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As a 22-year-old from Mariupol, he is building a business in Finland in partnership with Intel, Microsoft and the community for half a million people
The young Finnish company Eve Tech last year thundered all over the world: the guys created a “collective” computer literally based on the reviews of thousands of real people. The team managed to attract such giants as Intel and Microsoft to investors, and the campaign at the Indiegogo crowdfunding site was the fastest in the history of the site - the target of 75,000 for the Eve V project was collected in the first four minutes, and ended campaign with a result of 1.4 million in the account. However, few people know that the co-founder and CEO of this start-up - 22-year-old Konstantinos Karatsevidis - Ukrainian . AIN.UA talked to him and found out where Eve Tech started, why the tablet is harder to make than an electric car, and how Konstantinos lives in Finland.
About moving from Ukraine to Helsinki and adaptation
I myself from Mariupol, finished school there. But from the very beginning I wanted to study abroad. Scandinavian countries have a very good image in terms of education. And when I thought where I wanted to go to university, I realized that for countries like England, Germany and others, education is more of a business. They do not have such a focus on the quality of education, as in Scandinavia. And I decided to try a less raspiarennuyu, let’s say, the country - Finland.
In fact, it was pretty spontaneous. I was only 17 at the time, and I could hardly make a fully informed decision about the country where I studied, so the decision was rather intuitive. In fact, I am very grateful to my parents, as they encouraged me to study abroad, and also helped and helped in difficult times.
So I went to Finland.
Yes, there were difficulties with the adaptation, and at some point I even thought about going back to Ukraine, but my parents supported me and dissuaded me from it. The main problem was related to the fact that when I arrived here, I did not have friends and social circle, like in Ukraine. I had to start all over again. It also helped that my girlfriend Alisa Nyamukapa - from Ukraine, we accidentally met on the plane, but that’s another story
About the peculiarities of Finnish education
In addition to the focus on quality, another advantage of Finland is the cost of training. It’s free. At least that’s what happened when I did. Now, as far as I know, they are going to make education paid for citizens not from the European Union. But I had to do just one thing - to pass the entrance exams well.
The competition is very large. As far as I know, people from Ukraine often go to universities in England and Germany: firstly, they are more on hearing, and secondly, mostly there universities are paid and it’s easier to get there - the competition is less. In Finland, I was helped by the fact that I was very well prepared. My parents from the childhood prepared me for the fact that I will study for a programmer and enter a foreign university. I went to additional courses in English, and then, in preparation for admission, concentrated specifically on those things that will be asked for in the exam in Finland.
I’ve loved computers since my childhood and understood that I want to be engaged in technology. In addition, I liked to do business - from the age of 12 I began to delve into office work, helped parents with their business. I think I made my choice when I was 15 years old. Therefore, I sought for myself a specialty in which you can combine these two hobbies. In Finland, there are many such faculties: first you study programming, and then how it works directly for business. My specialty in Finnish sounds like haaga helia (business and information technology), that is, business and IT.
The difference between the Finnish educational system and the Ukrainian one is that teachers do not teach here, but send them. In Ukraine, the teacher controls the student right up to the point that he can call his parents and say that their son is not studying well. Often foreigners who come here to study, wait for what they will say, what and how to do. But in Finland there is no fixed schedule: you have a free schedule, and you fill it yourself, choosing items that are of interest to you. There is a small list of compulsory subjects, and everything else is up to you. While studying at the Faculty of Business and IT, I can also study finance and design, for example.
A student in Finland has a lot of freedom, and this is the most difficult, because you need to direct yourself.
Therefore, I think that in Finland there are no such rigid time frames as in Ukrainian universities. The bachelor is given five years here, but if you do not keep up at this time, you will simply be bachelored for a year. And if you do not have time, another year. You can learn, roughly speaking, an unlimited amount of time. I have friends who already work in large companies, but they still do not have a bachelor’s degree.
I graduated from the bachelor, entered the master’s degree and now I’m writing a diploma. But because of the work of time is sorely lacking.
About how Eve-Tech appeared
The story began three years ago, when I was still studying for a bachelor’s degree. I met my cofounder Mike, we began spending a lot of time together, talking on different economic topics, we had common interests. And at some point we decided to try our own business. True, they did not yet know what exactly. At me just business went to training, and in Finland it not necessarily to pass in any companies - it is possible to be engaged in the business. And we decided to try gadgets.
We came up with an unusual device from China and tried to sell it in Europe. Some kind of artifact, roughly speaking. Chosen the Android-tablet - the main task was to test the market and see if there is a demand for noname-brands from China.
