Why the service for tourists Airbnb bought the developers of the acclaimed Lapka breathalyzer

    Russian startup Lapka has made a lot of noise in the West by releasing a set of miniature sensors for the iPhone. The sensors have an elegant look, and they can determine the level of radiation, humidity, the amount of nitrates in the products and the strength of the electromagnetic field. Today it became known that the small team that created Lapka was bought by Airbnb , the world's largest travel accommodation search service.

    Lapka was founded by Vadik Marmeladov. In addition to Marmeladov, the Lapka team includes engineer Sergey Filippov and three-dimensional graphic artist Ilya Kolganov.

    Marmeladov told Slon Magazine about the deal with Airbnb, about the target audience of the project, about moving to the USA and much more.

    Megamind selected the most interesting statements from the interview .

    About why Airbnb bought the Lapka project

    Two of the three founders of Airbnb, Joe Gabbia and Brian Chesky, are industrial designers, graduates of the Rhode Island School of Design. As users, they became interested in Lapka from the day of release, Gabbia was the first to pre-order with us. All this time we were in touch, periodically met. Actually, Gabbia at one point offered to buy a company and work on new projects inside Airbnb.

    Airbnb does not need sensors, we will make new products. Airbnb is all about housing, travel culture and the home ecosystem. What do Lapka and Airbnb have in common? The desire to build on, not from a particular product, but from the feelings of users - not from “interfaces” and “design,” but from what is called user experience.

    Lapka as an art project

    We pushed off the idea of ​​creating convenient and beautiful sensors that, from the point of view of combining style and technology, would be no worse than Apple. The technologies themselves are not so important - the radiometer, nitrate meter and other sensors are made on the basis of long-known methods. And we managed to make products that exist not for the sake of a specific purpose (measuring something), but show how far the capabilities of modern interfaces and gadgets have gone. We began to think about business later. At first, we did not even delve into the details of production - we just went to China, made sure that everything was done there according to our sketches and drawings. Only with our second gadget, the Lapka BAM breathalyzer, did we think about how to reduce costs.

    We were free from investors, from partners, we ourselves did not need to earn money. We were able to work boldly, striving for the ideal in everything - in materials, in proportions. If we did Lapka again and with an emphasis on business, invested in promotion, thought about the growth of downloads and sales, we would probably not succeed.

    About project investments

    Only your strength and time. It so happened that the three of us can do anything. Honestly, we tried to hire people, but we did not manage to get the quality that we ourselves gave.

    How to evaluate such investments? In Russia, this is generally a problem. For example, our promotional survey made a lot of noise, where Lapka sensors are in the hands of different people, with prints on wood and plastic. Such a shooting could cost $ 20 thousand, and it could cost $ 50 thousand, but it didn’t cost us anything - we have friends and we ourselves can do advertising shooting. The same thing - with the video breathalyzer for the website of the breathalyzer for the site. We can say that we ourselves spent, say, $ 100 on it, but this is wrong - because in fact such a site on order could cost $ 100 thousand.

    About the audience of the Lapka project

    We measured success not by the number of users or sales, but by the number of measurements. In March 2015, we passed the mark of 50 thousand measurements using our sensors. Now 4–5 thousand measurements are being taken every month, a little more than 30% of them are measurements of the level of nitrates in the products; measurements of radiation, humidity, and electromagnetic field are approximately the same — 22–23%. About 56% of users are from Russia, 34% from the USA; the rest are from Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Canada, and South Korea.

    At first, we saw that young mothers began to buy Lapka - they are afraid for the lives of newborns, they are worried for any reason, so Lapka helps them get rid of this paranoia at least a little. Then came the “super-geeks” who were accustomed to walking around Moscow with Geiger counters or measuring the electromagnetic field, for example, in the subway. For them, we made a PRO version of the application, which shows only graphs and numbers. Some need a beautiful picture - and this is enough to trust the measurements of the device, others want to dig deeper and do not believe just pictures. We made a map where the results of measurements from our sensors are loaded in real time - it shows that 22% of all measurements come from the PRO application.

    About sales channels for Lapka devices

    We generally did not have a budget for promotion, but we ourselves actively communicated with the press abroad and talked about the product. Most distributors, even Russian ones, found out about us at the CES 2014 conference. We have more than 300 points of sale.
    For six months we were present only at points completely unexpected for gadgets - like boutiques with sneakers - and then distributors began to come to us. As a result, we ended up in re: Store . After that, distributors began to offer to subscribe to parties of 30-50 thousand sets, but we did not want to.

    About why at the start the project left Russia

    From the point of view of entrepreneurial culture, Russia is hundreds of years from the West. You have to be honest: if you make Lapka, don’t say that you will be the new Apple. You make an application for a Russian audience - no need to talk about a second Instagram. In this sense, I like some Russian companies - LavkaLavka, DoubleBi, which say: yes, we are doing a startup in Russia and for Russia, and if everything goes well, we will try to go abroad. They do not lie to people around them, nor to themselves, and I respect the creators of these startups.

    About what prevents to do cool projects in Russia

    Before Lapka, I spoke a lot in the media and was known for hanging out, and with the new project we went into silence for two years. When we started, we sent materials only to the American press. And I was surprised: 3-4 months after publication in the Western media, friends from Russia began to write to me - congratulations on the release. Then I realized that although in Russia, in comparison with other countries, the Internet is cheap and it seems that the borders have long been opened, the iron curtain and the “scoop” still exist - in my head.

    Because any person in Russia has everything to make a cool project: you can go to Silicon Valley, be an intern in a company in Europe, make a test batch of the product in China - you just buy tickets and fly to negotiate. But nobody does it. Probably because everyone lacks not only a willingness to take risks, but also professionalism. To put it mildly, I'm not a professional. This is exactly what I learned by doing Lapka, and I will continue this inside Airbnb. And where, how and from whom to study in Russia, to pull yourself up is not clear.

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