How do you find users to recruit manually?

How do you find users to recruit manually? If you build something to solve your own problems, then you only have to find your peers, which is usually straightforward. Otherwise you’ll have to make a more deliberate effort to locate the most promising vein of users (see below how). The usual way to do that is to get some initial set of users by doing a comparatively untargeted launch, and then to observe which kind seem most enthusiastic, and seek out more like them. For example, Ben Silbermann noticed that a lot of the earliest Pinterest users were interested in design, so he went to a conference of design bloggers to recruit users, and that worked well.

via Paul Graham

I think that what Paul says makes a lot of sense. When you don’t know who’s your target audience you have to improvise. Forget about all targeting, send it to a big heterogeneous group, and then listen. Well, measure, don’t listen. In addition to what Paul said here is how you can locate the most promising vein of users:

  • Look in Google Analytics and see if you can spot any patterns. Think Geo, language, device type,
  • Look at the reviews. Identify who are the people that give you the 5 stars
  • Send out surveys or for physical products simply go and ask them
  • Use in app/on website notifications to ask them more about them
  • Make it easy for them to contact you. Early adopters have always want to influence the product.

If you need help with that, let me know.

PS: Not having a clear user profile is acceptable only in the prototype phase f your product. You must figure that out ASAP

Photo by michael dornbierer, used under CC

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A story about buffalos, problems and solutions

At one point Hornaday realized that the buffalos that were roaming the great America plains were almost extinct, so he did what every respectable conservationist would have done: he went to Montana to kill several dozens of them.

William Temple Hornaday was one of the greatest pioneers in the early wildlife conservation movement in the United States. He was head taxidermist at the Smithsonian museum and he traveled the globe hunting exotic animals and stuffing those animals for the museum. It’s sounds weird, but for Hornaday killing all these animals was a kind of conservation. He believed that by stuffing them he was preserving endangered species for future generations that might not know them. Through taxidermy he could make the immortal…

After he hunted down and stuffed around 24 buffalos he arranged in the natural museum around a fake watering hole. As he looked at them he realized he was just a funeral director embalming the species that America was exterminating.

For me this is great example of how sometimes great people focus so much on the first solution they found that they don’t stop and question if it actually solves the problem.

This is the danger of focusing on solutions instead of focusing  on solving problems. Sometimes we fall in love with them and we keep pushing, protecting them even when they don’t make sense.

After his big awakening,  Hornaday became one of the biggest advocates for saving endangered species and he fought till the end of his life to save as many animals as possible.

My challenge for you is: STOP! Take a break from time to time and analyze your actions. See if you are embalming the buffalos or actually fighting for their survival.

You can hear the entire story on itunes or scoundcloud, starts at minute 15. I really recommend it.

Photo by Loren Kerns , used under CC

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What Startup (podcast) can teach you about starting up?

Startup is a podcast that carefully documents the hidden story about starting your own company, the part you usually don’t hear about.

Alex Blumberg highlights all the moments good or bad, including fears, failures, successes, and various lessons learned.

The show itself was is a huge success, skyrocketing to one of the most listened podcasts in iTunes in just a few weeks from launch, which is extremely rare. Also, this podcast helped him get his funding in just a few months: $1.5M.

I absolutely love it and I think it’s a must listen for all of you who want to start their own company.

Below you will find summarized the key learning points that I took away from his podcast. You can read it all in just 3 pages, and considering this show spans over 4h30min, I would say it’s a bargain :D. Si here it goes… 

Storytelling is underused!

We live in a world in which nobody has time to listen anymore. We read status updates, fast forward, scan through articles, and cut to the chase. Unfortunately this is world also shapes our communications with our customers.

Because we are used to this communication style, our messages are shaped into these short, soulless status updates. Tailored to deliver the essence, but loosing the emotion and transparency.

This podcast is anything but that. The series packed with emotion and it’s addictive. I just became a big believer in story telling (as a communication strategy) and I think entrepreneurs should use it way more.

Think about all it advantages. A good story can bring people together, build a community, be viral, and make people take action. Oh and it’s free.

Transparency builds communities

Alex was not afraid to be transparent. He talked about how much equity he gave to his business partner, about having second thoughts on doing the whole thing, about the mistakes he made, how much money he was able to raise and how he hired his first employees. Sure, this made him a bit vulnerable, but at the same time he built trust among his listeners.

