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Episode 9 · 1 month ago

WE Founders S02 EP01 Aleksandar Stanković and MyFitWorld

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

We are back with a new season and a new co-host: Aleksa Peruničić. In the first episode of the second season, hear a story about MyFitWrold from its founder Aleksandar Stanković. What are the biggest obstacles for a startup in Serbia? How can you get started? Hear how Aleksandar found his way around. 

Welcome so that we Founders podcast. We are women entrepreneurs, founders and investors sharing our stories about how we raise funds, invest and build their businesses from the Western Balkans. I'm your host, Guy Montelatici, general partner at Studio Acventures. Welcome to the new season of the Wee Founder's Podcast. Today, my guest is Alexander Tankovich from My Feet World. We will talk about their journey from idea to the startup who now have two How many users? Yeah, we're talking about around seven thousand at this moment. Yes, that's great. So my first question for you is how did you get an idea for the my feet World and how everything started. Of course, first of all, I want to thank you for having me here with you, and I want to say hello to all the listeners in the viewers, but also to the Impact Belgrade and want to take to say thank you very much to Impact Up Belgrade for having me here with you. As far as my or my feth World story is concerned, so we were as a fitness and strength and conditioning coaches, we were actually in a big problem at that period because you know when you work uh in a physical place with your physical capacities, you're limited. So we came to the moment where our working capacities were limited, uh to I don't know, fifteen up to twenty, but let's say fifteen, sixteen or okay, twenty clients. Uh As a summer you know you have ten clients on one day and ten clients on the other day because mostly you have Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, uh workouts with your clients. So in general, you your physical capacities for your work are limited. That means that your work expansion or business expansion is really limited on one hand, and on the other hand, during the summer season and the winter holidays, most of those clients are off because they want to spend their time with their family or maybe they are ill or they are injured or something like that. So you have you have a lack of clients and money at that period. So when you take the average during the year, you do not have fifteen or twenty clients, but you have twenty thirty...

...up to less than that. So the volatility of your business is really huge and you feel insecure. And on the other hand, even though you have the potential to to work with a lot of different people. You know, you always have new requirements for new clients, you're not able to work with them. So from that huge problem we came to an idea which at first was just a base of exercises and workouts. Uh so when we go to the holidays on even where when we are sick, our colleagues can do the work instead of us with less effort. And that was like the main idea because every summer and winter holiday of ours was really a help because you go to the holiday, but you're not on a holiday. You're always online and in line with your clients during the through the social media, through the chat platforms, or even online to explain one more time the workout or the exercise or or to uh reconsider with your colleague, what was the plan? I sorry because I don't remember and think things like that. So your professional life but also your private life becomes really tough and you do one thing that you love to do that is fitness, our strength and conditioning coaching. So the idea came because of the problem. And when you're solving the problem, you are, as far as I'm concerned, you're always on a good path. So during our beginnings, but also until now we knew that we are on a good pad because we want to help or at that time, we wanted to help at first to the industry, to the coaches and the gens and with that to their clients. So basically those were the beginnings. Yeah, I I like that you have like the whole idea from the start. So when we are talking about startups, the main problem is found to find founding. How did you find your first founding and how did that end up? Yet, Yes, that was really interesting because at first we did not have like an idea that we are some like entrepreneurs, that we are founders, that we are going to dive into the startup world. Uh. We just wanted to solve our problems. Uh. And we were not or we are still not commercial trainers. You know. You you you couldn't find us at the time at so show media or things like that. But we really do...

...have a lot of credibility and great reputation here the Serbia and in the Balkan region because of our expertise. We are mostly from master degree and PhD degree like UH strength and conditioning and fitness coaches. So our first UH co founders. But if I can say equity founders like Angel investors for our clients sexually, they know, they knew that we do a great job in the practice, you know, with coaching, and they knew or they liked at that period the idea very much. One of our first co founders with like a money for equity, like the Angel investor investor was our leading coach at that period and the owner of the gym where we work in the Magnafite Fitness Club in Belgrade. He was like one of the first guys and the second big investor, if I can say, they say that that the other one Angel Investor was our client, you know, and they saw that we are doing something, that we're talking about something. It was like an I T and application, a platform fitness and things, and they said, okay, can I hear a bit more about that. We went to the coffee and they were like, wow, I like the idea. Does it have the local global potential? We said, of course, if we are solving the problem here and we have a software, we can solve this problem anywhere in the world. And they were like, okay, I'm in in. At that period, it was not in a like a written agreement. It was like hand in hand, you okay, let's shake hands. I'm in and we said okay. And from that first moment until it was on the paper, I don't know, it lasted for six to eight or nine months from the idea then to realization of the concept. That's not a lot, you know, but from the but we didn't have it on the paper because they said, okay, let me in, I'm in the game. I don't know what you want to say to the others who are interested in, Uh, I'm in. We said okay. We closed it in I don't know one month, and after that one month until the execution of our deal. Uh, it went six to eight or nine months, and it was all like we said at the beginning. So definitely these guys were except beside the friends, friends and family, but they're like us for a small share and for smaller money. Uh. These two guys are actually we're actually our colleagues and our clients, and those are our first funding investors, or as we call them today, our angel investors. Thank you so, I know because I constantly call you in help when somebody needs help, needs fund from you know,...

...fund in Serbia. UM you guys did a great job with it. You get how many funding from them? Eighty thousands years that great little How did you manage to prepare for dinner fund? I think that's the question that all of our listeners wanted here. Yes, of course, yeah, we're really proud of that, and I'm using this opportunity to once again stay big thank you to the Innovation Fund. Uh. And of course besides that, the science technology about in bellid which actually made an opportunity to get in front of the Innovation Fund. Now, of course I'm talking to all the guys who are members of Impact have Belgrade, and we give all the knowledge and the experience that we have in order to help them. But how did we uh go to the Innovation Fund and not to the VC or some other investors. First of all, that was this huge desire and I think it's the same with every other with every other founder, not to give equity at first, so you want to bootstrap. And the other thing is if you want to raise money, you first want to try to raise money and not to give equity if it is possible. Anyhow, So that was that was maybe the biggest thing about the Innovation Fund that they're supporting new ideas by just giving the money and not taking the equity. And when they give you the money, they give the support to be a successful startup, of course because of their reputation and their investment and things like that. Of course, when you if you sell your business or if you get another investing round during the period of the three to five years after the closing the deal with the Innovation Fund, you have to give a certain feed, but it is more than a fair fee because they gave you the opportunity to stand with your own equity during the critical period. You know, we were just like one or two months on the market, like with the m v P with really really really m v P product, and the money from the fun u uh was really really huge help for us. So I want to say that if you have the product on the market, you're in a better position. But also you can apply if you have an idea. The main thing is that you have like a real solution for something. You said, they said Innovation Fund, the most valued thing is if the idea is innovative. Our idea was innovative in a concept that we had a different mixture of services for people in the industry...

...or the clients who want to have to get in touch with our industry. So our service was innovative enough and they recognized it and they said, okay, here is the here is the like a push for you with the money. So we're really proud of that. They that the Innovation Fund really recognized the potential. And by now it is obvious that they had a really good news for it because I can say by now that we are good on the market and we with their money, we got the opportunity to bootstrap more and to a round for the maybe another round. We're talking at this moment with two two with two vices, but we are not sure actually if we want to bootstrap more or we want to take another round of of money. Definitely Innovation Fund helped helped us with that because we were not trapped and we didn't need to run for the money and to give equity. And one other thing is with Innovation Fund, they did they find nance you for developing the product. Most of the vcs can when it comes to the marketing and sales, but Innovation Fund gets in there in order to say, hey, you have a good product, keep developing the idea the product keep developing that main thing that because that main thing that that is the core of your business. Uh So that's about That's those are maybe the crucial uh motives to go to the innovation fund and not to the private equity the VC uh to to to to to resume it. So developing the idea itself the product itself one thing, and keeping the equity with us is the other thing. Yeah, great, thank you. That was really interesting to know. So my next question is pretty basic when you return on your journey, how did it last? How much did last from the very beginning until now four years by now, of which two and maybe more than two years with like shaping the idea and getting into the market and the practice and the like the entrepreneurship and one and a half to two years with the product and on the market from m VP to to this stage of project rate. So when you return to those four years, what can you say, I we really screwed up, we made a mistake, and we are not so proud of it. Do you have something like that? Yes, of course, I don't know if if someone doesn't...

