We talk to startups and investors, you get the value.
Aren’t sure which movie to watch tonight? Choose it with a couple of clicks on Emoji. Such a fresh idea was proposed by the team of the Emovi.app and got the second most popular rating position in stores. But the creators say that it all was thoughtful tactics rather than simple luck. We found out from the guys the secret of survival in the stir conditions and some important tips for startuppers. Add it to bookmarks.
We talk to startups and investors, you get the value.
Emovi.app is a service which helps users select the right movie by choosing two emotions (emojis) from a list of 20 mood options. Do you want a touching and sexy movie? No problem. The app will recommend “Basic Instinct” or “Power of Fear” along with hundreds of other options with the opportunity to watch the trailer immediately. Вut in the future they will be replaced with the movies on streaming services, as the creators say.
The more movies the user chooses, the more accurate the recommendations will be. Today there are 30 thousand films in the service base, but the algorithm automatically marks out new ones, constantly filling up the base. The service is available in Russia and the CIS.
The Emovi team includes students and graduates of MIPT, HSE and the Bauman’s University. Guys call themselves avid movie fans, that is why they solved their problem of finding a suitable movie. In the near future, the team is planning to enter the American market, where it will face the competition with the Apple service.
Kirill Ilyichev, the project CMO, told us how the Emovi plans to break away from the competitors and how to build a growth strategy in order to survive in terms of high popularity.
We underestimated the virality of our product and did not expect that it will be so actively shared. Media and popular communities in social networks began to write about us for free. As a result, we had to cope with the ever-increasing load for about 20 hours in a row. It was an unforgettable adventure.
Public opinion believes that growth is always good. But, in fact, growth is needed at a very specific point only. We maintained the traffic flow at the necessary level to be able to test product hypotheses and, as a result, transferred the traffic of viral growth into a much more refined product. If we had hyped a few months ago, it would have been much worse for the startup.
We did frankly advertising posts on all possible platforms to maintain a small growth. People just will not share such posts with friends in social networks or distribute somehow else virally, but these posts gave a sufficient level of users conversion.
During this period, we used content management a little bit. This strategy gave a small but stable flow of users with low CPI (about 6 cents). We had 50–100 installs per day.
We changed the subject and wrote posts in a different style for more traffic. In particular, the great result was brought by the post on a “Peekaboo”, which was highly rated by the «Movie-lovers» thread inhabitants. They really didn’t have anything to watch, so after a few blunders, we finally hit our target audience.
Thanks to the likes of “movie-lovers” our post hit the “Hot”, where it was noticed by some public pages with millions of visitors. They made reposts without our knowledge and increased the load on our servers. About two thousand people came to us in an hour. The server went down and we had to raise it extremely fast with the help of our friends. And we made it in an hour.
Once again about the main thing: after the creation of MVP, the focus was made on testing the product hypotheses and its analysis based on the metrics, not on the growth. Growth was not necessary for us at that time. We grew by 100–120% from month to month, but the viral growth gave us an increase of 550% in two days, the application was installed by tens of thousands of people.
Our main metrics were as follows: one-week retention (since our product is not yet for everyday use); the number of our fans, that is, the people who most actively use our product and who are most likely to react to changes in it; the speed of finding the film for the session. We found these metrics by trial and error method, and they are very special for each product.
The increase in the number of users was not our main metric, because it is not an equal success (although many startups think differently). A raw but a growing product is a death for a startup since all the forces will be thrown to support growth, not to the product development. As a result, a product with little value, poor functionality and numerous bugs will not return users and will die eventually.
Each streaming service has its own recommendation system. In addition, many users in developed countries have subscriptions to several services. At the same time, pirated content prevails in other markets. We change people’s approach to watching movies, so all these circumstances are our competitive environment.
Apple with its new TV Channels service is attempting to combine several video services on the same platform. It should be a single point of entry and selection of content. We pursue a similar goal. But our audience, unlike Apple’s, is not only Apple product users. Our market is much bigger and includes Android users with subscriptions to streaming services, and people without subscriptions (pirates).
Our monetization will change at different stages of product formation. To begin with, we will become a source of leads for streaming services and will receive payment from them. In markets with a high proportion of pirated content, such as India or the CIS, online cinemas have a high cost of attracting users and a new source of cheaper traffic will always be in demand.
When the number of users increases, we will start selling subscription packages. They will help, mainly, to the Americans who have subscriptions to several video services.
Soon we are going to release a new section to help you choose a movie using video, so stay tuned! We will also become a full-fledged aggregator of world streaming services in order to effectively solve the “Where to watch” problem in addition to “What to watch”.
Theoretically, we want to add the ability to watch movies straight in the application with the help of our partners — ivi, Okko and others. We will help bring subscribers to markets where piracy prevails.
And we plan to do the same for TV shows, add more emoji and learn how to predict your personal emotions watching concrete movies.
As a B2C project, we are constantly forced to seek investment. Now we are going through the program in the HSE Inc accelerator, it helped us to get an offer from a private investor. So now we are considering proposals for closing the round.