They sold on Finnish eBay and realized that there is demand, because Chinese gadgets are much cheaper. But there may be quality problems. Then we decided to create the device on its own, so that it was as high-quality as possible for its value, and sell it exclusively online to get an additional advantage in price.
So we made a tablet Eve T1 . This device is based on Windows 8.1, the main idea of which was to balance the price and quality. With its creation, an interesting story turned out. When we went to China for the very first time, we met our future partner Aaron there at the electronics exhibition, he worked in the gadget industry. We met several times, it turned out that our vision coincides, and he wanted to join us. Thus, our first tablet was financed by me, Mike, Aaron and a large loan from the Finnish bank. At the moment we have already paid it.
We successfully launched T1 in 2014 and sold several thousand devices in a few months. And they got into the press. Then we noticed that in the comments many write how they would like to improve the device. They did not criticize us, they said, it would be cool if you did this or that … Then we came up with the idea of doing a crowd device, that is, when developing, take into account the wishes of the maximum number of users - what kind of display should there be, what kind of battery and so on.
We wanted to create a device from scratch, which can replace the laptop and tablet. In fact, a direct competitor to Microsoft Surface and similar hybrids from Asus, Lenovo and others. To create a feedback, we created a website Eve Community and at first they were very much afraid that there would be no one there. But gradually things started: at first there were 25 visitors, then 30, the figure grew rapidly, and today we have half a million visitors a month on the site.
About partnership with Intel and Microsoft
We did not seek investors specifically, Intel and Microsoft came to us ourselves, thanks to media attention. The very idea of attracting investors I do not like, unlike many start-ups. Because investors can interfere with the project. And we wanted to make devices for consumers, the best of all, that are available on the market. How trivial it does not sound.
With Intel it all started with an ordinary partnership. We used their chips in their T1 tablets, and when they began to write about us actively, they found us and offered to buy the components directly. Then, at one of the events that Intel organized for our clients, we got to know the management and told about our idea of Eve V. They became interested, a dialogue ensued. After six months of negotiations, we agreed that they will help us with financing.
How much Intel is investing in us, I can not disclose, the terms of the deal under the NDA. As I said before, this is a six-figure sum. With Microsoft - the same story. Events that are visited from Intel are also visited from Microsoft, and we communicated with them in parallel.
In fact, we were engaged in shuttle diplomacy: Intel is already investing, how about you, Microsoft? Then they went to Intel: Microsoft is almost invested, but what about you?
Our first T1 project was still a basic one, there was nothing special about it - we just improved what was already on the market. In fact, T1 is a Chinese box with our improvements. The list of improvements is relatively small: a bit more memory, a little better quality motherboard. We tried to maximally improve this tablet on the budget that we had, and these are tens of thousands of dollars - not hundreds, as now.
Eve V is a project from scratch, much more ambitious. Someone from our team is constantly in China. The last month, the four of us, including myself, have spent completely in China to monitor all processes. With testing, we are very much helped by Microsoft and Intel, and we also have a very reliable experienced manufacturing partner who works with many famous electronics brands.
About the team and work with outsourcers
Today, there are 9 people in our core team. The team is very international: there are guys from Greece, Finland, China. I am the only Ukrainian. But we worked with many freelancers from Ukraine, because in reality Ukrainians in the outsourcing market are some of the best.
Many startups make the same mistake: when they attract investments, they immediately start recruiting people, but they can not afford professionals anyway. We went on a different path and involved outsourcing for specific tasks. For example, for video for crowdfinding we attracted the agency, but the design of the campaign was done by ourselves.
Our main competence as a team is the development of the device itself, community work and sales. And as for the design of the campaign for crowdfinding - video, design - we involve the agency. It was justified: if we could rewind and choose again, do everything ourselves or entrust the agency for the same amount, we would again happily do the same. Since the agency we work with is world-class professionals.
We worked with different agencies and the cost of all is different - some have tens of thousands of dollars, and there was one that had hundreds.
About a great success at Indiegogo
We decided to make sure that our small team did not have to organize the store, to ensure that our site could withstand traffic … Indiegogo is already a ready-made pre-order collection platform, great and proven. We did not need to focus on creating our own from scratch, but we could immediately go on to the most important thing: the development of the device and the promotion of sales.
Co-founder of Indiegogo Danae Ringelmann about Eve V: “Crazy cool!”
When we were just running on Indiegogo, we planned to sell a maximum of 500 devices to members of our community. But it turned out that we sold these 500 devices in just a couple of hours, and the amount claimed was collected in general in minutes. It was the fastest campaign on Indiegogo ever.
