Founder Tips. Maxim Karakulov, co-founder of Darudar

    The weekly "Founder Tips" is back in service.

    Today’s column heading is Maxim Karakulov, who created the Darudar gift service with his brother Anton and another friend .

    With the help of this service, residents of hundreds of cities in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan daily give each other thousands of the most diverse things and services, and it’s completely free of charge. We talked about how such a project became possible and what experience Maxim gained by doing it.

    Is there such an idea?

    Any project begins with an idea that comes to us in various ways and captures our imagination. We immediately begin to search, but was it already implemented by someone? And here we are faced with two dangers, two illusions, faced with which, many did not dare to proceed to the next step, to translate the idea into reality. Some, having discovered that their idea has already been realized by someone, for some reason believe that they were “late”, while others, on the contrary, not finding anything similar, believe that they came up with something unviable and useless to anyone. This is a paradox of human psychology: someone refuses because he is “not the first”, and someone, on the contrary, sees that he is “first”, and that is why he refuses to realize his plan. And one, and the second, in my opinion, are deeply mistaken.

    Many, having discovered that they are not the first, immediately give up and believe that they were ahead of them, that the project has not already taken place. To prevent this from happening, you need to know that the idea itself is only 5% of the success of the final business, it is much more difficult to implement it correctly, and even more difficult to be able to maintain and develop what was created in the long term, exceeding your individual planning horizon.

    Being engaged in various projects, gaining experience, you go through the following transformation. At first it seems to you that there is nothing more valuable than an idea, an idea - this is the project itself. A little later, you begin to understand that an idea is only half the story, and the other half is its implementation. And finally, over time, you gradually realize that both the idea and the implementation are just the beginning, and the most difficult thing awaits you further: the development and growth of the project, its expansion, monetization, as well as much, much more life itself and the success of your work.

    The same idea is implemented very differently depending on the person. If you have an idea and you see that someone is already realizing it, think about how it has already been done, how beautiful and convenient it is, whether it achieves the goals that you see personally, would you do the same? Perhaps you could do everything much “better” and thus emerge victorious from this imaginary (so far) rivalry? Ideas are often similar on the surface, but in fact it turns out that the products are completely different.

    So it was with Darudar: when the idea of ​​a gift service came to us, we looked around and did not find anything similar. It inspired us, and we started immediate implementation. Some time later, just before the start of the project, we unexpectedly found similar systems, and quite developed. In particular, in the USA it is Yahoo-group “Freecycle”, and in our country - LiveJournal community “Give free”.

    At first, we were afraid that we were repeating what had already been done. But, digging a little deeper, we saw serious differences in our approaches. The main thing was that the systems we discovered worked as “message boards”, and we wanted to offer people a community, a social network. People gave things to them according to the principle "whoever calls first - that and slippers." No history of personal donation, no choice of the person presented is supposed. At Darudar, we initially determined for ourselves that we want to create a service that would allow the relationships that are accepted between friends and relatives to make work between strangers. And without a history of relationships and a social profile, this is impossible.

    A little later, we were even able to calculate the difference between our two types of interactions. We compared “Darudar” with the largest LiveJournal community “Give free”. The gift-giving intensity in us turned out to be 10 times higher with a comparable community volume.

    Those who do not dare to do something first, most likely simply do not believe in themselves and their strengths enough, do not like to take risks. Often such people believe that everything new and viable cannot be created “with us”, but only “with them” can be created. But this is a separate topic for discussion.

    Critics and Advisers

    Another problem that many face, and which I have encountered, is a huge amount of criticism. First of all, strangely enough, your closest friends and acquaintances will criticize you. Now we will not discuss why this happens, the main thing is to know what is there, be prepared for it, believe in your own idea and the chosen path to its implementation. And definitely you should not start implementing your idea if you are not ready to defend it and attract critics to your side.

    Moreover, after your project starts, the wave of criticism only intensifies: not only your acquaintances and friends but also completely unfamiliar people who start using your product fall upon you. People seriously begin to prove to you that you are a failure, your idea will not work, it was not worth wasting time at all.

    In the end, a constant stream of “advice” begins: some of them are “bad”, some are quite good. Here you need to have a clear idea of ​​what you want to achieve in a global perspective. This will help you select truly valuable advice. If there is no clear development perspective in your head, then you will inevitably begin to “grab” everything and “wander”, slowly killing your project.

    We still hear, with varying degrees of periodicity, opinions like: “Why are you only giving, not exchanging and selling? Thus, you could cover all the possibilities of human interaction with things, attract much more people! ” Recently, I found old records with which I conducted an internal dialogue on this issue, but, as can be seen from the current state of Darudar, we did not implement these proposals. And now there is no doubt that we acted very correctly, listening deeply to our idea, immediately realizing which dream we are pursuing.

