Now that we’re at the cusp of embarking on a new journey, it’s a good time to look back and summarize the journey we took to get here. Although this was a fairly quick exit, Ron, Yoav and I had quite an experience in bringing it about that we would like to share with you.
It all began when Ron, Yoav and I got together at the end of 2011 to work on WeBuy – a planned consumer app that would have expose users to available discounts and benefits in their area.
From the beginning, it was obvious to us that we needed to reach our would be users via a push notification anytime we had something interesting to tell them.
In the world we were operating in, it was clear that there was a heavy dependency on user location, requiring the need to track a user’s location at all times.
Can’t take the heat
When we started building WeBuy, we ran into a serious constraint challenge; the need to constantly track user location placed a significant drain on battery life and the phones would heat up to problematic levels. It sounds like a joke but it’s a serious product flaw. The fact is t is unpleasant to carry around a hot phone in your pocket! We looked for solutions to bypass this issue that would allow us to keep on running with WeBuy. We didn’t find any, so we had two choices:
Drop the push notification concept – which all of us agreed would completely change the value we wanted to deliver to our customers.
Solve the problem ourselves.
It’s obvious by now that we chose the second option, but what comes next is the unexpected origin story of KitLocate. We had no idea what we were getting into. We thought it would be a quick and dirty job which would get done quickly and move on.
What actually happened was we ended up hiring another engineer to help us (Hadar Dubin) and worked on it full time for the next few months to get something working. Not perfect, not good, working. That’s basically when we began asking ourselves ‘What did we get ourselves into?’
All along, while building our solution (Webuy and then KitLocate), it was important for us to stay close to the market, so we had numerous business meetings with potential customers / partners and talks with users. During the course of all this discussing we identified a pattern where our potential distribution partners kept talking about the inability to have ‘Always On’ location – which is exactly what we had been building for the past few months. It then became clear to us that all these people we’ve been talking to would probably be happy to pay for our kind of solution. A quick bit of market research confirmed the market to be huge – and just like that, KitLocate was born.
The next steps were to develop the solution for additional platforms. We paid particular focus on servicing large enterprises, which usually offer both iOS and Android. Covering all bases was our way of preempting any resistance to adopting a new solution from a group of 3 unfunded entrepreneurs. Additionally, we had to pack our solution into an SDK as you can’t simply throw hundreds of thousands of lines of code on your costumers. It needs to be simple to use and easy to implement.
Since we were young entrepreneurs (and we were well aware of this) we were seeking help from experienced entrepreneurs. We went to a lot of meetups. At one Tech-Aviv event we met Eden Shochat, then a General Partner at Genesis – a well known Israeli Venture Fund – and the brains behind ‘The Junction’ – the first startup-focused, shared work space program in Israel.
I pitched him our idea and after 30 seconds he stops me and goes, “Why won’t you join The Junction’s next wave? Could be a good place for you to grow your business,” pats me on my shoulder and leaves.
The next day The Junction’s form was filled out with us eventually joining their 7th wave. That was back in November of 2012.
At this Junction
On the first day of The Junction, Eden mentioned some competition that awards some $25K to the winners. Although this particular competition wasn’t directly related to our tech – the title of the competition was “MasterCard Mobile Payment Innovation competition” – we needed the money so we thought wee’d give it a shot.
We ended up winning the competition and it gave us much more than $25K. It gave us great PR, access to top MasterCard executives and direct contact with Dov Kotler (IsraCard CEO), who attended the competition.
Following the competition we closed our first pilot with Pango, which turned out to be great partners for us, and about a month later we closed a deal with IsraCard – our first paying customer.
On the Junction’s demo day, we met Yigal Jacoby (who in my humble opinion is the best angel investor in Israel) and Avi Eyal from Entrée Capital who ended up investing in KitLocate in June of 2013. As part of the investment process we also met with Microsoft Ventures, which weren’t quite ready to invest in Israel just yet, but they offered a seat in their accelerator, and we heard a lot of good things about.
As Junction alumni who understand the value these programs can offer, we decided to join Microsoft Accelerator’s 3rd batch. It was indeed a good choice as they turned out to be a great program to accelerate the growth of our business and they’re the ones who introduced us to Yandex, our new family.
In the 6 month prior to the acquisition we managed to penetrate the US market by partnering with Sears through ShopYourWay and the business side of things began growing really fast. The beautiful thing about this acquisition is that our business should really start to explode now with Yandex offering our solution to the mass market.
Omri Moran, Founder and CEO, KitLocate