My name is Dmitriy Lukin, I am a serial entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience in hardware development, management, and product launches.
I started my journey as a developer when I was enrolled in university, and after receiving a Bachelor's degree in System Analysis in 2009, I founded a company to develop computer solutions. The startup became notorious for creating a unified car auction database in the United States.
In 2011, I was the head of an online music store, and, in 2013, when the company went through a rebranding, I became the CIO of the company. Under my leadership, the firm launched a product that became one of the largest stock image search engines, being widely used by designers and creators from 120 countries.
In addition to this, I was responsible for launching a photo bank and an online content distribution service. Later on, I became the growth hacking team leader at a major marketplace, which helped me gain valuable experience in managing a marketplace as a product.
In 2016, I created the prototype for Qubiot, the world's first universal infrared remote for decentralized smart homes. The idea for the product came to me during a business trip, when my wife called me late at night because she couldn't turn on the lights using the smart house’s system. After finding out that the smart home’s main control panel was broken, I decided to create a decentralized smart home to be able to control every device directly and independently.
Together with my team, I designed and implemented the whole original IT infrastructure, organized the remote production, and went from idea to realization. The project’s software development process consists of three main parts: unit firmware, cloud infrastructure, and mobile applications.
First, we made the initial firmware version in C++ for the ESP32 MCU. Then we realized that we should allow users to manage devices from different parts of the world, so we started developing a cloud ecosystem, even though we have a privacy-focused system. At the same time, we were developing a mobile application. Initially, the mobile application was written on the Xamarin.Forms platform, but after testing, we realized that it wasn’t user friendly and created a new one, which is functioning today.
Now, we’re in the process of rewriting the application to native languages, as we see them as having a much higher working potential and efficiency compared to our current one.
The Qubiot prototype has been tested on real Kickstarter users, and today’s remote is the result of ongoing improvements based on user feedback received over the past seven years.
As a developer and hardware expert, I leveraged my product-testing experience to create an original software that combines all integration protocols and can control any of the currently existing smart home systems.
Today I am the founder and CEO of Qubiot, the world's first universal infrared remote for decentralized smart homes, which provides users with direct control over all of their devices.
I am focused on the emerging smart home devices market, which is currently valued at $80 billion.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Qubiot is the world's first universal infrared remote for decentralized smart homes, which provides users with direct control over all of their devices. I am mainly focused on the emerging smart home devices market, which is currently valued at $80 billion.
Before Qubiot in 2011, I was the head of an online music store, and, in 2013, when the company went through a rebranding, I became the CIO of the company. Under my leadership, the firm launched a product that became one of the largest stock image search engines, being widely used by designers and creators from 120 countries. In addition to this, I was responsible for launching a photo bank and an online content distribution service.
The idea for the product came to me during a business trip, when my wife called me late at night because she couldn't turn on the lights using the smart house’s system. After finding out that the smart home’s main control panel was broken, I decided to create a decentralized smart home remote, one that allowed me to control every device directly and independently.
Together with my team which I hired based on mutual interest in the industry, I designed and implemented the whole original IT infrastructure, organized the remote production, and went from idea to realization.
Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.
When we initially started this product, we thought that everything would be fast and simple. As it turned out, we were wrong.
The main problem was in the body of the product. We tried casting it in silicone, but the cost of doing so for only one remote turned out to be very high. Then we began to look at mass production, and fortunately, we found an excellent contractor who still casts our hulls.
Another difficult challenge we faced was finding the right material for the device’s black cover. We needed a type of material that IR rays could pass seamlessly through, but at the same time, the material needed to be strong enough and suitable for our partner's equipment.
After several months of trial and error, we were finally able to find the right material after testing the product and reaching the results we had envisioned from day one.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Initially, it was the typical story of a business starting out in our garage. We packed the first versions of the device by hand, and we didn’t even have any branded boxes, so we packed the devices in beautiful gift boxes from the nearest store.
Over time, demand increased, and friends and family began testing our product and then they referred us to other members in their circle slowly we began to enter new markets, each of them came with certain requirements - from the need for certification to packaging parameters, so we began to engage third parties in Europe in our production process.
So, step by step, our production process changed and our business grew.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Our main source of traffic and sales is our loyal users who are satisfied with what we have to offer. We have tried to advertise and raise awareness about our product, but still, our main flow of customers comes from our community which we built to be over 5,000 people throughout Eastern Europe.
Users who are happy with our product recommend us and encourage others to try us out, and in this way, a virtuous circle is formed.
It's important that before trying to build a sales machine, you build a community around your idea and your product first.
Our main goal is to create genuinely useful devices that people will use. This defines our marketing strategy. Instead of trying to "push" products onto customers, we strive to be helpful to those customers that our products are designed for.
For example, year after year, we develop a community around our product and answer their questions. This is a way of staying close to our customers. Typically, when people buy a device, and something goes wrong, they are forced to write letters to the manufacturer, and they rarely receive a prompt response. We took the opposite approach.
Since we started, we called every customer and gathered feedback, and we discovered that this process works for us. Because of this, our customers see not just a faceless brand, but a company whose CEO can, with their consent, call a customer and help resolve any issues.
To promote our campaign on Kickstarter for the smart remote LOOKin Remote2, we prepared texts that explained how the technology works clearly and transparently. This strategy resulted in both upvotes and increased traffic and led to the successful launch of our first Kickstarter campaign.
In this screenshot, you can see spikes in analytics after each article was released, and the same happened when we launched the PR campaign and shared news with journalists.
So, we're not just manufacturing devices; we are a part of the community, albeit from the manufacturer's perspective.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
At the moment we have two separate projects - the IoT platform LOOKin.ai and our own devices under the Qubiot brand. The platform is growing, We already have one manufacturer using the platform and before the end of the year, there will be more devices that will work on the platform.
The Qubiot brand is also growing, and this year, at least two devices will see the light of day under this brand. We don't disclose sales figures, but our monthly sales have grown year-over-year by a factor of 1.8.
One of them is the smart remote control Qubiot Remote Pro, for which we are about to launch a Kickstarter campaign. We have ambitious plans, and at the same time, we have a team that is ready to implement them.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Doing business is always exciting and interesting. And when you do what you love, it doesn’t feel like work, it feels more like a hobby.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use AWS EC2 in our work, it is an excellent scalable hosting platform that always helps us. As for the tools, we rely on products from JetBrains, which allow us to make first-class software.
For task management, we use ClickUp, and for internal team communication, we primarily use Discord, with occasional use of Telegram.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Something that spoke to me was Steve Jobs’ famous commencement speech at Stanford University, especially the part about connecting the dots.
As he said, indeed, we never know how something we are doing now or learning about now will help us in the future. We just need to trust that it will and that we are doing it for a reason. Then, we will be able to connect the dots backward.
So, this speech is something that I resort to every time I need to learn something new or tackle a difficult challenge. It helps me to remind myself that there is a reason for this and that sometimes, it will all make sense. It gives me the motivation to keep going.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
I think it's important that before trying to build a sales machine, you build a community around your idea and your product first.
This will help you to better understand the needs of your potential customers and to make a great product based on the feedback you receive, which will then be much easier to sell.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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