Always start with an MVP. Don’t spend all your time in creating a dream product. This never pays off because users like feeling like a part of the evolution of a product. Also, we’ve learned that you should always aim for speed over perfection. Perfection is a subjective matter and in most cases what you think is great for you may not be reciprocal on the other end.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Colina and Hripsime Demirdjian, female twins in their twenties from Sydney, Australia who co-founded the globally popular app, Moji Edit. Just before graduating law school, the twins decided to build and launch a tech start-up to chase their dreams. From finishing each other’s sentences to completing matching law degrees, it was only natural to start a tech company together. Despite having no tech background, they decided to take the risk, learn on the way and step up for the challenge. After officially launching Moji Edit in July 2016 as a beta version, the application gained half a million downloads in the first month and is growing rapidly. Colina and Hripsime see themselves as young role models who can inspire, encourage and empower others, especially young women to enter the tech space and show that with strong determination, perseverance and passion, young entrepreneurs can turn their vision into a reality. The twins have been talked about on Business Insider, Daily Mail, Startup Smart, Smart Company, ABC Radio, Today Show and recently invited as keynote speakers at Apple Sydney Store to discuss their steps to build a tech-startup.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
At the time we decided to explore tech as a career path, we were both studying law. We recall coming out of a long lecture and a group of us all chatting about what we all wanted to do after graduating and the different opportunities we wanted seek including travel. Hearing what our peers had set to do, we felt extremely fuzzy about whether we could foresee ourselves pursuing law as a profession. Being creative and forward thinking individuals, we knew our 20s would be the greatest years of our life and taking the safe route would give us a good life but would not feed our entreprenual DNA. One of our greatest traits we had acquired over the years was our ability to engage and acquire audiences across several social media accounts to over 1 million followers with our own curated content.
We rarely spoke about our passion to our parents or friends because none of our peers would understand what we were doing. One of our acccount listings was based on an emoji theme and from that account we started testing how the furture of emoji would look like. Being part of the online generation, we saw the app space holding great opportunity to fuse our passions for tech, creativity and social growth. At the time, the app space was at its peak with Apple also planning to launch their brand new iMessage store. The idea of creating an app (despite having no tech background) sounded like something exciting and yet challenging enough for us to be motivated about it. That was really the first time we started looking into the tech lens as a creator as opposed to a consumer.
Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
As one would expect, our journey to success was one that come along with a fair amount of sacrifice. In our early days, the hardest part was maintaining our high distinction average across our studies during semester. We were staying up at crazy hours of the day, giving up any kind of social life we had, stopping our extracurricular commitments and focusing every free second on our app. A lot of false excuses were made to our family and friends to not do certain things, simply because we had zero time to spare if we wanted to deliver the app in time for the US summer break. We knew that this would be our window of opportunity to launch the app and get thousands of people to try it. We assumed that they would have more time to play on their phone during this time and would be back on social media after the stressful exam period to vent and chill out. Social media was our conversion funnel and thus everything we did was completely tailored to help set us for success on the day of launch.
It was the summer break of 2016 that really allowed us to focus on Moji Edit completely. We remember on the first day of vacation, creating a SurveyMonkey questionnaire asking our followers what they thought about our emojis. In just under 24 hours, we had generated close to 5,000 interested users from a single post who were willing to participate in our social experiment of defining the personal emoji and what that would look like. At the end of the first week, we had just under a 50,000 email list. The initial interest was beyond expected. We decided to build the app and continue learning more about the space. This was the greatest learning experience yet we faced some set backs and challenges.
While we were creating an online buzz around the app, development of the app was taking longer than expected. There were also some other set backs coming from the art side which only exacerbated the problem further. We faced some challenges in keeping everyone who we had told about our app that the app would be expected, as promised. Some people started thinking that the app was not real and that there could not be an app that allowed you to create your own emoji. The idea for them did not sound real enough for it to exist. We had to get creative and re-strategize. We decided to focus on our core audience who liked the original idea hoping that they would turn into our brand advocates telling their friends to create their emoji once they had created one themselves.