...have that period or point in their enterpopent. You know, people are like now with everything was perfectly. We were just perfect from the start. Yeah, yeah, I can say that as far as the product itself, as we look at the product, it was really from the idea by now that really really really we did it good, I suppose because we were in the problem, so we we we managed to recognize the problem, uh correctly. But our biggest mistake was that from the very beginning we didn't have a development team in house. One thing is expenses. The other thing is the speed of the development because when you have outsource company for the development, you're probably second, third or the fifth one in their port folio. So and they're not. They do not actually feel the energy, the passion, the goals as if if it would be with your own team. And this is the main expense during the development stage, you know, the the development team. So that was, if I can say, the only the only one, uh, the the the only mistake, if I can say that that we made that we didn't start at the very beginning with in house team. And then now I understand when guys from VICS at that moment who wanted to invest in the idea, who like, do we have an in house team? We said no, but we have an outsourced team. They were like, okay, good, but give me a call back when you when you have an in house team, you know, when you're fully like my fitball video own developers and we you as a business leaders and things like that. So that would be the main point. It's great, I totally understand it. So that's actually another point. You have to have your team in the house. Yes, that would be the main suggestion to to to all the entrepreneurs at the very beginning, because your team, believe me, I can see it with our team, and I want to take take them, thank them for that. They will not work six or five or eight hours a day, five days a week. They will breed the product, they will breed the energy, and they will work eight to ten to twelve hours a day even during the weekends. But the most important thing is that they're going to be happy about it because they feel like innovators. They feel that it is their their acknowledgement for for having a product like that. So so here I am in front of my feet World team and I'm just one of the one,...

...one part of of a system which breeds our idea, you know, night and day. So yeah, I understand that for a good startup, you need a good team. Yeah, that's that's a problem. I know it from my experience. It's short, but I know that a lot of startups have a problem to pick right people for their team when they are start starting. So I'm really glad that you had the luck with that. You know, we really had luck. Yeah, did you have except that? Did you have any like other lucky moments that was like something felling from the sky or or things like that lucky moment? Uh uh, This part of the story goes good with this previous one. I feel that the lucky part of our story is that everyone is in love with vision. You know, with you know, you can always develop a product more and more and more and more. You know, especially in the software, it's like a brain or intelligence. It's it's never enough, you know, it can always be better, and it is good because there's always place for improvement. But all the guys in our team are really the guys and the girls, you know, all the people in our team are in love with the with the vision. And even though you have many working hours, you have like time development time stress going with a new part of the product, fixing bugs, doing new things, going to the sales, getting back to the business, and uh, the the economic thing and things like that. They're always like, focus like this into that endpoint, into that final product state point, and they're like, wow, I love this. This is good and not thinking too much about all the all the heavy things, all the hard stuff that is going on, and just focus on that, on that main thing. And because of that we carry out everything with smile and with good atmosphere and with positive thoughts, you know, because the truth is especially at the beginning. I always say that you work like like a creator on your product, like in Peace maybe twenty two you're lucky if it is and seventy to It is the hard work, it is the problems. Uh, it is everything that is on your way to achieve that perfecting that is in your vision and in your mind. Okay, I hear you're talking about emotions to be dedicated to the cause. You have a startup. So what I want to know, do have enough time to your your life? I mean, besides that...

