Nemanja Zunic, founder and CEO at IdeaBuddy tells us about the actualization of business ideas.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Nemanja Zunic: Happy to be healthy and all together! We are coping well, juggling between Zoom calls, online schooling, and evening walks in the park. We were operating remotely for quite a long time. Our team is scattered across the world, so new precautions did not significantly impact our business. We even have several team members that I never met in person. Overall, it’s challenging to maintain professional and personal relationships by working remotely, but it is feasible. The key is to work on the engagement and try to motivate people to build something together.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded IdeaBuddy.
Nemanja Zunic: I’ve been in corporations for 15 years, but I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset so I hustled on the side. About two and a half years ago, while working on one of my pet projects, I was looking for a tool that can help me develop the idea in a structured way, make financial projections and validate the concept. I soon realized there is no such software in the market, and this is how IdeaBuddy was born. I decided to create a business planning tool that will support aspiring entrepreneurs throughout the entire business planning process guides them on their journey from the “AHA!” moment until execution. Building a business from scratch can seem intimidating, so with IdeaBuddy, we make the whole process a lot easier. We developed an all-in-one toolset that educates, guides, and encourages people to bring their business ideas to life.
How does IdeaBuddy innovate?
Nemanja Zunic: IdeaBuddy is an innovative business planning tool, that adapts to the users and the current stage of their idea. We created a brand new business canvas that helps with structuring ideas. Also, we have an innovative business guide covering all the stages from the generation of a business idea until its execution. We are also planning to include a validation element as the final step in the business planning process. The user will complete the test, where the algorithm calculates the idea score and recommends improvements. Also, our users are getting editable idea templates and industry-based guides, depending on the type of business they want to start. That is something you cannot find with other business planning apps. Our goal was to create a product that is easy to use, engaging, and appealing to all generations, regardless of their business background.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Nemanja Zunic: IdeaBuddy had its commercial launch in April 2020, probably the worst possible moment to launch a business planning app. The first year wasn’t easy. In the first place, due to overall uncertainty, people are more cautious about spending and investing. IdeaBuddy is built for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to start a new business, and last year we had a situation that the business plans got frozen until further notice.
On the flip side, everything is now moving to digital, startup incubators and accelerators and going remote, and they are looking for new tools to support their programs, etc. We are happy to see IdeaBuddy growing in the past 12 months despite all difficulties.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Nemanja Zunic: As a startup, we had lots of trials and errors when it comes to staffing, but that’s an ongoing process. I would say that the most important lesson is – you can only have successful cooperation with people who understand our brand values and who share the same vision with you.
It’s not always easy to tell who will be a great addition to your team, so sometimes you need to make hard decisions and let them go. Overall, we had more than 40 people working on IdeaBuddy by this moment.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Nemanja Zunic: The majority of our customers are from the consumer segment, and we are using Intercom in all our CRM activities. It helped us a lot when it comes to customer support, onboarding new customers, etc.
We understood at the very beginning that customer feedback is extremely valuable. Also, we use direct emails and social networks as a way of communicating with our users.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Nemanja Zunic: This year, we’ve been granted a financing package by the Innovation Fund from the Republic of Serbia (supported by the EU funds). These funds mean a lot for us since we are a bootstrapped startup, and we are trying to create a self-sustainable business.
Your final thoughts?
Nemanja Zunic: Running a self-funded startup these days is far from easy. But if you have a dream, you better stick to it and try not to give up. If you keep pushing yourself out of the comfort zone, you will be surprised to discover what you are capable of achieving. I know this might sound like a quote on a coffee mug, but it’s a fact.