Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi folks! My name is Tasos Valtinos and I am the founder of Mapped. I am originally from Greece, but in the last 5 years, I have been moving around a lot. Digital nomad, you know how it is! For those who are not already using it, Mapped is a private chat rooms app for startup rockstars.
We focus on founders from Early-stage to Series A companies. Those are the ones who need us the most. I launched Mapped in June 2020 and since then we jumped to 1,600 founders using it across 12 countries. With no marketing spent.
In a nutshell, with Mapped you talk with great founders in real-time. You dig deeper into topics that will help you boost your startup. You discover secrets inside private rooms. Pretty much - forget about spammy group chats where you get no value.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
My background is in data engineering, UI/UX design, and frontend development (web/mobile). I also have a BSc in Economics & Finance. In the middle of 2019, I was like “OK! Time for me to build my own venture”. I had no connections or any kind of experience with startups so I had to start looking for people to connect with online. And this is where it all started.
I was struggling to get meaningful connections, get relevant answers to my questions, and in general, identify what I should do next. Linkedin, FB groups, or Slack channels, just did not help. Then I spoke with other entrepreneurs, and they said that they have the same problem. And then I talked with a few hundred more and Bingo.
Talk to your users. Do not assume. Research.
Entrepreneurs needed a place to feel safe. To talk about topics that would help them go their ventures further. A place where they understand each other because they all go through similar things. And of course, a place to have a bit more fun.
Of course, like in every validation phase, we got some great feedback and some bad feedback. The good feedback was way stronger. So it felt right to chase the idea. With 1,600 users now in 12 countries, it feels like we are heading in the right direction.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Designing the product, prototyping, and developing, I admit it was one of the hardest processes I have ever completed. So many mistakes due to inexperience but so many things learned. Being prepared for what you are building to not work at first is what you should expect. Everything is about iterations.
I designed the product using Adobe XD and then for development, I used the Flutter framework, where you can build an app that works in both iOS and Android from one codebase. The backend architecture of the app is built on node.js, and I outsourced the backend to a friend of mine.
The startup costs for development were really low because apart from the backend work, all the rest I covered myself. UI/UX, FrontEnd, SQL DB design. So the overall costs for the backend work were around 3,000$. For a fully working mobile app on android & ios, this amount is literally nothing. Apps cost around 15k$ to develop.
When I look 1.5 years back during the design and development process, I just realize how much work was needed to move just one step ahead. If you ask how those days were? Just check this:
Looks complicated. Well, it is. But doable for anyone. I read once that if you manage to launch a product once in a lifetime, you should also put traveling to the moon on your bucket list. Because if you did the first, the second should be easy.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The launching process was hard because we made so many mistakes. Fortunately, we had 100 users in our first week, so we could gather a lot of feedback fast. There were so many bugs! But that’s normal for any new product in the market.
We first launched a private alpha version for 25 users to discover the BIG MISTAKES and fix them fast. Then we moved to a private beta, where we got our first 100 users from the waitlist we had built before the launch. I would say that delivering a more stable version of the app, as a public version, took us around 2-3 months.
Without a waitlist, it would be 10x harder. We, fortunately, built our waitlist during the development process. It also helped us validate the concept while building it in parallel. Risky thing to do, but it worked. We had 600 users registered on our waitlist when we launched which were great. Everyone should do that. Otherwise, it takes a lot of time to get feedback and see what is not working, and iterate. And time is the enemy here :)
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Traffic channels, the most important thing for an early-stage startup or a Series Done. We have focused on that since day one, and when your target audience is founders, extremely busy individuals, and smart people, it is hard to find what works better.
And the answer to this is simple, you need to care and you need to be personalized in everything you do. Which is extremely hard. But that’s what we did.
Direct emailing, and online communities were the way for us to attract users and keep attracting them till now. Paid marketing was not a choice for us due to budget limitations and due to our stage.
Oh and Product Hunt! The promised land for every new product if you make it to the front page. We did 2 successful launches there and our product was voted as #5 Product of the Day amongst thousands of products and that brought in a total of 3,000 unique landing page visitors and 450 new users in the app. Which is great for 0$ spent.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today we are growing steadily but we need to move faster to acquire the necessary market share. We have discovered the channels that work and are now planning for PR marketing campaigns.
Our long term is to make the app accessible to Industry Experts & Investors, as they constantly request access. The vision is to create a more stable ecosystem within one place. Founders can help each other and get exposure. Industry experts will support founders with their expertise and Investors will be scouting for the most promising founders.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Move fast and break things. Learned that the hard way. What I learned is that in the startup journey iterations are what you should be doing. Don't fall in love with your initial idea. Customer needs change constantly and you need to be aware of it. What you launch is not what you will look like 5 years ahead. If you do not iterate you are doing things terribly wrong.
Your users/customers are your sources of truth. Ignore everything else, and focus on them they will tell you what they need, and if they don't tell you their behavior will show it to you. Pay close attention. You work for your customers, not the other way around.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
JIRA - For requirements gathering for code tasks. That tool helps us a lot with sprints.
Slack is the tool we use for team collaboration and has been useful since day one.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Talk to your users. Do not assume. Research. Answer & Implement. Fast.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Just hired a full-stack developer who is working on Mapped full time.
We will be hiring a product designer and another full-stack engineer once we raise funds.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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