Artyline’s CEO Elena Malyutsina talked about the application that makes digital sketches and full-fledged design prototypes with a piece of paper.
From humanitarian to IT
I got a diploma of engineer on information technology and management in technical systems, BSUIR, Faculty of Information Technology and Management.
But at school, I did not participate in the Olympiads in the hard sciences, but in the subject “Man, Society, State”. We arrived very fast at the last stage of the Olympiad in 11th grade, did not have time to change clothes, and immediately went into the audience with our things.
I had a phone with me, and it vibrated as I received a text message with wishes of good luck. I was disqualified.
And I did not prepare for centralized testing in other subjects, because in case of victory at the olympiad, I could immediately enter without passing tests at the Belarusian State University in the Faculty of International Affairs and study for free.
In general, that’s how I failed. And I have a couple of months left to do somewhere. In two months, I brushed up on mathematics, physics, and the Belarusian language. I passed the CT and entered BSUIR at state expenses. A technical specialty already gave potential growth. And I was not mistaken as IT became popular then.
The new life with UX
Later I realized that I did not like the IT field. And it so happened that at that moment my husband and I went to live in France. He went to graduate school there. I already had two little kids.
It was a stage when I transferred from the technical field to some kind of uncertain; from one country to another; from living for self to living for the family. It was a complete fracture of consciousness.
In France, I got acquainted with the concept of usability. The convenience was built into the very atmosphere of French cities. Then I came across the concept of UX and became an interface design specialist. Then it became clear that I lacked systematicity. I filled the gap in the wonderful UX Mind courses in Minsk.
The most important task of the developer is to understand where the user is now, in what mood he is. Next, you need to give one capacious phrase in this first split second, where the user will understand that in this place his needs will be satisfied. This happens before he starts scrolling somewhere. Immediately some call to action should come, it is a button that will engage users in further viewing of the site.
There are a lot of template sites, but we are increasingly faced with the trend of personalization, so it is important that a person feels that this company has thought about the user and gave what he wants now and here.
I realized that in my work there were a lot of routine operations that would be nice to optimize. And here the technical background worked out. Thus, the idea of Artyline was born, that layouts drawn on paper can be scanned and turned into a digital drawn design layout. Why is there still no tool that does this fast?
If an idea comes to our minds, we usually ponder it and want to visualize it so that the person to whom we explain will understand us. People take up paper and pencil because these are the basic tools for visualizing information.
It’s like with the advent of electronic books everyone thought that paper would be discarded. But it turned out the other way around.
So there are already a lot of computer tools, but we still use paper and a pen.
This especially works on meetings because during normal communication between people it is difficult to implement a computer as well. Immediately there is a defocus of attention. We caught this pattern, transfer it from paper to digital in a beautiful way so that information is not lost.
Artyline began with an idea, with the meetup of Misha Rumyantseau. He talked about how he got into a very cool accelerator and how he communicates with investors.
I began to think that I need to do something with my life.
Then I met a very interesting, wonderful person Dzima Karaleu. He confirmed the theory that we were not born to just work, but to receive and enhance happiness, and to do this not only for ourselves but for all people. The overall degree of happiness will increase. This simple thought made a revolution in my mind.
Then there was an acquaintance with Matthew Hanson, the director of AR direction on Facebook. The guys from MSQRD invited him to Minsk. I talked with him for just a few minutes, and my paradigm was changed again. I understood that I could deploy all this around my activity, around UX. And then the idea of a startup was born.
Next, we went with the team to test our idea for a hackathon. It was rather unusual.
It was necessary to work on the train, to pitch in English to international mentors right in the car, to hear their answers while the conductors were delivering linen and tea.
And the whole car is trying to think and talk about their ideas. It was very fan and difficult. But it was this action that was remembered. Do you want to change the world? Take your ideas and do it right now, right here. Well, we won it. It was an extra boost.
Team. Why are fewer people better?
First, we tested the idea. It was possible to devote less time to this stage, but we needed accurate results, proofs, metrics, numbers. It all took time, and only in February of this year, we had the prototype of the product.
Now there are 2 people on the team. At some point, my very good friend told me: “I know that you want to hire a lot of people now and delegate many points. Maybe you don’t understand it now but you’d better not to ”.
And then a little time passed, and I realized: the longer you can not hire people, the better.
Because there are founders who are motivated as much as possible, and when we hire people, it takes time to explain to them so that they join the team. And you need to understand that a large percentage of these people will leave in a couple of months for various reasons, and you expect the delegated work to be completed. Instead, you lose time.
We immediately set aside 20% on the optional pool. At the first stage, we collaborated with an iOS developer to create an application. He helped us, maybe now he will continue to help. Now we are going to hire someone.
Such important things as marketing and sales must be done by the founders to understand the value of every dollar.
For whom and what problem does Artyline solve?
Artyline was created for interface developers. After the launch, we found that a large number of sketches that were made using our application are not even interfaces, but drawn on the user flow sideboard, the customer journey map. It was all those paper artifacts that remain after design sprints and team discussions.
We saw the problem but solved it in the wrong market. It turned out that linear designers, in principle, have already created several templates that they use. They are created by the company brand lines. And we should not be tough to infiltrate there. It is better to refine some points, trying to help product managers solve the problem of the lack of tools for translating drawn plates, diagrams, etc. into numbers as quickly as possible.
There is a problem when many ideas remain on paper when discussing a team.
These ideas are not realized, not because they are irrelevant, but because there is no special person who will deal with this transfer to the digital layout. To prevent this, you can use our tool.
When we were looking for designers, we estimated the market at 18 million people. If to count the market in money, then more than $2.5 billion a year is spent on developing this entire story. The market is growing, especially in the USA.
