Founder of Russian startup Linguatrip: on the transfer of business in the United States and participation in the 500 Startups program

    In the process of selecting a foreign language school abroad and housing during her studies, Marina Mogilko faced problems for the solution of which she simply did not have time and money. So the idea for a new project came up. Linguatrip is conceived as Booking.com for language schools and Airbnb for local host families and student residences.

    At 25, Marina is on the list of 16 female entrepreneurs changing the global world of technology, and Linguatrip has recently been selected for the 500 Startups international accelerator.

    Megamind provides the most interesting quotes from her interview with Slon.

    About the idea of ​​creating a project


    In 2010, I searched the Internet for a platform where I could book a course at a language school without intermediaries, and I did not find it. I then needed to tighten German in a couple of weeks, but there was not much money. I contacted several agencies, but I realized that I’ll go through them much more expensive than if I find the right option myself. Booking.com's idea for language schools was pretty obvious. Before us in Russia there was not a single site where you could book everything online. And we have everything automatically and directly.

    On the launch and development of a project in Russia


    We have always developed at our own expense: from the first day, you can say, we went into profit and sent it all to business. From the check of the first client we made a website, from the check of the second - we completed it, from the check of the third - they began to save up for the office. Everything was untwisted. But then we realized that it would be very difficult to develop outside Russia without external financing. So we began to join the venture capital community in St. Petersburg.

    First, we launched an offline agency. Invested at the start, probably no more than $ 300 (for company registration). By 2014, we reached a turnover of $ 1.5 million and in the fall of 2014 we realized that we needed to completely switch to online. All over the world there is no global Booking.com for language programs, there are only local players in European countries. We decided to become one, and at the beginning of 2015 we released a new service called Linguatrip.

    How the project hit the 500 Startups


    And then John Ramay, a well-known entrepreneur who made several successful American startups in the field of online advertising, came to Peter and got into the list of Forbes young entrepreneurs. I managed to talk with him literally 20 minutes, he really liked our idea, but he had little time.

    The next day we met with him again. Then I phoned with another mentor, Purnima Vijayashanker, who now oversees our project. I called on Friday night, knowing that registration was already completed. But Purnima simply said: yes, everything is fine, let's tell you what your revenue is, let's see. After this five-minute interview, she approved our project with Kristina Tsai, another program director, in a few days.

    About the principle of the project


    Two hundred accredited schools, host families and student residences have already published information about themselves on our site. The user drives in the language that he wants to learn, the country for the trip, the dates - and, by comparing offers, he can book a suitable course in a few clicks. You can compare options by price, intensity of training, age of students in school and so on.

    We remained true to our original idea: to give students the opportunity to save money, so we do not charge any fees from buyers of language schools. When booking through us, in comparison with an offline agency, a person saves 15-20 thousand rubles (usually this is a collection of agencies for selecting a program). Often we receive special offers from schools that cannot be obtained directly from them, and then another 15–20% of the cost of the course will be saved.

    About monetization


    We charge a fee both from suppliers of language courses, and from those who provide accommodation. Commission 15–40%, we all agree differently. Over the past six months in terms of turnover, we have been growing at 50% monthly, without any investment in advertising.
    Now our average check is $ 1,500 (for a course and accommodation for 2–3 weeks), apparently, people are ready to part with this money as an investment in training.

    About moving a business to the USA


    Almost the entire team moved to Mountain View, California, only one girl remained in St. Petersburg. We received $ 100 thousand from 500 Startups for a share in business. For me it was more like moving to a nearby street. It was surprisingly easy to register a company. We didn’t even have to go to the bank to open a bank account, we did everything by telephone.

    The one-story American village Mountain View is more expensive than the Cote d'Azur. A two-room apartment here costs us almost $ 2.5 thousand without a communal apartment. Apart from the basic costs of living, you need to register a company in the United States. Nobody recommends doing it yourself - then it’s more expensive to fix errors. We gave $ 2.5 thousand for registration in Delaware. In total, to move our startup from three people to the Valley before the tranche, you need to have at least $ 20 thousand.

    About the requirements for the speed of development of projects in 500 Startups


    They begin to demand more as the day of final pitches approaches investors. But it all depends on the mentor who works with a startup. For example, they just tell us: the main thing is what they will look at so that the revenue schedule goes up. We set ourselves the goal of reaching the annual turnover of $ 1 million by the end of 2015.

    Many startups who come to the accelerator think that they will solve all their problems here. But this will not happen, no one leads projects here. At 500 Startups, they coolly pack a business, prepare a startup to attract investment.

    About the benefits of accelerators


    Accelerators are especially needed if you are launching a startup in new markets. When we were in St. Petersburg, in principle, we imagined how to scale, but still did not dare to do so. And the 500 Startups ticket, of course, was the shot of a starting pistol. Mentors here help us with expertise in new markets. And the fact that so many things - seemingly small - is easier to do from here than from the Russian office is a huge plus. In addition, of course, the American company is perceived better than the Russian startup - simply because you work from the center of the technological world, and not from the Russian city. In general, participation in the accelerator is a good kick in the ass, which makes you not to cut the product for three years, but to be more collected, make decisions and run faster.

    Also popular now: