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No matter what they say about 2020, for many this year has become a time of opportunities and good changes. This August investment manager Yury Shlaganov, for example, thought about the imperfection of TikTok for a person who wants to learn something new, and not just kill a couple of free hours. And he invented a solution to this problem: the EduDo platform with educational content! Yury left the venture fund and started working on his first startup — and this is in the midst of a pandemic and the intensification of political life in the country! In August he managed to raise an admirable Pre-seed round, and now the platform will finally become available to users.
We talked with the founder of EduDo about the launch, hypotheses, competition among business angels who want to join the project, and many more.
We talk to startups and investors, you get the value.
Over the past few months, we have been making the platform itself, the content for it, and working on a marketing plan. As a result, we now have an almost ready-to-launch application, content (about 300 videos with a total duration of 8–8.5 hours) and a plan how to attract first users.
We are planning not a full release yet, but a so-called soft launch. Its main goal is to land in several cohorts of early adopters for the app, see how they behave there and find imperfections in the way it works.
Our task at launch is to attract a sufficient number of users who would become a relevant sample with a minimum budget. We will focus on free sources: Product Hunt, other sites with geeks interested in everything new. We will also make use of various social resources such as Reddit, Quora.
We will also try paid UA, though to a lesser extent for now. Now is the hottest time in terms of marketing: it is the end of the quarter, Black Friday, Christmas. Accordingly, there is a lot of competition on all platforms, the cost of impressions and clicks will skyrocket. We will spend a couple of thousand on paid user acquisition in December primarily on Facebook, Google Ads and Apple Search Ads. We’ll start checking which creatives work best, and in January we will start to be more active.
We are launching in English speaking markets with a focus on North America. We will now focus not even on the United States, but on Canada, which is classic for startups. Users are a little cheaper in Canada, and user behavior is similar. In theory, this will help us save some of the money on attracting first users. At the same time, we are available worldwide in the App Store: anyone can download and test EduDo.
The app is currently only available for iOS, because that’s what 78% of our target audience use. As a startup, we must live within our means. Therefore, as soon as we test the product hypotheses and understand they are confirmed, as soon as we find channels to scale iOS, then we will launch on Android.
We do not yet know exactly who our target audience really is: there is only a hypothesis that our platform is for Zoommers. Yes, the hypothesis is strong, but we may well face the fact that people 30–45 years old can actively use it: after all, they have very little time, and the EduDo videos fit into a meeting to meeting taxi trip perfectly. There happen to be such use cases.
We will try to attract different cohorts of users and find those that behave best inside the application: stay the longest, spend more time, press social buttons such as like or share, take quizzes. Based on the metrics obtained, we will conclude who to focus on in the first place from a marketing point of view.
Thus, we now have two tasks:
The first is to see if everything inside the application is clear to the user;
The second is to understand which cohorts of users are ideal for us.
There is also the possibility that some category of content will do better. In this case, we will start focusing more on attracting content makers from this direction and promoting it.
There are also several advertising hypotheses that we will test. In particular, we’ll try three concepts:
The first is advertising the platform as a mobile application where you can learn on the go;
The second is advertising a category of content within the platform, for example: “Learn more about technologies on EduDo”;
The third is an advertisement for a specific piece of content: when a 15–30-second UA-creative is created based on a video from the platform and launched into promotion with the message: “If you want to know more, go to the platform.”
Although we showed our videos and the test version of the application to many people, the sample is still insufficient. I would not draw any conclusions before the soft launch. The fundamental hypotheses that we will test at the soft launch remain the same.
First hypothesis. People need an app with short, interactive educational videos.
It’s strong enough, but still needs to be tested. We will look at how users behave inside the application, how often they return. We will also track all classic metrics: starting from the average session length, the number of actions within the session, ending with the 1st, 7th, 28th day retention.
We wanted to test this theory even before launching the app by posting videos to TikTok, Instagram, YouTube. We even thought about raising additional money to launch this in parallel with the work on the application, but decided that testing content on external platforms is irrelevant, since it will be in isolation from our platform with its essential specifics.
Second hypothesis. We need to check if people want to film their videos.
To do this, we have a “+” button in the application. It is not full-fledged yet, and when you press it, the following text falls out: “Bro, we are still working on the video editor. If you are interested to start making content on the platform before its release, write what you want to shoot a video about and leave your email.”
By the way, we have the same form on the website and we’re already getting applications there, despite the fact that we have not released yet. Here’s a great example! Now, impressed by the Netflix “Queen’s Gambit” series everyone rushed into chess, we thought how we could use this wave, because it can help reduce the installation cost. We decided that we needed a content maker who teaches the basics of chess. And as soon as we thought about it we got an app on our landing page from a person who wanted to become a maker and talk about how to play chess!
But still, despite receiving applications from proactive people who would like to shoot for the platform before the release, the hypothesis also needs to be tested on a wider sample.
