Startup Interview: Female Entrepreneur and Yoomoot Co-Founder on the Challenges of Launching a Startup
The NextWomen Start-up Interview series looks at women that are founding and leading online businesses across a number of technological markets.
Barbara Nowacka is working full-time, while launching her startup YooMoot - a discussion browser- with co-founder Nicolas Holzapfel, so to say that she is quite busy at the moment is an understatement. The NextWomen managed to talk to her about the challenges of launching a startup.
Lesson: Your product will never be perfect: be clear about what you really need for launching and don't delay any longer than that.
How did you come up with the idea of your start-up? and How did you form your team?
Nicolas and I have known each other since October 2007 when our MA in Interactive Media began. Before that I studied Computer Science, then Graphic Design, while, at the same time, continuing to work.
The idea for this company grew out of the final project of the MA in Interactive Media at the University of the Arts, London which we (Nicolas and Barbara) completed in September 2008. Along with three other students our six-week project cumulated in a working prototype of web site that had the aim to improve the way discussions were handled online.
We chose this problem because we are all keen to work on something that was a problem in our own lives and that we would want to use ourselves. We were all frustrated with the way the massive collective knowledge and diversity of opinion contained in online discussions suffered from a lack of organisation. We learnt a great deal through this project but were ultimately dissatisfied with the way users reacted to the product.
After the product's completion, we decided to design and develop a new product focussed on the same problem. We were inspired by what we had learn during the MA project and were still eager to solve a problem which we knew was important not just to ourselves but to practically all internet users.
As Nicolas and I collaborated on our final project, we found that we worked (and argued..) with each other in a way that was actually very productive, so we decided to found a company together.
Yoomoot is a unique web application that allows to manage online discussions between people in a much more effective and organized manner than currently is the case. We have defined the problem and solution as follows:
standard online discussions are messy: good ideas get lost
yoomoot discussions are organized: good ideas get found
How did you fund it, with how much money, and what is the business model? What about turnover, profitability, bootstrapping?
Our only funding has been in the form of a £5,000 loan from the University of the Arts London Higher Education Corporation. The rest has come from savings and freelance work.
The Business model is as follows:
1) At first, yoomoot will be a standalone site supported by advertising and paid-for premium accounts (these will remove advertising and give users greater control over their profile).
2) Later, yoomootPro will be released, a subscription service which provides organizations with their own private version of yoomoot to use for more effective knowledge-sharing.
3) Later still,a plugin will be released which allows blogs and other websites to use yoomoot to handle their comments. Very high-traffic sites will be charged for this service.
We really just launched so no turnover or profitability yet.
What makes you different from other players in your sector?
With the partial exception of Google Wave, our competitors' apps are really suites of separate sub-applications: wikis, collaborative documents, forums, comments, bookmarks, blogs and Q&A. This splinters collaboration and makes notification-systems chaotic. yoomoot unifies all this functionality into one consistent format.
A problem with all of our competitor apps is that as soon as discussions on them get lengthy or complex, everything gets messy and overwhelming. yoomoot is the only web application to address this problem.
What was your biggest challenge during the development process and how can other start-ups learn from that?
Why use yoomoot? from yoomoot on Vimeo.
To make collaboration more effective, yoomoot does things very differently from other collaboration tools, which means that it breaks with a lot of the conventions that people are used to.
So the biggest challenge was to develop a product that was easy to use but still did everything we wanted it to. We were constantly changing it in response to beta test feedback – that's what delayed the launch but that's also what made the product better.
Lesson 1: Your product will never be perfect: be clear about what you really need for launching and don't delay any longer than that.
The second biggest challenge was to find the right and affordable developers with the right skills.
Lesson 2: If you're not a developer yourself, you really need to be confident your developer will see the product through. Hiring an established company is less risky than hiring a freelancer, but more costly.
Where is the company in 1 year?
We are planning on 50,000+ yoomooters collaborating together on yoomoot.com to organize the world's discussions and knowledge!
Meanwhile yoomootpro (the enterprise version of yoomoot) has launched and is used by hundreds of businesses, charities and educational institutions across the globe.
Whenever people find themselves sifting through horribly disorganized email archives, being overwhelmed by pages and pages of comments or exasperated by an aimless, repetitive debate, they think immediately of yoomootpro as the solution!
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