Transparency builds trust. And trust builds a community. And communities are important because they will support you in the long run, forgive you when you make mistakes and listen to what you have to say.

It’s about who you know

In his show Alex tells us about the time when he pitches his startup idea to one of the most influential VC’s in Silicon Valley: Chris Sacca, an early investor in Twitter, Kickstarter, Instagram and other 40+ companies. Chris was in Alex’s contacts so he was able to contact him directly.

Who is in your network and what do you do to expand it?

Build it and they will come

When Alex started contacting people to invest in his idea, many turned him down. But, as this Startup podcast gained an audience, he witnessed a miracle. In just a few months investors were now looking for him to give him money.

Why? Alex built a prototype, something that people can understand. He made it easier for investors to see the potential.

I am big believer in having a presentable concept. When starting something up, make sure you build a mockup or a prototype. Have something that you can show others and sparkle their imagination.

Mistakes happen. It’s how you deal with them.

Making mistakes is inevitable. It’s part of the learning process and shows that you went outside your comfort zone. However when you make one… man, it will feel like the sky is tumbling down and you just want to hide in a corner.

That’s what happened to Alex in podcast no.9. He was so nervous. You could hear his voice trembling a bit, trying to calm everybody down, and saying it will be ok. I could feel it through my headphones.

However, you should focus on how you can fix it, much like he did. Be open about it. It was a slip not an evil master plan.

In these situations is important to listen to the people you’ve wronged, understand their issued before replying. Also, try several times to make it right. In the thrill of the fight, people might not want to talk to you, but if you come and talk to them after a few days they will be a bit more open and rational about the issue.

There will always be naysayers

Expect a long, rocky road to your final destination and be ready to receive a lot of negative feedback. The key is to choose carefully who do you listen to and who not.

How to decide who’s right and who’s wrong? There’s no trick really. You have to rely on your instincts…

You will feel awkward. It’s OK.

The first time Alex pitched his idea to Chris… it was sooo awkward to listen to him. He is such a good storyteller but somehow he lost his focus when it came to his dream.

Been there, done that. It’s ok to feel awkward. Again this means you are stepping out your comfort zone. The key is to remember that behind every success story are moments like these. Embrace them, learn from them and better yourself.

Finding a business partner is a lot like finding a life partner. Who knew?

The part where Alex finds his business partner is cute, silly, sweet, awkward, emotional and full of insights. Like a romantic comedy.

I had no idea it’s so complicated.

The big takeaway is that you need to be completely honest with your partner. After all you will have “a baby” together. If there is no trust, things won’t move in the right direction.

Naming is so complicated

This I kind of knew. I’ve been through several naming exercises in my life. Never for an actual company, but it was still pretty difficult to come up with a name that isn’t used by anyone else, makes sense, you like and fits the company.

On the other hand, I had no idea you need to do so many legal checks on trademarks when naming a company. Crazy! But, there are specialized companies that can do this for you.

Pitching to VC? Be ready for this question.

Are you asking a VC for money? Then make sure you can tell them your exit strategy.

These people will give you money to make money. Most of the times looking for 10X the investment.

It ain’t easy

After a few episodes, Alex has this moment when realizes all the sacrifices he needs to make for achieving his dream. Since he started he spent less time with his family, he has less money and his stress level skyrocketed. You can just feel his doubt in his voice. It’s so real.

Building your own company requires a serious commitment. You won’t be able to afford the vacations you want or spend as much time you loved ones. Just so you know. Be ready for the long haul.

I believe that all of these key learning points can help you build your own startup. If you read them and have no idea how all these could apply to you, leave me a comment and I will gladly help you out.

I will try to update the post with new learning points, as new podcasts will come out. If you want to find out about the updates you can either bookmark this post or visit it from time to time or you can subscribe below to my monthly podcast.

Photo byRaoul Pop, used under CC

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Interview with Razvan Girmacea

The Challenge

Razvan is building the ultimate backlinks monitoring tool for SEO experts and online marketers. His clients come from all over the world and his services were recognized by world-renowned SEO and Marketing publications.