    On my way, I met several projects developing in areas similar to Darudar, where the founders tried to capture everything at once, and ultimately received nothing. The lack of a clear idea of ​​what the user is being offered, the lack of a clear idea uniting the community, always works that way.

    Also, it seemed very reasonable to many “advisers” to give the opportunity to place not only “gifts”, but also “desires” by deploying mechanics in both directions. Again, our practice, observation, and meditation have shown that this does not work. Seeing two identical opportunities, a person is always inclined to choose the most “simple”, in this case, desires, and our living community would risk becoming a dead “desire board”, to which no one is in a hurry to respond.

    Only after we achieved some impressive indicators, we decided to introduce this opportunity, and now it exists within the framework of “Darudar” quite harmoniously, providing about 10% of interactions, and vice versa, requiring additional support and development in order to come out with “gifts” to the same level.

    Stage of implementation

    There is always the temptation to “do it all at once”, especially if ideas are constantly spinning in your head. You can design everything for 10 years in advance and rush to implement all this immediately, many live like that. In my opinion, this is wrong, and I will try to explain why.

    You must be able to move in small steps: introduced a feature - tested. It works - left, does not work - you modify or remove. There is always the likelihood of a mistake, a wrong decision, and it is important to see this as soon as possible and not go the wrong way. If you didn’t immediately track the error, then you can spend a lot of energy going in the wrong direction, eventually not understanding, but where exactly did you turn in the wrong direction.

    It often seems that if you implement a feature that already successfully works somewhere, then it will work successfully for you in the same way. This approach is often wrong, and here's why. “There” it worked, because there was still some inconspicuous feature, without which the recognized successful feature would not work at all, and you simply didn’t notice it, or certain conditions had already been created, a certain critical mass had been accumulated, and the core of the community had been formed.

    For example, for communities, a large role is played by self-organization tools, with the help of which content is filtered: these are all sorts of “likes” or “complaints”. Without the proper level of community culture, without sufficient intensity, these things will either not work at all, or will lead to directly opposite results.

    Do not forget that different solutions work differently on different scales. There are solutions specifically for the "small", and there are for the "big". And they are not interchangeable: things that work on a small scale will slow you down if you are already “big,” and vice versa.

    The simplest example is a message flow heading. As long as you have few messages, it’s important for you to display them in a single stream so that users can see the activity of others and be inspired by it. But when the flow becomes quite strong, users begin to suffer from its noise, it is time to divide it into categories so that everyone sees only what is interesting to him. If the rubricator is done right away, seeing how it successfully works on large projects, then you can never run your project at all, users will not see a level of activity useful to themselves.

    Be able to see your achievements

    It is important to be able to direct your forces not only towards the achievement of the “distant goal”, which, if embodied, will take place in a year or more. But it is even more important at each step to get satisfaction from the intermediate result. To be able to explain to both yourself and others that even a small achievement is also an achievement.

    Launching “Darudar”, we agreed that, despite our “universal” ambitions, we will be satisfied even if only our friends and acquaintances use it. We were lucky, we quickly overcame this moment. But the understanding that a small result will please us has given us a lot of strength at the start.

    We thought that we could quickly distribute the service around the world, made a translation of the interface into several languages, but practice has shown that it won’t be so simple. Instead of being constantly upset about this, we somehow realized that we can rejoice at the result that we have already achieved in Russia: there is still no such service and the scale of gift in any other country.

    A good intermediate result on the way to achieving a global goal can be your personal achievements. For example, in your own business, you learn to use Google Analytics, or master a modern framework, or get acquainted with interesting books on management, sociology, philosophy. You should never forget about such small personal successes, moving towards your goal, this gives you strengths that are always so lacking.

    Often, realizing an idea, you get not quite the result you were counting on. There is nothing to worry about; one can and should learn to benefit from this. You must be able to take into account and notice the positive side effects. These are the same intermediate results that lead you to your goal, even if they are, at first glance, not in the wake of your movement.

    So, “Darudar” gives us a lot of statistics on sociology. No matter what level of development we are at, we can always calculate some interesting parameters related to the “gift economy”. Even among modern scientists there is no such data. “Darudar” is itself a sociologist; on its data, a huge number of patterns can be revealed that explain not only the dependencies within our project itself, but also various other communities and societies.

    About investments and monetary relations

    Our project is very different from the mainstream. If we thought in the way that various mentors, investors and other businessmen require of us, I’m afraid we would not succeed. We should have closed the project 5 years ago. We still do not have the proper monetization model, we still do not earn the necessary funds to maintain a small team that provides the project with constant growth.

