Healthit: Elevate Gave Us The Knowledge and Instruments to Do Something Meaningful
Meet Yuliy Yuliev (’19) and Emil Todorov (’22) — two of the three founders of Healthit — the first Bulgarian app for a healthy lifestyle, which was developed throughout Season 1 of Elevate. They have shared their experience with us and gave valuable advice to future entrepreneurs.
1. What are your impressions from the accelerator program?
E: The Elevate program is an amazing foundation for everyone who aspires to become an entrepreneur. Unlike studying business in a formal setting, the program lets you dive directly into the startup world, so you not only learn theoretical knowledge but also apply it immediately with your ideas. The program lets you work on your own business idea while learning a ton. What more could you wish for?
Y: The opportunity to have direct access to some of the most successful Bulgarian entrepreneurs is priceless! You see how they think and how they look at your business case with their own perspective. They help you to apply the theory to your particular case and assist you along the way, especially if you are proactive and seek contact outside the formal seminar setting. Thus, the mentorship part of the program was the second thing that made it epic for us.
2. How did Elevate help you realize your idea?
E: The truth is that we applied to the Elevate with a slightly different idea. We have been working on that idea for quite some time — more than 12 months. When we joined the Elevate program we learned a lot about the lean startup model, the need for validation, customer interviews, and the art of finding the real pain of our potential customers. Finally, we realized what people were struggling with and we crafted the whole application with this in mind. So, in a way, Elevate gave us the knowledge and the instruments to do something meaningful that the market actually needs.
Y: Elevate opened our eyes and showed us the proper way to approach our business. One of the most impactful things that we learned was — love the problem, not your solution. We had to erase our progress with the app halfway through the program because we realized this is not something of value to anyone. I must admit that it was a tough decision to make and I am not sure if we would have been able to make it had it been not for the Accelerator program.
3. What happened with your team after the end of the program?
Y: A lot of things happened since April 2020. First, we won first prize at the Innovation Starter Academy. It is a reward of 10,000 BGN and a trip to the EU institutions in Brussels, along with media coverage, which was useful for the popularity of Healthit.
In May 2020, we launched the beta version of the app and tested it with 150 people. We did some minor adjustments, fixed some bugs, and took our community’s feedback very seriously. Eventually, we were able to release the official version of Healthit 1.0 on July 29th. Currently, we are working to make the technology better, get new partners aboard, and reach as many people as possible.
And finally, a few weeks after the Elevate demo day pitches, our team found a private investment partnership. The deal enabled us to speed up the growth process tremendously.
4. Would you recommend Elevate to people who have a business idea and want to further develop it? Why?
E: Definitely! We already did a lot of promotion! One of the teams that are about to participate next year learned about the program from us. There are many things that one should know when starting a company. In just a few months, the Elevate program helps you learn a bit of everything.
5. What advice would you give to future Elevate participants?
Y: It might sound trivial but do not skip sessions. Personally, I traveled from Sofia to Blagoevgrad twice per week to attend the lectures and the workshops because missing one session is like losing a piece of a puzzle. Even if you finish it, it won’t be complete. Also, after each session, do the “homework”. Sit with your team and think about how to apply what you have just learned in your particular business case. We didn’t do the homeworks during the first two months thoroughly. That’s why we had to start over midway through. Had we done our validation properly when we had the chance to in early December, we would not have wasted three months. And finally, get clear on what you want from your idea. Would you like a lifestyle business? Are you planning to continue doing it after the Elevate program? Are you aiming for an exit or you are building an ecosystem around something you love? Get those things figured out with your team. The moment you get a clear vision of the company, the value of your time goes up and you become much more productive and likely to succeed.
E: If you work on your business endeavor only during the official Elevate meetings, you will make no progress with your idea. That’s for sure. The only way to have some level of success is to devote as much time as possible to thinking about the idea and executing along with your plan. It simply won’t happen if you allocate the “mandatory” lecture hours per week on it. All of our accomplishments during and after the program are the result of staying focused on crafting a well-functioning product. You might miss some nights out. Your grades might drop a little. However, if you show up and get the work done every single day, the result will be worth it.