If we are talking about product managers, then we need to go to B2B, not to sell our tool to people, but to integrate it with several companies, with those tools that product managers already use. Thus, this story is more beneficial to us from a material point of view.
Our competitor is UIZard, which raised $ 2.8 million. They are cool, they have been making their product somewhere for three years now.
The key question is how we differ in positioning: they are trying to make the product “sketch into code.” So did Microsoft before. They emphasize that they immediately give the code for this layout. We have the main focus on the pictures. We can give the code, but our trick in the other is the visual layout of the screen.
A funny moment was when we went to Product Hunt in August and, of course, went to the UIZard page to see what they wrote.
And Product Hunt CEO Rayan Hoover wrote in the comments to them that they were cool but their user case was not quite ok.
Such a project will not be able to find its market, because developers do not like to delve into someone else’s code. And you’d better not to force them to do it.
And it seemed to me that the same thing would be said to us, but about designers and product managers. But instead, he liked and upvoted us. This positioning matters.
Also, UIZard took over the main developer from Scetch to Code from Microsoft and then attracted funding. We can say that the assessment was based on the fact that they took this person to themselves.
Everything is built on those people that you have in your team.
How to get into Product Hunt?
We got into the top 5 weeks of Product Hunt, we were the fourth.
Initially, everyone is advised to find a hunter. It is a person who visits the site, clicks on the “add project” button, enters data on the project and publishes it. This project will appear on the Product Hunt page. Then people come in during the day and click “support” if they like any of the list of products.
Of course, you can be a hunter yourself, but if it is already a more famous person, then your audience will receive a notification that today this significant person has hanted a new product. This is usually how it works. People begin to learn about you, and you get new acquaintances.
This community is very well-versed guys who can immediately give you feedback.
We did not pay the hunter, he has a service on which you can leave information about yourself, and he will post it. You could still leave $5 for coffee by clicking on the link so that he would drink coffee at the right time.
But in fact, the work begins long before you found the hunter.
Our task was to search for leads, i.e. people who can become our potential customers. Before the release, I added to the community of different countries, to the international global communities of UX and product managers, and tried to conduct certain activity there. I wrote articles, posted interesting links, received feedback from readers, and created an information field.
So on day X, I wrote to everyone that today we will launch our product, look, maybe it will be useful to you.
And it worked like a wow.
Here is another controversial point. Product Hunt was created for an objective assessment of society, but all the same, everyone writes to their friends and ask for support. This is necessary so that when daylight starts in America, leaders are more likely to pay attention to your project.
Also, we left a link in the comments, talked about what elements we can recognize, and posted a couple of sheets convenient for prototyping. This also worked because people went to our website to download the gift kit. You could also leave your address so that we send other GIFs for prototyping every month. And these were high-quality, unpaid addresses.
Over people 700 came, there were a lot of video views, about 3 thousand. We saw how people rummaged our links, someone wrote well about us in the community, someone — bad. Reddit, for example, wrote about us itself.
The task was completed, I would even say it was exceeded. We scored leads, people downloaded our application, began to recognize their sketches, so we gathered a quality dataset.
We do not spend money on marketing. But we constantly see what they write about us. Over the past week, 50% of the traffic came from prototypr.io. There, people write articles about prototyping. We did not deal with classical advertising.
Initially, I recklessly spent $ 40 on advertising on Twitter.
It was a bad option, there was no traffic from there. Anyway, it works many times better when you build some kind of community and then present your product.
Development and investment
In April, we participated in Venture Day. And it so happened that we won it. The prize was a trip to the United States together with investors, such a study tour. Thus, we looked at it all from the investors' points of view. This helped to understand how to build a proposal for the funds.
Now we went to our TechMinsk accelerator. By the way, its main value is people whom the guys bring as mentors. Recently, the product manager of booking.com Alexander Kazakov came to us.
People and close connections are the most valuable. Often it is impossible to open some doors, someone must press the handles.
We have investments from a Belarusian business angel.
We often lived on the edge, it seemed that it we were going to fail. So we learned to value every dollar. A common story is to take a lot of money, gain a lot of people, give a lot of shares, and then to fail and say that it didn’t work out. We decided not to risk it and go as long as possible with minimal investment.
There is an interesting point with the evaluation of our startup: in Belarus, it will be $ 2 million, but overseas we talk about $ 20 million.
We do not know how to sell. And you have to be marketers. This is a completely different mentality. Belarusians are very insecure.
The startup brought incomes, but now we are positioning ourselves, we will have a completely different application, and while the new target audience still does not bring money. We are ending the investments that we received in May and plan to raise funding.
There are 900 installations now and there is always some kind of activity. Something works without our participation. The number of people who have used our product at least once exceeds 1,000.
Our application has a limited number of elements that it can recognize. When we have a well-flying product, then we will need to engage in attracting active users. After all, this can even technologically harm the client. Maybe this is Belarusian modesty again.
Finding your people is important
You need to surround yourself with the best people who are superior to you in different areas, to communicate with them. This is the most important life hack.
I found 3 mentors for myself. They are like diamonds. And after meeting them I bring out something new, they push me to the right thought.
My husband was the first such diamond for me. He can say for sure: “This is nonsense, you are telling stupidly. Come on, you’re going to fix it and try again. Convince me to be interested. ” It is a kind of co-evolution, we improve each other during breakfasts.
The second was Dzima Karaleu. He simply believes that everyone can be wonderful. There was such a case: I was telling something to Misha Rumyantsau, and he comes up and just says: “I heard your idea here. And I have a friend, a silicone startup founder, I’ll bring you together. ” At that time, I had a break in the template: well, was it really possible?
The third person is Vasya from Storyline. This person is just able to listen to you. And he speaks his opinion as it is. We are all running, that’s fine. But when there is a person who can calmly talk, although he is busier than you, hold on to that person!