For anyone who has ever found themselves watching too many YouTube videos, or endlessly scrolling through Twitter, Y-Productive might be for you.
Davis Baer: What’s your background, and what are you building now?
Kyrylo Taranenko: I joined the Y-Productive team at the early stage as the “all-the-things-marketing” guy. We quickly found the common language and I ended up jumping on board as the co-founder. Best thing that happened in my life — besides having my son born, of course :D
Before Y-Productive, I worked at TemplateMonster — they make website templates in a large volume. I worked in the affiliate marketing team: collaborated with bloggers, managed giveaways, promoted special projects like the Certification Center. Thanks to connecting with people who make their living off writing valuable content, I learned a bit of everything in a digital world: SEO, content marketing, branding — you name it. Most importantly, I learned to communicate my message in a very short form and deliver value in a first place. I bet everyone who tried to promote their own project knows that writing an email that people will actually read (and answer too!) is almost an art nowadays.
Won’t dive too deep into my past, but there is one important milestone that changed my attitude toward work completely. Before TemplateMonster and Y-Productive, being a student, I worked in a local political newspaper, earned an equivalent of $50 per month. I had to combine university and work, and had no weekends (even on Christmas). When I couldn’t join my family for a Christmas dinner, it stroke me with an insight that my time costs a lot more — and I quit. Learned a valuable lesson for the whole life: our time is priceless, so there is no excuse for lowballing it while working for someone. I think it played a huge role in me deciding to become my own boss and join Y-Productive.
How did you guys come up with the idea for Y-Productive?
The idea of the app belongs to Alex, the co-founder of Y-Productive. We have an article that describes how he got the concept of it. In short, he had a productivity burnout, trying to achieve the best results on his work. He is an entrepreneur, a husband and a father of a 2-year old son, so his income heavily relates to what he actually achieves through the day rather than hours spent at the computer.
At Y-Productive, we believe that companies like Facebook or YouTube, messengers or fun sites put too much of a technological pressure to distract people from their activities. Practically everything wants your attention, and usually we don’t have enough willpower to constantly resist it. Think of the features made with huge budgets and meant to suck you in (yes, I am looking to you, Facebook’s news feed and YouTube’s suggested videos). Even useful articles can be a distraction when read not in the right moment. By the way, how many of you’re reading this article in the time intended to do some work? :D
See, this is what I mean. We decided that it is better to fight technology with technology and created Y-Productive, to help people improve productivity and control the distractions.
How did you get your first few users?
Back in the early days, we got our first paying users through Facebook ads. Yeah, that simple. The whole point was not to earn money but to get the proof-of-concept for the app’s idea. We bootstrap the development to be able to listen to our users, and so we did back then, speaking to the freelancers, website owners, web designers and all the people who understood the price of their time. We arranged calls, conducted interviews and UI/UX tests — we still do, by the way.
Even earlier, we attended local forums such as Lviv Freelance Forum and spoke with people, discussed the idea of personal productivity management app and if they would use it. It helped us to get started with the concept, but we still needed to acquire paying customers, so we paid for the ads.
I think there is no need to tell, how different is the importance of the feedback gained from a bypasser, compared to the feedback from the paying customer? :)
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome?
When you bootstrap the development, every challenge is the biggest until you overcome it. We gathered as a team of 6. All of us are like-minded people who can spend their time actually building the app instead of arguing on details or (God forbid!) boardroom rows. This challenge required a bit of luck, and luck is very important when starting a business.
Every day, we found the motivation to move forward, especially in the early stage, when our future was uncertain and we didn’t know if Y-Productive will survive. How did we manage it? We have the goal of helping people in a certain way. Helping people who are like us, struggling to live better live by doing a better job with minimum time spent on bullshit like scrolling news feed or constantly switching between tasks. It’s not a promotional thing. Having a goal that serves as the North Star actually helps to find your way in the dark.
Step by step, we moved from an MVP to a beta and from the beta to a successful launch — constantly gathering feedback from our users and deciding what we can implement considering our resources. It required persistence and patience. For us, it was just doing our thing, every day, hoping for the best and putting the best efforts in what we’re good at.
At this point, hearing from our users helped to keep our spirit, because nearly everyone was telling how Y-Productive helps to concentrate right away and how people became better and better in completing their tasks using the app. Kudos to Peter Taylor, Nathaniel Blackburn, Michal Stechly and Andriy Kolesnik for being our first users, first customers and for all that fantastic feedback and support they provided and still provide for us.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Learn to calculate and measure the consequence of your decisions. It will help you to minimize the possible negative outcome and improve the chances of positive. Help your luck to help you, by working on good opportunities. Hence, never be afraid to take a step forward, then another one. Slowly moving forward is better than if you do nothing. I’ll not share growth hacks, SEO tactics, and other bullshit because if something works for one, it will not necessarily work for you. Experimentation and flexibility to adjust is the key. We ourselves are yet to discover the best advice and to prove it with experience, so I prefer learning instead of teaching at this point myself.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
For the whole team, it is the book “Your Brain at Work” by David Rock. In plain language, it explains how our brain treats challenges at work and provides advice on how to use this knowledge to your advantage. I and Alex are the fans of how the Intercom team treats marketing. Their e-books on topic are straight to the point, with valuable insight on how they started up and what they learned by experience — a golden mine of advice on marketing, onboarding, engaging with customer and so on. I also shared what books were important for me to build myself as a person and a marketer in an interview with Cristina Chipurici, the CEO of TheCEOLibrary. It is a great resource to have advice on what to read next (she curates a personal newsletter with books advice too).
Last but not least, IndieHackers is a great community to seek for help and advice. Once, the indie hacker Pedro Cortes (@pedrocortes) helped us to improve our website conversion just because he could. IndieHackers, you’re awesome!
What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?
I’m an avid gamer! Besides reading and building Y-Productive’s presence on the market, I enjoy playing a computer game or a PlayStation on weekend. It’s not easy to keep that hobby when you have a startup and a wife with a newborn kid, but playing Crash or beating the boss on Dark Souls relaxes and teaches patience as well :D
What’s next for Y-Productive?
We stay on our feet, but we still have much space to add more cool features to help with your productivity, and grow. Speaking of the product, we’ve just added the lifetime plan for people who hate the subscription. We’re going to add the option to store files locally for people who are concerned with their privacy (very important!). We will also improve the synchronization for those who want to switch between multiple machines. We’ll add the Categorization Profiles, to solve the evergreen pain with websites or apps being Productive in one work case and Unproductive in another.
We’ll let people choose what fits them best, listening to the feedback. The freedom of choice is the whole point behind Y-Productive as the app, and Y-Productive as a team.
I want to say thank you to everyone who read this interview, and to Davis for inviting me. Hope it provided some value for your time! If you have any questions on building the brand, need inspiration or want to share your experience with Y-Productive, you may either write me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter (@kytaran).