Startup Spotlight: Moveo Activate

Feb 26, 2018

Startup Spotlight: Moveo Activate

Feb 26, 2018

Meet Andrej Strojin – Founder and CEO of Moveo Activate, an augmented reality Educational platform that engages children’s bodies and minds.

GH: What is Moveo Activate?

Moveo Activate is an Augmented Reality Educational platform that engages children’s bodies and minds. You can check out our first product: The Auggies. We get kids outside with a goal of  improving their physical and learning activity. We engage kids through various educational challenges for which we partner up with child publishing companies where we take their existing books (print or digital) and transform them into AR experience – which is engaging for kids and generate better learning outcomes.

GH: What was your Eureka moment: how did Moveo Activate get started?

The idea came  4  years ago when I was doing  Ironman competitions and wanted to spendactive time with my 2 kids. I noticed that they were more excited to play video games than go for a bike ride or a walk with me, which started to worry me as parent. (I noticed the same problem with other kids). At that time, I was developing a loyalty program where we were using an iBeacon sensor to reward people if they came to specific points, so I connected the dots and tried a similar approach with my kids – it worked like a charm! After a year, I decided to start my own company and that’s how Moveo Activate got started.

GH: How did you build/ are you thinking about building your team?

I started to build my team with my best friend who has taken on the role of CTO. We then hired our first 2 developers. I had a good network of people in marketing and managed to get them quickly on board and started with customer discovery and brand-building. We then went into the ABC Accelerator back in Slovenia after 2 months of incorporation which gave us visibility and the ability to to attract the best talent to join us on our journey.

Since then, we have grown into a team of 9 people, moved our headquarters to Boston, and setup our operations in the Bay Area. Working on both coasts is great for us because we are able to work with extraordinary people at MIT Media Lab like David Rose, people at MIT Game Lab and great advisors in Boston and the Bay Area, including one of our greatest assets, Jonathan Grover.

GH: What is your company philosophy driving your company culture?

Our vision is to use (non-intrusive) technology that activates people so they can live a healthy and active life through fun and engaging challenges. That’s why we employ people who understand the importance of a resilient mind and share our passion to be on the move . Our philosophy is if you train your mind to be physically active, everything else will be easier.

GH: Startup life is full of failures and ‘make it work’ moments – can you identify how you bounced back from one of yours?

About 6 months after founding the company, we had developed our first good MVP, been successful at a demo day, had our first satisfied client and an eager team that wanted to conquer the world BUT we were aware that we could ran out of money soon so all hopes were on finding an investor. Then it happened: no concrete follow ups and our only client wasn’t fast enough to continue with product development – so after 4 months, we ran out of money, and lost the majority of the team members.
At that point, I connected with advisors (founders from my network that went through this already) who helped me to rebuild the team, further develop the product, find new clients and close the seed round with investors. It was tough because when things are low, you start to doubt about problem you are solving, the product and more importantly about yourself. My takeaway was that you have to be strong believer in your vision and pursue it no matter the obstacles. Eventually you will find the people that share your vision and want to build the company with you.

GH: What did you learn from your first customers?

Don’t build the product until you understand the customer’s pain and willingness to pay. You can spend very little money on an MVP, which is enough to demonstrate to clients your value proposition and then define the product with them and persuade them to pay for the development. If they are not willing to pay, then the problem is not big enough for you to make a serious business out of.

GH: What has the Boston ecosystem provided you?

Boston has the best universities and people are always willing to help (but you need to be prepared and know what you want from the meetings). We started our journey in Boston at the start of 2016, moved to Silicon Valley in September 2017 and recently moved back to Boston and joined the LearnLaunch Campus.  LearnLaunch turned out to be very beneficial for us as we now have access to all the major publishers, educators,  schools and investors. We will continue to work with  investors on the West coast, but the important thing for us is to be close to our clients. We also have strong support from the US State department from which we received the Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders fellowship what opened many doors for us in the US and Europe.

GH: What has the Boston ecosystem lacking form your perspective?

Generally speaking, Boston lacks pre-seed investors that would be willing to take on greater risk at the start of the venture. But, since Boston is the hub for education and publishing, we see a lot of investors in Boston that can help us through connections and other resources besides investment.

GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?

‘You know your business better than anyone else’ – this is the best (but in the moment felt like the worst) piece of advice. When receiving feedback and input from others you must listen and consider all of it, but you can’t act on everything that everyone else suggests. You have to trust yourself, your research, your vision, and pick and choose what ideas to pursue. It felt like the worst piece of advice in the moment because sometimes you just want to be told what the best or the correct thing to do is – truth is, no one really knows!

GH: What was the best thing that happened to you last year?

In the last year, we have made a major pivot where we moved away from the hardware components and launched our new MVP product using only AR  technology (Apple ARKit and Google Cloud Vision machine learning API). This enables us to scale much faster and has opened us up to new markets that substantially improved our revenue model. We also received great feedback from our users, partners and investors.

GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?

If an investor wants you to do extra work (specific data, talk with the specific  team members, …) that will take substantial time to prepare, then you need to ask if they would be serious to invest if you provide them with that data – you would be surprised with their honest response.

GH: What does the future hold for Moveo Activate?

We are in talks with big children’s publishing companies, entertainment companies, sport teams and sporting goods brands who want to  use our platform to create unique AR experiences for their customers. We expect to close our first contracts in Q2 2018 and rollout our first products by the end of 2018.

 

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