Verónica Torras is the founder of Womala, a mobile app for women in the area of Fitness & Health, and expert in business models, and a customer development and lean startup evangelist and practitioner. Starting from the beginning, Verónica got into the business model generation and lean startup methodologies through Alex Osterwalder (author of the Business Model Canvas), Eric Ries and Steve Blank, and during the last 4 years she trained quite a lot of entrepreneurs through her own 3-days workshop, the Startup Bang Bang program.
At itnig we have been knowing Verónica for a while, because in her trip to the core of the lean startup method she has been one of the most active organizers of the Barcelona Lean Startup Circle, started back on February 2012. The group has been meeting at itnig since that time, and it keeps doing so. Although she is still involved (“in a second row”, she says) within the organization of this meetup, her life pivoted some months ago, when she decided to stop working as a facilitator and trainer of the lean methodologies and she put all her focus on launching and developing her 1rst startup: Womala.
This interview pretends to be an enlightening dive into Verónica’s decision, its results until now and its perspectives on the short and middle run.
Question: In your blog you mention that you had tested your idea during 1 year before deciding to focus into it. Could you explain in brief what is Womala and how did you knew that the right moment for your startup had arrived?
Answer: Womala is a service to improve women’s lives through an online personal trainer. We offer assistance for the pelvic floor health at different stages of life: young women, pregnancy, childbirth recovery, mothers and menopausia.
Pelvic health problems are unknown by people in general, however its prevalence within the feminine society is high and they know about the problem. We give relevant information and tools for women care, and we offer personalized workouts and tips as well as a motivating follow-up.
When I had this idea, back in March 2013, I decided to start testing it. I very quickly found Olatz Zeberio, my partner and also the expert on pelvic floor physiotherapy. We built a very basic MVP in 3 months. We got 130 users that were receiving pelvic floor exercises every week during 3 more months. And an encouraging percentage of those women were doing the exercises at their homes. This together with tons of qualitative feedback, we saw that we were into something important, and made us decide to take the leap of faith.
Q: Verónica, in your blog you mention that when you decided to devote yourself to Womala, you completely changed your lifestyle: “I cleaned up my financial structure, left my attic from Barcelona, reduced my belongings to a couple of bags and started to be lean like a kite.” Which was the ultimate moving thought that lead you to take this decision?
A: The need of focus! Before to take the decision I had some conversation with 5 people I trusted. Bernat Farrero (as you know founder of itnig and CEO of Camaloon) was the one making a lot of emphasis on this particular aspect. He was very clear on that point: ‘Focus is key’. You can’t do 5 things at the same time if one of them is to build a startup. You need to put all your focus on this one if you want to play the game’. Steve Blank also mentions that as a must for an entrepreneur.
Bernat’s statement was resonating in my head day after day until I decided to do it. And when I took the decision, I left my apartment and reduced my personal cost structure in order to have flexibility and freedom to make a new prioritization of things in my life. This was after 9 months I started to test the idea. Three months later (now!) I have to say that making focus on Womala has been one of the best decisions I have made lastly.
Q: Any startup is failure-proof, but since you are an expert in business model design and the lean startup method, which are the top 3 requirements you have make sure your project meet, before launching it?
A: Hahaha, always looking for formulas that work! Ok, I am going to mention those 3 requirements but I would like to emphasize that this is my own case and it might not work for others although it can inspire them.
First, we got a positive analysis of the business opportunity. We looked at the problem, target, size of market (in our case is the prevalence of several pelvic health issues), chances to make it international, and a first set of 30–40 interviews with potential customers (women), doctors like urologists and gynaecologists, and other physicians. In fact, the business opportunity is huge because there is a common problem in adult women with few solutions out there. I highly recommend doing interviews to real people at the same time that doing the market research. It keeps you in the ground, in the real world.
Second, we reached out our first 130 users with our first MVP. We were looking for any evidence on the following: Does the problem exist? Do women know about the problem? Do they have solutions? Which ones? Are they interested on ours? And yes, we met that requirement as well. The first acquisition test showed that there is a high interest for the issue and we have got lots of conversations with women who tell us that a solution like the one we offer is needed.