We did custdev among American Zoommers and realized that they associate the word education and educational with very institutional things like school, college and university. They have a mental block straightaway, saying they can gain education at school. Therefore, we try to move away from the word education in positioning and talk about mobile learning, social learning, or self-development platform.
Ideally, custdev should be as unbiased as possible. The interviewee should not have nothing to do with the project, shouldn’t know the people who make the product. Based on this, I would not say that we had it super clean. Nevertheless, we collected opinions and tried to do it as indirectly as possible.
We did not look for anyone on purpose and did not pay anyone. These are just acquaintances, friends of acquaintances, random people I had a chance to communicate with. As a result, I personally collected over a hundred opinions.
As a rule, I showed a video, sometimes without even mentioning the platform, and asked what the person thinks about the content, is it interesting, is it useful.
The platform is even simpler: I dropped a link to TestFlight or simply gave a phone and watched what the person was doing. People typically started watching, liked the interface, but they began brainstorming what else could be done straight away. This is more useful for future work: for an MVP, obviously, many elements and functions are not urgently needed.
This is what the whole process of finding content makers was like:
Search through your networking and cold access to influencers;
Partnership with productions (we have partner productions in several countries);
Processing the incoming stream of potential makers (some of them left contacts, and we then contacted them).
We have very few content makers that we have paid for videos. Most of them shoot videos because they like the idea itself and because in the long term they can get some benefit from the platform. Therefore, the main costs for content were not in paying for the time of content makers, but rather in settlements with production studios for processing videos.
Last time we talked about raising $170 000. It happened that at about the same time we made a beautiful promo-video that I shared in the investors’ chat. Yes, the video was not cheap, but it paid its way immediately! One of the investors, having watched the video, wrote to me that he was ready to invest $ 10,000 more
Moreover, we managed to get several soft commits from angels: they say they will gladly join. I believe you should take money when you understand where to send it. Therefore, we have a wait list of investors.
In general, investors help us a lot. Someone helps with access to makers or some organizations, others help with marketing and UA-expertise. We get a lot of feedback from our investors, they were the first to get access to our TestFlight.
As for the next fundraising, we have two scenarios:
We have enough money to launch, test product hypotheses, and basic test marketing hypotheses. In this case, we will be ready for the big Seed round.
We only have enough money to launch and test product hypotheses. Obviously, in this case, we will not be ready for the Seed-round and we will need to raise an intermediate (bridge) round of $ 100,000 — $ 200,000 to test marketing, conduct several experiments, tests and eventually form strong hypotheses for attracting users.
Despite being just about 10 people, we have a fairly small team burn rate. Our main spendings now are the cost of video post-production, because this is considerable work. Don’t forget that there are over 8 hours of content on the platform!
We spent some money on structuring, legal documents, accountants and banks. Due to COVID-19, it took us 3.5 months to open an American legal entity. Then we were faced with the fact that it was necessary to open a bank account there, and all banks that had previously opened accounts remotely for founders from Belarus and Russia stopped doing this. Therefore, we looked for workarounds, and they also cost a pretty penny.
Obviously, now a fairly significant amount will be spent on marketing and user acquisition. Our top priority is to collect a sufficient sample of users, but we will try not to spend too much on this.
Our team today is me and two directors. Max is engaged in the product and technical part, Ora is in charge of creative and content. Max has 3 developers in his team, Ora has 3 content managers some of which work full-time, others combine it with their main job. We also have Anya, our team assistant, she is engaged in document flow, office management, and now she is joining in marketing.
I prefer to do the maximum with minimum resources. In fact, from the end of July to the beginning of December, our small but very lively team basically made a competitor to the leading video services.
Many people ask if I am worried prior to the launch. To be honest, I’m not exactly worried, but very interested. I’ve spent about 8 months on everything related to EduDo and it’s now like a child to me. The first concept was born at the end of April, then there was research, then a search for partners and team. And very soon we will be able to show our work to the world and see how it reacts. I am very interested, it is very inspiring. I won’t even be very upset if I understand at the soft launch that we have serious problems and need to solve them.
It’s not even the opportunity to earn something that drives me here. I have already realized that in order to live the way I want, I do not need a lot of money. And it also happened that, on the wave of problems with an American legal entity, I invested 3 times more money in the project than I had originally planned: $15,000 instead of $5,000.
Two things drive me. The first is people. During the time that we’ve been making the product, preparing for the launch, I met very cool folks, we started working with some of them and became close friends. For example, Max Ora and I did not know each other before we started working together. But in the end we became more than just project partners — we have a lot of fun outside of work.
The second thing is the general trend in the world for educational content: several quite similar projects have appeared on TikTok, mail.ru … In Belarus, the TeenUp project has appeared, which is moving in a similar direction. All this gives me the belief that we are moving in the right direction.
The main thing that motivates me in the project is that if all this works, our story will be about at least hundreds of millions of people who become more interesting to talk to every month — this is at least.