Home Startups Scaling through bootstrapping? Founder of Albanian social media startup shows how

Scaling through bootstrapping? Founder of Albanian social media startup shows how

by admin
0 comment

Ervin Kalemi, 33, has always been interested in software development and less in entrepreneurship. However, it was precisely software development that led him to become an entrepreneur.

As he began building websites for other clients, Kalemi quickly realized that wasn’t what he wanted to do: he yearned to create something on his own and something which would please the users themselves.

So Kalemi took the first step by founding the social media management platform Pubr, which has become one of the most successful platforms in Albania. startups to date, with over 150,000 users on board.

What Publer does is that it helps businesses, freelancers, entrepreneurs, and small and medium-sized businesses build their presence on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, among other social media channels, and get the word out about their work and their efforts.

Growing strong and facing many challenges during its growth phase, Publer launches next week on Product Hunt, aiming to reach an ever-wider community.

As Kalemi explains, the many ups and downs during the journey also speak to the harsh reality and harshness of Albanian life. startup ecosystem.

After graduating from the United States, Kalemi always intended to return to his native Albania and establish his businesses in the country. While he founded Publer in 2012, Kalemi also had another startup called Kibo two years ago – a unified inbox for emails and messages.

In an interview with The Recursive, Kalemi reflects on his journey from software developer to entrepreneur, the challenges of growing in Albania, as well as his expectations for what lies ahead for startup ecosystems in the Western Balkans.

The Recursive: How did you discover your role as an entrepreneur in Albania?

Ervin Kalemi: I graduated from the University of Texas, Austin in 2012. During my senior year of college, I loved web development and began teaching myself how to create websites and how to design websites.

Initially, I started building websites for other clients. At first I only had one client, so I created their website. Then later, they kept asking me, “Hey, can you make this little change?” It was taking a lot of time and I realized I didn’t want to do that anymore.

Instead, what I enjoyed most was creating solutions that many customers can use. And if they like it, they just use it. If they don’t like it, they can choose a competitor or leave it there.

Publishing is not my first project. I started with several projects before Publer, they are no longer working at the moment, but they showed me the path I wanted to follow.

After graduating, I started working full-time for a software development company. At the same time, I realized that I enjoyed working on Publer much more than in my current job. Even though it was the same thing: I was building software.

With Publer, I was able to build software that customers loved the most, or at least I received that feedback. And for the other company, I was just building the software for the company, and I didn’t know if the users liked it.

This is how my entrepreneurial journey began. It was definitely a coincidence, I hadn’t planned on becoming an entrepreneur. I just liked creating software that other people could use.

Could you tell us about the journey of Publer, how it was born and its growth over the years?

It has had its ups and downs, like any business. And I think in the tech industry, the ups and downs are definitely more visible. For example, in 2018, Pubr almost went bankrupt due to Facebook’s problems with Cambridge Analytica. scandal.

At the time, they decided to block all third-party apps until they manually reviewed each one. This review process took us six months, and during that time we were unable to offer our services for Facebook and ultimately lost half or all of our customers because they opted out. for a competitor like Buffer.

Then from 2018 onwards, I would say we saw steady growth. We launched AppSumo, which is a deals site, which basically gave us a boost in brand awareness and generated monthly recurring revenue.

So the reason we’re popular now is because of the deal we made with AppSumo. They advertised Pubr to their audience, which has a million subscribers. And in exchange, we offered these subscribers a lifetime offer.

We have thousands of their users on Pubr taking advantage of a lifetime deal. On the other hand, they raise awareness about our company, which has helped us attract more paying customers.

Next week we are also launching Product Hunt. It is not similar to AppSumo, but it is equally famous and we expect good feedback from it.

How do you see the growth of the Albanian startup ecosystem? How have you seen it evolve with your business over the years?

There has been development and growth, but not at the speed I would prefer. It’s very slow, and I think one of the main reasons is that software development companies here are focusing more on outsourcing.

They develop products for customers and do not try to create their own products. I know it’s hard, because I’ve done it myself. I’ve been working on Publer for 10 years already, and I would say that 10 years is a very long time for a company to grow. But with Pubr, we don’t need to wait for projects to arrive because we already have one and we continue to improve its features and services.

I think the slow progress is also because there isn’t too much money invested in software development companies. For example, Publer is fully funded, it has not received any funding, not even grants from the government or other companies here in Albania.

I think overseas companies don’t have this problem, because they invest a lot of money.

I would prefer product companies to create globally scalable products because there are no limitations. Here in Albania we have the Baboon food delivery company, which is very famous. At the same time, two other competitors are appearing on the market.

There is too much food delivery apps, and it’s not like Albania has a large population for so many competitors. We need to be more creative and try not to copy other people’s products that are only used locally. We’re only going to hurt ourselves.

What do you think are the main strengths, but also the weaknesses, when we talk about Albania and its founders?

Our greatest strength is that we are very determined. Maybe it comes from our culture, we don’t give up too easily. Our weaknesses may be lack of funding and lack of networking.

For example, we want to be partners with Facebook to have more visibility. Our competitors like Buffer and Hootsuite have partnered with Facebook and most likely knew someone from Facebook and took advantage of their connection.

This is something I cannot do from Albania, because Facebook and all other companies do not have headquarters in Albania or any country near here.

We also lack an example to draw inspiration from. When I was studying in the US and about to graduate, I wanted to work for Facebook, Amazon or Google because they were and still are the biggest tech companies in the US.

In Albania, we don’t have a very big tech company that students could learn from, so we don’t have an example to follow. We need to follow examples from outside Albania, but they come from a different culture, a different country with different results.

What is the growth and development potential of the entire Western Balkans region?

This has great potential because the cost of developing software is much lower here than if it were built outside the region. If I had to build it in the United States, I would not have been able to do so because the cost of living and salaries are very high there.

In the United States or even Europe, it is impossible to create software purely by bootstrapping. This would require funding. In the Balkans, the cost of living and salaries are much lower, you can start your product, which is the best thing to do because you control the business 100%.

And that gives you stability, because when you get too much money, most of the time you don’t spend it wisely. But if you are cash constrained and spend it more wisely, you get steady growth.

There is therefore potential in the region provided that companies focus on developing their own solutions.

What are your goals for 2023?

For the next year, I want to focus more on my second startup called Kibo. Kibo is a unified inbox for emails and messages you receive on social media. This will help businesses respond to customers, whether the customer contacts them on social media, email, or messaging apps.

I started Kibo last year and was trying to manage a project at the same time, but learned it was impossible. I was failing at both at the same time because I didn’t have time to manage them.

So I decided that for 2022 I was going to focus only on Publer, put the Kibo project on hold and maybe resume it later.

Right now, Publer is more mature, as we have over 150,000 users on board. Now you can at least try to get Kibo back online safely.

What advice would you give to young and future entrepreneurs in Albania and the region?

My advice to young entrepreneurs would be to start now, because this is the hardest part. If you don’t start, you won’t get anywhere. Whether it’s learning a new programming language, or trying to start a project, you have to get started even if it’s simple, you have to do it.

When I compare what Publer was 10 years ago, the landing page, features and everything, I can’t believe how much it has progressed over the years. But the fact is that it progressed because I had the courage to start, and also the perseverance to continue. So here are the two main things – you have to start and you have to have the perseverance to continue.

You may also like

Leave a Comment

@2030 All Right Reserved. Designed and Developed by zebalkans