We’ve always talked and dreamt about starting our own business. Today is the day when our dreams are coming true, as we are officially launching the Alpha version of Knowinger in Australia and New Zealand!
The Origin of the Idea
Image by Bookelï via Flickr
It all started about a year ago, when I decided to buy my partner Michal a piano for his birthday. I got him an electronic keyboard when he was away on a business trip – it’s a pretty big thing so it’s hard to smuggle it to the house unnoticed. And I also wanted to get him some private lessons, so he could get back to playing soon.
And that’s how the idea of an education marketplace started! As I was Googling around I found various options for him. The difficult part was to choose the right one. I knew I wanted something in the Inner West of Sydney, so he didn’t have to travel far. With the rest, I had no idea. I was flicking through tutor directories and private school pages and was getting a bit lost. I called a few teachers and asked them about their courses and methods but honestly, I didn’t have a clue how to distinguish a good teacher from a not-so-good one.
Although I successfully managed to get him a great teacher after about a week of research, it left me with a thought of a gap on the Australian market. “If I had to go through this lengthy selection process myself, there must be a lot of other people that face the same problem”, I thought. So I started asking my friends and colleagues and talked about my idea of the education marketplace with various people. I didn’t have any expectations as I was just at an idea stage at that moment. Most people said they’d welcome a platform where they could compare different courses in the town, see teachers’ reviews and book classes online. And that gave me the impulse to pursue my idea further.
From Idea To Execution
I was changing jobs at around this time last year and didn’t have a lot of time to further develop the initial concept. After work, I would be spending hours researching competitors, gathering information and reading about entrepreneurship and business. I slowly worked on putting a business plan together and the original idea started having more shape and structure.
I even gave it a name; Knowinger and bought a domain on GoDaddy. ($44) In case you wonder, it means:
- Evidencing the possession of inside information
- Characterized by conscious design or purpose
- Alert and fully informed
- Highly educated; having extensive information or understanding
I am a digital marketer, which has given me a huge advantage in starting this purely online business. I could use my previous experience managing high-traffic websites and highly competitive campaigns for large corporations. Michal, on the other hand, is a versatile solution architect and developer with experience from various enterprise projects around the world. We are just a perfect team for this project, right 🙂
After having a clearer idea on what exactly we want to do and how, we defined what features are crucial to to launch our MVP (Minimum Viable Product).Looking back now, I am convinced we could have made it even simpler, but I have to admit it is a hard battle for me being a perfectionist.
In among all the preparation and initial development happening, we were actually moving to Buenos Aires, where we currently reside. As you can imagine, the progress with Knowinger was quite slow and we could not concentrate on it as much as we wanted. In the meanwhile, I decided to leave my well-paid job in Australia, not to search for any job in Argentina, and fully dedicate myself to Knowinger.
After arriving to Argentina, we finally had more time to work on Knowinger. While Michal has still had his full-time job and can only work on the product development at nights and on the weekends, I can focus all my energy on our startup.
Getting It Out of the Door
We started by drawing use cases, business processes and categorizing features into priority quadrants.
By the end of this process, we had a pretty good idea of what we need to do in order to create a functional MVP with the crucial features. I took a great free course on Coursera which helped me with user experience design for our web application. To design wireframes (a skeletal framework of a website) I used Balsamiq Mockups ($79), a great tool to sketch your design and quickly iterate without loosing time and money.
The next stage, and for me the most dreaded one, was the design. We knew we don’t have the skills, but were a bit nervous about having someone we don’t know design Knowinger for us. We started with the logo and posted a contest on Design Crowd. To be honest, the quality of the submission was very low, so I did not choose any of the proposed design. (Lost approx $70 on fees) You can post “non-guaranteed” project where you don’t have to select any design.
On the other hand, you probably get a lower quality submissions than if you guarantee you will select and pay one. I asked my friend Zuza, a graphic designer, to help me with some logo ideas. She came up with a concept of the current logo. We then worked together on further developing it to the current look and feel. ($0)
After getting several quotes from different designers, we decided to take an alternative route and use Flat UI Pro Web User Interface Kit ($69) to keep the budget low. Luckily, we already had Adobe Photoshop License so I am not counting that into our expenses. I bought the header illustration on Veer and got some bonus credits as a new customer so it turned out to be free.
The Flat UI design framework is based on responsive layout and contains a huge number of components. It is an amazingly easy tool to use and I have to say I am quite happy with the result 🙂 Let’s see what you think! I was actually thinking it was a good exercise for me as I discovered a few holes in my wire-frame designs that would have otherwise been missed. Oops!
By this time, I would have set up Knowinger social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Pinterest and Google +. I started interacting with our potential customers and engaging with a community of people interested in learning and personal development. I also started this blog on WordPress which didn’t cost me anything, as I already had my domain.
I created a video explainer using GoAnimate Business account ($79):
It’s a pretty simple animated video that shows the overall idea of Knowinger. I created the voice-over myself as I have some radio presenting background, which made the job little easier 🙂
I also created a pre-launch page on Launchrock ($0) where I collected email addresses of anyone interested in Knowinger. I later imported those emails into MailChimp ($0), an awesome free tool for your Customer Relationship Management.
Launch or Die
After I finished the Flat UI designs in Pohotoshop, Michal posted a project on Freelancer to find a front-end developer who would translate my designs into HTML ($780). I have to say we were lucky to work with Anton who is a patient and knowledgeable developer. Michal developed the back end of the entire web application by himself, so kudos for that!
In the meanwhile, I registered the trademark with IP Australia ($120). I already had an Australian Business Number, which made things slightly easier and cheaper.
All together, the total cost of Knowinger launch was $1257. I consider that a decent bootstrapping effort from our side!
We spent the last few weeks frenetically putting everything together, testing the site and fixing bugs. It has been quite an intense time of not-enough sleep, movement or quality food. But it’s part of it, I guess. It never goes as you predicted and things just take longer than you expected. What matters is that from today onward, anyone can create a course on Knowinger and acquire new students completely free!
I wish you all good luck with your ventures and hope you found some of the tools and information useful for your own startup projects!