How Russian emigrant has created a social network in the USA and makes good fortune
Natalia Kogan, an American of Russian origin, teaches people to be happy at seminars, trainings and TED Talks application happier, which she created, helps to pump emotional intelligence through a special course of lessons and feel the joy of life, sharing positive things with others. Investors appreciated the idea - the project attracted $ 4 million investment. Natalya left Russia with her parents when she was 13, and realized the “American dream”: she got a brilliant education and built a dizzying career - she became managing director of a venture fund. But there was no happiness. Delving into the question, Kogan realized that sometimes it is enough just to record the joyful moments of her life - and the mood will improve. She decided to monetize her discovery with the help of mobile technologies. In an interview Inc. businesswoman told how to run a successful social network in an era Facebookwhen investments can prevent you from earning money, and why you shouldn't be rude to strangers (they may turn out to be reporters New York Times). ForumDaily publishes an abbreviated version of the article.
Happiness as a basis for business
“I worked very hard, achieved success in almost everything, but only felt stress and fatigue — I could not enjoy the life I had built myself,” recalls 42-year-old Natalia Kogan.
Earn on happiness courses, as you earn on yoga or self-development courses, - this idea came from Natalia through personal experience. It was not easy to get used to the United States: public housing, grocery cards were not fun, and in order to somehow get away from the problems, Natalya tried to study well: she graduated from school and university with honors. She became an economist, got a prestigious job in a consulting company. McKinsey, was beaten into top analytics, and ... she was bored in the corporate world, where everything changes so slowly. Natalya got married, had a daughter and started venturing investments, developing start-ups. Everything was good with income and personal life, but there was no happiness.
Natalia (she was 35) decided to figure out what she lacked for happiness. For two years she studied books and scientific research on the work of the brain - the daughter of a professor from childhood approached each problem thoroughly - and realized that happiness is not a reward for achievement, but a skill that can be trained. Kogan saw this as a business opportunity.
- I set up an experiment: during the month I wrote down three good things every day that happened to me during the day. Halfway through, I became calmer and more positive and decided: since it helps me, why not help other people around the world who are struggling with stress? - remembers Natalia.
So the idea of the application was born happier, which would help the user to improve the emotional state by fixing happy moments.
How does work happier
happier Is a free app for iOS, in which users share positive moments of the day. Each post is a short message by category (for example, love, gratitude, beautiful things, time with friends, etc.) with a description of the moment and a field for photography. In the settings you can choose open or closed for other users diary mode. Moments are combined into collections, and the application helps to analyze which categories make a person happy.
The application also offers paid products: in the section Courses There is a selection of video lessons on 7 or 10 days (“7 habits of happy people”, “How to deal with stress”, etc.). Users watch lessons and complete assignments in order to develop certain habits. Course fees range from $ 4,99 to $ 14,99. Soon happier launches advanced courses on 21 day, ranging from $ 97 to $ 150.
Natalya Kogan was an experienced expert in the venture capital industry and did not expect difficulties in attracting investment in her new project. She found a co-founder, a familiar engineer Colin Plamondon, took on product development, strategy and relationships with partners, and Colin did the technical part. We assembled a team - a designer, a back-end developer and an iOS developer - and attended to the investment. The business model envisioned a free iOS application that would help people form healthy habits and improve psychological health, an application-based brand — and subsequent monetization through paid products. But investors did not believe that people would pay for happiness — such an abstract concept.
To persuade investors, Kogan pits emphasis on gaining popularity in the US wellness-Applications - for meditation, sports, yoga, drinking clean water - helping to monitor your health. happier - an application for emotional stability - fit into the trend. It helped - as did a personal acquaintance with the first investor, who, according to Natalia, invested money in her rather than in the product:
- I said: happiness is an integral part of health, it, like yoga, should become a practice. This is a program that you must perform. My old acquaintance, investor Mike Hirshland from Resolute Ventures He said: “I don’t know this business and I’m not sure that everything will go as you expect, but I believe in you and in your vision,” she recalls.
In 2013 year Resolute ventures have invested in happier $ 2 million - the founders withdrew money from the office in the business center of Boston and set to work. A year later, the startup closed the second round, in which he attracted another $ 2 million from the fund Venrock (he also invested in the previous project, on which Kogan worked, - Where). On application development happier, taking into account the tests, it took almost 1,5, the entrepreneur recalls. It was even more difficult to attract users to the new social network in 2012, at the height of the era Facebook.
happier - the network is only for the positive moments that people are recording, thus training their brains to look at the world more optimistically and to deal with stress. These moments are too insignificant to write about them in other social networks.
To attract users, Kogan used all the resources - including gaining support Apple. At that time in AppStore there were thousands of apps and Apple periodically promoted some of them - put it on the main page, made recommendations, etc. happier fell into the category social networking (social networks) - and Natalia began to look for a way out to the manager of this category.