The most awesome part? He is building a global business from my hometown (Iasi) , and not from a world-famous tech hub. 😀

Intro

I met Razvan in 2007-ish at a Blogmeet in Iasi, our hometown. Back then he was a freelancer, one of the two freelancers I knew at the time. That fascinated me.

Having the will and knowledge to get clients and offer them valuable services… while most of us where still in figuring out what we want to do after university… it was truly inspiring.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

Hi everyone, my name is Razvan, I am 31 and I’m from Romania.

I love working in online and so far I have started over 30 online projects and initiatives. That was easy for me because I have a technical background and I can quickly build an MVP (minimal viable product) to test my theories.

I took my first steps in this direction during my University studies when I created several websites, search engine optimization portals and a few other projects. After a while, I decided to start a real business, so in 2009 I built an ecommerce website, which was selling educational toys for kids.  After growing the website and gaining valuable insights into managing a proper business, I sold it to a local competitor and started thinking about my next project.

Having over 6 years of experience in Search Engine Optimization and a good domain, I decided to start Monitor Backlinks: a service that helps people that buy, sell or exchange links online to track every single link to and from their website.

That sounds interesting… can you tell me a bit more about it?

Well, the product evolved quite a lot since v1.

Basically Monitor Backlinks allows any SEO consultant, SEO agency, business owner or marketer to track incoming links.

All they need to do is connect their domain, add the domains of their competitors and add the keywords they want to track. From that moment the process is fully automated.

The first thing we do is discover all the existent backlinks to their website and recheck all the links in order to see if they have any SEO value. Then all our clients receive a report with data about: social metrics, page ranks, if it belongs to an IP network, if it has a lot of external links and so on.

After the initial report, the system will crawl everyday the web, using Google Analytics and other sources, and it will index new links to the domain(s) of our clients. In case someone writes about them, they will be automatically notified via email.

Additionally every week we check backlinks to competitor websites. This is a very useful feature, as every search engine optimization company will start by researching you competition to find out where they can get some good links.

Speaking of clients… how is it going? Are you growing your customer base?

Yes, we are. At the beginning things stared quite slow but now is going ok. I am super happy with the conversion rate, I already have big clients, big agencies that really like the product.

In fact I have even stopped the advertising campaigns. Now I get a lot of traffic from organic search, which proves that my marketing strategy was quite good. I was able to get a good position on SERP for some really high volume keywords.  Just to give you an idea, I get up 50% of all traffic through search engines. The other half is from referrals, about 800 domains…or so 😉

 Where are your clients based? Romania or somewhere else?

Romania is one of the last countries if I look at paying customers. Most of my clients are from the US and the UK

 I bet you had a lot of ideas. As you said you had over 30 projects. How come this was the winner?

I read the Rework book from 37signals and I saw what they did with Basecamp: a handful of employees generated huge revenues. I wanted to build something similar.

That’s basically our business model. With a small team I can setup a good automatic service for which I can charge a small, but recurring fee every month. And yes I do have a lot of ideas and even after I stared this projects I had a lot more, but at the end of the day I just wanted to stop playing and do business.

And in my opinion it takes time to create a real business. You have to work hard to get clients and brand awareness.  For example at the beginning when I reached out to some SEO experts they just ignored me because I was too small…but the more I invested in creating brand awareness and the more I grew, I noticed that more and more people replied to my emails. And now, even top SEO blogs talk about my tool.

Besides, I knew this market very well so it made sense to start something in this area.

Razvan Girmacea 2

How did you fund the project?

The first year I bootstrapped and I didn’t pay for any development costs because I did everything myself. I only paid for design services and ads. During this period I also worked part time as a freelancer to make some money.

After the first year, I qualified at How to Web Startup Spotlight in Bucharest. At the end of the fifth day an investor told me he wants to talk to me about my ideas. After the event ended I waited for him for a while but I was too tired so I just left without talking to him. After two weeks I reached out to the organizer of How to Web, Bogdan Iordache, and he gave me the contact details of the VC.

I must say that at that stage I was not actively looking for funding and I had almost no idea about startup investments.  So I called Bill Liao and talked with him via Skype for 15 min. At the end of the call he told me: “we want to invest 50K EUR in your project, just tell us how you plan to spend the money”.

Well, that’ s a cool story!!

Yes. It is.

