An interesting product does not necessarily translate into a viable business. This is a common mistake first-time entrepreneurs make: they invest a lot of time and energy in building a nice-to-have product that eventually fails. Back in 2014, Drimm.in monitored all your social media activity, stored your interests and turned them into actionable items. They were part of the first batch of MVP Academy and seemed to have promising perspectives ahead.
And still… a couple of months after graduating the program they closed doors. How and why did this happen and why did they decide to start again with Bunch, an event networking app? Andrei Diaconu, Co-Founder of Bunch, kindly accepted our invitation to share their experience and the lessons learnt along this journey.
Drimm.in: from the beginning until the end
For the team at Drimm.in, attending MVP Academy was a wake up call that helped them fail fast. During the program, they built a prototype, perfected their pitch and got a better understanding of the market. It is the latter that made them realize that they only had an interesting piece of technology that did not generate enough interest to turn into a business.
“We benefited a lot from attending MVP Academy, but we realized that our entire strategy was faulty. Drimm.in was a side project, we didn’t focus and often got distracted with our daily jobs and other engagements – this was visible in our product prototype and also one of the reasons investors were not interested in backing us. We gave it our best shot and it took us a few months to realize Drimm.in was not a viable business idea. At that point we unanimously decided to close doors and move on, instead of losing any more time”, Andrei Diaconu remembers.
Coping with emotions
Building a startup is an emotional rollercoaster in itself, and realizing you have to close it is a daunting task for an enthusiastic founder. However, the guys from Drimm.in did their best to look at things objectively, learn their lessons and move forward.
“Our decision was beyond emotional. We had this idea that seemed great in the beginning and we tried to make it a successful startup. It failed and we understood that closing doors is the best thing we could do.”, Andrei continues.
Key lessons learnt
Looking back now, there’s a bright side to the story as well: the guys from Drimm.in learnt lots of valuable lessons that they now apply in their new startup. Andrei outlined some of the key ones:
- Business first, product after
- Start with the business potential of the problem before writing any code
- Be committed to your product to maximize results
“Having a good idea is fine, but it’s not worth your time if it can’t turn into a viable business: understand and define your market, be aware of the value added of your product and its potential and have an in-depth understanding of the problem you’re tackling. More importantly: be committed! Everyone looks first at the cohesion of the team: their energy, insights and knowledge matter more than the idea itself”, Andrei advises.
Starting once again from scratch
After a failure, most entrepreneurs choose to wait for a while before embarking yet again on the startup journey. This was not the case for Andrei Diaconu and his Co-Founders: they learnt their lessons without losing their confidence that they’ll make it big some day. And this is how Bunch was born.
“We love working on products that touch a lot of users. We’ve done this before with a few of our projects, we’ve done this for our clients as an outsourcing software development company, but nothing is as rewarding as building something you’re passionate about and bringing it to the market”, Andrei explains their decision.
A new beginning: Bunch
They came up with the idea of Bunch by trying to solve a problem they faced themselves several times in the past: loosing time and dozens of valuable opportunities at conferences by not having the right means to network with relevant people. Bunch is an app that helps its users engage in quality networking by being able to research the other guests, add the most relevant ones to their personal lists and get matched when there’s mutual interest.
At the end of the day, Bunch users spend their time with the most relevant people. On the other side of the spectrum, event organizers receive valuable information about the patterns of interactions and they improve the networking experience of their participants.
“We knew we could do things differently, better! We spent a year researching our competitors and interviewing event planners and attendees to make sure we find the best solution to the problem. We then worked on the business and marketing plans and saved enough money to make sure we have a fair chance of getting it off the ground. Only after doing all these we started writing code and working on the product”, Andrei explains.
What’s different now?
They’ve learnt lots of lessons the hard way with Drimm.in, and they are applying the valuable insights acquired to make sure they do things differently this time around.
- They’re fully committed
They understood that you do not stand a chance in the startup world if you’re trying to build a global business as a side project. This is why they invested the profit of their web development business to make sure they have a runway that allows them to be fully committed to Bunch. They now use all of their time and energy for maximizing their chances to succeed.
- They did their homework
After learning that business should come first, and the product later, they started by doing thorough research and customer interviews to make sure that, in the worst case scenario, they will be proven wrong before actually building the product. They’ve also brainstormed 100+ different ways of acquiring customers to make sure they are not repeating the mistake of building a cool thing nobody will use.
- They understand their market
By scratching their own itch this time, they have a much better understanding of the problem they’re solving. However, they applied the lessons learnt during MVP Academy and invested lots of time in getting to know the market better (both the users, and the event organizers out there). This way they made sure they have a huge business opportunity: in the US alone there are 120 million people that attend conferences every year (uniques), with more than 60% of them going to more events per year. Besides, 50.000 business events happen yearly.
- They understand the competition
They carefully analyzed their competitors to understand what makes Bunch unique. Bunch competes with big names in the industry such as Bizzabo, Topi, and Whova, but their key differentiator is that they are not just another event planning tool. Bunch is an app that focuses exclusively on the attendee experience, hence improving participant engagement and satisfaction.
- They have a business, not a nice-to-have product
They thought the product from a business perspective from the very beginning, and this is why they decided to go for a freemium model and charge international organizers for events larger than 50 people. Besides, they plan to charge users for pro features in the years to come, once they reach a critical mass. As expected, they are not cash flow positive yet, but have enough runway for the next 6 months and are actively exploring investment alternatives that would allow them to scale their sales and marketing efforts.
Add this to the fact that they have a great team behind the product. The 3 Co-Founders are Andrei Diaconu, in charge of product and business, Andrei Boghiu, leading the operations, and Bogdan Popa, their CTO. All of them are in their late 20s, they’ve known each other since highschool and they’ve been business partners since college, building several products over time, as well as a web development business with a turnover of 400k+ EUR last year.
The first version of Bunch has been recently launched on iOS, and the Android version will also be available in the beginning of April, along with their event organizer dashboard. They now plan to validate their product with large conferences and they’ve already scheduled a few dozen events for doing so.
The entrepreneurs plan to test the product locally before going global and this is why they offer the product for free to Romanian event organizers. Besides, their growth strategy is to focus on a small market where they plan to get a significant market share and they started with the United Arab Emirates for the moment. However, they do sell to international customers interested in mobile apps for their events and they plan to scale and eventually focus on the US market.
“Being an entrepreneur is very hard and few succeed at doing this, but the rewards top the risks and the emotional pain associated with this. You can’t just start a business and hope it will work, but you can’t be afraid of doing it either. Try it out, be committed and you’ll eventually reach your destination”, Andrei concludes.