We talked to Sergei Bykhovets on how you can make free calls, send text messages, photos, your geolocation, and contacts from your notebook with the UAround mobile app for iOS and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Sergei Bykhovets: Thank you for your interest. My family, like many people, faced COVID-19. We got sick – recovered without any major complications. Thanks to our young age and good health. Yet, as they say, medical specialists – the disease is difficult mainly to the elderly people.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded UAround.
Sergei Bykhovets: I was born in Moscow (Russia), and from childhood, I was fond of computers. I remember how happy I was when my father gave me a 286 computer. It was a powerful computer in 1990, but today the simplest smartphone of $ 20 is more powerful and more productive than such a computer! There were no mobile phones in my childhood, but over time I watched how smartphones conquered the market and computers faded into the background. And already, as a child, I realized that there are great prospects behind the software for smartphones. After leaving school, I entered the university. After receiving the first law degree, I decided to get a second higher education in the specialty
“Marketing”, while Russia was moving into a market economy and marketing was in great demand. Companies produced a product but did not know how to properly present it to the end consumer.
Over time, our smartphones became more powerful, and such applications for sending short messages as: (WhatsApp, Skype, Viber) and dating applications such as (Mamba, Mylove, Badoo) began to appear. I, like the rest of the youth, actively used these services. But there was a problem, each application was somehow inconvenient, or some functionality was missing. Inspired by the success story of a Belarusian developer who created Viber and sold it a year later to an Israeli company for 900 million dollars, I gathered a team of like-minded developers and in 2015 began to create my own messenger – a social network for dating UAround (abbreviated You are around).
How does UAround innovate?
Sergei Bykhovets: The idea behind our product was to combine the most requested functions from dating apps into a full-fledged messenger like WhatsApp. In total, we received a full-fledged messenger with functions to search for users not only by phone number but also by age, gender, city, which is nearby. We were one of the first messengers to add the ability to create and administer their own thematic group for each user. We have implemented an audio-video call in our application half a year earlier than WhatsApp did.
In the process of developing our messenger, our team carried out parallel projects, one of them being a corporate secure messenger for a bank. During the implementation of this project, we developed and implemented data encryption equal to a 15360-bit RSA key in the messenger. This feature would be implemented in a dating app for free. Now in our applications, it is not only interesting to get to know each other, but also to communicate safely.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Sergei Bykhovets: Of course, the coronavirus pandemic has made adjustments to the work of our office. Since the beginning of 2020, “work from home” has become a mandatory measure (for everyone whose position, in principle, implies this), interviews have also turned into video communication. Startups are generally flexible, but nevertheless, with the transition to remote work at the beginning, the KPIs (key performance indicators) of developers dropped. I had to look for and implement software products for the remote setting of work tasks and their acceptance. Such software products were found this: Bitrix24 and Atlassian Jira. After the correct implementation of these software products in our work, the KPI was again restored to the level of work in the office.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Sergei Bykhovets: Changing the principle of office robots to “work from home”, of course, was a difficult decision, there are many work problems, and a stop to finalizing the application would eventually affect users and further in the churn of customers from the application and the loss of a part of monetization. In general, there was no choice, and we did it! I do not regret this decision, the KPI has recovered, and the office maintenance costs have decreased. For now, we continue to work remotely, although in our country, the restrictions on “work from home” have now been lifted.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Sergei Bykhovets: It should be noted that the coronavirus pandemic has brought us a positive trend. The number of downloads of our applications has increased significantly. Monetization has increased. People are on self-isolation, but I want to communicate!! We did not miss this opportunity, and in addition to our first UAround Dating product, we have released a series of new Venom Dating apps for Android. In OS iOS, we have released the iBabe application for beautiful girls. As a result, by the beginning of 2021, there are 21 mobile applications in our case.
In the current situation, it has become a little easier for us to compete with our major competitors like Badoo, Tinder, Mamba, etc., although, of course, due to a lack of funding for advertising, we cannot yet match our competitors in the main indicators.
We are not upset and just keep working to improve our services!
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