How We Started
a Note-Taking App
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Stanislav Dimitrov (Stan), and I’m one of the founders of Relanote— the note-taking tool that helps you connect the dots.
Relanote is а note-taking app that combines both hierarchical and non-hierarchical (wiki-style) note-taking. By leveraging the power of both methods, Relanote adapts to your way of thinking and allows you to create your personal knowledge base.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
I finished my Master’s in Marketing in 2014 and headed back home to join the family business: a printing house. The family business was and still is a big part of my life, but tech, in general, has always fascinated me and I wanted to start a side venture.
Luckily, a couple of months after I came home, I met the current co-founders of Relanote. We were all around 25 years old and eager to build a tech company from the ground up.
We started Relanote to solve 2 main problems:
1. To offer people a different knowledge organisation methodology, one that uses bi-directional links and graph for a visual overview
2. To provide a truly user-friendly note-taking tool that will allow you to integrate it into your daily workflow
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
One of the main challenges that we’ve been tackling since the day the idea was born is the thousands of other note-taking apps on the market. It is really hard to launch and stand out in a market, where there is an infinite number of competitors. Although we are focused on a relatively new niche within the note-taking industry, there are competitors popping up on a daily basis. One of the most famous and successful companies in this niche are Roam Research and Obsidian.
Financially it is not a challenge for us, since we are bootstrapping it and we are in a comfortable position to focus on the product without needing an urgent investment.
Who is your target market?
The main target for us are people, who are obsessed with note-taking and more specifically building their personal knowledge base.
We (as our target market) are big on note-taking and more importantly organising and retaining the information we write down. Our main target would be knowledge workers in their 30-40s that prefer digital notes over paper ones. People that are well-organised and write down pretty much anything that comes to their mind.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
We are here for the long game and rely mainly on SEO and building a strong community from the ground up. Paid ads are no-no for us until the product becomes profitable.
At the very beginning, we are focused on non-scalable methods such as contacting potential users 1:1 via Twitter, forums and other media. This has proven a really good strategy not only to get the initial users but also to develop the product according to what the users actually want and need.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
Definitely the customer relationship management. We are really big on talking to people, listening to them and making changes to the product that makes sense to them.
We are accessible through multiple channels and users can talk to us, discuss, critique, get help or just discuss general productivity topics.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
We are a remote-first company of people who are devoted to creating a company that will outlast ourselves. The culture we are nurturing is that everyone needs to be patient, keep their heads down and push. Success never comes overnight and it is a result of hard work and persistence.
We don’t have fixed working times. We are result oriented team that cares of the output, not how many hours are needed for a job to be done.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
We rely on small number of tools to help us be productive.
- CRM – we are using Coda – the free plan is perfectly fine for our size
- Project management and development – Gitlab
- Communication – Slack
- Cloud Storage – pCloud
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
What you need to do:
- Scratch your own itch. See what annoys you in your daily activities and the currently available solutions. If they are not up to your standards and you think you can develop a better product, do it.
- Be patient. Keep your head down and give yourself time.
- Features that you think are great may not be that great or needed at all. So keep talking to all of your users.
- Be authentic in everything you do — design, copy, conversations…everything.
What you need to stay away from doing:
- Don’t polish the product prior to launch. Make it just good enough and ask people for their feedback.
- Don’t invest a lot of energy and time on things that you have not validated.
- Don’t be discouraged by naysayers.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Everything – the freedom to explore, build and communicate with fascinating people. Being an entrepreneur gives you an interesting perspective of everything around you. For example, when I interact with other business, I can totally relate and know what took them to be where they are.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
There is only one thing that really bothers me and most of the entrepreneurs I’m talking to – when you are running your own company – you can’t stop thinking of it. It is really hard to take a break and always think that something really bad could happen if you are away for 1-2 weeks.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
I’m always trying to stay away from business books, podcasts, blogs and etc. There are several people that have influenced my thinking with their books and podcasts. I would recommend people checking their podcasts first and then dig deep into every book those people have written. If that is not enough, I would check the books they recommend.
Tim Ferris is a person I’ve been listening/reading to for more than 10 years.
Jocko Willink is the person I listen daily, he is not from this planet.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
Larger revenue for sure is what we are aiming at, but also having a sustainable and solid product is what really matter to us, but I guess both are really interconnected. Having more employees is the very last thing I wish to see as development. I strongly believe that a small team of highly motivated people can outperform larger teams.