After that I start reading a lot, as I realized that from my “part time” project this has the potential to become much bigger business and that I would have to have more responsibility. At first I got a bit overwhelmed to be honest, but I got over it eventually and accepted his offer.

 Who developed it and why did you do it this way?  

As soon as I got the money I hired a developer to help me scale the business and I moved everything on Amazon servers. At that moment the product was still in the first phase: no automation, no keyword monitoring, no competitor analysis.

With the help of my new employee the product grew much, much faster. Even though it was a bit strange to lose control of everything that I have built, having someone to help me out was really good as I could focus on other things like marketing and business development.

 So how big is your team now?

We are 5 people now.

 Did you ever considered stopping?

No, once I decided to take the investment I never considered stopping.

It’s still very challenging though, but it’s normal because a complex product will lead to bigger and more complex challenges.

However this is a bit different from I imagined the things when I started it. Back then I told myself: “Ok, so I will launch the product, promote it, get some clients and make money”… simple right? In theory yes, but as the company grew I had to consider a lot more things like: resource management, financial planning, business strategy, business development, and so on.

My biggest problem right now is that I am the sole founder. As a founder I must do everything. If you are in a team you can split the tasks and things would go much easier.

Do you think luck played a part in achieving your goal?

Yes, well … in a way I guess. The thing is that if you create many opportunities and eventually you will get lucky.

For example last year I got accepted into the Lisbon Challenge Accelerator. But that didn’t just happen; in order to get accepted I had to apply and have a good idea.

Also, before being accepted here I applied for 10 other accelerators. I applied to so many startup accelerators not only because I wanted to get in, but also to get feedback. It was immensely helpful to see how other people (more experienced) perceived my ideas; an extremely valuable experience.

In the Lisbon challenge I ranked number 4 and won 10K EUR.

But coming back to luck, it is about creating a lot of opportunities. Whenever I read an interesting blog post about my industry I reach out to the author and connect with him.  And I am lucky if the guy needs my product or wants to help me. But yeah, without hard work you don’t just get there.

Why did you build a web platform. Why not an iPad app for example?

Simple. It was easier for me to start here. I know PHP, MySQL, front end and back end. I didn’t have to ask for help. I could simply do it. I saved resources, which is very important when you bootstrap and you don’t have a lot of money.

 What are the things you’ve learned or skills that you developed during this project?

I didn’t know much about accelerators and investment opportunities. Before starting MonitorBacklinks.com, for me building a business = making money. I didn’t know you could raise capital with just an idea or a basic prototype.

Also, I didn’t know that when you get an investment round you could pay yourself a salary. All I wanted to do is invest all the money in the business. But makes sense if you think about it, everyone needs a salary because everyone has expenses. This way I could stop freelancing and focus 100% on the business, which in turn grows the business faster.

Another thing that I learned is how valuable an Accelerator is. They basically give you the opportunity to validate your ideas really fast without investing any of your money. This is an amazing opportunity to grow your business without waiting years and tons of money.

 Do you think your location (city/country) influenced the project in any way?  

Romanian startups, and Eastern European startups in general, get less funding compared to startups from Western Europe or the US.

In America you can raise a lot more money with just an idea and the second round of investment is a lot higher, the evaluation is higher, and investors take bigger bets.

In Europe, the valuation tends to be smaller. Investors are more careful with their money; they invest smaller amounts and get more equity.

So being from Romania has it’s down sides but that should not stop you from going for your dreams.

 How did you promote your project so far and what was the most successful thing?

Since the very beginning I focused on organic search and I knew this would be a long-term strategy.

However, at the beginning I started with Adwords to understand better what people were searching for and what keywords had the best conversion.

 Do you have a motto or an inspiring quote?

No not really. People (their actions) inspire me not quotes.

 Where do you get your news and what type of news do you read?

I mostly use Facebook and Twitter. I follow a few people that have similar interests and they usually share only the most important part of an article, so they do the hard part for me. They act like a filter.

On top of that, I follow the RomanianStartups group on Facebook. It’s a really great source of news for things like startups, investments and entrepreneurs.

 What was the TED talk, book, blog post, life lesson or anything really that inspired you the most in making this project?

My inspiration comes from other entrepreneurs. For example, I follow quite closely Joel from Buffeapp. He is very open about his achievements and talks often about how he grows his business. I like the authenticity of a story that comes from someone that has built a company.

