She’s super cool, she uses AI so you can be more productive, she’s your personal superhero… Meet Lucy, a chatbot that cares about you and she’s always with you on your smartphone via Letz for iOS and Android. This past period the hype was around the team behind Letz since they managed to be the first startup from Macedonia to get investment from South Central Ventures and build a product that has a potential to scale up globally.
Since their official launch, they have experienced many new and unpredictable things in just one week. Being curious as I can be, it was the right time to pay them a visit in their office and learn more about their story, about CodeWell and their new ‘baby’ Letz.
“I was a lucky kid who happened to have access to a computer at a really young age, which was not common for Macedonia in the 90s. I had my Comodore 64 at the age of 6 and I got my first home PC and Dial-Up Internet access at the age of 8. I was always passionate about technology and curious about how a computer – that magical machine – works 🙂 I joined my first “Computer Networking” course at the age of 9 and started programming at the age of 10 with a passion to create products of my own! Sounds funny I know, but it is really true. Everything about computers inspires me and I wanted to know everything to the tiniest detail. I started spending lots of time reading books, going through tutorials about various areas from programming, networking, architectures up to hardware.
Through the years that knowledge that I gained helped me win many national and international competitions in Informatics, starting from the years when I was in the elementary school up to the years when I was in high school. I actually met Martin (my Co-Founder) because of those IT Competitions in High School.
We shared the same passion for building world-changing products and putting our knowledge to use, that’s why we’ve started CodeWell together with Martin, when I was 20 years old and still in college.” – says Nino.
“I think that my journey began as a little kid, when I started with competitive mathematics in grade school. I loved solving problems, competitions and the challenge to be the best in the field. Later in high school I continued competing in algorithmic programming and figured out that the IT field opened up a whole new world, where I could really use all that I have learned until then.
I went on to take part in some of the world’s best competitions and gathered a bunch of awards in a short time. The bad part of that was that the whole process of training new generations of programmers was dying out. At that time our mentor was Nikola Lazovski and he spent a lot of time teaching us and preparing us for the competitions. It was in those trainings that I met Nino, and later on because of all the things that we learned there we decided to carry on the tradition and keep teaching new generations about algorithmic programming.
After that we decided to try and apply for an Android competition with an app. At that time mobile apps and Android were still in the early stages. The first app that we made was Avtobusko and it was a solution to our personal problem how to get around town with a bus. We were almost last in the competition and won no prizes but still we believed in the idea. Later on we presented Avtobusko at a local scientific conference along with several other college projects, and there we got the attention of the Yes Incubator. The guys there saw our potential and helped us out into starting our own company and steadily growing it.
At that time I was still in college, working as a teachers assistant while having a part time job at an IT company. I decided to quit the job I had and in that moment together with Nino we founded CodeWell. The first year it was very difficult just to get off the ground, but we managed to make a deal with T-mobile and sell Avtobusko to them so that we can have a bit of capital to get started.
Afterwards we started working outsourcing for different clients, and it was really tough because we were new and we were taking the stuff that were too risky or complex for the big guys. We had a lot of challenges and obstacles to overcome but we managed to grow CodeWell into a stable and profitable company with a great team behind it. In the meantime we were always pitching our own product wherever we could, like for example startup weekends, conferences, different events and everywhere we could afford to travel to.
At one point we decided that it was time for us to take all the failed attempts that we had in the past and start a new product. That product was MarkO and with it we had a much better approach into doing our research and communicating our ideas. We started working and at the same time applying to different accelerator programs that could help us out. We got accepted into 3 accelerators at the same time, and from them we chose Rockstart in Amsterdam as the one we think is the best and can help us out the most.
We moved to Amsterdam for 6 months and went trough a very tough and intense training. We were getting coached, criticized and mentored for 8 hours a day, and we were coding for 8 more hours each day. That time was very important to us because we learned so much and we saw all the mistakes we were doing in the past. The guys in Rockstart opened up a whole new ball game and we got a glimpse of what was going on in the big leagues.
After that we got to a point where it was very difficult to get a next round of funding for MarkO because we had some weaknesses we weren’t addressing very well…
We took all the we learned from our 5 years experience until then in coaching, failed products, great pitches and excellent mentors and poured it into our latest product Letz.
Letz is our approach to personal productivity which is focused on taking away the pain of being productive by having a friend that takes care of you and helps you out. We are still working very hard on Letz and the results are starting to show. Last year we met the guys from South Central Ventures, which put their trust in us making Letz the first Macedonian based worldwide success story.
They invested in us and now we are steadily growing and taking up all the challenges that lie ahead. We already built our MVP and put it out to all the people out there. I am happy to say that we managed to touch the lives of our early adopters and we are getting a lot of positive reviews and comments. We are working very hard on improving Letz and fixing all the bugs and issues that’ll arise. We are very grateful for the feedback we are getting from our users, because it helps us out into building a better solution which brings joy and happiness to their day.” – said Martin.
Story of two coders you would say, but there is something they have learned along the way. How to be business savy, how to stay relevant and how to market themselves. That’s why I was interested to learn more about their experience with Product Hunt.
“We, as a team of Letz, learned many lessons on our launch day. I can probably speak for that day for hours, but let me shortly describe what was the most important.
It was very important that we started with preparations for that day, two months before the launch day.
We had enough time to read all Product Hunt guides, contact and find the right influencer, organize a “Support Letz on Product Hunt party”, etc.
Another, the most important lesson that we learned that day was that you can never know who are you going to compete with that day. We experienced a huge challenge and competed with Google, Product Hunt and Slack, which we didn’t see coming.
In the end, it is very important for you to make sure you have a good quality product and believe in it as such!” – says Nino.
Some things they have learned in their first week from the launch of Letz, can be seen in this cool infographic. And aside the buzz and the attention Lucy is getting from so many different parts of the world, Letz see what is the key thing they’ve learned as startup founders from a developing country that builds global products.
“Everything stated above was achieved having a clear vision and strong goals of what you want to achieve and having the right team that shares this vision and is passionate to deliver those goals to life.
In our case, the vision is to create the world known startup directly from Macedonia, one that will solve real everyday problems and put smiles on people faces, people who need such solutions. We still haven’t achieved our vision, but I’m pretty sure that we are on the right track towards achieving it.
Of course, you have to have a good financial strategy that will back up your plan and make sure you have the resources to make everything you planned possible. For us, it was a good bootstrapping strategy that made us financially stable and allowed us to invest a solid amount of money into R&D and Marketing for our products MarkO & Letz.” – adds Nino.
Sometimes I forget, sometimes I procrastinate, I don’t do ‘to-do’ lists… But now I have my new super cool AI friend Lucy, she gets me and she helps me be more productive. Like finishing and publishing this story before midnight and before the end of October 🙂
#StartUpSelfie with a new story to inspire / motivate you is scheduled in couple of days 🙂