Welcome back. With us today is Ms. Melissa Savlind, who is the co-founder of Curiooso. Curiooso simplifies the communication between travelers to make their planning hassle-free. Its core is to allow travelers to plan using visual content, without having to message each other. Before Curiooso, Melissa had been working with various companies in the domain of finance and accounting.
Now, request Melissa to add something about her and her current entrepreneurial journey and previous career.
I started getting involved with both startups and financial roles during my university years through internships. After graduating from San Diego State University in 2014 I joined an amazing EdTech startup in Stockholm called Kognity, where I got to develop a lot in terms of financial knowledge and also learn how a well-functioning startup works. That experience has paved the way for where I am today.
How did you build up an entrepreneurial spirit, do you inherit the trait from family or it started with you?
I guess it started with me because no one else in my immediate family is an entrepreneur. As far back as I can remember I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. Even around the time that I was 12 years old during my free-time I used to do some graphic design in exchange for a virtual currency on a social media website. I’m the type of person who likes problem solving and to make things happen in practice. I’m not really afraid of taking risks or failing either, so it felt quite natural to become an entrepreneur.
How did you come up with the idea of Curiooso? What is the current status in terms of achievements, customer acquisition and turnover?
I moved to Barcelona where I got very inspired by the entrepreneurs I met and the large number of startup-related events. Travelling is my biggest passion so naturally I was thinking a lot about what can be improved in this area. I initially had an idea involving travelling in VR and applied to a startup competition with it. There I met the team, Xavi and Pablo, who helped me evolve that idea into what Curiooso is today. We won the startup competition, developed a prototype that we did user testing with and based on that we’ve defined what the product will look like going forward. We are just about to launch our beta, so we are still in the very early stages.
You had a quite good career with good positions in financial management in different companies. Now, you co-founded Curiooso. From a specific domain (finance) job & responsibilities, now you are handling a different set of responsibilities at Curiooso. As an entrepreneur, how were you able to manage the transition?
Not coming from a technical background when launching a business that is technology-based is of course a challenge. There are 3 key ways I’ve been handling the transition.
- Finding a great team of people who compliment my skills. You can’t be successful on your own.
- Be curious and understand all aspects of the business. Since I have a B.A. in International Business I’ve always been keen on the different components of running a business; I quite enjoy contributing to other domains and not only finance.
- Be a fast learner and learn by doing. I’ve obviously had to learn a lot of new skills, which I’ve done through reading books, attending events etc. An example is attending coding classes. You just have to immerse yourself and keep learning.
Struggle follows an Entrepreneur throughout the life. But the initial days of acquiring customers, explaining your idea to customers and investors is almost like hell. How do you keep moving on in spite all of these?
It’s definitely tough to explain the value of a new product in just one sentence to potential customers and investors. Especially when it’s something that people haven’t really heard of. However, I see this tough initial period as something positive; it simply allows you to try and fail until you figure out the best way to sell your product. I think it’s important to process feedback and change as quickly as possible based on it. You have to keep moving and improving and at some point you will reach the point where the process is smoother. I have the mentality to stay optimistic no matter what are the circumstances.
What is the usual mindset you carry as a mantra to be successful?
If you don’t give up, you can’t lose. Basically I believe in resilience. That doesn’t mean you should keep trying to do something that’s not working. I mean that you need to try things, fail, learn, make changes, then try again, and keep repeating this loop over and over again. At some point if you never give up, you are then bound to succeed. I also believe in following your heart. At the end of the day, you need to believe in something with all your heart to be able to stick through the difficult times and feel like you are achieving success.
How important is your website for your business? Not every business runs upon their website or mobile apps. In such cases, what other importance do you think a website or mobile app carry which contributes to a company’s success?
It is extremely important. It’s the first point of contact that gives a complete picture of who we are and what we do. I think this goes for any company that has a web/mobile product. For the ones that don’t run based on their web/mobile apps, if their target market is people who spend time online it’s still important. This is because the internet is our main source of information today, so if you aren’t present there or don’t present yourself well, you are going to lose potential customers. Even if your business is a physical store or something that isn’t running on an online platform. The only case where it wouldn’t be that important is if your target market does not use the internet, which nowadays is a quite limited group of people.
I am always eager to know how an entrepreneur maintains work-life balance. What is your point of view on work-life balance?
My opinion is that your business becomes such a large part of your life that you don’t really distinguish between work and life. So in turn it’s inevitable that you will be doing work during what others may consider after-hours, but this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the other things in life. An example for me is exercising. This has always been a very important part of my life, and as an entrepreneur I also have the flexibility to go and exercise at whatever hour I want as long as I don’t have a meeting. So it doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have time for anything else, it just means it’s all blended together as one life rather than having set hours for work and then set hours for other things. I think it’s important to take breaks from work to keep doing the other things you enjoy. At the end you’ll be more productive like that.
How many members are there in Curiooso? What is the figure in terms people you are trying to achieve in next 3 years? What is your approach in building the next leadership team?
At the moment we’re just 3 people but looking for a 4th person (CTO) to join us. In the next 3 years it depends a lot on how things go, it’s difficult to predict but we’re hoping to grow to 15 people at least. My approach is giving a lot of freedom to people to build a culture where everyone takes initiative on their own. Also it’s important to bring people on board who have the mentality of trying and failing fast, learning and adapting. You have to be open to learning new things and adapting quickly to different situations.
What advice you will give to those who are getting ready for their entrepreneurial journey?
I have two main points of advice.
- Don’t be afraid to fail. If you have an idea that you’ve been thinking about, just do it. You will learn so much and gain a lot of valuable skills. If it doesn’t work out, the worst thing that can happen is that you have to find a new job. If you have invested capital in it, at the end of the day my opinion is that money is something very replaceable, you can generate the same money with a different job. The experience of working on your own project that you believe in with all your heart is not something as easily replicated. Therefore it is more valuable.
- Don’t be a perfectionist or think too much in the early stages, just build and launch things fast. Don’t get caught in the mindset of thinking that things have to be perfect before you release them to the public. They never will be, and every day you wait with launching something to the market is a day you lose valuable feedback.
Curiooso Website: https://www.curiooso.com/