Lately, a lot of people are asking me how we did our first year of the established KAKIS company and how did we got the idea for it. I decided to put all this in a blog post. This update will be a kind of recap of the year 2016 and 2017.
The born of our child: KAKIS
As a child, I was always refusing to use public toilets as they were disgusting, dirty, smelly and ugly. In later years, meanwhile visiting festival and events, there was always just one option: smelly disgusting chemical toilets. I prefered to hold everything for the time I will come home. If was impossible, I went just to pee. And I always try to be as fast as possible. Then I started to work on construction sites as the assistant of buidling manager. There was always this disgusting toilets. Luckily, I was able to take a break and visit the closest bar to use their toilets.
The toilet problem was somehow always in my mind. I was wondering how to improve current chemical toilets. I wrote my final thesis on ecological villages and there I found an alternative, composting toilets. This alterantive and sustainable solution was somehow staying in my mind. One day, I got pissed with my boss and I did a research about implementing comoposting toilets in outdoor areas. I found out that it could be a very good business idea and there is a big need for better solution. I left my current job and I built a prototype that was tested for few weeks. It looked promissing and I applied to few competitions and mentoring programs. I also won several competitions (Podjetna primorska 2016, Demola Slovenia 2015, second place at ClimateLaunchpad Slovenia 2016, MOS special prize 2016). After all this experience, the product and the business started to got its shape .
One day I went for a few beers with my ex-schoolmates. There was also Miha who got very engaged in the idea and wanted to join it.
Me and Miha, we started to developed KAKIS through a private institute owned by me back in December 2015. We officially started a company as a spin-off of the institute at the end of February 2017. Soon will be one year of KAKIS d.o.o. (Slovenian Ltd). We already had our working prototype and few MVPs behind us. We applied for few funds and we got a grant from Slovenian entrepreneurs fund (54.000€), grant from EIT Cimate-KIC RIS accelerator (15.000€) and grant from Startupbootcamp Amsterdam (15.000€). We got enough money to start the upgrade of our development and a solid sales process.
Who wants to shit sustainable?
Customer discovery took place before the starting of the company. We visited around 30 municipalities, 15 scout groups, 10 event organizers, etc. So we were more or less clear who our customers are, what is their problem, what they expect and how much are they prepared to pay. At least I was sure of it but lately, I found out that there were some missing elements in our customer discovery. But at least I learned a lot.
Our main customers are municipalities in Slovenia who tend to be sustainable, green-oriented and they want to please their citizens. In 2018 are mayor elections in Slovenia and a lot of municipalities are renovating public areas. They want to offer sanitation in a place where is very expensive or even impossible to build infrastructure. So in March, we started our sales campaign mainly for municipalities. The problem we didn’t get in the customer discovery was that none of them wants to be the first one.
We also did some test in digital marketing and found out also camps in Slovenia really tend to be eco-friendly. There is a lot of potential in renting, but at the start, we were avoiding it.
Just before starting our Ltd. company, we got grants from the EIT Climate-KIC RIS accelerator where they helped us to did a proper customer discovery and improve the sales process. They also give us some grants that helped us to build two units and test them on users.
After this accelerator, we were searching for new opportunities. We got selected in an ABC accelerator in Ljubljana (Slovenia) and in Startupbootcamp in Amsterdam (the Netherlands). We decided to enter the SBC the program in Amsterdam and the month between went very fast. We found people to fill the gaps we have in our company so we started to work with Jerneja, Peter, and Dinara.
During the SBC program was busy but I won’t go into details. I would just point out that I expected a little bit more from it. As a person, I am generally always expecting high performance. I give to SBC some suggestions to make workshops more effective and to have a more personal approach to startups. I hope my suggestions will see the light in the future. Otherwise I will open my own accelerator (it’s a joke).
The good results from the program were the discovery that I guided the team quite badly so lately I was working a lot on this field to improve. I am also improving the sales process and improving the marketing activities. Basicly we don’t do much marketing as we reach our customer by direct marketing (email, cold call).
Will we survive in the market?
The summer went lightning fast. The selling activities were not very effective due to municipality employees were already with their minds on holidays. We installed two units in Nova Gorica (Slovenia). We wanted to perfect some details and system so we put aside selling activities and focus on development.
Autumn part was mostly focused on sales. In general, we are satisfied with 2017 sales and we reached the expected revenue. We sold to municipalities and to camp sides. 2018 is already showing much better results as we will exceed the last year revenue already in March. But I will say you more in the next update (I hope before 2019).
We also did a plan for the research and development for 2018 where we partner with two universities in Slovenia willing to help us to develop new products.
Our 2018 plans for development are focused on three clear goals:
- make our toilets smart (sensors and AI analyzing urine),
- make a plant-based natural purification system for our permanent toilets (cleaning urine on site and warm fast composting system),
- enter the rental markets (we are developing new urinals and an idea for retrofitting chemical toilets).
To answer the title, we will surely survive for the next two years. Our current goals are to grow and to enter new markets.
Give me money!
I’m a big fan of bootstrapping but I found it much harder than I thought. We are evaluating the possibility to enter the rental market in Slovenia. A lot of municipalities, event organizers and scouts are almost begging for a better sanitation solution. So all of them are prepared to write a letter of interest saying that they will rent from us in case we offer this service.
We are still searching for an investment, we will probably ask for a bank loan and there are options to made a crowdfunding campaign.
It’s not just KAKIS in my heart
I am very passionate about sustainable living. I was already a long time ago dreaming of a sustainable house. In September, with my girlfriend, we decided to build one.
From September until December my free time was devoted to building my own house. I worked on the project in the evening hours, preparing technical documents, refining the design with the architect, searching for land, evaluating potential rental opportunities, searching producers etc.
The house is a tiny house on wheels, a 7,2m x 2,5 indoor space which smart furniture features. Now is in the phase of building the facade.
This kind of houses are very popular in the USA and New Zeland but more and more also in Europe. More info here.
Did you read till here?
Please, write me back your feedback. Did you find it interesting, which part was boring, what part would you like to be more detailed, do you have any advice for us, do you have any business partner interested to collaborate with us etc.
I will be very very very very happy with your feedback. Even saying just hello will make me satisfied.
I wish you all well and we see in the next update.
David (CEO of KAKIS), firstname.lastname@example.org
David is a CEO of KAKIS & houzEKO and development manager at Institute mOBILNO to go. He is by profession a civil engineer but he soon decided to start his own path in sustainable and cleantech technologies.