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Productivity

Get your product on the market and start talking to the user - Interview with David Karvitz of Karma bot

Startup Name
Karma bot

Revenue
$ 5000 MRR

Location
New Zealand

No Of Founders
2

No Of Employees
8

Hello ! Who are you and what are you working on?

My name is David Kravitz, and I used to live in a Far Eastern part of Russia before moving to New Zealand. Together with Stas Kulesh and 20+  talented people, we ran a software development company called Sliday in Auckland, New Zealand. Two years ago, we built a Slack bot to recognise and appreciate each other daily as we felt that in a remote company, this component suffers the most.



What motivated you to get started with? How did you come up with the idea?

When a company is remote, it is quite hard sometimes to recognise each other. We've tried a few products trying to solve this problem and ended up developing Karma to suit our needs. We assumed that if we can build something for ourselves and make it work, then others will use our product too.

Can you tell us the story of your business from idea to where you are now?

Firstly we decided to create a simple leaderboard and a monetary bonus tight up to the number of development milestones Sliday managed to complete in a single quarter. That worked quite well, and we decided to launch our product on Product Hunt. A few companies start using our product, and we decided to make it something bigger than just an internal tool.

What has been your biggest failure or struggle?

Most of the new ideas got validated internally at Sliday.com, our distributed development team. That was probably a mistake as we should have listened more to the actual real-life customers, not our somewhat biased employees. As a result, the app grew out of proportions and became convoluted and hard to use and understand, difficult to explain and to sell.

And what has been your biggest achievement or success?

Our most significant achievement is the number of recognitions that were given within Karma bot. More than a million "thanks", that otherwise would be left unnoticeable.  Every single time someone felt great about it, and it made their day — a positive change to everyday interactions.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Listening to the customers worked best. Getting feedback, talking to them during demos, discussing needs is what matters for us the most. We give them the product they need, and they love. If you love doing something, you will keep doing it.

Did you use Betalist or PH or other Startup Launching Platform for Launching ? How was that experience ?

We used PH a few times. Though it attracts a lot of product installs we didn't see a lot of conversions out of them. So it was a bit of a mixed bag experience for us.

What’s your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

Karma bot has always been a subscription-based paid product. Initially, we set a silly $6/mo per team (any team size) price and gave away $48 lifetime licences. Listening to the voices of reason and SUS advisors we updated the pricing model and stopped promising anything with the word ‘forever’ in it.

In February 2018 we introduced free accounts in Karma bot for Slack. Today, 1299 teams are enjoying free karma. And 100 (!) teams are paying. Stripe is an awesome, unbeatable really, tool for billing implementation, disputes, risk evaluation and revenue recovery

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome? What are your goals for the future?

The hardest part was to find what value people see in karma-tracking tool and what they are prepared to pay for it. Our goal is to make positive micro feedback and daily recognition of a habit. People do leave work if they feel un-recognised. At Karma, we are on the mission to fix that.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Right now we are looking for a way to create an "everyone inclusive" leaderboard to remove an unnecessary competition in the company. We do believe that everyone is excellent at something and not only top performers should be rewarded.

Do you think your mindset has anything to do with your success?

A right mindset is essential, you need to believe that what you do should make a difference. You also need to learn from others, making any product is a set of steps. People already defined them, and they should work more or less for any product.

Why someone should use Karma Bot ? 

Nowadays, more than ever, daily appreciation and recognition became an essential part of a workflow. People do leave companies if they feel unappreciated. Lots of studies confirm that I do hear now and then from our potential clients, "We received annual survey results and employees do think that they unappreciated and the effort they put isn't recognized". They leave the company as a result, and it costs 5000-10000 to hire a new employee. Karma bot costs a fraction of that, and it makes people stay in the company.

What do you think is more helpful for sales, an in-person demo or video tutorials and why ? 

Some clients still like to talk and discuss things in person regardless if they saw a video tutorial or not. I think they want to speak to the person behind the product and get an idea of a use case in other companies. A demo is great for us too; we get to learn why people are thinking to use our product and what use case do they see for themselves.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

We learned a lot, and it was/is a great experience. Being open-minded helps quite a bit, be always ready to learn from others.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We are a lean startup, we try to track the costs and cut the loose ends. Today, I think, we’re paying for Digital Ocean hosting (Got free credits from YC SUS), Readme.io, Crisp.chat, Satismeter.com, MailerLite.com, Stripe fees, Abstract.com design version control system and InVisionapp.com. Stripe has been working smoothly for us since the day one, we can’t recommend it enough.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

YC SUS 2018 really helped. We re-worked the pricing model, simplified the product and made tons of improvements. Primarily, talking to customers (I was doing 5-10 demos a week) really helped to re-shape the product. The combined effort pumped the monthly revenue figure up: from $156 in Jan 2018 to $13,361 in Jan 2019. Y combinator has a great collection of talks and lectures on YT, I recommend you check them out.

What’s your advice for fellow aspiring entrepreneur who are just starting out?

Get your product on the market and start talking to the users asap. Be always open-minded and do not be afraid to fail. Build your product for the users and listen carefully for any feedback you get. Listen, learn and iterate again and again. Even if everything is against you and you numbers are lousy try to find a silver lining and stay positive

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