SipSim: We are delighted with how much Kazakhstan supports the development of IT, it's really very cool
The Belarusian company became one of the finalists of the Seed Money* start-up financing program and received 20 million tenge ($47 thousand) for the development of its project. Anna Ogorodnikova, Deputy Director for New Markets, spoke about why she and her team chose Kazakhstan as the first foreign market for scaling "SipSim".
About Kazakhstan and the Seed Money program
This is also a very interesting story. And I never cease to be amazed at how small the world is and how everything in this world is intertwined.
The fact is that in Minsk we have a club of entrepreneurs “Probusiness”, which recently opened a branch in Kazakhstan, in the city of Nur-Sultan. I am a member of this club in Belarus, in June my colleagues visited you, they were taken on an excursion to the Astana Hub and the AIFC. And they came from this trip so inspired and talked about it so enthusiastically that we thought about it. We collected statistics on the market, made calculations: how many mobile subscribers you have, how many companies you have. We realized that the market itself is very interesting, compared to Belarus, it is 3 times larger. We got in touch with local telecom operators, all the guys turned out to be very empathic and responsive. Later it turned out that our acquaintances had business partners in Kazakhstan, whom we turned to and asked basic questions about the perception of the market. And then someone else introduced us to someone else ... In general, this whole chain of connections at some point led to the fact that at the end of August we purposefully worked on entering the market of Kazakhstan.
During this period, my partner sends me a link to the Seed money program from Astana Hub and says: “You are now working on Kazakhstan, there is an interesting article and program, please study it.”
Literally 4 days before the deadline, we prepared the application: I was responsible, for example, for the commercial part, my partner and the CTO of the project helped me describe everything related to the technical aspects of the application. And in the end, everything worked out, everything worked out, for which we are all incredibly grateful!
About how you became a member of Astana Hub
We have recently registered an LLP in Kazakhstan. We are delighted with how much your country is now looking towards supporting the development of IT, this is really very cool. We also have an analogue of Astana Hub in Belarus - this is the Hi-Tech Park, our Belarusian company is among its residents. In the case of Kazakhstan, I was captivated by the fact that your conditions are even more loyal elsewhere and even more stimulate companies to develop themselves and develop the IT sector.
We understand that Astana hub is a platform that provides opportunities, and then everything depends on how we use these opportunities. Therefore, we are now actively developing a plan on how we will reach the desired indicators and what we need for this.
About creating SipSim
SIM card office telephony with call recording, virtual PBX and CRM integration allows companies to create their own call center in 10 minutes using employees' phones. There is a certain legal restriction on IP-telephony in Belarus. Accordingly, when virtual PBXs were developing all over the world, we, unfortunately, did not have such solutions, and we had to invent it. We thought of this solution for a long time. Our experience in telecom also helped us - we have been working in this area for almost 9 years. Our partnership with local telecom operators allowed us to develop a new solution.
At some point, we realized that with the help of ordinary SIM cards, you can do everything that virtual PBXs do. So we offered the market office telephony based on standard SIM-cards. And literally immediately we received feedback from customers that our product is very convenient for them, it is as simple as possible to set up and use, which especially captivated small businesses.
It is enough to insert our SIM card into the phone and you immediately get all the functions of a virtual PBX: call recording, their distribution among managers, notification to the messenger about missed calls, statistics for each employee on the number of processed calls, integration with the CRM system (so that when you call of the client, the manager immediately displayed all the information: the name of the client, as well as the entire history of communication with him).
The product was tested in Belarus and over a year more than 1200 subscribers were connected to the SipSim service. At the same time, we constantly heard from them: "Your solution is really much better and simpler than standard virtual PBXs, which require both a special mobile application with complex technical settings, and high-quality Internet." And in a pandemic and remote work, these nuances have a strong impact on business. After all, if the Internet connection is bad, then in the case of virtual PBXs, the connection is immediately interrupted or the interlocutor is not heard, which reduces the company's sales and the level of trust in it.
And then we thought: “Interesting, of course, we came up with a good life hack for Belarus, but maybe it will be useful for people all over the world?!”.
Kazakhstan will become the first foreign market for us, where we will test how the business process of scaling the project to other countries should be built. Using our experience in Kazakhstan, we are planning to enter the Polish and British markets. That is, Kazakhstan, Poland and the UK are the three countries where we want to work in the near future.
About the markets of cloud telephony in Kazakhstan and Belarus
If we compare our and your markets, then, of course, your competition is higher and, in general, the products presented by you have a wider functionality. Including, because you have fewer legislative restrictions in the field of telecommunications. But we see the value of our product in simplicity and convenience for business. We believe that we can make life easier for small companies in the field of telephony, so we are very “drown” for our idea.
How the pandemic affected the development of SipSim
We already joke that for us any crisis is a point of growth on the graph of revenue and profit. Our first project Call-tracking.by, which also works in Belarus and Kazakhstan, is related to marketing analytics: we show which ads each incoming call to the company comes from. But it is precisely in times of crisis that businesses most often ask themselves the question: “Where to allocate the advertising budget most effectively?”.
This happened with SipSim. Now, in the era of the pandemic, many workers have gone to work remotely, it was difficult for companies to provide everyone with high-speed Internet and equipment. While in our service - inserted a SIM card and everything works perfectly, you do not need to do anything and go anywhere. Therefore, COVID helped us in a sense.
3 underrated and 3 overpriced things in product development
1) this is your own experience, because at some point you rely too much on it and close yourself off from potential possibilities, as if you cut off in your head: “but no, it won’t work like that, but it will work like this, I’m sure I know";
2) when everything goes well for a sufficiently long period of time, the confidence comes that all your decisions are correct and you can influence a large number of things. But in fact, it's just a coincidence - I think it's important to remember this too.
3) advice from other people. Sometimes, and especially in difficult situations where we need to make some kind of global decision, we seek advice. And at such moments it may seem to us that other people know better, we begin to trust them more than ourselves. While, it seems to me, it is still worth taking a deeper look at your business, your experience and listening to yourself.
1) the courage to try something new. It is very driving both in terms of product development and in terms of building strategies - in general, everything. I think this courage needs to be used more often.
2) although many people talk about the team as an appreciated thing, I still emphasize it again among the underestimated ones. It sometimes happens in a project that under the routine flow of tasks we miss the moment and somewhere we don’t pay due attention to our colleagues. Still, the strength of the team spirit, some kind of inner empathy - it is also very important for the project. Never underestimate a team.
3) networking and networking. This is the courage to go out to communicate with strangers, the courage to write to them on some questions, the courage to ask for help. The latter is generally some kind of super-power, which you should not forget about and get hung up on "all by yourself". Because, as practice shows, you can reach the right person not even in six handshakes, but in just four!
*The winners of the competition for funding startups - Seed Money at the Scale stage were determined https://astanahub.com/article/opredeleny-pobediteli-konkursa-na-finansirovanie-startapov-seed-money-na-stadii-scale