What do you do with the pictures you take? I’m gonna guess that they probably end up on Facebook, in your phone, maybe some in your email account… Basically, they don’t exist in the physical world because, really, who is still making physical photo albums? Not even my mom, who is the most tech-challenged person I’ve ever met.
magnets wants to give you the opportunity to take your best/favorite photos and turn them into, you guessed it, magnets. Personally, I love magnets. I brought the magnets from my locker in high school on to college and then onto my post-grad apartments in New York, so I dig this idea.
Founder Denis Ubozhenko got his company off the ground in three days. He took some time off to chat with KillerStartups about the hostile investor market in the Ukraine and how he gets through his days.
How’d you come up with the name for your company?
When we were thinking about the name we speculated about what the photomagnets really are. Why people should order them at all and then display prominently? Naturally, we came to the idea that these photos are very important for our clients, probably the most important. Subconsciously we recalled The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and its Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything. So we came up with magnets. Moreover, we decided that our magnets’ size would be about 42cm2.
What’s the very first thing you do at work everyday?
Mornings are usually spent [doing] routine yet important tasks: answering emails from our clients and partners, record keeping, reporting about project’s performance.
All the creativity [and] fun starts after lunch and lasts til the end of the day.
How many people did you start the company with and how many people work for you now?
We started the project in the end of March 2012. Like in the beginning, now there are 7 people who work on the project. Some dedicate magnets half of the day, some up to 25%. Plus, every evening anyone can work on the project until s/he is worn out.
Remember the early days starting up? Maybe you can share one anecdote that describe the struggle you went through?
magnets was thought to be implemented in one day. This approach allows us to concentrate on the most important functionality and leave secondary features for later.
We almost did it. On Thursday night we gathered together, made a list of must-have features and a list of features that we could implement if we have enough time. We also assigned the roles and discussed possible pitfalls.
On Friday morning everybody came early and started working. On days such as that one we usually order in [in order to] not to be distracted from the captivating process. That day we worked until 23.00, but the system still wasn’t ready. We were upset about it, but after talking through the mistakes we headed home to have some rest.
On Monday around 15:00 we lauched the project after killing the morning to fix some bugs and adjust configs.
As the result, we spent about 1.5 working days to create the core of the project.
How do you handle frustration? When/how was the last time you dealt with frustration?
Everybody in our team cares about the project. If someone is tired or is about to give in, they just have to look around and they’ll see people who are ready to back them. Of course, [the] bad mood washes away after 1-2 days and this person is back on track. As smugly as it sounds, it’s the truth.
A couple of weeks ago we rolled out some new features but of course not all of them became pure success that we could say “Wow, it’s for that feature that we’ve got a 100% improvement.” We assessed the shortcomings quickly and decided what we could improve. We made a list of tasks on Basecamp for the next upgrade and continued to work on the project.
What’s your office environment like? Is it the kind of place where everyone is bumpin’ away to house music or is it more traditional?
50/50. On the outside it’s rather traditional, we don’t have a posh designer’s interior or furniture that you could see in more popular startup’s offices. But our office is very spacious, everybody can decide where they want to work, in which corner or room. Everyone can go for a stroll or relax in the recreation room, play tennis in the hall any time during the day.
How do you picture your company in 5 years?
We’ll change the photo industry. It’s obvious for everyone that no one wants simply printed photos. They’re tucked forgotten in albums under the coat of dust. They’re taken out to show someone once in several years or even thrown away after being digitalized and published on Facebook or Picasa.
During the coming five years, thanks to magnets, the most important of them will find their place on fridges and will delight the eye of their owners every day.
But it’s a little bit early to talk about any specific figures, we stand at the beginning of a long way.
Who or what inspires YOU? Role models? Quotes? Running? Video games? Snack food? Give us the deets, dude!
To be in good mood and have a clear head about what and how I should do, I listen to podcasts and audiobooks 1-2 hours a day. For the most part they are about business, history and IT. Sometimes I listen to sci-fi books.
[And] the moral support I get from my wife and my best friend with whom I work.
How’d you fund this venture? VC? Self-funding? Crowd-funded? Where’d you get the money, man?
It’s not easy to attract investors for a startup in Ukraine. Ukrainian investors are very cautious and invest money only in the models proven to work in the rest of the world; they almost never invest in new markets.
Foreign investors are afraid of investing their money in Ukrainian startups. They still believe that here it’s Medieval times and there’s a lot of problems. Though here the life is the same as in the countries with developed economies. And Euro 2012 has shown it well.
That’s why we put in the project our own money. We’re not ready to cooperate with an external investor as it will be difficult to sort out the paper work. But if there’s someone interested in our project, we’re always ready to accept the cheque.
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
Well, yeah, but they are the standard rules that many just ignore. First, concentrate on the most important things. Always analyse the result of every step you take as it will give you an idea of what will be the most important at the next stage of project’s development.
Second, start developing in a group of 2 or 3, you will be supporting each other throughout the process. Of course, try working only with people you trust, then you won’t go different ways if the project is success.
Third, find some mentors and keep in touch with them about your projects. Such people are willing to share their experience and can give you hints on which way to take. However, don’t follow them blindfold[ed].
And finally, don’t be afraid of failing things. Get up and keep going. Somewhere further there will be your personal success story. Even if there isn’t, you’ll live an eventful and interesting life which 90% population of this planet will be jealous of.
Do you consider yourself a successful entrepreneur right now? If not, what’s it gonna take to make you feel successful?
No, it’s always “not enough, not there yet“. As soon as I reach a goal, which I was going to through several years of hard work, I’m always able to come up with a new, more audacious one.
Currently our short-term goal for magnets is to attract 1 million clients all around the world. When we accomplish this, we’ll set up a new goal.
Website you couldn’t live without and why?
If we don’t count the projects I’m involved in, then it will be Twitter. There are people from whom I get the coolest news, jokes, memes and knowledge.
Mobile App you’re in love with and why?
Instagram. Because they also changed the photo industry. Well, Alarm clock and Flashlight are very useful too.
Dogs or cats?
I prefer wolves and panthers.
iOS or Android?
iOS, because it’s an ideal. But I respect Android as it’s made smartphone market a mass market.
What’s the greatest thing about your company/website/idea?
We help keep the precious moments of your life right before your eyes.
That’s about the positioning on the market for our clients. What about the business… well, we have no intention of changing the type or size of our product. It’s a magnet for your fridge of 6.5×6.5cm. The rest about it is already very diverse, dynamic and mobile.