Today we chat with Elena Korolkova, founder of Sponta, and learn about how she overcame the difficulties of being a non-technical founder, looking to build a tech enabled platform.
Elena, also shares her future vision for the company and outlines why they are launching on Sydney’s Northern Beaches first.
Please introduce yourself (any co-founders) and your startup?
My name is Elena Korolkova, my start up is called Sponta – short for Spontaneous Adventures.
Sponta is a platform that allows adventurous individuals to find and book different activities hosted by individuals just like them. If you are into snowboarding, you can go on Sponta and book into snow trips with cool bunch of people who are already going on those trips. Anything from finding a rock climbing buddy to surf trips or hiking outings.
Sponta’s mission is to connect people through their passion for adventure and bring the power back to individuals from corporates.
How did you go from idea, to MVP and launch?
The idea eventuated in May 2016, we looked at incredible community-based economies such as Uber and Airbnb and identified next niche is adventure activities.
We went through offshore design and development, then moving everything back on-shore. This made the process move faster.
Going through the typical entrepreneur mistakes of wanting to release full product instead of MVP and not being tight with deadlines has put significant delays in launching.
However, after multiple rounds of feedback, Sponta has gone through the major leap in the last 2 months and is now ready to launch to customers.
What challenges did you face during this period and how did you overcome them?
Biggest challenge we faced was trying to deliver the full product rather than MVP.
Every entrepreneur faces this in their start up life, it is hard to release a product that is not perfect, we as business owners have to fight our inner self.
However turning to delivering only the necessities has been the best decision we have made. The test – feedback loops has became shorter and faster – Sponta became more agile. Our customer feedback in testing is more and more positive.
Our second biggest mistake was not managing the development company we outsourced our development to. We had assumed that since there was a deadline, we could safely rely on them to deliver the project.
Little did we know…. On the deadline on December 2016 nothing was ready.
We didn’t even have a prototype!
It looked like nothing was built.
At that point I had to step in and start micro managing the project. After 6 months of daily and weekly follow ups, calls, office ambushes we are now finalizing our testing.
Long into development it has became clear that agile start-up approach will not be able to work well with the way our current developer works and their turn around times, we realised we needed fresh blood, fresh thoughts and approach.
The search didn’t take long and we found agile developer who has worked with start-ups and understands short test-feedback-change loop.
This has been the best find we had an is what has let us to speed up the development of the platform and have it finalised in half-MVP state. With the new developer on-board, Sponta is finalising testing and able to go through test-feedback-change loops within hours, where before it would be weeks.
During this journey to build and launch your startup what is one thing you look back on with a sense of achievement?
Doing a leap of faith and trusting our new developer with MVP, fast test-implement-change loops. Changing developers this late into projects is always scary, however I will never look back at that decision.
Offer us one insight, tip, marketing strategy or growth hack that has worked really well for oyu and your startup?
For tech start-ups, finding the developer that understands what you are trying to achieve as well as has worked with agile start ups is the biggest challenge and the best decision.
How is your startup going and what do you aim to achieve in the next 3, 6, 12 months?
We are very new in the market, In the next 3 months we are looking at officially launching to public (we are currently launched to beta testers only) around Sydney Northern Beaches as it is our local market and we have a lot of connections in adventure industry here.
In 6 months our goal is to expand around Sydney, we want to officially launch the Sponta app (just in time for summer in Aus). In 1 year we would have finalised our “template” for expansion, tested this “template” in NSW and started to look for investor that will fund the Aus expansion.