    But at the same time, in my opinion, all these 6 years we have been existing quite successfully. I allow myself to draw such a conclusion, if only because during the same period of time, dozens of projects with similar concepts, good and bright ideas were born and died. But with a different way of embedding into this world.

    Almost everyone is inclined to believe that investment is good. And this is true: they allow you to quickly form a team, actively develop and dynamically achieve goals. But, on the other hand, there are many dangers here. After all, having received someone else's money once, you will immediately tune in to their spending. If it is impossible or difficult to raise the second round, but you don’t have time, then most likely you will be forced to close the project. Because you will not be able to squeeze back into a state in which you can develop without third-party means by which you are used to buying “labor” and motivating employees. You yourself (and the people around you) get used to working in this way and nothing else.

    Before my eyes, this happened with two projects that are close to us in spirit: “Friend to Friend” and “Take Dary”. Both had initial investments, development teams, they developed rapidly and showed results. But then these projects could not raise the second round of investments, as they did not show the results that investors demanded of them. And, unfortunately, they were forced to close.

    Given that the investment market in Russia is not particularly developed, often the search for an investor turns into a banal waste of time, effort and money. I have not yet looked for money in the West, but I have heard more than once how everything is arranged there. First of all, in our country there is a big "investment gap": we have almost no "medium" investors, but there are either seed or large funds entering before the "common exit", like an IPO. Many projects are launched, and if they do not fire quickly, then they have no chance to hold out for the time that is needed for sufficient development to get already large investments.

    Plus, the lack of a speculative secondary market also plays a role: many successful projects in the West exist without any profit, while constantly increasing their “market” capitalization. This is due to the fact that "secondary investors" involved in trading in "closed", that is, non-auction shares of the company, constantly resell them to each other at an ever-increasing cost, which allows the project to attract new funds for development. In our country, investors still do not perceive this and are counting on "dividends" in any situation, and not on the growth of the asset's value in the long run.

    The economy of the gift

    We were forced to take the path of slow non-investment development, but it helped us learn to work on other principles. At Darudar, we are building an alternative gift economy in which people exchange resources at no cost. We are trying to apply the same principles to the development of our project. Gradually, we ceased to be afraid to ask for something “for free” as a gift, and we were surprised to find that there are a huge number of people ready for such a model of interaction and work. There is nothing to be ashamed of, practice shows that people are arranged differently. In addition, receiving something from someone for free, you commit yourself to give someone else what you have, exactly the same.

    For example, we did a newsletter on our community with a request to help with layout, did not initially offer or promise anything. So, a third of those who responded asked how much we are willing to pay, another third said they were ready to help only with interesting tasks, and the last third was ready to help us for free.

    Not only people, but also companies are ready to help free of charge. When we began to experience problems with paying for servers that cost quite a lot of money, for two years the server was provided to us by Scalaxy, a company where our friend worked, and then we received a grant from Microsoft Azure , with which we pay for the infrastructure we need. Another great company is Copiny: She also gave us her solution for free, with which we significantly reduced the load on our support team. And, of course, Habrahabr , which is always open to us and helps in every way, for which we are very grateful to him.

    When you have money - you can buy a lot, when you have no money - you have to "pay" people to everyone else that you have: attention, care, communication, understanding. Therefore, every day, each of us should give all the best. Plus, remember that “emotional” relationships are still shorter than “monetary” ones. It is important to always take this into account, since it greatly shortens the planning horizon and limits the possibilities for introducing technologically complex new opportunities.

    Long-term relationships are also possible, but this is a rarer story related to finding true like-minded people, in this case, in fact, we are already talking about the formation of a “family”. In general, if you manage to form a team of like-minded people, this is a very big achievement! Fatigue, employment, confusion: you feel enormous relief when there is someone who is ready in such a situation to take on your amount of responsibilities. In addition, such a safety net allows the project not to stand idle for a long time, to constantly go forward. In our team of three people this happens all the time - we take the role of leader in turn.

    And finally, you must always be prepared to do all the work and develop the missing skills. Management, marketing, sales - all these skills are historically poorly developed in our country, people don’t want “hierarchies”, managers do not always show enough leadership qualities, nobody likes to “sell” and “push in”. I am not an exception, and therefore I am constantly engaged in the development of these own qualities, I believe that it will be useful to me and my business. By the way, sometimes it’s good to go to work in another company to “pump” your skills.

    And further. Try to always be as open as possible to the world and constantly look in it for new opportunities for your business. A lot will not happen, a lot will not work, but the result will certainly be. This, I think, has helped us recently, together with the Moscow Government, launch the charity project “Good Deed” , we did not even think about such an opportunity!

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