2022 for a Ukrainian startup: thoughts, insights, conclusions.
- Andrii Romasiun
2022 was probably the most significant and horrific year of this millennium: we've seen inflation rising, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, COVID issues, and many startups shutting down (e.g. FTX, Kite, Modsy and many more) and certainly, it wasn't really the best time for us too.
This will not be a serious "business article", instead I want to share with you my thoughts about Swetrix, the story of the project, tell you about our team and share some insights.
For people who are new to this blog: Swetrix is a privacy-focused and fully cookieless web analytics service. We are something similar to Google Analytics, but unlike them, we are transparent, privacy-friendly and much easier to use.
- The introduction / How it all started.
- War and its impact on Swetrix.
- What we are working on and our plans for the future.
- The conclusions and lessons learnt.
The introduction / How it all started.I've always been curious about entrepreneurship: there's something fascinating building on your own company from scratch, seeing it going live, and interacting with the customers, there's a kind of charisma to it. At that time, I had been watching lots of tv-series like Silicon Valley, and reading lots of startup-related content on Reddit - I had lots of motivation, just needed an idea to start working on.
So it all started as a side project in March 2021, when I launched a small website related to my other side project. I needed somehow to track how people are interacting with this website, how long they stay and so on, and I could either use Google Analytics for that or try other services which didn't provide me with the functionality that I wanted at all. So I decided to create such a service on my own.
About one month later, give or take, there was a working PoC with a minimal set of features:The first working Proof-of-Concept version of Swetrix
It was a crappy website written with Bootstrap, I had no idea what I was doing, but this train took off and couldn't be stopped. So a few months later and after a few total refactorings of Swetrix - it was ready to go live. I'm buying a domain name and setting up hosting and on August 17, 2021, the project was up and running.
Aaaaand that's it. I posted about Swetrix on a few subreddits, and got it listed on some websites like Betalist - it resulted in a few pageviews and 0 sign-ups. No one cared. The processes of launching startups in real life and launching startups in films are different, and they are different in a bad way. It was a lesson I learnt the hard way, but it was a valuable experience.
Fast forward the next 6 months I was adding new features, occasionally getting some sign-ups and that's it. Until I met my best friend Yehor Dremliuha. It is a guy who knows how to talk to people, has lots of useful connections and he is a programmer himself. He introduced me to my other best friend Maksim Mrug and all of us got working on this project. It was a completely new experience, something similar to what I romanticised after watching some TV series about start-ups and reading articles about them. We worked like hell, releasing a lot of new functionality, each new release bringing a lot of satisfaction and motivation to keep working. At that time we already had around 50 users, which doesn't seem like such a big number today, but at the time, even a little recognition gave us the urge to keep working.
At that time we were becoming more serious about the project: we started managing tasks via a Kanban board, set up the deadlines for each ticket, started collecting the feedback of users, participated in some start-up accelerator programs like Pioneer (I wouldn't say it was a great success, but participating in such accelerators is quite a fun experience which can even bring some potential customers to your business), got a new person (Yevhenii Kulisidi) joining our team.
War and its impact on Swetrix.February 24, 2022 - Russia launches a totally unjustified and unfair full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The country is in total chaos, air-raid sirens screamed, rockets flew overhead, and people were massively leaving the city, every minute there was news from all over the country that something had exploded somewhere, some city had been captured by the Russians. It was the most frightening and life-changing time not only for us but for every Ukrainian. Work on the project was suspended for a few months, there was no desire or strength to do anything at that time.
Ukrainian servicemen walk by a damaged vehicle, at the site of a fighting with Russian troops, after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 26, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
Time passed and people started returning to their former lives little by little. We also tried to keep working on the project occasionally. The whole world was and is helping Ukraine a lot; someone even bought a paid subscription to Swetrix in April. We are very grateful to every person who helps Ukraine, whether it's humanitarian aid, donations to the AFU or even a news tweet - every support is critical and without it, the situation would be drastically different.
Step by step we continued working on Swetrix and started adding more features. For example, during that period we released interactive maps to see the traffic country origins, shared projects functionality, custom time period picker, and 2FA, worked a lot on the browser extensions. We also got some more people involved in the project. These are the people who might not have a lot of experience but they are highly motivated and are working hard as hell. Currently, our team consists of more than 10 people: we are the developers, designers and testers.
At that time we started working more on marketing and getting more recognition and even got interviewed by a local startup news outlet Ucluster. The original article is written un Ukrainian, but here is a Google translated link for you.
The guy on the upper-left corner is Yurii Nikitenko, he is a marketing manager and joined our team at the beginning of summer and brought lots of game-changing ideas to the company.
He brought an idea to create the marketplace with fully customisable extensions, to redesign the website, add session duration and goals functionality.
After redesigning the website and relaunching Swetrix on Producthunt, we hit 127 users which was a huge upgrade compared to what we had at the beginning of the year.
After the redesign, we started rushing lots of new features. We have improved the integrations with other services, drastically improved the charts and added several custom metrics there, added session duration tracking, performance monitoring, custom alerts and Telegram integration and much more! We also launched a changelog page where we publish updates we do on Swetrix.
Overall, we finished 2022 with:
- 310 registered users.
- 305 connected websites.
- 500,000 tracked events.
What we are working on and our plans for the future.We've done some refactoring to our working process and now all of the tickets on our roadmap are divided by the quarterly milestones. That means that Swetrix will become more stable in terms of development as there are clearly assigned deadlines for the tasks, which would make releasing new features more predictable.
In terms of development, in the nearest future we aim to:
- a total redesign and restructuring of our documentation page. Our docs page is simple enough, but the problem is that while the developers may understand it, it's quite hard for regular people who just want to install some analytics on their blogs. So we want to split the documentation into different categories and well-describe all of the functionality there.
- making APIs public and available to people. Currently, you can only use Swetrix when visiting swetrix.com or self-hosting it yourself. We want to make our APIs available by API keys, which would make it much easier to integrate Swetrix into other services or platforms (for example, you'd be able to use our API to inject some data directly from Swetrix into your website's admin panel).
- stability and performance improvements. While evolving quickly, we also aim to be a stable & trustworthy service, that's why we will refactor & test all of our code to make sure there are no bugs hidden there.
In 2023 overall we also want to release a new service called Swetrix Ads. This is a service, where people would be able to buy contextual ads and website owners would be able to integrate the ads snippet into their websites and earn money. All this will be strictly optional, privacy-focused and open source as well.
In terms of marketing, we will be focusing more on the company blog, publishing our articles and insights into various platforms like Reddit, and Twitter. We made a post about ourselves on Reddit recently and have received lots of upvotes and good feedback. There is a demand for a service like that, it's just a matter of letting people know that Swetrix exists. We aim to finish 2023 with 1000 users signed up on our platform.
The conclusions and lessons learnt.
- Building a startup is a challenging process. Be prepared for setbacks and do not get discouraged if you are not getting enough recognition amongst people. You will, eventually. Don't give up and believe in your idea.
- It is very important to have a strong team behind you. It's very hard to work alone, you won't have time to do development, marketing, communication with users and so on. When you do business with a partner, it's easier both mentally and physically.
- Be prepared for the impact of external events on your business. You never know what may happen in future: a war, a pandemic, or anything. You have to be prepared for that, you have to be prepared that there may be a decline in customers of your business.
Thank you for reading this, check out our website if you need some web analytics for your project. We will always value your and your users' privacy.