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Young Russian IT-entrepreneurs and conquest of the world


Taisiya came to me this summer. She said “I need a mentor. Are you ready to share your experience?” I was very happy that our startUpers had active and rational approach, though, and I agreed. I didn’t have enough time in my daily schedule, but Taisiya was calling and writing me all the time. And so after all we’ve met. She told me what they have and how the process is going on. I told her what she can do with her project on Russian market and what she shouldn’t do there, shared my experience in creation of similar projects there and showed her the prospects of this project. Taisiya wrote everything down thoroughly and some things she’s remembered. Then she went to the Valley. I asked her how things are going there and why they go in that way. Below you can see a brief and clear description of the Taisiya’s project.

Russian yelp.com? No, it’s tulp.ru!

I came to the Valley in autumn of 2010. I found an apartment pretty quickly – and started looking around. I was interested in communities and people, ready to invest into an actively developing Russian startup. I had something to propose and to interest in. My project tulp.ru is a Russian analog of yelp.com, a social network, an online library of reviews, a storage of people’s experience and a guide to companies and places of the country. And this project grew faster than it had been planned.

Actually, things were not so cheerful at the beginning. The first tulp.ru incarnation was released at the beginning of 2010. That time the site was a kind of a functional copy of yelp.com with a strong bias in favor of female audience. The first tulp.ru suffered from non-transparency of navigation, lack of distinct structure, and the team was physically unable to get rid of hordes of bugs. No wonder that portal’s traffic got hopelessly stuck in 200-300 unique visitors per day; and business representatives failed to understand, of what use the site could be for them.

Tulp.ru 1.0 is gone. Long live tulp.ru 2.0! By July 2010 there happened a kind of a little system revolution. Yelp.com experience was significantly reconsidered and transplanted onto Russian ground – accounting mentality, economic, social and cultural features of Runet users. Russian baby was moving further and further from his American parent. Tulp.ru has been redirected: now only about 60% of its users are women. Geek ambitions were sacrificed for the sake of simplicity and convenience. Having examined key tendencies of Runet, tulp.ru team stoke on “newbies”, who make up the largest part of new Runet users.

Developers’ team was fully replaced. Designers and UI specialists joined into the work. The first thing done was giving users an opportunity to write reviews and fill up the catalogue of places. That’s why work with new functional and growth of  volume of reviews took place simultaneously. Here yelp.com experience also turned to be useful. The army of free-lance reporters from all over Russia has been hired. There at once was discovered a positive moment: having begun to write paid reviews (at a very low price of 30-50 cents for a review), many of them became fans and enthusiasts of tulp.ru, and at the same time its first testers and first community members. From the moment of tulp.ru 2.0 release (July 2010) more than 14000 reviews have been written.

By this time basic functional for business representatives has been ready, which made it possible to make first proposals to business community. According to tulp.ru concept, small and medium-sized businesses should become the basic source of revenue. According to Economic Development Ministry, there are about 5,5 million of officially registered small businesses at present. Very few of them are ready to spend much money on advertising. And it is tulp.ru that could become a relevant and rather available connection channel with their customers, and for many of them – also a free Internet marketing school. It is supposed that a monthly check for a business user will come to $50-200, depending on the city.

Tulp.ru has already begun to sell its first services to business owners. One of them is possibility to participate in “Deal of the Week” action. It’s an analogue of “groupons”: the site places an offer to buy a good or a service with a very big discount within a very short period. A business representative pays tulp.ru for this action’s holding – and at the same time (which is not the case with “groupons”) gets all the money, gained on “groupons’” selling, – together with publicity.

One of the challenges in this plan’s realization is involvement of small business to tulp.ru. The problem is that the majority of Russian businessmen, especially regional ones, simply don’t know what Internet is about, what possibilities it may give, and how they may be used. That’s why free seminars, teaching business owners the ABC of Internet marketing, should become one of the ways of tulp.ru promotion. The first seminar has already taken place in Omsk and it has gathered a dozen of businessmen, which is very good for the first time.

At present tulp.ru is visited by about 5000 uniques per day; page views are growing 16% on average per week; the very first week of work of the business owners functional brought 35 business representatives, who has subscribed to tulp.ru services. Four of them placed discount coupons, and two more took part in “Deal of the Week”. Tulp.ru is ready to begin its active sales.

These results became achievable owing to investments of our angel investors – Valery Krivenko, High Technologies Director of “Onexim”, and Alexey Kovsh, the First Vice-President of “Optogan”.

This time I came to the Valley to find additional capital and smart investors, ready to take part in the project not only with their money, but also with their experience. On the 16th of  November at Startups Demo Night “The Russians are here!” I told 150 participants of the event about plans and results of tulp.ru. I was told that it was one of the most interesting reports of the evening.

— We are capable of straddling the trend. In 2010 the consumers’ activity and growth of the army of Internet users showed a sharp tendency to rise. Crisis slackness turned into a desire to realize a pent-up demand, and people are beginning to spend their reserved money. At the same time, providers have offered the regions an unlimited Internet at reasonable prices in the long run. So you can see how Runet audience is growing. Russian users are waiting for such a resource as tulp.ru, and this resource is ready.

Watch the development of affairs!

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