Interview with Roman Kirigetov, the founder of kabanchik.ua marketplace.
Roman Kirigetov - exCEO & co-founder of marketplace kabanchik.ua, CEO & co-founder of FlashBeats, author of the online course "How to launch a marketplace" at Marketplacers.net.
The project kabanchik.ua is an interesting success story, going from an idea into a real business, and then the main online service for Ukrainians to find people to undertake household and business tasks.
We decided to ask Roman how the idea came about, how it was developed, what stages were involved, insights he gained and fuck ups the founders endured. We also asked him where Roman was looking for a business partner and how he went about it, as well as how the business solved financial issues and conflicts.
How did you get to know your business partner? Were there any situations when you disagreed with each other and how did you solve them?
We met in our second year at university and crossed paths from time to time. We lived in the same room for several years and started to do projects together, working and starting to develop websites. I found clients, while Sasha was engaged in development, then we split the money 50/50. He helped me with the realization of other ideas. When the idea of Kabanchik appeared, I immediately wrote to Sasha. He agreed that it was worth pursuing and from that moment on we were in a fulltime partnership.
We are both rational but very different, I am a romantic and Sasha is pragmatic, so we complement each other. If we were the same, it would be difficult. I sell more and handle the networking and marketing while Sasha takes care of development, design and analytics. Due to the fact that our roles do not overlap, there are no conflicts. In the 13 years that we have been cooperating we have never had any conflicts, and never argued or shouted at each other. If we have different hypotheses, we make a test and the figures decide.
Have the material resources been brought in on a parity basis? If not, how are financial issues resolved. Have you signed a partnership agreement?
When we launched Kabanchik we both put in material investments and of course our own efforts. For all our activities, even if the other partner is not involved in their development, we still split the money. We share all our income and expenses which solves many questions. "You don't want to do this project because it doesn't bring money, and then you go off and do something of your own!" - these are the type of conversations we don't have because we are in the same boat. It is a very convenient arrangement which we have been working with for a long time and we are very satisfied with it. We have not signed a partnership agreement, we trust each other and are even friends outside of work. We have been through a lot together.
Kabanchik is now the most successful household services marketplace. How does it feel to be its creator?
In the beginning we didn't expect at all that this would be the outcome, we just liked this idea and decided to make the project as a hobby. We were working full-time, and in our free time working on this project that later grew into the successful marketplace we have today.
When people use your product, it is the most enjoyable feeling. I often speak at conferences and ask the audience if they have heard of Kabanchik and if they use it. More and more hands are raised each time I ask, this is one of the best indicators that you have created something useful. It is a pleasant feeling.
What is the strangest task you remember having had to undertake in relation to Kabanchik?
There was a time when we made a separate page on the platform to add the most interesting tasks, because people often surprise us with some strange requests. We make a monthly newsletter with interesting tasks which many people subscribe to, even without using Kabanchik. Some of these strange requests were:
- An urgent request for someone to exchange 200 hryvnia for 50 kopecks.
- To create 200 paper planes.
- To create a replica of the chair that was used in the Matrix.
- To age clothes for Halloween zombies.
- To remove a hornet's nest.
Every month we have several dozens of unusual tasks.
Why is Kabanchik trusted?
It is trusted now because we have earnt thatearn trust. When we started, we understood that in services, trust is the cornerstone, and this is where to start, to ensure maximum safety and quality of services. We understood that we needed to verify people and have a system of ratings and reviews. In the beginning it was difficult for us to demand passport data. We were a small startup, so this was all voluntary. There was an opportunity to confirm your profile, and people came to our office to show their passport. As a confirmed profile these people had preferences on the website, they gained higher ratings and received tasks, notifications about new tasks and a mark on their profile that they were verified.
Next, we switched to Skype interviews for verification, and then, when we gained even more users, we made profile verification mandatory.
At the same time, there were strict requirements for profile photography. We could not add photos of actors, animals and the like. Only real photos could be added, so that the face could be clearly visible. These rules keep the customer in mind, because at the very least a person opens the tasker's profile, sees how he or she looks and this is no longer a complete stranger who will come to your home. If you want, you can choose the workers that you think are more attractive. Then we automated the processes, and asked for selfies with documents to speed up the moderation process. We don't store any documents, we delete them immediately, it's all done only to confirm the profile, so a person can't do unprofessional work and then register with another e-mail under another name to continue conning people.. We have a one strike policy at KabanchikWe have a ranking system, where each performer receives ratings from the customer. The rating also depends on the activity and the number of completed orders. Our system will select the best specialist for each task.
At the last stage, we always remain as an arbitrator between customers and executors, and can block any profile, demand that the work be redone or refunded. If the worker refuses, the profile remains blocked, and we refund the money to the customer from the worker’s personal insurance fund. We monitor each job, and even actively call customers who gave low scores and offer them troubleshooting - either to find another contractor or talk to the current contractor to get the job fixed. It's all about reputation, so Kabanchik has become trusted by doing all these things.
You are now more in the mentoring business. Why is that?
I'm not saying I'm mentoring more now, we have a new project, so mentoring only takes so of my time. I'm more of a “player coach”. I like to share my experience as others have done with us.We still talk to the mentors who helped us upskill and we pay it forward to the other guys, now that we have experience in marketing and mobile apps. I even started a marketing course. It's a thrill to help people avoid common pitfalls, to share advice and life hacks with them. Sharing benefits everybody as it helps other guys to create cool stuff.
What advice would you give to new“startuppers”?
First of all, you need a good team of 2-3 people with a variety of expertise. The person who can technically implement the idea is the entrepreneur who will make sure that the idea progresses. It is possible to have a person in the team who is engaged in promotion, such as marketers or designers. The most important thing is the team dynamic. Gete people with whom you can go into battle. You can still do good business with a great team and a bad idea, but with a bad team and a brilliant idea there will only be failure.
You also have to act immediately, because 99% of ideas remain at the idea stage. Many people told me that they had the same idea as me, but when I came up with that idea, I bought the domain and agreed with my future partner Sasha to meet to create this project on that same day. I immediately,acted. Thirdly, go and start communicating with your clients to find out what their problem is, and how they (attempt) to solve it at the moment. Don't talk about your project, talk only about them and their problem in order to get as much information as possible for your future project. I recommend the book "Ask your mother" by Rob Fitzpatrick - a very useful book for understanding how to talk and what questions to ask.
Also, look at large markets, in small markets, even with a very good idea you may not be able to develop it or earn money. You have to go straight to big niches, that’s where the money is.