 Do you have a lot of competition? And how do you feel about competition?

 Yes, I do. I have both bad and good competition…

For example, there are some guys from The Netherlands that copied everything I do. From website structure, to features, to pricing they just look at what I do and they add that to their website.  It’s a bit annoying but I choose to ignore them.

It’s bad when somebody with a lot of resources start copying you because they can execute very fast and if they have a huge advertising budget they can win the game. But if there are two guys, who are working on the side, I am not worried. They will never be able to execute as good as I can.

I also have good competition. In the last two years I saw many competitors coming online; much larger teams, with lots of resources. It make my life more difficult but it’s not all bad news. If you start doing something and you don’t have any competition you probably don’t have a market, and then you will have to work like hell to educate everyone on why they should buy your products.

For me competition is good because I have many clients that came over from my competitors. They were not satisfied with their services and looked for an alternative.

 What would be the most practical advice you could give to someone that would like to do something similar? Something that he or she could apply from tomorrow.

Razvan Girmacea

 

Go to an accelerator. I cannot stress enough how much it helped me. I tell this to everybody. 

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Interview with Alex Negru

The Challenge

 “Minutizer is the PayPal for time”

Now that’s an ambitious statement from a young Romanian entrepreneur that started this project only a few months ago.

Read on to find out what are his plans and what sets him apart from his  peers in Western Europe. Interesting stuff. I promise.

Intro

I know Alex for maybe 6-7 years now. We first met during a blog meet in Iasi, our hometown. We were both there to find out other like-minded people and connect with the upcoming people in the Romanian online scene.

Even though we kind of lost the connection during the years, especially since I moved to the Netherlands, we still had Facebook and LinkedIn to keep up with each other’s achievements.

This interview proved to be great opportunity to revive a dormant friendship and learn so many nee things about the Romanian startup scene.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

Hi everyone, my name is Alex and I am an experienced marketeer that loves to work in Online.

Before starting my current project, I ran my own marketing agency in Iasi, providing online and offline marketing solutions to the local market. In 2012 I moved to Bucharest, the capital city of Romania, with only one thing on my mind: create a business that will bring me a passive income.

When I got here I started an online project, together with an ex-client of mine. We wanted to create a new market for the online services industry. After a few months of working and deep diving into this new area, I noticed a big need that wasn’t filled by anyone … so I decided to start a new company and solve it myself.

 Can you describe your new project for our readers? 

Minutizer is the PayPal for time. This is basically a tool that helps anybody to charge per minute an online conversation.

So for example, if you wanted to learn Spanish, Minutizer would allow you to pay per minute the video/audio call with the teacher instead of  paying him/her upfront.

You can imagine that as a buyer, you don’t want to pay upfront for a service that you didn’t receive and the teacher would not want to perform the service and hope the transfer will happen afterwards. This is a great solution as both parties are happy with this pay as you go solution.

For the moment Minutizer works only with Skype, but we are developing plugins for other VoIP apps like Google Hangouts, Viber and so on.

Alex Negru from Minutizer

So it’s basically real time payments through Skype. Correct?

Exactly. Another way you could think about Minutizer is to compare it to the paid/ premium number for GSM mobile phones but for Internet. So basically the 0900 numbers or whatever it is in your country.

How did you come up with this idea? 

As I mentioned, I moved to Bucharest to work on a project that was not related to online payments. We wanted to start an online market for people selling and buying online horoscope readings and tarot predictions. As I looked into this industry, I understood better both the market and the user behavior. And the idea evolved form there.

At first I wanted to embed Skype calls in a web page, but that is technically impossible. So… thinking about this I realized I don’t need to do that. Instead I could make a pay per minute tool for Skype that would simplify the process and free the user.

I bet you had a lot of ideas. What made you choose this project over other projects?

First, this idea made a lot of sense for me. I noticed that a lot of the horoscope readers that were providing services on the website were moving their clients to Skype after the first contact. So the need for an alternative solution was there.

Second, I believe that the time is right for a tool like Minutizer. Nowadays, many people understand concepts like e-wallet, e-payments and so on. Think about it, PayPal is already 11 year old and they did a good work educating the masses in this area.

Third, nowadays almost everybody is using video calling, and they even use on the go.

