David Eberle is the Co-Founder And CEO At Typewise. The mission of Typewise is to build the most secure and intelligent human-machine interface by developing text prediction technology using artificial intelligence (AI) that is private-by-design.
Typewise Keyboard reduces typos by 4X through our patented honeycomb layout, enables typing in multiple languages simultaneously, and features autocorrection and text completion that truly understands the user.
David is passionate about transforming businesses and the lives of customers around the world. At Typewise they build the most secure and intelligent human-machine interface, making it seamless for people worldwide to input information into the digital world.
In his previous career as strategy consultant at Strategy&, he managed various digitization projects for large enterprises in Retail & Consumer, Technology, and Transportation.
In an exclusive interview with AsiaTechDaily, David says:
I’m always looking forward to a great meal at the end of the day or a nice dinner party on the weekend together with my wife, my kids, and my friends.
An app is not a business. Either your business is in making many apps, or your app is the ‘storefront’ of a bigger business. On the other hand, things often grow organically. We didn’t plan to build a text prediction technology when we started with our app. This came later. Maybe the best advice I got was to “always take every meeting,” even if you think it’s a waste of time. Often by speaking to ‘random’ people, you get new ideas and maybe a nudge that will make the difference.
Read on to know more about David Eberle and his journey.
Please tell me about your personal background and What motivated you to get started with your company?
David Eberle: My background is in business strategy. As a strategy consultant, I’ve helped digitize international corporations across Europe and the US. As a student, I’ve spent many years in Asia, which gave me a different perspective on languages and cultures. During my MBA, which I did at INSEAD in Singapore, I learned more about entrepreneurship, which motivated me to pursue this venture full-time eventually. The real driver behind going full-time was my co-founder, whom I know from high school, and who quit his job as well to pursue Typewise.
What is your current main product, and can you share any previous product pivot story to the current product?
David Eberle: Our main product is a next-generation keyboard, optimized for two-thumb typing on smartphones. It contains a text prediction technology powered by artificial intelligence, which we jointly develop with ETH Zurich, a world-leading science institute in Switzerland. We want to bring to other applications beyond the keyboard in the future. Our first prototype of the keyboard focused purely on the keyboard layout and swipe gestures. After feedback from thousands of users, we realized that we also need to work on the intelligence hidden, but a key ingredient to user/machine interaction. Our uniqueness is that we run our artificial intelligence algorithms entirely on the device itself, protecting user privacy as no typing data is transmitted over the internet.
How much money have you raised in total so far? When was the recent funding round?
David Eberle: We’ve raised almost $1 million. We closed the first half in June but included a ‘gobble-up’ clause, which allowed us to take on additional funds at the same terms. This was a great solution amid the Covid-19 induced economic crisis.
What were the internal decision processes in determining when to begin fundraising, and what were the logistics for this? And how many investors have you met so far, and how did you meet these investors, and which channels worked best for you?
David Eberle: As a technology company, it was clear early that we will need funds to reread a certain scale before the business turns profitable. After testing the waters with early-stage VCs, we realized that although we had traction (tens of thousands of downloads, good ratings, press coverage, a partnership with a leading scientific institution) that our ideal investors would be business angels, who will join us on our journey to grow the business to the next level, where we could then onboard institutional investors.
We applied to different angel groups in Switzerland and got selected to pitch at two. During the preparation process, we were assigned a ‘godfather’ at one of the groups, who used our keyboard app himself and who subsequently took the ‘lead.’
Having such a ‘lead’ who had a lot of investment experience helped us in attracting more investors (acting as a signal) and in guiding us through the process efficiently (demonstrating confidence and professionalism to the other investors).
What are the biggest challenges and obstacles that you have faced in the process of fundraising? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
David Eberle: For us, it was finding this person who truly believes in us (both team and vision), who takes the first step in saying ‘yes,’ and who helps us in convincing others who may be sitting on the fence. I think our story was a bit too technical and lacked a grand vision. It was driven by the product and not by a big business vision. We subsequently re-wrote the story, and by now, it flows nicely and gets attention. Thus it makes sense to first approach investors who are not your priority, and who may turn you down, but who give you valuable feedback on tweaking your story once you approach your priority investors.
What are your milestones for the next round? And what are your goals for the future?
David Eberle: While we don’t have an immediate need to raise the next round, we’re looking at a Series A in probably 1 to 1.5 years from now. Our key milestone is to reach one million users and launch a first licensing agreement for our text prediction technology.
How have you attracted users, and with what strategy have you grown your company from the start to now?
David Eberle: Our keyboard app has been downloaded over 350,000 times since the launch in December 2019. We first focused on the free acquisition, mainly through PR. We’re now experimenting with paid acquisition, which we will scale once certain KPIs hit our targets.
Which has been the best marketing software tool for the growth of your startup, and why?
David Eberle: For an app, it’s key to have your metrics in place, both on the acquisition and app store side (e.g., AppRadar, Appfigures, Appsflyer). The challenge is that we haven’t found a tool that provides us with all metrics, so we’ve built our dashboard where we import the reports from the various sources, which automatically gives us an update weekly. I think weekly KPIs are key, as things move quickly, and being able to define your own KPIs is also key, as they may slightly change depending on your app and business model.
What do most startups get wrong about marketing in general?
David Eberle: I think one mistake may be that we think we know what people want and then spend a lot of time designing nice visuals and messages around that story. I think we should be very KPI driven and listen to the numbers. On the other hand, it’s also important to build an emotional brand and spend time on attractive visuals and messages. Acquisition channels may change (e.g., many apps may be severely impacted by Apple’s upcoming ad-tracking changes). We shouldn’t rely on numbers-driven acquisition only, but, over time, build a brand that leads to organic acquisition irrespective of whether a channel breaks away.
How do you plan to expand globally?
David Eberle: Right now, we focus on the Americas and Europe, where we support all languages with a Latin script. We plan to localize the app and then work with local journalists and influencers to build an initial user base. App acquisition channels are usually pretty global and thus scale nicely as the app grows. In the future, we will add further languages and then increase our focus on those markets, mainly Russia, the Middle East, and South and East Asia, and of course Africa.
What are the most common mistakes companies make with global expansion?
David Eberle: Every country behaves differently. The product but also the brand may not be the solution to the local market. Our hexagon may not be the best option for Korean, as the number of characters is different. Instead of just pushing a standard solution to all markets, we aim at building the best solution for each market. We’d rather take a bit more time to expand but then do it with a solution that adds real value to the people. The challenge is the focus, as we don’t have the resources to do everything at the same time. And sometimes, you may not know how much success you could have in a certain market. So it’s a tricky balance between focusing on your core market and expanding gradually (with a great solution) vs. testing many markets quickly but more shallowly.
How do you handle this COVID-19 outbreak situation for your company’s survival in the future?
David Eberle: The digitization trend only accelerated, and smartphone usage increased. That played into our cards. We’re already a global team with a third of the company working remotely, and the other two-thirds also work remotely about half of the time. While I don’t fear an immediate negative impact on us, I hope that with a globally-orchestrated effort, we can come out stronger from this crisis and think about how to protect the vulnerable population in a better way. I think it’s also important that education can resume again, as we cannot simply stop sending our kids to school. That would have a dramatic effect on the next generation in the long term. Maybe my next venture will be in the educational field.
What are the most common mistakes founders make when they start a company?
David Eberle: It is starting with the product and not the problem. Always test if there’s a market for your idea. On the other hand, don’t give up if you get negative answers if people say your idea is stupid. I think some of the greatest inventions and enterprises were built out of ‘stupid’ ideas. Get yourself a co-founder; they will help you through the tough times, and vice versa.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? And What advice do you have for someone who is interested in doing similar things like yours or in a similar direction?
David Eberle: An app is not a business. Either your business is in making many apps, or your app is the ‘storefront’ of a bigger business. On the other hand, things often grow organically. We didn’t plan to build a text prediction technology when we started with our app. This came later. Maybe the best advice I got was to “always take every meeting,” even if you think it’s a waste of time. Often by speaking to ‘random’ people, you get new ideas and maybe a nudge that will make the difference.
What are the top-three books or movies (TV series) that changed your life and why?
David Eberle: I couldn’t say a specific book or movie fundamentally changed my life. From each story, we take away incremental things, and cumulatively, they impact who we are and how we live. Maybe some books I can recommend related to startups: Billion Dollar App, The Lean Startup, Hooked, Zero to One, Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, Measure What Matters, Inspired.
How do you keep yourself motivated every day?
David Eberle: I’m always looking forward to a great meal at the end of the day or a nice dinner party on the weekend together with my wife, my kids, and my friends.
What are the top three life Lessons that you want your (future) sons and daughters to know?
David Eberle: Always try something new. Stick with your good habits and routines. Be nice to others.
What would you like to be remembered for?
David Eberle: Be a great father, husband, and friend.
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