Kris

Krzysztof Marszałek

rst-it.com

Can you say in one sentence what Superplus startup is about and what it does?

Superplas ok

Stian, Katrine and Kim

Superplus

We started Superplus with a single mission: to improve the lives of children with special needs.

by Krzysztof Marszałek — 20 MAY 2016

Can you briefly explain how you arrived at the current stage? How did your startup evolve?

Superplas ok

SK

Superplus

Our focus from the beginning has been to find new and playful ways to help children with special needs gain mastery and confidence in their everyday lives. We focused early on children who are unable to communicate verbally with the world around them and worked together with children, parents and teachers in finding what their true needs and problems were. From this we made our first prototypes ran extensive user tests and finally launched in the US market in the summer of 2015.

We chose the US market as our first market in order to be a global player from the start and reach the users in need of our solution at the largest possible scale from day one.

We started off approaching the market through a B2C and online marketing approach but soon learned that the decision for what tools the children use lies very much with the school system and professionals around the child. We have since switched to a more traditional B2B sales strategy in order to get our product into the hands of the children that can benefit from it.

Do you use any online tools while managing Superplus? Could you please name a few?

Superplas ok

SK

Superplus

We follow quite typical set of tools for startups these days. A combination of different online tools that let us collaborate easily, automate our tasks as much as possible whilst still keeping our costs down.

For our daily work and collaboration we use Google Apps/Docs for mail and documents, Asana for task, project management and even bug tracking. For communication and chat we use Slack.

For support we use a combination of Helpshift and our own internally developed user administration tools.

On the tech side we use Parse.com as a server platform, although we will be trasitioning as they are deprecating their service. Github for source control.

To manage our business and track our KPIs we use a combination of MixPanel, Google Analytics and Geckoboard to show the vital stats in real time to our team.

What made you assume there is a space for a product like yours on the market?

Superplas ok

SK

Superplus

The idea for our product was born from two of the co-founders. One is a parent of a child with autism and a researcher on autism, the other is a special needs teacher who had worked with children with a wide variety of challenges and diagnoses. From their experience working in the field they had seen and heard some of the challenges the children faced with today's solutions.

With that in mind we look at the other solutions available and wanted to approach the problem with a more playful and consumer-like experience than was currently out there. The other two founders background in gaming was a nice complement to the more scientific skill set of the other funds.

Together it feels like we managed to mix the best of both worlds in forming our direction and design philosophy.

So far our approach is resonating well with our audience and gives us a unique positioning in the market.

How would you describe Norwegian startup scene? What are the biggest chances and risks?

Superplas ok

SK

Superplus

The Norwegian startup scene is really growing up quickly. The amount of startups and funding going into startups, both private and public, has grown significantly over the last few years. We can also see that the types and scales of startups is reaching a internationally competitive level. Especially within ed- and med-tech Norway has taken a good position globally with companies like Kahoot! leading the charge.

Norway has a very strong public funding system that helps startups in the crucial early phase of ideation and product/market fit making it easier for startups to get through the first phases in proving out the viability of their business.

We are also lucky in Norway to have a positive and helpful startup community where people are well connected and have everyone's best interest in mind in order for everyone to have a greater chance of succeeding in the global marketplace.

One of the biggest challenges, I think for any startup community, is the ability to recruit the best talent in order to execute with their strategy. With hubs like London and Berlin having a very big talent pool we in Norway have to think a bit more creatively about how we recruit and attract the best talent. Good thing we have a combination of a friendly and supportive society to live in and beautiful nature to recharge your batteries in :)

Who is your biggest competitor?

Superplas ok

SK

Superplus

There are several others that are trying to solve the same problem we are, the field of alternative and augmentative communication has been around for quite a while. However their approaches are quite different and our value offering stands out based on our unique approach as described earlier.

Are there any books on startups that you've read and would recommend?

Superplas ok

SK

Superplus

We try to stay on top of most of the current thinking related to everything from work processes, financing, market and business development. There are so many great resources online through blogs and discussion groups. What we spend the most time reading now is actually research literature related to children with special needs so that we can as much as possible both empathise with our user's situation and ensure we are basing our design and decisions on factual findings from research.

Did you get inspired by other startups which in your opinion are built in the right way? Can you name them?

Superplas ok

SK

Superplus

Kahoot is a big inspiration for us, in the way they have taken a very playful and friendly approach to enable children to take part in education and learn in a completely new way. Following on from that they have a great way of communicating and empowering their users to take front and center in the success of their company and product. We’ve tried to pick up as many tricks from them as possible in how they are shaping their company and the community around it.

What are the main challenges - other than fundraising - of a startup founder before launching the product?

Superplas ok

SK

Superplus

We would highlight two things, both cliches but equally important none the less. Firstly the ability to stay focused on a very clear value proposition and relentlessly testing and adapting both product and market approach until there is a fit. It is so easy to stray aside from the core vision or value you can offer that it is important to be able to stay focused and execute on the most focused strategy possible.

Secondly ensuring that marketing and sales are developed with and as high, over even higher, priority than the product itself. So often the focus shifts to the product and features, rather than working on the distribution and user growth.

The magic happens in the intersection between the user and the product, building a loyal and eganged audience is key.

How does your business model look like?

Superplas ok

SK

Superplus

We have a subscription model with flexible pricing based on the length of the subscription. Given that we are shifting to more volume based sales through B2B channels we are building up our own sales team that will provide yearly or multi-year licenses to school districts in the US.

What factors did you take into consideration while deciding on the technology for Superplus? Did anybody help you with that?

Superplas ok

SK

Superplus

We wanted to reach multiple mobile platforms with a single technology and at the same time have a technology platform we were familiar with. We also wanted to have a backend we could scale up easily as our audience grew.

We ended up using Adobe Air for our client side technology, making it very easy to publish to both iOS and Android and also work rapidly in a visual user experience driven way.

For our backed we chose Parse.com for its simplicity of use and ease of scalability.  

Do you have an investor? If yes, at what stage did you start talking to an investor and why?

Superplas ok

SK

Superplus

Yes we have 3 private investors and have received a series of public grants. We started talking to investors during the early prototype phases and received investment before launching our product.

We were very lucky to get investors who both believe in our long term mission and are able to complement our skills in board positions with solid business and financial advice.

What do you wish you'd known when you became CEO?

Superplas ok

SK

Superplus

Running a startup is a constant learning experience. Both when it comes to the business itself, but also your own personality and approach to problem solving. Having an open mind, being flexible, building a strong team with a great culture whilst striking the right balance of holding on to your vision and still remaining humble is challenging.

I am lucky to have a great team, mentors and advisors around me to make sure I can stay focused, motivated and sane throughout the rollercoaster of building our company.

What are your plans for the next 6 months?

Superplas ok

SK

Superplus

Our biggest objective is to become break even in the US market within the next 6 months. We are ramping up our sales effort and continually developing our product based on the needs and feedback from the market.

This year is a crucial year for us to achieve growth in the US and get ready to enter further markets globally.

Can you convince the reader to start using Superplus in 2 sentences?

Superplas ok

SK

Superplus

Imagine not being able to communicate with the world around you, not being able to tell your family that you love them. With SuperSpeak that all changes, we give you the voice you never had!

Thank you for the interview guys!

Comments