My Startups | Drilling Startup Tools

Drilling Startup Tools

Problem

It is very easy for a starting entrepreneur to get overwhelmed by the number of various tools they can use when launching their startup. All the current information is almost useless as it doesn’t provide enough details for a potential customer to make the decision if that’s the right tool for them. Many startuppers procrastinate starting a business because they don’t know what tools to choose for their needs.

Solution

A video-focused website reviewing and ranking small business tools using a structured approach and analyzing the key components of each app and service a startupper can use for the business.

Status: Merged with Kirill Vee website

 

Startups | Unicorn Socks

Unicorn Socks

Problem

There is a relatively large group of people who are very passionate about unicorns and who love unicorn-themed products. There is a limited number of options for a person who wants to buy bold and stylish unicorn socks. The choices are of poor quality or very childish design.

Solution

An e-commerce store that is #1 place to go when you are looking for unicorn-themed socks.

UnicornSocks.com →

My Startups | Get Prototyping

Get Prototyping Academy

Problem

After talking to a lot of entrepreneurs I realized that one of the most common causes for their failures and challenges is that they wait too long until they start testing their products with users. They build something tangible and ready-to-launch, and only then they go and show it to the outside world only to hear that nobody needs this or nobody can figure out how to use it. After asking them why they don’t use rapid prototyping for their product development I kept hearing the same reasons over and over again – they don’t know how to do it, where to start, and what tools to use. Having UX design background and practicing prototyping at my job and startups almost on a daily basis, I felt that I could fill that void by sharing what I know and have been doing for years now. I hate to see so much time and effort wasted by so many people when this could be avoided by adding rapid prototyping methodology to their process.

Solution

A one-stop place for entrepreneurs to learn everything they need to know about rapid prototyping and how they can increase their chances of launching a successful technology startup.

GetPrototyping.com →

 

Startups | Obrigado

Obrigado

Problem

With constantly rising competition returning clients are critical to any realtor’s success. Real estate agents realize the value of investing in their client relationships, and many of them do this by showing their appreciation with gifts. Usually, the gifts are perishable and disappear within a week, or it takes too much of realtor’s time to drive around stores and find valuable items that will be of a good use at the new home.

Solution

An e-commerce store that saves realtors time by offering gift kits for their clients, with carefully selected high quality and long-lasting products which will be bringing a lot of value to the new homeowners, and reminding of their purchase experience.

Obrigado.ca →

Startups | Team Voice

Team Voice

Problem

Employee workplace has a huge impact on humans lives, which as a result effects the bottom line of a lot of companies. When their teams are not happy and engaged, the productivity suffers and the churn rate increases. Traditional tools fail to solve the problem and are also unaffordable for smaller companies.

Solution

Affordable web platform for HR professionals to measure, track and improve employee engagement.

Status: Archived

After working on this startup for about 1.5 years, I came to the conclusion that I don’t have the resources required to solve this problem. A huge time commitment was necessary and considering I had a full-time job, the sacrifice would have fallen on my children and family. I made a decision to prioritize my family over this startup.

Learnings

  • Employee engagement is a huge problem and it has a huge impact on the company’s bottom line. There is a ton of research studies showing that.
  • The main cause of bad employee experience is a bad manager. Overwhelming 70ish %. I can confirm from my observations.
  • Being a great leader is not for everyone. Most of the managers can become good leaders but need to learn the necessary skills.
  • There is no completely safe way for an employee to freely communicate their concerns to the management without being afraid of repercussions.
  • There are many situations showing that when there is an employer-employee conflict, HR manager/etc. working in this company is motivated to “protect” the company, not the employee. So, be careful.
  • Most of the HR professionals understand the importance of investing in employee well-being, but they lack executive support (which will require educating and convincing to carve out more budget).
  • HR professionals in small/medium companies are overloaded and have to spend all their time dealing with day-to-day tactical tasks, so they don’t have time to act on more strategic activities, such as employee engagement.

Read the case study →

Read my interview on Failory →

Startups | UX Inspector

Problem

The number of e-commerce websites in the last decade has grown many folds. Even though many usability experts have done dozens of great research studies identifying design best practices that help improve the user experience, the number of easily resolvable UX issues is mind-boggling.

Solution

Consulting company helping e-commerce store owners and managers understand how to increase their website’s conversion rates (and improve other KPIs) by addressing usability issues.

Status: Archived

I decided to focus on my primary project(s) and stopped supporting this initiative.

My Startups | Startupper

Problem

After talking to many of my friends and colleagues in technology world (majority of them were talented developers), I was surprised to find out that many of them wanted to become entrepreneurs (of course, who doesn’t? it’s trending =), and they had the skills and most importantly, time, to build something valuable. The problem they had was that they didn’t have any ideas what to build. This was a shocker for me, as I have the opposite problem – too many ideas, not enough time in life to make them all happen =) So, I started thinking about how all my ideas had been coming to me. After some time analyzing my brain-flow I figured out my sources, and I wanted to help my friends by sharing how I “do” it (though to be fair, I don’t do it myself, it just happens to me =). Anyways, I wanted to help them come up with their own ideas. And the next initial steps of my process when I start a new project.

Solution

A website illustrating (my) full process of setting up a new startup/project.

Status: Merged with this website

My Startups | Got Let Go

Got Let Go

Problem

I started noticing more and more headlines about startups’ layoffs. It was hard to see the real situation, so I wanted to understand if it was an alarming trend or just too much buzz in the media.

Solution

A website collecting (and displaying) information about layoffs, grouped by month, number of employees fired company, and source URL. Visually displaying a timeline graph of the volumes.

Status: Archived

After initial scooping through the articles and announcements, which I did myself, I wanted to see if anybody was interested to contribute to the data collection and opened a communication channel where people could submit their layoff information. Hardly anyone contributed and it was too time-consuming to keep doing it manually myself.

Learnings

  • Layoffs data is not important enough for people to contribute to (even anonymously).
  • Startups are not obliged to report their layoffs, which makes it almost impossible to get real data.
  • Various sources communicate different numbers for the same layoff, which makes it more time-consuming to aggregate the data from various different websites.

Startups | Benefitus

Benefitus

Problem

During my career, I’d been hearing many of my colleagues who were hired on a contract basis complain that the biggest disadvantage of being a contract employee is that they don’t get extended health benefits like permanent employees do. For instance, if they need to fix a tooth, they have to pay the full price, when a non-contract employee (in most companies) will have to pay 1/5 of the cost or even nothing. I started digging deeper to understand how this problem can be solved. The cost of individual health benefits plans was ridiculous, even taking higher contractor salary levels. So, many people couldn’t afford it and didn’t get it.

Solution

Affordable group health benefits plans for contractors, freelancers, and solopreneurs. Anyone can sign up, and the more members in the plan, the better rates we could negotiate with the insurance companies.

Status: Archived

My user research revealed that the real market for this service is quite low. I interviewed more than a hundred people who were working (or used to work in the past) on a contract basis, freelancers, and independents consultants. And I found out that about 80% of these people would not pay for this service because their spouse’s job (quite often, entry-level or even part-time) was providing the extended health benefits for the whole family. The other 10-15% were young professionals without families and they didn’t care about lack of health coverage that much. “I’d rather put this couple of hundred bucks right into my pocket,” said one of them, but it was a common mindset in this group. So, we initial market shrunk to 5-10% of the original estimates. Which still could have worked. However, the other side of the service – insurance companies providing such services – was another problem. In order to get any discount from the individual plans’ rates, I should have gathered a very significant member base. And even after that, the margin would be very constrained because it’d have technically been an insurance broker scheme. Not a significant margin range to play in. It could only start making sense after a lot of people join the service, so we could get “group buying power”. Learning how much smaller the initial market size was, this would have taken a very long time. Considering all these findings and nuances, I decided that it’s not worth my time, and shut it down.

Learnings

  • Validating ideas and assumptions early is critical and can save you a lot of time.
  • Target market size can be deceptive.
  • Sometimes, even a good idea is not worth the time investment.

My Startups | Evil Foods

Evil Foods

Problem

This idea was born when I got tired of googling for the food ingredients listed on the packaging. Instead of reading the ingredients lists and then googling mysterious names, I thought: What if there was a mobile app that could scan the UPC code of a product and give you a verdict on whether the product is “evil” or not.

Solution

A mobile app that provides an easy way for users to find out if the product they’re willing to buy has any unhealthy ingredients, and to read more about these particular ingredients.

Status: Archived

The initial idea was to use an existing database of products that would have ingredients specified. There were quite a few potential options for databases with nutritional facts, but not that many with ingredients. I found a couple of vendors offering API access for their commercial databases with quite a democratic pricing. I tested their database in one of the grocery stores, and the results were very underwhelming.

Another option was to rely on user-generated content, similar to how MyFitnessPal allows their users to add their own products with all the nutritional information and making them available to the whole user base. However, who would want to add a new product and select all of its ingredients manually? Nobody.

As a result, I decided to archive this project.

Learnings

  • Try to check technology feasibility along the way to avoid wasting time.
  • More people are concerned about nutritional facts than ingredients, though latter may be more harmful. I wonder if this is because food industry steers attention away from ingredients and keeps the terminology boring and confusing on purpose, so consumers don’t want to dig into the details.
  • Potentially, an interesting business model – create (and maintain) a database of some sorts and charge users for using data through APIs.

Read the case study→

PS I am still in need of such tool, almost daily.

Startups | Geeky Events

Geeky Events

Problem

Being a designer, it’s absolutely essential for me to keep learning. Technologies change rapidly, and we can’t stop learning if we want to stay relevant. One of the best ways to learn and grow your network is to attend conferences, workshops, training and other professional events.

When I started looking for events in my area, I was frustrated at not finding one place listing all events. I found separate websites created by each event’s organizers or semiannual blog posts compiled by Smashing Magazine or similar publications. Considering all the technology available, it was a shame that nobody had addressed this need.

Solution

A one-stop place for designers and developers to find events to attend using their geo-location and topics of interest.

Status: Archived

The project went live in 2012 and got significant interest from the target audience. Our assumption was that after we seeded the initial list of over 100 events, users would be engaged enough to keep the website content relevant by contributing to the directory. However, real life testing revealed that our assumption was wrong and users only consumed information. Feeding new events to the site manually ourselves was not sustainable. And considering competitors launched their services around the same time, we decided to shut down the project.

Learnings

  • Timing and speed mean a lot.
  • Manual data input is tedious and can be very time-consuming.
  • It’s very very hard to automatically parse data from hundreds of sources using various platforms.

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