“Every day I sat down at a computer and wrote a dozen letters with the same question:“ Do you happen to know someone in Apple?". It was very tiring and at first unsuccessful, but I leaped to the character of a Russian émigré - to achieve my goal by all means, she recalls. After a few months, an acquaintance presented her to a friend who knew someone who knew an employee Apple. He introduced her to the right manager, began a correspondence, Kogan from Boston flew to the company's office in San Bernardino.
- I understand that Apple new applications are interesting, they want their quality to improve, so they are ready to give feedback. Everyone comes with a request to promote them - and I sent them updates about our affairs, persuaded them to call up regularly. I was very meticulous, I took their recommendations very carefully - as a result Apple began writing about us, giving us ratings, and it helped attract users, says Kogan.
happier got support Apple and a good traction, and users began to arrive in the application - but few people lingered. Many made the 1-2 fasting and throwing, and the effect of Happier according to Natalia, comes only with regular use.
“We carried out tests: if a person sheherit has three happy moments during the first 7 days, then he will stay with us for a long time. How to provide it? It was a huge challenge, ”Kogan recalls.
Emails with reminderspush- notices, a calendar with notes on progress, personal communication with the clients of a community manager - something that the founders did not invent to keep people. The daily, but always different, motivating push notifications worked best: “Write a happy moment today — studies say that such records improve sleep,” etc.
The number of applications has grown, push notifications in App Store It became too much, and people began to disconnect them. Natalia and Colin decided to change the business model.
- When we started, I did not take into account an important point: you need to explain to people how to use happierto improve your condition. We decided to train users right in the app, says Natalia.
So the founders shifted the focus towards the educational platform. First, we did mini-courses, and now happier Launches a great course designed for 21 day, where every day will be posted a great video and content that can be downloaded. The price was set immediately high - from $ 97 to $ 150.
- Let the course pass fewer people, but it seems to us that this is the best business model. The one who pays $ 97 will have more motivation than the one who gets the product for free, says the founder.
Also, happier launched byproducts - blogs, articles, emails-search with a selection of materials on how to become happier. Part of the content Kogan writes herself. According to her, it allows more involvement of users of the application and keep them.
According to the businesswoman, in the five years of the company's development, she spent about $ 50 thousand on direct advertising - this was money to promote Facebook. Everything else was done through PR: at first, Natalya personally told her story and the story of the application, then she began to hire agencies.
But Kogan especially helped, that at the start her story accidentally got into New York Times. Natalia was invited to speak at a conference in Colorado with a short speech about a startup. After the speech, an unfamiliar man in a jacket approached her and, without introducing himself, grunted in displeasure: “I think this is a really stupid idea. You look so smart - I don't understand why you are doing this. ” Kogan was tired - a long flight, performance - and really wanted to be rude to a stranger, but she restrained herself.
- I have a rule - never otshivat people, because every conversation may be the last. So I sighed and said, “Ok, I will tell you why this is important to me.” She told him all the details for an hour - sometimes he made some notes and for the whole time he never smiled. I was terribly exhausted, she recalls.
Next morning Natalia was woken up by the calls of the staff - they were in a panic: the server happier could not withstand the load. Yesterday's stranger was a journalist New York Times - And wrote about a startup on the front page of the technology section.
- It taught me: you should not miss any opportunity to talk about your business, even if it seems stupid. I could answer him in two words and leave - and I would have missed such a chance, ”says Kogan.
Now happier works on business products — for the most part, corporate training for companies, where employees are taught to interact with each other, develop a sense of gratitude, and improve corporate culture. To do this, create a program Happier At Workwhich includes exercises, dialogues for large groups, testing, etc. The idea to sell such courses to businesses was born when Kogan began to give lectures and seminars (she even read TED Talk on the topic of happiness at one of the TEDx conferences in Boston). After one such speech, Kogan received the first corporate order - from the manufacturer of vitamins. Pure encapsulation.
Natalia Kogan does not deny that much of the success happier rests on her personal image. She is not just the face of the company, but also her soul and the main creative - she personally conducts most of the training, writes some of the content on the blog (freelancers order the rest), composes a weekly newsletter for users. She is not afraid to close everything on herself - on the contrary, when the company has a face, people trust the product more, she says:
- People need to feel trust - so I often try to act as a coach myself, personally present the application, and infect customers with optimism.
Natalia Kogan no longer plans to attract investments - since 2018, the company has been earning independently. The founder's revenue happier does not open yet (promises to open from 2019 of the year). In the near future - to launch large-scale educational programs, both on mobile platforms and for personal visits, on topics related to peace of mind and the ability to achieve harmony with oneself. The platform is planned to be translated into several languages (while only English is available) in order to make it truly global. Finally, in happier decided to do a special training - for psychologists who want to retrain in happiness trainers and conduct seminars for individual clients and companies (just like yoga trainers).
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