Neverdark: How are the startups doing?
Tell us about your startup for those who hear about it for the first time
We are a Ukrainian hardware project based in Kyiv. We produce automatic ethanol fireplaces with real fire, without a chimney. Our fireplaces run on environmentally friendly liquid fuel and controlled by mobile application. You can use such a fireplace in any apartment.
What was the story of the startup? Where did this idea come from?
We have been in innovative production for 17 years. And we were constantly looking for new ideas and new technologies abroad. 10 years ago, we went abroad to train the staff and first saw their fireplaces fueled with liquid bioethanol and without chimneys. The idea was fascinating, but the product itself did not look serious.
We started to learn potential demand and to develop a product at the same time. It found out that there is no technology and the market was not ready for it. That’s why this way was quite long, and it took 8 years. But in 2019, when the product and demand joined in the same point, we closed all the rest areas and concentrated on the production of automatic ethanol fireplaces.
Why did you choose such a name?
Our friends’ Ragnarök agency developed the brand. They started with a name. We discussed many different names, but when we saw Neverdark, we just looked at each other and decided that was the ONE. And there was nothing more to discuss.
Last year you received a grant from the USF. What has changed since then? Tell us about the success of the team
As we have not attracted investment and our development was due to investing all our profits into the project, the grant from USF became a good refresh. We were able to realize many of the things we dreamed of.
First of all, we bought all the necessary equipment and almost refused to cooperate with contractors. It has reduced the time and cost of production and allowed us to experiment more – this has strengthened and accelerated our R&D department. In our business, this is the most important thing.
Secondly, we almost finished our new website, which will be the facade of our business globally and a convenient tool for dealing with dealers and online sales.
And of course marketing. Thanks to granting money, we are starting a Kickstarter campaign.
It will help to enter the American market and extend the brand worldwide.
Are you planning to scale? What markets are you considering for expansion?
During last year we signed contracts with 5 dealers from different parts of the world.
We found out that the European market is our target market, but we can’t sell there without a European certificate. That is why we are currently undergoing certification to launch sales at existing European dealers and continue to reach the European market. We received two more requests last month from European dealers. So we are very much looking forward to the certificate.
But the primary market for us is the American market, a country with a deep tradition of using fireplaces, both wood, and gas. Our product has many advantages compared with existing fireplaces, such as safety, no communications required, easy installation, no maintenance requirements.
How are you finding working with the Fund?
I have been launching and developing businesses in Ukraine for the past 17 years.
And at the same time, I was always travelling to Europe and watching how they do it there. Some things were easier in Ukraine, but I saw that the main reason why entrepreneurship in Europe was so booming is because of cheap bank loans and government programs, such as grants. And the development of enterprise has made the economies of European countries so developed and sufficiently stable. As a businessman and citizen, I have long dreamed that this will also happen in Ukraine. And when USF appeared, I could not believe it at first, but then I was thrilled and became one of the first to apply.
But at the time, I never imagined that the Foundation would have such a great team and become so modern, active, and aware of the needs and problems of start-ups. And apart from the money, we get a lot more out of our cooperation. I am not exaggerating when I say that the Foundation was, for me personally, the first state institution that took complete care of my project and its needs and did everything possible to help us become better and achieve more. I am absolutely convinced that if the same model, principles, and ideology are applied to all the state institutions, Ukraine will quickly become a successful European state with a strong economy and happy citizens.
Tips for those who are just starting or dreaming of founding their own startup
Be hungry, seek out new, always look at the world, keep an eye out for changes and opportunities.
Be open, get to know each other, communicate, look for like-minded people, partners, exchange ideas and experiences.
Constantly create something, create something new and necessary, try to improve everything, make the world more beautiful.
Be confident and not self-confident, review all the ideas, look for and discover potential clients (because you are not your client).
Develop continuously, strive to be the best at what you do. It will never be good enough; the pursuit of perfection is not the goal – it’s the way.
Team. The most important thing about your project is the people you take on board. Find people who share your goals and values, unite them, encourage them and stay out of the way.
Product. Don’t make the product for yourself. Make it for your customers. Constantly ask them what they like or don’t like and constantly improve it.
Sales. Start selling your product as early as possible, don’t try to make it perfect at once. You will be perfecting it for a long time to come, but you will never understand what it will be like unless you take it to the market.
Training. Constantly read and learn. There is no need to explain anything.
Mentorship. Seek out people who have already walked your path and ask them to share their experience with you; always be happy with those who are somehow better than you, who have an experience that you do not yet have.