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Lemon.io / Utilities / Ukraine

How we started a marketplace of vetted offshore engineers - Story of Lemon.io

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

A marketplace of vetted offshore engineers

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

I never chose this business.

I moved to Israel – a very expensive country, where you take any chance to make extra money.

Someone asked me to help find freelance developers. They were happy with the results and referred their friends, who brought me more customers, who brought me even more customers.

Twelve months into this side hustle, I was making over 10k monthly GMV. I quit my job to do this full-time and invited my friend to become a co-founder.

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

  • Started in 2015 as a side hustle after someone asked to find them a freelancer.
  • At $10k monthly GMV I quit my job and invited a co-founder.
  • Took $60k from angel investors and blew most of it on Google ads.
  • Concept - Uber for web development. You post a task, and the next available developer picks it up.
  • Clients loved the service but the business model failed to work on scale.
  • We grew 4x in 2018 because of a new type of clients - early-stage startups.
  • Tried to fight the pivot. Transactional business - more opportunity to innovate + higher margins
  • I was wrong - transactional clients became less than 10% of our GMV.
  • Rebranded for the new target audience in march 2020
  • Closed Coding Ninjas (transactional business) to concentrate on lemon.io

What has been your biggest failure or struggle?

Delegation and transparency inside the team

How many hours a day do you work on average & can you describe/outline your typical day?

When I started I worked 24/7 as I was doing everything myself + had a day job.

I did this for a long time but a few months ago realized that's not healthy nor productive.

Now I work regular hours. Blog separate time in blocks for managing (calls), strategy (thinking, researching, testing), making. i build in public, so making for me is creating content for volodarik.com.

And what has been your biggest achievement or success?

Family

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

This is the post where I share what worked for us in terms of customer acquisition

Before that we did well on Quora

Describe the process of launching the business.

I started with connecting clients and freelancers via the email. After some revenue I've built a ticketing system with WP plugins. I'm not a developer myself, but

WordPress is easy to figure out. After more revenue I've hired freelance developers to customize the plugins for me, add billing, etc.

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

ProductHunt

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

Most of the payment from clients go to the freelancer and we take a commission.

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

The goal for 2021 is to grow from $2.7 to $10m in GMV.

The biggest obstacles are

  • systems and processes are not ready for exponential growth. this should be resolved in q1
  • building supply is harder then demand.

Let’s talk about your marketing strategy -- how do you market Lemon.io and grow the service?

In 2021 we'll invest in

  • in brand, as it pays out. Visitors easily remember us and come back when they need an engineer
  • content. we get up to 20% leads from SEO
  • targeting members of small entrepreneurial communities in several mediums. this is a successful experiment we did in 2020 and will expand it this year
  • building my personal brand. Also, an experiment that had some success this year. I write on volodarik.com, Twitter, will try YouTube and guest posting/podcasts.
  • we have a backlog of new experiments for 2021. I will talk about them as we launch.

Do you have a model to get product feedback? What’s your favorite way to get product feedback? Did product feedback help you get the results you hoped for ?

it's hard to get feedback. but we ask them for reviews and sometimes get to talk to them on zoom.

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

I don't think we are a successful company yet, but I've learned you can build one without torturing yourself and the team. Healthy friendly environment pays off.

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

My First million Pod,

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

Start as soon as possible. Don't wait for a perfect moment it does not exists. Don't wait until your product is perfect, it does not exist.

Instead launch faster and get feedback faster and iterate faster.

Also, do sales as fast as possible. Even before you have a product.

If you don't have some heavy R&D, try to get first paying clients instead of spending the same time on fundraising.