And last but not least, in the last two years the Bitcoin ecurrency has open the gates to the peer-to-peer, decentralized payments.

So yeah… basically I choose Minutizer because all of the above 🙂 .

Talking about ridding these waves. I imagine there are others ridding the same waves. So how do you feel about competition?

First of all I think is good to mention that Skype already tried this in 2007 but abandoned it after 1 -1.5 years or so. I guess that’s because they changed the CEO and they decided to focus on SkypeOut, their VoIP to operator solution, which I think is a much better revenue model for them. Also I had the opportunity to talk with some guys from Microsoft Europe (since Microsoft owns Skype) and from what I understand, their focus in a very different direction. So for the moment I am not worried about them.

So that is Skype. And the other players?

Continue reading “Interview with Alex Negru”

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Interview with Elsa Alexandra Razborsek

Intro

I met Elsa at the beginning of 2012, when we both started the RSM Full Time International MBA at the Erasmus University. I remember that from the very first days of studying together, she seemed very focused, dedicated and passionated about learning…which proved to be exactly the case.

Hearing about her new project and knowing her, I knew that I could learn a thing or two from her experience so I asked if she would spare half an hour for a Startup Maze interview.

The Challenge

In this interview you will find out how a young professional woman who has a full time job and is full time mom, managed to start a website about work-life balance. Talking about of “practicing what you preach” huh?

Hi Elsa, can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I’m a 30-year old multi-passionate professional woman. Nowadays, I like to describe myself as a blogger, life coach, health & fitness enthusiast, financial analyst at Shell and, most importantly: a new wife and mum.

I have a pretty varied background as well. I started off studying biological engineering, worked as a scientist for a couple of years then I moved to the banking industry, where I worked nearly four years in the City of London. Now I am here in the Netherlands, working for Shell. So I changed industries, countries and jobs and I have been doing several things over the last 10 years or so.

So what it your new project? Can you describe it in a few words?

Around this time last year, I was pregnant and I found out that I was expecting a little girl. This got me thinking about all the things I want to teach her. Above all, I wish her to grow into a healthy, balanced and happy woman.

Achieving this balance can be a challenge, especially for career-driven females working in fast-paced, male-dominated environments. I’ve experienced it first-hand while working in the City of London as a Financial Analyst.

At the time, seeking to improve my work & life balance, I started researching personal development, productivity techniques, fitness and general well-being. Eventually, I trained as a life coach (CCF-certified) and also as a Body Control Pilates teacher.

Over time, I’ve developed my own ways to manage my time, stress levels, health and relationships.

It’s these strategies and attitudes that I wish to teach my daughter. And frankly, I believe they can also benefit a much broader audience of women who wish to build more vibrant and fulfilling lives.

With some time on my hands during my pregnancy and maternity leave, I decided to start XanaLiving.com.

 Elsa Alexandra Razborsek owner of XanaLiving.com

So this was an older idea/passion of yours and now you finally got the time to start working on it.

Yeah, I mean I have loads of passions, that is the good part. The problem is to focus on one.

Let’s say that the concept was not refined until quite recently and I still refine it as I go along, but I have always been interested in these things.

Even if I look at my professional career, apart from my current corporate job, everything I did was always related somehow to healthcare or well-being. Either I was doing research in laboratory to find tests that check the purity of vaccines or I was working with small RNAs which can be used to cure the auto immune diseases. In the City of London while working as an equity research analyst covering small and midcap companies, one of the industries I followed was that of health care services. And on top of that, I am very passionate about fitness. So yeah, there was always this healthcare/well-being theme going on.

Now the concept of the blog per se only came up last year.

What helped me pick this specific idea was going through Marie Forleo’s B-School. In the program, Marie talks about finding your “sweet spot” at the crossroads between your passions and what your audience needs.

Accordingly, I took an inventory of my personal interests, my professional certifications and experience. This gave me an array of potential projects.

I knew that I wanted to work on something related to well-being, something that I would like to pass on to my daughter. So the next step was to think about gaps in the market that would match my qualifications and personal story.

As I said before, something that I struggled with in the past was work & life balance as a professional woman. I would have welcomed some kind of coaching on the subject when I felt that my life was a mess. Although there are plenty of workshops and self-help books out there about career and time management, relationships, diet, exercise, spirituality, etc., I didn’t find ONE source that covered it all in an integrated and consistent way.

