First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Francisco Azevedo Coutinho: Luckily, we are fine. I’m only 25 years old, and I don’t have any children, so that’s already a relief (I don’t have that kind of worry in the context we live in). I live with my girlfriend, and we are both working, thank god. I have my startup, and she has a job in a digital events company. At the beginning of the pandemic, when the restrictions were really tight, it was a little difficult to manage the whole situation because everything was new and different, but after a little time, things started to feel better because of the government support.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Wikinight.
Francisco Azevedo Coutinho: I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was little.
When I was 12 years old, I organized several arraiais (it’s an annual party here in Portugal that celebrates what we call Santos Populares) at my house. I asked my friends to help me manage the “event,” and I paid them to compensate for their effort. We served sandwiches, and I even got to have a live singer to entertain the people (it was a girl from my class, she sang very well). There was one time where there were 200 people in my backyard for the party, all with paid entries (nothing special, it was like 1 or 2€).
Besides these parties, there were a lot more projects in my childhood: one time, I had a garage sale with things that I had in the house for all the people in my neighborhood. The day before, I went in the streets and put signs on the way to my house; I also sold school books one time in 4th grade. At the time, the books were really boring, so I made copies with little drawings and images on all the pages and started to sell them to my friends for 1 or 2€. The teacher was not happy, and my mom was called to the school, so the business didn’t last very long. These “jobs” were very helpful because I started to gain some money to buy the things that I wanted for myself or other projects without asking my parents.
My project at the moment is Wikinight. When I had the idea, I really liked it and saw that it had a looooot of potential, so I decided to invest in it. I created a new concept for the brand and the app and transformed it into a helpful tool: for the people that like to go out or have a drink at night decide what’s the best option in town; for the clubs and bars to have a whole back office that’s very useful for them.
How does Wikinight innovate?
Francisco Azevedo Coutinho: I am a very proactive person, and I’m always thinking ahead, so when things started to get worse, I started to think of solutions to stay in active business.
Right now, we are adapting Wikinight to the future context – the reopening of bars and clubs. With that in mind, we created a series of new options for the users: our software will be able to say how many people are inside the clubs – with that, we can show the people if the space is full or if they can still enter; we will give the opportunity to the users to register online on the guest list and then it will create a QR Code that will be the ticket, to reduce the physical touch. After the confirmation of the code, our software is going to send a message with all the safety information of space/event; we improved the MBWay option to promote payments without physical touch and physical money exchanges.
Also, with the resources of Wikinight, and while it’s on standby, I opened a digital marketing agency because that’s an area that will never die (for now). It’s going well, and it gives me something to rely on while the pandemic is still bad. It also helps me to gain extra knowledge and new connections. I think that knowledge and experience are never enough, so I like to collect them.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Francisco Azevedo Coutinho: The pandemic was not the best happening to our company because the “nightlife businesses” were the first closing and probably will be the last reopening. Since we depend a lot on the night events and clubs, it wasn’t good for us. However, the extra time the pandemic gave us is very useful for having new ideas and innovating the business.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Francisco Azevedo Coutinho: Yes. The most difficult choice I had to make was to reduce expenses. However, that was not that bad because I learned that we could have the same return with less expenses, which is really, really nice.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Francisco Azevedo Coutinho: I like to do sports to take my mind off the real world. Right now, I’m playing tennis three times a week, which helps me reduce stress and anxiety at the same time that it keeps me healthy.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Francisco Azevedo Coutinho: Our rivals are big global platforms specialized in events. Despite these companies having a very big base of customers, I think our advantage is the fact that we like to have a direct, friendly, and interactive relationship with the users. With that, we can create close and personalized contact with our public with the aim of improving the app and making it the most useful it can be.
Your final thoughts?
Francisco Azevedo Coutinho: I think we should choose to look at this pandemic from a positive point of view. Of course, it was a very tragic happening (it still is) for the people, for the companies, for the economy, for the world, but it was also a learning experience. It brought a lot of eye openings not only related to money and work but also related to family and time. Covid helped us gain more antibodies for life expectancy and allowed us to develop new coping mechanisms. We should see this time as an added value in our personal growth.
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