Finally, the third requirement, is more related to the founder skills. I made all kind of questions to myself and tried to answer them sincerely. Do I really want to commit at least the next 3 years on this project? Do I feel passionate about solving this problem? Do I have the possibility financially speaking? Do I have the skills needed like empathy and capacity of solving all sort of problems? And do I have the network to make it happen? All of them were a yes. I also hear a podcast recently from Startups for the rest of us called ‘The test founder’ that is answering this point very well (for those who want to start is worthy to check it out).
Q: In your blog you say that you are a “non-technical founder” but that you managed to learn enough of the technical side to build your first MVP. Which advice would you give to non-technical founders, men or women, who are also trying to startup? What is the mindset they need in your opinion?
A: Nice question! You can find all over Internet the opinion that if you are a non-technical founder without a technical co-founder you can’t start a tech startup. However if you have the right mindset, I believe that is possible. I think you need to be creative about solving problems and very open to learn. This mindset helped us to build an MVP that is allowing us to validate the market, the problem and the business model. Womala is now a validated model and it is a very attractive opportunity for a developer that will join our team. We believe that we are now in a good position to find a developer girl that will join the company’s vision of improving women’s lives and we are looking forward to find her.
Q: About the Womala design process, and looking backwards, could you clearly define which steps or phases your project has been through? In which phase are you right now?
A: I think I have mentioned that bit earlier: 1st stage, business opportunity analysis and interviews; 2nd, a basic MVP with automated emails, 3rd step, taking the leap and building the first version of a web-app. A first soft launch has given us a lot feedback that tell us that this project needs to be done and it is a good opportunity to be part of something bigger. Our next stage is to enlarge our team, specially for the technical part. We are now meeting girls from different tech communities to find the technical person because we think that the team is ready now to go to the next step. That might be attractive and exciting for any programmer.
Q: After 3 months working only for Womala, can you now say that it was the right time to focus on it? Or you wish you had started before?
A: I believe it is the right time to build this and I believe that I made the right decision at the right time as well. I have to say that when I first had the idea to help women in their pelvic health back in 2006. I was working with urologists and gynaecologists in a small pharmaceutical company and I already saw the problem at that time. However, almost nobody had a smart phone, and there was not even a fitness app yet. So, I really believe that now is the right time!
Q: Talking about the near future, which are the next steps on Womala’s roadmap (6 months view)?
A: Thinking about the stages of a startup, we have learned a lot about the problem, and now we are focused in our solution. We want to be close to women to build the best features and the best product they will love. So product development and customer development are our priorities in the coming 6 months.
As I said before, we are looking forward to increase the team with the best people: we look for a tech girl, a growth hacker girl and a content manager…. Positions related to development, marketing and sales.
We are also exploring partnerships like health centers, associations of women, midwifes, gynecologists, etc. And we are planning to launch internationally very soon too. Womala is a global company doing a local test in Spain. So we are going international in the coming 6 months. That is why when we look for new team mates we look around the globe. We have no limitations to find team mates in other countries as far as they share our passion.
Q: Tell me 3 things about your lifestyle any entrepreneur should consider, for the good and for the bad, before starting his/her own project.
A: First, the order of things: being an entrepreneur changes the order of things. I have seen this a lot in my friends when becoming fathers. They always say that having a baby changed the order of priorities in their lives. Starting your own startup is the same. Things that were important to me before are not anymore. However, I am super happy with that. I am enjoying the path very much and I find it exciting.
Second is passion: when you have passion and you are part of a core team of passionate people trying to change the world, in this case woman’s world, your life is very rewarding. Womala is this kind of project that gives us a big reward when we meet other women’s expectations.
Third, we are becoming a nomad company. We will go to places where we can get resources, inspiration and talent. We are a global startup and we believe that being stucked in a place has its limitations. Our future team mates will have the possibility to choose this lifestyle too, travelling around the globe looking for convenient places to be while focusing in building the company. It is called digital nomadism.
Anything else to say? Any manifesto? Your every-day motto?
Passion! Passion for improving people’s life. Passion for what I do. This is my biggest source of energy. I believe that passion is the fuel you need to work uncountable hours a day, solve all sort of problems and still be happy at the end of the this journey.