🇬🇧 | My Startup Story: David Semerád, Kindest
What is it like to build a startup? We asked the young successful founder about his experience. David Semerád is one of the team of founders of the successful company STRV, now he is launching a new platform Kindest.
Introducing David Semerád. Could you tell us a bit more about yourself and what you were doing before Kindest?
David: In 2004 I founded STRV which is a software engineering and design company that mainly helps startups in the US with digital projects like apps and websites. I was running that company for about 14 years as a CEO and then I switched roles with one of my co-founders, Lubo Smid. He took over as CEO and I put my focus on internal projects. I was working on about 10 projects at that time in order to explore what would be the best space or the most interesting problem to jump into. Kindest was one of those.
Do you remember the first time you thought of the idea for Kindest? What was your vision back then?
David: It is four of us who are the co-founders of Kindest. It’s me, my co-founder Holly, and I took two of my co-founders from STRV, Martin Stava and Pavel Zeifart. The four of us saw a huge problem with donating money in the US. Donors don’t get proper acknowledgement for their donation and they don’t really get any feedback when they donate money. From our experience working with many projects we have done for companies like Tinder, Google and a lot of our competitor startups, we know that the process for the end-user can be much more exciting. That’s what worked on from the start.
What were the first reactions you got from your surroundings about your mission to start this platform?
David: We launched in July 2018. At that point it was still a side project for all of us. On the 4th of July, there was a running race in Pacific Palisades, which is located in Los Angeles, CA. We were trying to convince the people who attended the race to donate to local nonprofits. It was quite successful. Our goal was to get to about a thousand donors on the first launch, and we got to 800 on that day. It was good initial feedback but we realised that the donors really do not perceive the discovery of interesting nonprofits as a problem. People don’t struggle with where to donate their money, but the real problem is that nonprofits don’t have enough money to execute their visions and to communicate with the supporters. That’s why we switched our focus from B2C to B2B. Right now our focus is to help nonprofits raise more money and increase the effectiveness of their communication.
What were your biggest fears when starting out?
David: As I stepped down from the CEO role at STRV, it was hard for me at first. When you are running a team of about 200 people, and then you have no team, it’s a lot of energy from the people that you used to have and now you don’t anymore. So at first I was a little sad, every time when I’d go back to Prague and hang out in the office, it would remind me of what I was doing before. I knew that Kindest will eventually get to a place where I will get the same amount of energy from the people I work with, and throughout those two years we grew to about 20 people and right now I feel pretty much the same. I am surrounded by amazing people who are motivated to achieve something great in the world of online fundraising. I am equally as fulfilled as when I was the CEO of STRV.
Do you remember any mistake you made along the way? What happened?
David: Oh.. I feel like most of the things I do are mistakes.. I mean, I wouldn’t say mistakes at that time, but what usually happens is once you learn about the certain thing that you work on retrospectively, you look at it as something you wouldn’t do again, but at that time you didn’t have that information. So let’s see.. we really struggled with hiring the right Sales reps for our company. We had about 12 people who were hired last year and then were either let go or they left, so it took us quite a while before we built the foundation of our sales team. In terms of marketing, I was scared of running a marketing team because I don’t really know how, and I postponed the decision to actually start investing into marketing up until basically today. And here we are, I am interviewing other founders, asking them about the best approach, and I’m just about to publish some new positions for marketing for Kindest, most likely both in Prague and in the US to see where we will find the best people.
If you were to choose one moment in the history of Kindest you are particularly proud of, what would it be?
David: I would say the first launch was probably the proudest moment, because I knew that the majority of software projects run above time and budgets. We said that we are going to launch on July 4th, 2018 with an app that will work and we’ll get to a thousand donors on the first day. We did launch with an app that worked, for the most part. There were some difficulties with the wifi coverage or cell phone reception at that location, but besides that, it did work. And we didn’t hit our goal of one thousand donors quite exactly, but we got really close. What I liked about it is that we set a goal and we worked really hard towards it. I was actually managing most of that from Bali, where I booked to go and work remotely with my whole family like eight months before that, at which time Kindest didn’t even exist.. so it just coincidentally interfered with the launch. My co-founder Holly was in charge of the launch and the results. Seeing her being able to pull it through is something that I am really proud of to the present moment.
And finally, what advice would you give to all the upcoming entrepreneurs out there?
David: I feel like I am not successful enough yet to give advice to people, but I would say, do not think that you first need to get some experience to be able run a startup, you don’t. I didn’t have any experience, I started when I was 17 in high school and you learn along the way. You don’t need to go to school to be able to manage a team, or sell a product, or build the product. Once you have a problem you can always reach out to people and ask them what they would do. Just today, I was on the phone with Vit Horky, a founder who recently exited Brand embassy, and I was just asking him for help. I told him, “Hey, I am about to build a marketing team for Kindest, what is your experience, anything I can learn from?” He told me his story, gave me some tips, and now he’s going to connect me with some people.. So, you know, there are people who can help you with whatever you want, but the most important thing is that you need to start and you just need to work on a problem, with the team or yourself, but don’t wait for a perfect moment. Seriously, once you get into it, you’ll love it. It’s a rollercoaster in terms of emotions, but it’s very addictive, so join the fun and become an entrepreneur, today not tomorrow.
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Budujeme největší tuzemskou databázi startupů, investorů, investičních fondů, ale i dalších lidí, kteří jsou součástí startupového ekosystému. A propojujeme je spolu.