One of my favourite films is Blade Runner. In this film, genetically engineered robots called “replicants” are so similar to human beings that they even have their own implanted memories. I felt fascinated by this idea and others similar in Blade Runner, like the unicorn dream. So when I heard about Hiyalife, a website where you can store your memories, I got immediately interested about it. Last week I heard that David Gómez, Hiyalife co-founder, came to my city to give a workshop for entrepreneurs. Therefore, I decided to attend the workshop and it really deserved applause. David told such good advice for start-ups entrepreneurs that I asked him for an interview to share with you.
Startup: HIYALIFE, Madrid, Spain – London, UK
Activity: Hiyalife is a place to collate the stories of your life, beautifully
Entrepreneur: David Gómez. CTO & co-founder at Hiyalife. Industrial Engineer. 4 years working for financing sector companies in London and New York. 6 years as Director of Renta4.com, a Spanish on-line broker company. David is (or has been) also partner or investor in other startups like i-frontdesk, Social Noise, Tooio, Impok and Km77.com.
The other Hiyalife cofounder is Fernando Ripolles, CEO.
Launched: June 2013 6 employees (founders included)
- April 2011: David Gomez and Fernando Ripolles left their jobs to work fulltime in their own project.
- September 2011: Hiyalife trademark
- January 2012: first round of funding
- June 2012: Wayra London (startup incubator)
- February 2013: second round financing
- June 2013: launching Hiyalife
- October 2013: launching Hiyalife for Iphone.
• What is your business model?
We have three ways of monetization:
- Freemium model, where users or communities pay for premium accounts
- E-commerce attached to physical albums coming from stories
- Brands paying for exchanging contents with users / sponsoring stories
• Is your current activity very different from the one you started?
We needed to pivot in a couple of areas, we realised users join Hiyaife for certain motives we didn´t consider so important when we started.
• What do you wish you had known when you started, that you know now?
To be honest, I think the whole trip in a startup is a learning experience. Every project is different.
• What is the biggest mistake that you have made and what have you learned from it?
Rather than mistake, I would say we didn´t give too much importance to mobile applications when we started, and we have learnt mobile phones are key the hard way.
• If you could start over again what would you do differently?
I would give more importance to mobile applications. Also I might start to code a bit later and learn a few things from users first.
• How much financing have you put in and raised to date and from what sources?
• What was the biggest challenge to get investors?
In Europe, in general, and in Spain, in particular, it is rather difficult to convince investors with consumer Internet product, as they are aware these kind of products are audience-based businesses and they need some more financing than other kind of projects.
• What do you consider the most important characteristic of an investor?
There is not the standard “good” investor. Every project needs a different kind of investor, depending on the area they need more expertise, the rest of the trip from that first investing, etc. In the case of Hiyalife, our ideal institutional investor is someone well connected in the international VC scene, and in particular in US.
• What have you learned from raising capital?
We know raising capital is very difficult. You need to be very professional in your documentation, and your approach. And once you have a group of investors backing you, you need to manage the corporate communication well for them to feel part of the trip
• How did you manage to get your first client?
The first user, outside our inner circle, came soon, as soon as we released the beta, but the first brand that used our platform for its corporate memories took a few months.
• What was the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?
Getting users is very difficult, and getting users who are engaged with the platform is even more difficult. Every user counts and that is a day-to-day war.
• What do you enjoy most about your start-up?
You are in the learning mode every single minute. Create – Learn – Create – Learn… it is a very exciting trip
• Where do you imagine your company and yourself in five years?
I´d love Hiyalife to be in the front of people’s minds when they want to organize and enjoy their personal stories. That place where you want to conserve those special moments of your life.
Personally, I see this trip taking us to the USA.
• What advice would you offer to any soon-to-be startup entrepreneur?
Being an entrepreneur may sound like fun, but you need to make sure you want your life to be a rollercoaster ride. If that is the case, the process of making your idea a reality is one of the most amazing things in life.
Thank you very much David for sharing your experience with Passion For Startups. Your story is very useful for those entrepreneurs who start their own business venture. Good luck with Hiyalife!
Hiyalife’ Experience Pill:
Launching a startup is a learning experience: create – learn – create – learn …
It is highly recommended to learn a few things from users before you spend on product development. (This idea is related with the lean startup methodologies, which I wrote in the post “My first lean start-up“).
In many Internet companies, it is necessary to consider that a growing number of users are accessing sites from mobile devices.
Getting users for your new startup is very difficult, and getting users who are engaged with the platform is even more difficult.
Getting capital from investors is very difficult. It is essential a good documentation and approaching potential investors in a professional manner.
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