Hence, I my idea of filling that gap with XanaLiving.com!

So the blog is a way to share your knowledge with others. Is that correct? 

 Elsa Alexandra RazborsekYeah, and actually it’s funny because I started doing more research about these things about 5 years ago. As soon as people noticed that I was doing a therapeutic massage course, training as a Pilates teacher and studying coaching, they started asking me questions about these things, and I really loved sharing those strategies with my friends and my family.

Also, at my previous employer, I was a mentor for a couple of junior analysts and I even started sharing the things I was learning with my mentees. Doing all that, I found that I really enjoy this side of things, mentoring and coaching.

So yes I do it for myself, but I am very happy to share it as well. And people say that the best way to learn something is to teach it, so for me it works both ways.

And how did you fund the project? Was it expensive to launch your own website?

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Interview: King Yiu Chu

Intro

I know King from back in 2008 when we were both working at Nimbuzz.

What always fascinated me about him was his ability to combine crazy/innovative ideas with a very pragmatic/down to earth attitude towards implementation. I learned a lot from him and very grateful for that. And the best thing: we are still friends after all this time.

The Challenge

In this interview  you will find out how King plans to create a new ecosystem around Social Location Based services.

Without any further do here is my interview with King Yiu Chu (朱景耀).

ME: Hi King, can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

King:
Hey, thanks for having me. Sure.

I studied marketing and I graduated in 1998. Since then I worked in the Internet industry for big companies but also small startups.

In 2004, I did business development for trader.com. Then I moved to Microsoft, as product manager Hotmail and I also worked on Windows Live mobile. At Microsoft I managed the beta of Windows Live Hotmail by rolling it out as a pilot in The Netherlands. After that, I moved to Nimbuzz, where I started as product manager for mobile and later managed the desktop apps and built the monetization strategy.

Next Layer hired me as Augmented Reality Strategist. With Layer I traveled around Europe and Asia to evangelize our AR vision and help agencies and brands to start something in this new field. I was responsible for building the entire ecosystem.

After a year of doing that, I started my own projects, while doing consulting on the side. I always dreamt of doing my own thing and at one point I told myself I need to be serious about it, I need to choose one and explore it. So I came up with beebump.

Me: And that gets us to my next question. Can you tell me more about the beebump?

King:
The app is not yet live but it will be very soon. So stay tuned.

beebump is a mobile app that announces yourself to your friends when you are almost at the meetup point.

The essence of the app is personal branding and is intended for people who are on their way to meet with their friends.  They can share their location in real time, together with a funny image that says: “I’m on my way” or “I am almost here”.

The way it works is quite simple. You open the app, you start a beebump, you select one or more friends and 2 messages (one for when you leave your location and one for when you are almost there) and we will send an SMS (at no cost for you) or a push notification to your friends . In that SMS there is a link (so your friends don’t need to have the app installed) and if they click on that link, they will open the mobile browser where they can see your messages and your location in real time as you move on the map.

It’s a completely new thing. It’s a new market, a new category of apps. Although it’s partly location based this is not the most important thing here. The innovation is in the announcement part, where people can brand themselves.

Our tag line is “Spark a smile before you arrive” and that describes it in a nutshell.

But that is only the start of it. My final vision is to make the map as we know it more social and use it as the canvas of your social feed. A place where users are actually plotting their location, messages, objects or messages about objects on the physical world and where clips and messages will appear when your friends are arriving in that area. But that will take time.

Me: That reminds me a bit of Repudo. Do you know Repudo? I remember I was very enthusiastic about it, but then I stopped using it because nobody else was using it.

King:
Yes, do know it. Actually Michael our developer, used to do freelance work  for Repudo.

The problem with Repudo was that it was not functional and your friends needed to have Repudo installed as well. This creates a chicken and the egg problem. Plus… you needed to run Repudo on your phone 24/7 which means battery drain. Beebump will place messages on the map in the future as well  but again that is all too much right now and we need to start with something simple, functional and entertaining.

Me: From all ideas, why did you pick this idea?

King:
When you have an idea you need to write it down on a piece of paper. By doing that it starts to materialize and you will envision the space you are in  and the ecosystem of the whole thing starts to come alive.

