How we looked for investments in Buryatia

    There is an opinion that if you want to cut a startup, you must definitely go either to Moscow or to St. Petersburg. The first is desirable - they say, there are investors, and personnel, and the media, and the party and in general. But in our case, it was not possible to go to Moscow, if only because the flight time was more than 6 hours, but I didn’t really want to drop everything and rush into the unknown. So we decided to look for investments in ourselves in Ulan-Ude.

    Photo: ©

    Briefly about us. Callback service Rocket Callback . Work began in the summer of 2014, entered the market in December. By March 2015, we have about 600 customers. The idea, of course, is not new - we saw callback widgets in the summer, we tried it. I liked everything, except for the implementation. We thought and understood that we could improve everything, only we needed money, but we didn’t have it.

    Although IT is developing in Buryatia, there are no accelerators or something similar there. Where to look for an investor is unknown. The most popular business is to open a snack bar on the road and sell buuzy (a national dish of Buryatia). People with money are ready to give it, but no one wanted to listen about the feedback widget, increasing conversions and other things.

    Turned to the theory of six handshakes, in other words, search through friends. We developed a business plan, took a laptop and went to offices.

    At first, no one understood what it was about. We showed our site (sketched a primitive landing page on our knees), showed how the widget worked, said that we could do better and cheaper, and this was promising, but apart from polite wishes for success in our endeavors, there was nothing more. Ulan-Ude is a small city, everyone knows each other more or less, therefore it’s easier to get to the directors.

    Finally, after a month of walking, we still found an interested person who had a hoodies business, our friend who had installed CallbackHunter before and was familiar with the technology: “I pay $ 67 if your widget has a similar result but cheaper, I’ll give the money and become the first customer. ”

    Naturally, we were delighted and ran to finish the widget. Then there were three of us. From personal savings we were able to scrape up money for an IP-telephony operator, the rest was done by ourselves, including a simple personal account. Algorithms and design were ready. The widget could only work on 1 site, and it was mostly beta.

    Buryatia as it is.

    Finally, everything was fixed (to be honest, everything hung on a kind word), installed on the site. For a month, the widget caught 431 calls when the site traffic +50 people a day. Hunter before that, too, caught 400. So we got our first 300,000 rubles and were able to start work.

    When news flashes every day that a particular project raised millions of dollars, 300,000 rubles seems like a small amount, but at that time it was very important money for which we created a website, a personal account, a logo, a brand, registered an LLC, conducted a small advertising campaign there, in Ulan-Ude.

    The first customers were, of course, our acquaintances. There was no talk about any plans then - the goal was "just not to screw it up." Sales were hard, but still they were, and we continued to improve the widget. Basically, it was a minor work on the external design, layout, support.

    After 2 months, we already had some kind of kernel - about 20 local sites that used the widget even after the end of the test period. A month later, the number of customers reached 50, and we noticed that there are not only Buryat companies, but also from neighboring regions. Having talked with some of them, we realized that they tried different widgets and opted for us, since we offer the same thing, only several times cheaper and plus additional settings. We counted on this. So we decided to expand, but this also required money.

    We again turned to the same investor who allocated us 300,000 rubles. Pulling for the second round was already harder, because our business angel thought it was too early to go to other regions, so he didn’t give us money, but he introduced us to his Moscow friends.

    So we arrived in Moscow. At these meetings everything was different and potential investors immediately asked: “You guys do not know that there are so many of these callbacks that you are already sick of them? What are you counting on? ”

    We were in the know, so we again proposed to install ours. A few days before that, we started putting all the data (transitions, movements, requests, clicks, scrolling, etc.) into our Hadoop on Azure, launching all this in Machine Learning, writing algorithms on R. Simply put, we’ve pumped the widget so that it doesn’t popped up randomly. By that time, we had made it possible to hide the call button on the site, set up annoyance (5 levels - from very annoying to appearing only by click). A month later, when we were already in Ulan-Ude, we received a message that this businessman was ready to invest 4,000,000 rubles in us.

    At the same time, local media became interested in us. Ulan-Ude is a small city, so the news spreads quickly. First, one media wrote about us, then another, then a third. Then we ended up in a zombie house, in the release of the Vesti program on the Russia Buryatia TV channel. Other media outlets wrote about us a little later. More details here .

    The number of customers continued to grow, and we realized that it was time to move to Moscow. Now we had money and had a product. In addition, it is difficult to do a startup in the outback for a number of reasons: there are few qualified personnel, few specialized sites, and it is very cold in Ulan-Ude - it’s difficult to do something when it's outside the window -30 (this is the norm throughout the winter ) and even the teeth freeze.

    Now we have moved to Moscow and live on those 4,000,000 rubles that we attracted in the second round. We continue to finish the widget, there are several ideas for a radical improvement, we are going to enter the international market, and in particular, the USA. Technically, everything is ready for us - we transferred the widget, personal account, website, opened an account in PayPal, studied the market and even found the first potential American customers. We hope that there will be a third round of investment, but already in the United States. And finally, our slightly strange photo.

    Rocket Callback, our Appatbox partners and our interns

    Ps A few conclusions. You can find money for the project, even if you live on the periphery, but you still have to move to Moscow. If only because if you expand, then finding good specialists is not so simple, and working on a remote site is not an option. In addition, the same networking, but at least the banal speed of the Internet. But if you go, then with the finished product.

    Valeria Makarova, Head of Rocket Callback

    We will tell you exactly what we improved and how we achieved it in a separate publication.
    About how we enter the US market and how the first things go there, we will also tell here on Megamind

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