With our daring attitude and dedication, the launch or our app Moji Edit was successful with the app trending on the App Store and climbing upwards globally in the top free app charts. In two weeks we had over 300,000 people downloading our app and now entertain on average 50,000 new users per day and are the biggest competitor in the personalized emoji avatar market.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Our drive to continue even during the hard times was plainly because of our passion for the project and to see it succeed. Being a first-time product creator, we were completely committed to our project and never gave up when things got hard. Passing the initial challenges such as the risk of balancing our law studies, validating the need against the market and creating an app were the greatest reasons to continue.
The support of each other and keeping morale high in the hard times helped us stick it out and defeat the odds. Starting this journey together and having someone as passionate and determined as the other has helped us get through the tough days. We are immensely grateful to have started something so special together that we can build for the long-term.
In addition to supporting each other, we would try to take daily walks to help inspire creativity before starting the day. In that time, we would discuss goals and what results we wanted to see before the end of the day. By no means did things always go our way. But doing this helped us reflect and regain the focus we may have lost during our daily routines (at times which may have been repetitive).
So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?
We are firm believers that hard work is never wasted. Even if you do not see things come to fruition immediately, it is that consistency at the same thing (despite several failed attempts) we believe led to our success. Looking back, the initial hard work we had put in understanding the market, learning more about the opportunity and involving our existing audience to help guide the development of our brand and emoji aesthetics has definitely helped us create loyalty and trust beyond any price tag. We now have over 40,000 Instagram followers with engagement on those posts driving new people to also download our app and eventually follow our brand. With posts getting as high as 60,000 likes and hundreds of comments, our community focus has helped us make big strides in the avatar space.
And how are things going today with the company?
Recently, we launched the full version of Moji Edit which allows users to generate their own personal emoji stickers and gifs. Our library of personalized content has grown to one thousand scenes and infinite possibilities allowing for real-time stickers to appear to our users as things blow up on the internet. Over the coming weeks, users can also expect to see partnered content both for our avatar customization tools and sticker content.
On this update alone, we have doubled daily usage numbers with 50,000 new users downloading Moji Edit every single day and are now seeing a seeing a spike of 80,000 daily new users creating their personal emoji using our platform. This user growth has well positioned us as the greatest competitor to Snap’s Bitmoji in a short 1.5 months and allowed us stay at the forefront of the avatar space, providing us first-hand insights of the future of communication on the virtual web.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In the early days, one of the funniest mistakes that we made was telling people to download our app from the iTunes Store instead of the the App Store. Thankfully, we’ve never made that mistake ever since!
What do you think makes your company stand out?
What is unique about about our company is that we are leading personalized experiences online and offline as well as helping restore emotion and our sense of expression that is most often lost when communicating in the virtual environments.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Our tips to help you thrive in the tech space are:
· Always start with an MVP. Don’t spend all your time in creating a dream product. This never pays off because users like feeling a part of the evolution of a product. Also, we’ve learned that you should always aim for speed over perfection. Perfection is a subjective matter and in most cases what you think is great for you may not be reciprocal on the other end.
· Stay flexible. With emerging trends always occurring in the tech space, it is important to stay open to adapting to new things and seeking opportunities even if they don’t naturally appear to work well with your idea. It is your ability to adapt your product and align them with market trends that will create your market appeal.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
Much of our success is a direct result from our users. We would not be where we are today without their continued support, feedback and positivity about our app Moji Edit.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
In our early days, we reached out to Make-A-Wish foundation and we were grateful to create a sticker pack in which proceeds from sales would be donated to their cause. We have ever since yearned to do more to fundraise for various initiatives.
By sharing our story, we also hope we can help inspire more female entrepreneurs to enter the tech space and help shape the future of how we interact with technology.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If we had the opportunity to start a movement, it would definitely be something that fosters social change and helps combat a social issue such as homelessness. We would love to be a part of helping people better their lives.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
We’re active on social media mostly on Instagram and Twitter @demirdjiantwins. If you’re starting your own project or just want to say hi, please don’t hestiate to send us a message.