gamblo and crypto in percentage terms? Why did you decide to enter the crypto vertical?

It’s a worthy vertical. Compared to gambling, there is no need for mobile apps. It’s a perfect vertical for PPC, where you can get high volumes and a good ROI.

What sources do you use?

VERA

Facebook, PPC, UAC, and TikTok. We try to develop by source rather than by vertical, so we get more stable long-term. We used to work with in-app traffic, but considering its global issues, we switched to other sources. For now, we are satisfied with the sources we have.

At the Gambling.Pro Event, Alexander spoke of the  ‘app machine’ you develop. How is it going? Can you tell us more?

SASHA

Ah, the ‘app machine’, yes. We have not yet implemented an end-to-end cycle of automatic app generation, since it’s quite a complex task. It’s in the planning stage now. Here’s the concept: the stub creator assembles the ‘white’ part. I won’t disclose the APL of the stub, but it’s not Kotlin.

Then it is randomized and the rest of the code is then obfuscated. As a result, the app quality is a bit low, but it is well worth it. Now due to process optimization and automation, we release about 120 apps per month. 

How often do apps get banned? What’s their average lifespan?

On the regs. Their lifespan varies. Some of them are banned within seven days, some of them may last 2-3 weeks, and some of them may last over three months. Often you can’t tell these apps from one another. The situation changes all the time. There are some tricks to ramp up the lifespan of apps dramatically, but it hampers the development flow.

Where do you purchase consumables? Have you experienced a shortage of quality accounts or anything else lately?

VERA

The purchase of accounts is handled by our farming team lead. I’m well aware that we work with certain sellers and make purchases in shops.

Indeed, we’ve heard from buyers that they came across batches of low-quality accounts. It doesn’t grow on every hedge, but stuff like that happens. Speaking of FB, it is a global problem with the source rather than the quality of the accounts. If FB doesn’t get rampant, it all launches well, and if it does, well, it does)

The official website says you have 80+ employees. How does the company structure look now?

SASHA

Our staff is about 100 people now. We try our best to separate the areas of responsibility so that an employee won’t get involved in several tasks at once. Therefore, there are dedicated employees in each department.

Also, we keep track of tasks in the task manager. At our general business meetings, we prioritize tasks and deadlines. This helps people understand what kind of work is handled by others at the moment and avoid tasks piling up.

The company structure is classic: we have finance, media buying, app development, integration, farming, administration, HR, and creative departments. Each department has a department head. We also have the team CEO.

Why aren’t you investing in the team’s publicity?

VERA

We did not think of our team as public. But as the team develops, our guys start talking about it to attract the media and become public.

So, we decided to make it our area of focus as well. A well-built company structure, good terms, and a positive atmosphere are not enough. You still need to let the world know about you.

How do you share responsibilities with the co-owner? How deeply do you immerse yourselves in business processes at the moment? Can you just leave for a week or two so that nothing falls apart, or do you have to keep it all under control?

VERA

Sasha is responsible for structural and technical matters. I am responsible for traffic and business development. We also control each other, so to speak. We may occasionally nose into one another’s business, but now we do it systematically by fixing tasks and deadlines at our general business meetings.

We now have a CEO and department heads with fixed strategy and tactical goals for the upcoming month. We can afford to take a break and it still will function. But so far, we haven’t been away for more than a week and a half.

Has the CEO been working with you since the team was founded? When did you realize you could take some of the responsibilities off yourselves?

That’s our second CEO. The first CEO came from retail. He is a first-class manager, but unfortunately, he could not duly apply his skills due to the business specifics. But we’ve learned from him) The present CEO is the former FB buyer. Her name is Kseniya. Ksyusha has been on the team for a year and a half now.

The team’s workflow may be considered its Holy Grail. Do your employees sign NDA or do you trust them? Do you sign any contracts with team members?

SASHA

I can’t say that we are that much concerned about the non-disclosure of business processes. Knowing how it works is not enough. You also have to build it and replicate it. When an employee leaves a company, some information about the business processes leaves with him and to the market. It’s inevitable.

Of course, we have the NDA, and every employee signs it. Also, we found a lie detector very useful. Our employees pass it either before they are hired, or when they leave. Everyone knows that they might take a lie detector test before they leave. I find it helpful to avoid nonsense on the job.

Tell us more about the lie detector. Why did you decide on such unorthodox policies? How do the employees feel about it? Don’t they feel any moral pressure?

Someone does, someone doesn’t. It’s a common practice in traffic arbitrage today. Ill-wishers are willing to obtain competitors’ insides. Anything is possible. We haven’t had anything like that in our experience yet, but it’s better to think ahead.

According to the public register, you established a TOV only in April 2021. Your team was founded three years ago, but why didn’t you create a legal entity before?

SASHA

We had a company’s anniversary party in October celebrating two years on the market)

Many teams operate without a legal entity. But the bigger you get, the more attention you attract. It’s a matter of business security.

How difficult is it to run an affiliate marketing business in Ukraine? I mean registering a legal entity, hiring an accountant, opening a bank account, and so on.

SASHA

It wasn’t that difficult. We have legal experience and we get the whole process. We had no difficulties choosing the constitution, taxation scheme, and financial model. As far as I know, the procedure is much the same as in Russia. The processes are kind of the same too.

Tell us more about the money withdrawal from affiliate networks. Not all ANs work with legal entities. How do you solve the problem? Do you withdraw money via Payoneer or is there another way?

SASHA

I’d rather not talk about it)

One of the areas of your team’s development is mobile development. Was it formed because you created apps for yourselves and decided to provide such services?

