It all started with many questions and uncertainties. I met Nikolay and Ivan from Lookaround several times and they wanted to set up their development and post-production in Puzl CowOrKing. Having to set up new joiners for the first time, Nick and Ivan were trying to make everything perfect for the start and to make everyone feel comfortable at their new ‘home’. A few months later, I decided to catch up with the team and give you some insights about Lookaround and what’s happening with them.
Hey, folks, you’ve been here with us for a few months and we’ve seen Viola App transfer to Lookaround. Could you please tell us more about your app, how did you come up with the idea and how it’s helping people explore new cities?
We are building Lookaround - a next-generation mobile travel guide that employs the first in the world travel vlog and marketplace using 360/VR content. Our team is very passionate about travel and new technologies. Thus, it was very logical for us to start a project in the travel sector where we use 360/VR content, which is the most immersive and newest type of media content out there. We help people explore the city they are visiting by providing them with a new way to get inspired and book new experiences in that city. And we already proved that when people watch a 360 video of a certain activity, they are 3x more likely to purchase a ticket to that activity compared to watching a regular picture which is the current industry standard.
Could you please share a few details about the team members and their background? I’m curious to know how you guys met. Part of the team is working in Germany and part of it is in our Space – how do you guys collaborate and why did you decide to work from two different locations?
We are 3 founders - 2 Bulgarians and 1 Swiss. Nikolay and Ivan have known each other for quite some time, while Nick and Marc met during an event at hub:raum in 2014 and since then they shared a common passion in building their own venture. Indeed, we have 2 teams. The development and post-production team is based in Sofia, while the business and operations team is based in Berlin. While it is logical to have a team for development and post-production in Sofia because of the great talent and relatively low costs, we preferred to base our business team in Berlin in order to be closer to our first target market. And it is not that difficult to collaborate and coordinate together. We use all the available tools out there and we have regular meetings to discuss progress and plans.
When did you first stat working on the app and how did you fund it?
We started developing the app in late 2015/early 2016. We were bootstrapping for almost 12 months when we got our first angel investment of 150K EUR. We are now raising a second round of 250K EUR that we hope we are going to close by mid-May. We already got a commit of 125K EUR from a large German travel holding company and its venture arm.
What is the most challenging thing that you find in starting this project?
The most challenging thing happens to be the most instrumental for the success of a startup. In our case, that was getting the right people on board. This doesn’t only mean to get someone with the right skillset, but also someone that shares the same passion about the product and is happy to do the same personal sacrifices to make it all happen. If you get that wrong, you will need a long time to recover from this mistake.
I know that part of the team is working in Germany in a coworking space and part of the team is working in Puzl CowOrKing. What do you like about coworking spaces? What type of differences do you find in the shared offices in these countries?
We love being based at coworking spaces as this allows us to be working alongside other motivated entrepreneurs and digital natives. Most importantly, it feels like a small yet strong community that tries to provide support for each other considering how tough it is to build a tech startup from scratch. On several occasions, we were fortunate to get support from other people working in one of these coworking spaces - sometimes we even got services for free or for very cheap. We think the main difference between Sofia and Berlin is that in Sofia you can get before you give, whereas in Berlin that is difficult. We guess this is because the Sofia ecosystem is younger and thus startups feel more urged to help so that this ecosystem develops.
What type of support you’re hoping to find here? How do you think you could help the community?
We are first-time entrepreneurs and as such, we lack experience, thus we always try to network with founders that are further down the road. As VR technology and content is very new and not many startups do that in Sofia or Berlin, we aim to provide hands-on knowledge and insightful data from our experience on this topic.
I know that you’re organising a VR event soon. Tell us more about the event and this initiative.
That’s correct. We are organising an event that talks about the potential of VR in the travel sector providing real-time examples from the airline, hotel, and in-destination experiences industries, while also describing our solution. We will also showcase the latest VR technology and equipment by Samsung where people will be able to test their 360 camera and VR headset.
The VR event is set on April 26. Check the details here and come over to meet the Lookaround team and to test the VR technology and meet personally the awesome team!
Petya is the Chief Navigator of Puzl CowOrKing. With the spirit of a teenager, she deals equally swift with both management issues and snowy mountain slopes.