...you are a founder, you have to live, you know, how do you manage both things? Of course you manage them with love. You do not manage that easy. You you manage that with love, with passion, and with the support of your family. First, because it's a huge sacrifice for the family. And because my sacrifice, I do not see see it as a sacrifice. As I told you before, I see a vision, I see that it is going good. Uh. You can always burn more money and invest more, but by chasing the vision and by seeing your product rising. I have a small baby, but the same way, almost the same way. Of course, you do everything because of your family. And but I can say that as I see my daughter growing and her brother growing, and how I admire to that. But you have to get in the you you go late at night to sleep, you have to get up early, you have to wake up during the night and things like that to support the children. Startup is a child and you have to love him. You have to smile. You have to be for for it or for uh in every single moment, and to do it with a smile. Uh. So when I'm talking about my private life and my professional life, I cannot separate it. You have to live as a founder. You have to live for your startup every day and night. You do not have weekends, you do not actually have summer holidays because for example, I go to my summer holiday, which is separated to shorter holidays, I always take my laptop. I always see where is the WiFi and I always say yeah, yeah, call me, you know, but so my wife cannot hear, you know. And I do have my hour every single day six am six thirty am while my family is sleeping, and I have peace in my mind because okay, they're sleeping our holiday, they did not start yet. I have one one or half or two or two and half hours just for my startup, to see, to reconsolidate all the things that my team is working here at the office and things like that, to take new ideas, to take the feedback from the users and things like that, and to be with them to put the task for everyone and for me to say when I will be online and things like that. And then I go with my family. It's the same thing in the evening, you know, before the bed. So you have to carry your startup everywhere with you every time. It's the truth. But I don't see it heavy. I just see the sacrifice of my family which is used, which is huge, and I thank them for them because I...

...have no stress for being all the time every day, every night here for my team and for the product and for the users and for the business to to develop. Yeah, that's great. I mean with Drob, I don't know what to say. I am amazed. Thank you. When we are about amazing things. I heard that your guys are cooking something new, and that's something new is going to happen. Can you talk about it? Yes, of course it's it's always something new, but sometimes they're they're smaller differences and upgrades. Sometimes it is a big thing. Now we are about to go to some new, big thing, because until this moment, we were we were mainly B two B platform. We are B two B two C platform, but we were mainly here for the guys who are making money of this product, who need this product to solve their problems, to increase their income, to time their business and things like that. But now we're getting to the mainstream. We're getting to the end directly to the end clients. So it is going to be a huge step forward and basically skies the limit. We are opening like a premium subscription model for end users. And we expect, of course success because even in the print campaigns we had the success with the touching the market and getting what is going to be good. This is one one part of our business model now B to see subscriptions, and the other thing is corporate So the companies are going to be able to give the premium model for free to their employees or to their customers or at lower prices if there they buy at certain price for like for a big for a big buy from us, they will be tool owver their prices and things like that. So definitely we are going to the really really really huge market right now. And the other thing is for our bit two B users, which is going to be good that we are filling out for them a marketplace. So an end user like you is going to be able to say, Okay, I want to see my feetball net to exercise for free for the content that coaches and jams made on my feetball Net. Or I will for a certain price by my Fitful Premium uh subscription like account and get exercises, workouts and things that we made for you. Or I will find a culture or gym or someone for an online coaching for me, which is the next level. Or I will find some one for for a professional care in order to cope up with him and to have it one on one. So definitely with the holistic applaud approach. And that's why I say that my Fitball platform,...

...we are not just a fitness app. With a holistic approach. We get to the customers in this all of these models, and we are really building an ecosystem which is really going to be I want to say something like that, like Instagram or linkeding or Facebook, but for fitness. If you want to know everything about fitness and wellness and things like that, no matter from which part do you come, you will come to my Fitball and you will get everything over there. So we can expect that our world can become my fitwork. Yes, of course, do you plan on um going I'm sorry, I just start. Do you plan going more than just Bia? Of course? Thank you for asking that we are already present in the whole Balkan region. And actually I'm really proud that our creation friend are great users Bosnian Bosnian's uh, people from Montenegro, from Macedonia also, and also we were strategically expanding our business into the United our paym rates of which of course at first Dubai and Abu Dhabi. When you're we are already present over there and organically in the European Union and sporadically in the US. But it's like more than like a board of mouth or something that we didn't do anything strategically by now over there, and as we are speaking here, my colleagues are actually that's why I told you I came here alone. They are on a meeting with the guys a great startup called The Loop from the US market, who are going to be our partners for that market. And of course we are already operating in the Baccan region and our goal is to expand to the Spanish and Portuguese speaking language areas. But first for that, one step is to translate all the application. We did a small part, but because of the boots trapping thing and just money from the Innovation Fund, we didn't have the human resources to go all of a sudden to all of those markets. But now we are ready for that and we are going to really really have some huge steps. So basically, we're going live and we're going with more intensity intensity in the back and region. We are going strategically into the United Arab Emirates. But besides that, right after that, Latin America, so as I said, Spanish and Portuguese speaking language areas, and right after that the United States. So I was right, you're planning to conquer the world. Yes, we're planning where to go huge on this. I'm really glad to hear that. Well, I guess I'm out of the questions. It was...