This will help you think it through and see what type of qualities you or your team needs to have. Also, as you define your ideas you will also find out more about the strengths that you as an entrepreneur need to have.

I started with four ideas and going through this analysis I dropped 3 of them. I dropped them because these were things I am not really good at or I am not passionate about.  For example, one of my ideas had to do with the B2B market. Although I have experience in this market  I’m not really excited about B2B apps so it was an easy decision to take it of the list.

ME: So part of the selection process was a strength analysis. You wanted to be sure that you could take this idea and make it reality.  

King:
Yes, that’s true, but the most important part is that you need to love the project.

I really love beebump. It’s an entertainment app, it’s B2C, I have a lot of experience to see it through and it’s building a completely new market.  And if I do it right I know I can get a huge market share.

I really believe you need to love what you do and be really motivated.  Otherwise you won’t be able to see it through.

Me: So what inspired you?

King:
I believe that the SOCIAL Location Based services market has a bright future. Maps and navigation are already successful. But the SOCIAL part is yet to be figured out. It seems very obvious to me.

 

Me: And how did you fund the project?

King:
Well … my story is not that complicated but that doesn’t mean is not a tricky process.

These guys were sitting at the table listening to my concept and they texted each other “shall we invest”?

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Interview: Isaac Riquelme

Intro

I had the privilege to meet Isaac, while working for Greenhouse Innovation, a young startup in the heart of Amsterdam. 

Isaac

Before this interview I knew he is from Spain, he listens to good music and he likes good beer.  Little did I know what an interesting story he has to share …

The Challenge 

In this interview you will find out how a social anthropologist learned to code all by himself and landed a job building Android apps for a startup. #selfDetermination

Who is Isaac?

Isaac is a self-taught Android developer with a background in social anthropology.

He was born and raised in Madrid but after his studies he traveled the world, working on social projects and even publishing a paper about his work.

At one point he decided it was time for a change so he started coding. Soon after, he got a job as Android developer in Amsterdam.

What project did he work on?

Isaac had an idea to create a simple Android app that would allow Spanish-speaking expats to read news from their home country. If you look at it the app is quite simple, but considering he learned everything while coding it, it seems pretty impressive.

You can take a look at his app here: Noticias Latinas.

The Interview

For this interview I met Isaac in a noisy bar and recorded our 1 hour-long discussion. Below you can find the summary of our chat. I tried to transcribe as much as possible of the conversation.

photo 4

 

Me: How did you come up with this idea?(What, when, how, where or who influenced you?)

Isaac:
It all started when I joined a programming course. I liked it but realized that if I really wanted to learn how to code I need to build my own product. I wanted to do something free and useful.

I think that my background influenced my choice. Being an anthropologist, living in Latin America and doing projects with emigrants/expats, I noticed people need to connect with their home country or city.

Also I noticed that most news available through news agency were quite broad and talking about the broad economic situation. I wanted to build an app that would inform people what happened in their own neighbourhood. Just pick a country and automatically get the news in a mobile friendly format.

I wouldn’t say this was a problem in the real sense of the word or I don’t see it as a problem. I just wanted to help Spanish-speaking people feel more connected to their homes.

Me: I bet you had a lot of ideas. What made you choose this particular project?

Isaac:
Being my first project I was scared to start something and not finish it, so I wanted something that would be easy enough to finish.

However, I learned that once you start, you also start growing and you learn more by the day. Big tasks like sorting the news in reverse order or selecting if you want to download the news over Wi-Fi or Internet become small tasks.

Additionally, I also did a research and I saw that there are a lot of Spanish-speaking people abroad and thus there is an existent market for an app like this.

Me: So who developed the app and why?

Isaac:
I did everything from scratch and this was the first time I ever built an app.

I did this all by myself because I was trying to make a shift in my career. I remember thinking that there are many people taking courses and graduating from university but when you go and apply for a job people want to see what have you done. So I wanted to be able to show them the app and say look this is what I did. With a background in social sciences this was even more relevant in my case.

However, I did have a good friend to ask when I got stuck.  There were moments that I didn’t know where to go. When you hit a wall and spend a week on a problem it helps to have someone to ask for help.

As a programmer you develop a way of looking at things. When people study for 5 years in university they slowly develop it, but for me it was difficult at the beginning.

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