There was even a time when, due to a huge influx of people, the Indiegogo payment system collapsed, and many people could not make a prepayment - it was canceled and the order did not pass.
Then we introduced another tariff plan - you can make an advance payment of about 30%, and the rest of the money to pay back only later, with spinning. So we sold more than 3000 devices in total, and this is more than the 1.4 million we collected on Indiegogo - in fact we sold devices worth about 2.5 million. Now, with all the pre-orders, for 2017, we plan to sell about 50,000 devices.
The campaign ended on December 28th. Money has already come to us - part on PayPal, part of a bank account. Last month, as I said, we spent a month in China. At the moment the development of the device is already finished, we are finishing work on packaging - we write instructions, etc. But the main thing we are doing is certification, we get it for the EU and the USA. It took a lot of time to test - we need to make sure that everything works at the highest level and the quality of the final product meets the declared standards.
Team Eve Tech at a factory in China
In April, we plan to launch direct sales of Eve V and start developing the next device. It will be something radically new - we want to make a product line.
We have an advantage - a community of people who take part in the creation of these devices, and then they themselves buy them. This is a good start for any project. We can do anything, at least an electric car. As we recently learned, developing a device like Eve V is one of the most difficult tasks.
The difficulty is that it has a very compact form factor - it’s a hybrid of a laptop and a tablet. When you make a car, there is where to turn, and in such a small device even the slightest deviations will be very noticeable. For example, users wanted a powerful battery, but it’s hard to do without damaging the size. I had to sweat.
So we have already passed the most difficult.
About life in Finland
Finland is very different from Ukraine in many respects. Here everything is very calm, measured, it’s easy to focus on work, because nothing much is happening around. There is no constant fuss, corporate culture is as calm as the whole society. The working day in Finland is from 08:30 to 16:00. My friends who work for large companies in Ukraine, a working day often from 09:00 to 21:00.
In Finland, everything is exactly the same as the video about it, if you google it. As in education - do what you want, how much you want … For me, after Ukraine this is the most difficult, because it’s hard to get used to living at such a pace. But, probably, this is my advantage - I am used to living dynamically, and in Finland it is probably easier for Ukrainians to achieve success against the background of general slow-down and calm.
In Finland, most people have some kind of binary thinking - yes or no, the third is not given. And in Ukraine not so, we have many options, depending on which side to go. And this is our advantage.
As for the cost of living, Finland is one of the most expensive countries. The most common one / two-room apartment for rent costs about 800 euros per month. And if something special, then from one and a half thousand. In Finland, most people under 30 rent their accommodation. Many young Ukrainians who already work often live with their parents.
I have a unique situation. As a student, I can use student accommodation. I do not have a room in the hostel, but an ordinary two-room apartment. The hostel is slightly cheaper, from 250 euros per month, and the apartment - 400 euros per month. I chose an apartment, and all my colleagues envy me - they are not students and are forced to rent housing at a market price.
Winter in Finland is similar to the Ukrainian winter. But here it is very late dawn and early dark. But the prices for everything, including food, are very high - especially for fish. A kilogram of fish costs 17 euros. A kilogram of bananas - 1.30 euros. A liter of milk - 1-2 euros, bread, depending on which, starting from 2 euros and above.
About Ukraine and the House
My house is Ukraine. I very often come - once every three months for sure. Even just for the weekend. Fortunately from Helsinki there is a direct and inexpensive flight: two hours, and you’re there.
It’s hard to say where I live. In different countries. At least a third of the time a year I travel. I will say: I have a house in Ukraine, and a base in Finland.
I very often fly to work in China and spend a lot of time there. This is due to the production and the very specifics of the business.
Sales from us also around the world - from Finland we do not have many orders. Basically orders from the States, Germany, Japan. From Ukraine, only one order, from Russia - 30. This is interesting, because the number of visitors from Ukraine was huge. Probably, after the news on AIN.UA.
I want to come to Ukraine, but, unfortunately, I do not want to live. Conditions in Ukraine are now not the best - neither for business, nor for life. In China, the rhythm of life is ten times more intense than in Ukraine. To the States somehow the heart does not lie.
I think the best position is when you can move around the world relatively easily.In this regard, Finland - a good option, because there and to China not far, and to Ukraine, and to the States, in principle. So for me the optimal solution is to base in the country, from which it is easy to get to other countries.
While snooping around the forums
looking for [the-other-chief-who-is-manlier-than-the-orange-chief]'s age I found these too: