Ervin Shaqiri is a data scientist and the brain behind Spory.
Spory is an AI assistant that is incorporated with your favorite messaging app and helps you organize sport matches with your friends while avoiding the hassle and the time spend to do it.
The solution has been launched on Product Hunt recently and is grabbing quite a few eyeballs.
In an exclusive interview with AsiaTechDaily, Ervin says:
Do not worry about results and getting it right from the start, startups, and trial and error. It involves a lot of learning with the benefit of getting right and enjoying the spoils.
Read on to know more about Ervin Shaqiri and his journey.
Please tell me about your background, and what are you working on currently?
Ervin Shaqiri: Well, to start from the beginning, I am 23 years of age, with an academic background in Business Informatics. I have juggled many jobs striving to learn new things all the time. Some past work includes banking, development, data science, etc. However, I was raised in a different mentality believing that the skills that someone acquires throughout their life should be shared and used for the greater good. This is where the passion for entrepreneurship stems. I am always on the lookout for new and unique ideas no matter how wild they are because no matter how far fetched an idea is, thinking about that idea means that you have already started realizing that idea. All you need to do is execute.
Currently, I am working on a couple of things. There is the main project of Spory, where we just launched on Product Hunt and got some amazing feedback and recognition. I am also working on a data science research project in healthcare and amidst all this building an analytics platform.
What motivated you to get started with your company?
Ervin Shaqiri: The motivation has always been there. I grew up in a part of the world where people’s ideas are not really welcomed with open minds. This is especially true for younger people who are in a constant struggle to stand out and brake social expectations. Getting back to the idea that people should use their skills to help as much as possible, this concept fuels my will to give an example to everyone around that no matter how far fetched the idea with hard work and determination, it can be done. At the same time, on a grander scale, I hope to at least change people’s perception regarding the potential of the area I live in.
The idea behind starting Spory came about as a challenge to solve a problem where my cofounder and I live. We saw the problem and started barnstorming ideas, of course then trying them out with no shortage of failures. However, a year and a half into the idea, we caught a brake, and that was launching on Product Hunt.
How have you attracted users and grown your company from the start?
Ervin Shaqiri: We do not have a huge VC or funding round, as they are very rare in our country, however that did not stop us. We bootstrapped our idea and used personal funds and innovative ways to “spread the word.” From the start, we had a minimal marketing budget and mostly promoted our company during meetups and conferences (guerrilla marketing).
Books play a key role, and I am constantly looking for new ideas and the chance to implement what I read. One example is the book Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares. They explain the Bullseye Technique, which has been a go-to strategy for Spory. The technique talks about how you put a small amount of money on any marketing channel you can think of and then filtering out the top five channels. After that, another round of filtering where this time the circle gets smaller and only three channels are left. Finally, you increase the budget and compare the results of each channel, where the one with the best results is picked to follow for the next three months. This entire process is repeated every three months and makes sure you cover the most lucrative channel.
What’s your business model, and how have you grown your revenue? What strategy worked best?
Ervin Shaqiri: In the book “The Startup Owner’s Manual,” Steve Blank and Bob Dorf describe a startup as “A Startup is Not a Smaller Version of a Large Company” and I completely agree with them. A common mistake in people is that they believe the grand scale companies have business models that work no matter what; however, these business models have been around longer or even before most entrepreneurs were born.
They were invented in periods where the economy and technology were not at the state which they are today. This is why I strongly believe a startup is not a smaller version of a big company but is a company with a motivated group of people who test and create new business models until they find an appropriate one. We had this challenge as well, and we are still working and testing different models and sometimes coming up with quirky ideas on how to make money.
How much money (funding) have you raised in total so far? When was the recent funding round? (Additionally, any plan for the future?)
Ervin Shaqiri: We have not raised any funding; this is because, in our country, there are very scarce opportunities to get funding. However, it is in future pans when we expect to scale and grow to feed the required cash flow to try and get a funding round.
What are some marketing tips to help maximize the success of a product launch?
Ervin Shaqiri: Be active on social media, Product Hunt and talk about your product everywhere. Show people your passion, and urge them to try it, give you feedback and share it as much as possible. Be part of the community you might even get inspired for a new product or find something you never knew you needed, remember you need to show love to get love.
What is a good product launch checklist?
Ervin Shaqiri: There really is no correct checklist. In fact, almost everyone says you need someone to hunt your product on Product Hunt, we were unable to find a hunter and ended up doing it our self and got some amazing results. But if there has to be a checklist, then it would look something like this:
- Landing Page
- Demo Page
- Special Offer for the day of the launch
- Make sure all the media materials are available and ready
- Make sure team members are free and ready
What’s the hardest thing about product launches?
Ervin Shaqiri: The hardest thing for us was the timely response to all our users with their feedback. We had a lot of feedback and are strong believers on our user base, so we wanted to make everyone’s first experience unique, we tried our best and hope that everyone felt the love.
What are the most common mistakes founders make when they start a company? (or What should all first-time startup founders know before they start their business?)
Ervin Shaqiri: Do not worry about results and getting it right from the start, startups, and trial and error. It involves a lot of learning with the benefit of getting right and enjoying the spoils.
What do most startups get wrong about marketing?
Ervin Shaqiri: I do not think many companies get this part wrong. We live in a digital age with marketing agencies everywhere. However, without marketing, you can not really sell your product no matter how good it is.
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?
Ervin Shaqiri: Everything comes in its own. Rushing and worrying will not make things go faster, nor will they get things done, stay focused, and take care of your health.
What are the one or two things that you would do differently if you could go back to 10 years ago?
Ervin Shaqiri: I would have started reading business and psychology much sooner.
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