If you want to support emovi.app and contact the founders, see their profile on Rocket DAO and join the waitlist of the project!
There is a course that helped us a lot while creating Emovi — this is the ‘How to make a product’ course by the founder of Prima and Capture Alexey Moiseenkov. Alexey provided us with great mentorship assistance. We took out a lot of valuable information from the course and tested it in practice already. Now here we are with the 11 tips to startups.
But to begin with I would like to say that those pieces of advice like ‘Do A, then B and C’ can’t be applied to startups at all.
“Anna Karenina begins with the words: “All happy families are equally happy, all unhappy — are unhappy in their own way,” — but it vice versa for companies,” — Peter Thiel writes. Therefore, no one can tell you how to do your own business, no matter how much that wants to help you. But mistakes are all about the same. We can share our ideas about the things you shouldn’t do. These pieces of advice are more suitable for B2C startups.
Because of the high competition with large companies, a B2C startup is to be a high-quality product, but it is extremely difficult to do without having relevant experience in creating B2C products and without people willing to work efficiently for free for a year. Or without angel investments that grant you time above all. We are sad to say this, but to find angel investments for a B2C startup in Russia with no growth or without having a lot of previous experience is almost impossible. So if you have hypotheses about the possibilities for making a B2B project, it is better to go B2B in Russia, because your first revenue will come much faster in this case.
But if you eventually decide upon B2C and you don’t have financing, then the problem you are trying to solve should be your personal one, Otherwise, you will quickly lose energy and desire to finish the product and motivate your team.
Having bad feedback about your project after the pitch session may imply two options: either you should really heed and make a pivot, or the market just does not understand you, and you have found an insight that many have been overlooked. Every year those things that others have overlooked or considered unimportant help some startups grow rapidly. It is clear that the probability of such a situation offhand is less than 1%, but always think your own thoughts after as soon as you listen to anybody’s opinion, and do what you believe in, otherwise, you will never find that “Golden” insight.
That’s is actually the explanation of the reason why an idea solo is worth nothing, If it is worth something, then only 1% will believe it, and 1% of them will begin to develop it. The same good idea comes to about 1000 people at a time every day, but only one of them all starts to make it real. And probably doesn’t finish in the end. So don’t be afraid to share your idea with everybody.
All you think you should do are your hypotheses, nothing more. To prove you need them you should set clear metrics, plan your time. Which hypothesis are you assessing this week, what kind you result do you expect and by what time? Otherwise, you will be stuck on this ‘constant mindless doing’. Answering the question ‘what did you do this week?” should not be ‘I was doing X’, but rather ‘I did Y’, where Y is a test of a hypothesis.
In B2C you can test your hypotheses by either analyzing competitors’ products (for example, you will find a service solving the same problem but not as good as you do) or using metrics in product analytics tools like Amplitude, Firebase, Facebook Analytics. If you are a developing B2C startup, don’t fall under the influence of the popular CustDev methodology, as, trust me, its fans use it where it is needed and where not. Quality research and conversations with clients are needed to get the insights but they will never help you test the hypothesis statistically as they are not the quantitative methods of analysis.
Without previous startup experience, start seeking the investments only after you have an MVP and the key hypotheses already tested. If this is a B2C startup, then finding investors without regular revenues will be a difficult task. So you have to decide whether you want to grow in the number of users or start generating cash.
First of all, a startup is defined by the speed of growth and making a decision. As for the venture ecosystem in Russia, the rapid growth of B2C startups is not always possible, but you should do all you can to move as fast as possible. That is why 2–3 founders working full-time and the rest of the team (read 10 friends) working part-time — is the mistake which will kill your project eventually. Having a big team is also a problem, as then you will need another manager to coordinate all of them, and this will be his only responsibility for which he will receive a share in the company’s equity, just because you you didn’t manage to find highly-motivated co-founders.
Don’t combine main work and a startup. It is impossible to do it successfully so in the end, it will definitely kill your project. You can work in Yandex at day and have a high salary there, but you will hardly succeed in developing something meaningful if you dedicated yourself to it only in the evenings, as the overall development will be too slow.
Don’t spread your resources too thinly, you need to be fully concentrated, dedicated to the project 100 percent, otherwise you will change directions 3 times a week. You should have a strategy and a clear understanding of the final destination you are moving to. If you can’t answer these questions now, then start with competitors analysis and assess their market position. Before you start coding make sure you know why a company X hasn’t done yet the thing that I’m going to develop.
Don’t work without quality metrics (this more applies to Machine Learning). Until you know what and how should be improved, what is bad and what is good at this very moment, you can’t and shouldn’t move any further.
The team is hunting!
We are now enlarging our Data Science and Back-end teams. If you have vast experience in Computer Vision/ if you are a back-end developer with some experience in Data Science, send us your CVs and cover letter at firstname.lastname@example.org (if you want together with us change the way people watch and discuss movies).