We talked to Vladimir Lugovsky about mobile application development and COVID-19.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Vladimir Lugovsky: Relatively good. Our company has been in self-isolation for most of the time. Luckily, we have been able to go on in the remote work mode. Same for my family. I believe that social distancing has significantly contributed to our well-being.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Akveo.
Vladimir Lugovsky: I earned a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science to work for a large software vendor. Still, I always wanted to start something on my own. That’s why I left that company to become a freelancer. The clients I was working for were quite successful and suggested that I find more people to work on their products. Since then, we have started to grow and build Akveo’s products while continuing to do some work for clients.
How does Akveo innovate?
Vladimir Lugovsky: Initially, this was just an amazing idea that came into someone’s mind. We made our decisions based on a person’s ability to prove the idea’s worth to the other members of the team. We got a bit lucky at first, but later on, we realized that this approach wasn’t working most of the time because the team’s excitement does not usually correlate with market needs. So we resorted to brainstorms to generate ideas and GIST to prioritize them. Now we look more precisely at the available data. This approach works better: since we collect more and more data, it helps us make informed decisions.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Vladimir Lugovsky: We have seen a significant decrease in sales of our products, and some clients have reduced our teams that are working on their projects. Still, we were able to stay slightly above zero in terms of our P&L. The thing is that we aren’t pushing hard on our clients to grab an extra dollar. Instead, we’ve tried to find a way to help them because we understand that they’ve been through bad times too. What’s more, we’ve already restored and even extended cooperation with some of them.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Vladimir Lugovsky: Running a business for more than five years means that a founder has surely faced some difficult choices. My main difficulties are mostly about saying goodbye to people who are not performing well. I think that I’m personally responsible for any person we’ve hired, even if that person hasn’t even tried to do a good job. The main lesson I learned is probably that very often, the more you stay in apathy and/or delay while making a decision, the more expensive the solution gets. This is why now I try to find any resolution at the early stages rather than hoping for a miracle.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Akveo in the future?
Vladimir Lugovsky: My hobbies help me. I play football in the amateur league. I study music, read books, etc. But I take work seriously and try to deliver if I’ve promised something, even if this is not possible. This is why a couple of years ago when we had some difficulties with a client that asked for too much, I had a lot of stress. Even my hobbies were not helping me during that time, had problems with sleeping, and was not eating healthy food. At some point, I have understood that my life and health costs more than any money in the world. We still delivered for that client, but now I say “no” to clients more often.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Vladimir Lugovsky: Currently, our main competitors are startups that build no- and low-code tools for building web apps like Bubble, Retool, AppGyver. Our strategy is quite simple: work with our existing and future customers to build a better product based on their feedback. The most important thing is to collect this feedback and motivate users to provide this feedback. And we believe we know how to do that properly.
Your final thoughts?
Vladimir Lugovsky: I try to look at the positive sides of what’s happening in 2020. Despite COVID hit some industries hard, for others, it has opened a window of opportunities. Every crisis is a good time for innovation and startups. For instance, a lot of successful companies started during the Great Recession in 2008, like Airbnb and Slack. The pandemic helped to make a huge step forward in terms of general acceptance of remote work by the management. Besides, it made people all around the world think that the health of their families and their own was the most important thing. We have to remember that when we are pursuing success.