...amazing to meet you and talk about you with you, about you and your startup. I will ask if there is any question from our Yeah, you have to use microphone. I'm sorry. Hello. Hello. My name is Ayah and I am um in a similar situation like yours. So thank you for for the share. It's really important and relevant for me to hear it. So I'm probably to two years ago for from your perspective, and I have a question about the business side and in house team that you mentioned. The question is, uh, what's the alternative? So what was your situation in terms of Okay, you decided to outsource, but if you did not go for that path, path, what what's what's the alternative? What were your options? In fact, did you have any any Yes? Of course that's a good question, especially because the development team in the tech industry, you know, if you're developing a software solution is a really really really important, maybe especially in the early stage, the most important part of the product, because based on your quality of your product, you're going to have the audience, and after that you're going into the marketing at sending point. And even though if you have a good marketing and sales team, if you do not have the product, it's going to be for nothing. To get back to the question, yes, you do have options. One of the options is definitely to get a development team for equity, because if you look one year from now for your business, you will say, okay, in order to give the money to my employees two, three or five, five employees, uh nowhere, it is not cheap anywhere in the world. So it is if huge amount of money you can say, okay, I can get money from my pockets, if I can from friends, friends and family, from engine investors, even from this is if the idea is super wow, and they're like, uh, super into that specific area of the market. But you can say like this, okay, guys, are you ready to invest in my product? Here's the idea. Here is the product. If you like it, if you see the potential in it, here is the market potential. Let's do it together. I will give to you or equity for your full time job. But then it's the question how will they finance their regular life or part time at the beginning with some Cliff Westing period or Westing period for all of you like a plan to go fully fully in house, or you can say here is a certain amount of money in order to...

...do it like a part time without getting here in the house and for the equity. But then probably your product is going to be developed not in three or four months, but in a year. So depending on how long time, how much time do you have until going through the market. You can choose all of these options, and they can all be good and they can be wrong, depending on your market, on your idea, or depending on the speed of the market development of in which your businesses and the cost that you need to pay to development team to actually have the product life. Maybe you can have one extraordinary developer who is in love with an idea and he says, okay, I want to certain share of your company and I will do this in two months. While that's great, especially if you have the genius in your team who can do everything alone, because after that, when he gets new developers in the team. He's the lead, he's the cito or the co founder or something like that. Or if not, you can you can here try with the two or three guys or two or three people who are from the I T industry and try all these models that I already had. So you're welcome, and I wish you're really a good luck and I just want to say, really, never give up. Just look in TASE division and you just need to find out the way to make that idea of products, and don't give up. Don't don't sleep, but don't give up. Don't sleep, don't even just start up. So thank you, Alexander. I guess we are out of questions. It was really amazing. Uh this was our first episode of season two. We have season one on YouTube if you didn't know, yes, of course you can watch it YouTube. Uh, so thank you all. I want to use this chance to really recommend my Feet world up. I am using it like two weeks I think now, and I'm really amazed that that is actually first app that I used to exercise to help me exercise, that you have options to actually list your health problems that you may have and it will make trainings in uh to help you with that. So that will be it from us. UH see you next week. Thank you very much. M. Thank you for watching uh WE founder's podcast. My name is Alexa Prontich and I will be co host this season. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. M.

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