Dimash Dzhunusov: the most important criterion for a startup is the love of the client
Smart City Accelerator Almaty is a training program, a project where startups solve the problems of the urban environment using new technologies. The project brought together bright and talented representatives of the IT environment of Kazakhstan. One of them is Dinmukhamed Dzhunusov, co-founder of the OKOO project, an online educational platform for schools that helps automate learning processes. Today we are talking with Dinmukhamed about his project.
Dimash, tell us about yourself?
- I graduated from the Republican Physics and Mathematics School. Then he flew abroad. After graduating from the Australian University, he worked as a programmer for the international company Manulife for two years. But all this time I thought about returning to Kazakhstan. He returned and started working as a teacher at the Kazakh-British Technical University. I must say that my students won prizes in various competitions.
How did the idea to create OKOO come about?
- There was a period when I taught programming to children for free on Saturdays at the capital's school No. 66. Then I saw the problems teachers face, and also met talented guys who also support education and IT development in Kazakhstan. We assembled a team, started making an online platform for learning computer science, and simultaneously tested it in schools. The first year they didn’t make money on a startup at all. Then we realized that it was time to turn a hobby into a growing business.
What teacher problems does your platform solve?
- For example, checking homework and compiling classwork. All these tasks are easily solved, it was just necessary to automate routine processes. Our main goal was to make life easier for teachers, save their time up to 24 hours a week. We also made the learning process of schoolchildren more exciting through gamification.
How did you develop your project?
- We passed our first accelerator at Nazarbayev University. Then we came to the Astana Hub incubation program, got to know the community, gained experience from colleagues, developed an image, and people began to recognize us. And then the first investments began to be attracted. It was no longer difficult for us to promote the product, because we already had the experience of the first sales on the market, users, reviews. Over the two years of our existence, we have raised $ 165 thousand from various business angels and venture funds "NURIS", "Quest Ventures".
What courses are available on your platform?
- Despite the fact that we have a course builder, we decided not to go into other niches, but to focus on computer science lessons and additional programming courses. Also electives are available on the platform: entrepreneurship, 3D design, 3D modeling. All these courses are developed by a team of 5-6 content makers.
Tell us more about the team?
- In addition to love for our work, we are united by similar stories. We were all fond of sports programming in our school years, and after school we went abroad. Many have worked in companies such as Facebook, Apple, Manulife. For example, Askhat Temirov, co-founder of Okoo, a programmer, has experience in Facebook. Borihankozha Azimkhan worked for the American company Road for me, Yerzhan Asanov worked for Apple.
Do schools in Kazakhstan already use your development?
- Yes. In Nur-Sultan, 20 schools already use OKOO in their daily work. Also in the East Kazakhstan region, informatics teachers from 20 schools have already been trained to work with the platform together with the Ministry of Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry.
Do you receive feedback from former colleagues?
- Oh sure. We have a feedback function on the platform, some users write or call in person. But we are only at the beginning of the journey, so far only 5% of everything that we can do has been implemented. There is still a lot of work ahead: to scale, improve the functionality, listen to the requests of teachers.
How to declare yourself as a novice startup and gain a good reputation? Is it important to participate in events, promote yourself in social networks?
- It depends on the specifics of the project. If we talk about a personal brand, then the founder should still go to events, present himself and the project, make useful contacts. However, I notice that some startups start hyping ahead of time, this does not add credibility to them. In the early stages, it is desirable to direct all the efforts and time to training, to participate in acceleration and incubation programs. Investors pay attention to how objectively you evaluate yourself. Sometimes, when a start-up startup talks about its uniqueness, it looks ridiculous and indicates its immaturity, so hardly anyone wants to invest in it. And, of course, the most important criterion for an investor is customer satisfaction - how much the customer loves your product.
Do novice startups often turn to you for advice?
- Lately, yes. On the one hand, it seems to me that it is too early to give advice, since I myself am only taking the first steps in IT entrepreneurship. On the other hand, I already have the experience of mistakes that could have been avoided. You need to clearly know your goals in numbers, and listen a little to advice.