SASHA

Speaking of the gambling vertical, a lot of things depend on apps and in-house apps mean quality control and cost-effectiveness.

A lot of companies on the market render such services today, but if you have a large team, you must influence quality control, be first to test things, and implement the necessary changes. To pull it all together – you must be flexible. It’s a solid competitive advantage.

How do you separate business areas in your team? The traffic brings the primary income followed by the app development as a perk, doesn’t it?

VERA

We’ve just launched an app rental service. At the moment, we are testing it with our friend customers to make sure it works the way it was intended. We did our best to automate the processes. To avoid manual operations, we made a powerful bot.

There is a strong possibility that by the time this article is released, we will be announcing apps for rent via all communication channels. That’s why renting service is just starting to pay off. We diversified the team’s primary profit by traffic sources and verticals.

We know that you have an office in Kyiv. How many people work there on the regs?

VERA

We have 75-80% of the team in the office. The rest of them work on a remote basis.

How do you manage to combine work and personal relationships?

VERA

You won’t believe it, but this is the most frequently asked question)

We met at work, so it’s only natural that our topics of conversation include either personal or work matters.

The trick is to separate rather than combine business and personal relationships. You must not mix it. Otherwise, the personal boundaries are erased with the business relationship is all that’s left. First of all, we are a couple, followed by business partners.

How much of the revenue do you reinvest in the team and infrastructure?

VERA

It all depends on how things unfold. If we are about to open a new source, vertical, or start a new project, we can reinvest 100%.

Let’s talk about staff motivation. What kind of bonuses help you keep top buyers? Have there been cases where key team members left? How did you handle the problem? Many companies offer perks like a PS5 and cookies in the office.

VERA

No perks can prevent a buyer from leaving if he/she is treated badly or unfairly, and has a low salary on top of that. 

The main feature of our team is the attitude we have towards the team and the atmosphere we create. We don’t have a tight schedule, or fines, or rigid KPIs. We focus on results.

We offer a high % so the webmaster aims at generating more traffic to get more money. According to our practice, it is the best way to motivate an employee. But if it doesn’t work, then we have to go our separate ways.

Two experts left us for another company. This was certainly an unfortunate situation, but such things will happen. After that, we decided to open a new source and a new vertical for our team)

Why a psychologist on your team? Do you need him to restore the balance of mind after making creos?)

VERA

Haha)) Of course, a psychologist can deal with that too, but the main purpose is to guide employees with decision-making. Sometimes an employee gets tired of a heavy load, but continues to work in the same mode – turning it up to eleven, and so he/she might burn out and things just won’t be working out properly for him/her.

People become unmotivated and may misrelate the situation, blaming themselves or others, or bad luck.

In this case, a psychologist will provide insight into the situation or underlying cause, therefore helping you to understand it and make the right call, rather than get carried away.

Are you competitive with ****** ****** or other teams?

VERA

Yes, we are, and that’s okay. There is competition in any business and we are not an exception.

What about staff turnover in your team? How long do employees stay in the team?

VERA

There is a high turnover rate in the farming department. Other departments are fine. We try our best to hire the right people for the job.

Speaking of the buying department, there is a probation period of two to four weeks. It so happens that people leave during the probation.

Did the number of buyers on the market increase lately? Or otherwise, since top teams are hiring all specialists available?

The number of teams is increasing just as well as the number of buyers. So understaffing is much the same as it always was. There’s an influx of incompetent people. Traffic arbitrage is growing more popular by the day and people associate it with easy money. Therefore, the niche is overwhelmed by people unprepared for the challenge. There are a lot of those. But one can’t call them proficient buyers just yet.

Recently, a new trend has emerged in mobile traffic called PWA. Do you work with it?

VERA

Yes, we’ve already tested the PWA some time ago. At first, we had a bad experience. Then we tried again and some webs discovered the PWA as a good option for traffic arbitrage. So we work with the PWA now.

Do you create a PWA yourself or do you use some kind of a builder? How are things going with this format? They say that FB treats it well and does not ban it very often.

Both. Like apps, you must test several sources alongside your source. It helps assess market capabilities and compare them with the status quo. PWA performs well in this case. Especially when FB got serious about mobile apps. At the moment, FB is more loyal to the standard URL than to the mobile app, as they realized they can’t trust Play Market and App Store moderators. This is the reason why FB accounts last longer with PWA. But, CR and traffic quality are still better on apps. At least with us.

Do you think competition in CPA has increased in the last two years? Did your expenditures on consumables and infrastructure increase?

VERA

Definitely. Though I don’t think it’s the competition that influences expenditures but sources variations since FB and Google constantly challenge publishers.

The infrastructure is crucial. During interviews, buyers commonly ask about team resources and infrastructure.

You entered affiliate marketing with zero skills and made high profits right away. Is it real for the junior to replicate your experience? Can you share any tips with us?

VERA

Yes, it’s real. I can say that much depends on the person, his informed choice, and, of course, the instructor’s skills. Many enter the industry bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, hoping to hit the jackpot on the spot. This doesn’t allow them to learn and develop.

You must realize that this is a real job, where you have to learn, be proactive and give it your best every day. As for me, money wasn’t my goal, I wanted to be someone. So here’s a tip: set the right goals.

You can make a lot of money right away, but lose it all just as well. Only an expert knows how to make money at any time.

What do you think of the industry’s development in 3-5 years? What budget is ok for a beginner?

VERA

Several years are a distant perspective) I think that the dynamics will be much the same, but working with sources will be more complex both because of challenging moderation and growing competition. I also think that in five years, FB will probably no longer be the main source of traffic.

Thanks for the interesting conversation. It was nice talking to you! Good luck with the further business development!


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