Hripsime and Colina Demirdjian of The Moji Edit and ScreenKit apps on launching a tech company without a tech background, and reaching half a million downloads after the first month
Describe your business in a few words?
Hripsime and Colina Demirdjian are tech entrepreneurs with over 10 million users and engage audiences globally. The Aussie twins and tech entrepreneurs co-founded The Moji Edit app, the largest personal avatar emoji platform in the App Store and, most recently, ScreenKit app, built with the iOS 14 release in mind. ScreenKit app had over 450,000 new users in the first month of launch, with around 30,000 new users per day, globally. The app is currently number 1 in the Graphics and Design category in the US App Store and now the #2 downloaded overall free app in Australia on top of Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and TikTok!
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
Just before graduating law school, the twins decided to build and launch their tech start-up (Double Trouble Creatives) which allows users to create their own personal emoji using their AI powered technology. From finishing each other’s sentences to completing matching law degrees, it was only natural to start a tech company together. Despite having no tech background, they decided to take the risk, learn on the way and step up to the challenge. After officially launching Moji Edit in July 2016 in beta, the application gained half a million downloads in the first month and grew rapidly.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
At the time we decided to explore tech as a career path, we were both studying law. We recall coming out of a long lecture and a group of us students were chatting about what we wanted to do after graduating and the different opportunities we wanted to seek, including travel. After hearing what our peers had planned for themselves, we felt extremely unsure about our own futures and whether we could see ourselves pursuing law as a profession. Being creative and forward-thinking individuals, we knew our 20s would be the greatest years of our lives and that taking the safe route would make us comfortable but would not feed our entrepreneurial spirits. Over the years, we had found that we both possessed the ability to engage and acquire audiences across several social media accounts, using our own curated content to build a following of over 1 million users.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
We rarely spoke about our passion to our parents or friends because we felt that they would not understand what we were doing. One of our shared accounts was based on emojis and from that account we started testing how the future of emojis might look. Being part of the online generation, we saw that the app space held great opportunities to potentially combine our passions for tech, creativity and social growth. At that time, the app space was thriving, with Apple planning to launch their brand new iMessage store. The idea of creating an app (despite having no tech background) sounded like something both exciting and challenging enough to motivate us. Looking back, that was the first time we started looking into the tech lens as creators as opposed to consumers.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
One of our greatest traits we had acquired over the years was our ability to engage and acquire audiences across several social media accounts. One of our largest Instagram community profiles was based on an emoji theme. At the inception of our product idea, we decided to consult with our followers about our app idea and asked our community if they would be interested in making their own custom emoji.
In this pursuit, we created a SurveyMonkey questionnaire asking our followers a series of questions and shared with them initial concepts of our app. Within 24 hours we had generated close to 5,000 interested users from a single post. The initial overwhelming response to participate in our social experiment of defining what the personal emoji would look like turned out to be the greatest advantage we had in differentiating our app from any available other market offerings.
At the end of the first week, we had 50,000 users subscribed to our email list. The initial interest was beyond expected. This motivated us to build the app, continue growing the community and learning more about the app space.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
While we were creating a social buzz around the app, development of the app was taking longer than expected. We faced some challenges and intense pressure in keeping potential users interested while the app was in its development stage. A lot of users started getting impatient as they were not expecting the app to take a few months to build. They wanted to try the app immediately and that caused a lot of pressure in terms of harmonizing user demand and delivering a quality product.
We had to get creative and re-strategize. In this tough time, we decided to focus on the audience who understood the app would take longer than expected and hoped that they would turn into our brand advocates telling their friends to wait for our app. In this process, we learned that users love being part of the development process, so we started sharing videos and content of the app being created. This openness built a great level of loyalty and confidence. Users started trusting that the app was going to be launched soon.
On the day of launch, Moji Edit became the top app trending in the App Store and climbing upwards globally in the top free app charts. In two weeks, we had over 300,000 people downloading our app and now entertain on average 20,000 new users per day. Over the years, we have become the biggest competitor in the personalized emoji avatar market.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
One of the accomplishments that we are proud of to date is that we did not fail to deliver an enjoyable app for our users.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
When bringing on a new team member, we usually ask what that they are most passionate about. We are very much a culture focused company, embracing individuality and creative thinking! One hiring tip that we can share is to always allow for the person to be themselves in the interview and allow them to share more about themselves rather than telling them more about the job, etc.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
The COVID-19 situation has paved the way for us to accelerate our innovative efforts to produce more tools that allow for greater connectivity using your personal moji. We have seen an increase in our app usage and retention numbers. We have also learned that the personal moji allows for a deeper connection in the way we connect with our friends and family when we are no longer permitted to travel and have group meetings.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
Over the next few years, you can expect more developments in AR and VR to empower our users to explore greater connectivity with their moji in these new digital worlds.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
The biggest lesson we learned in 2020 is that regardless of the changes we witness happening in the world, we must rise above the changing landscape and use these challenges to create new wins.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
We wish we would have enjoyed the journey more, even though it included some of our most trying times.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
Our faith in Jesus Christ to take control of our lives has definitely helped us stay grounded this year. More than ever, we are stronger, happier and fulfilled in what we are doing.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
We are strong believers that work/life balance is necessary for feeling reenergized, gaining new perspectives and is especially important for mental health. A few tips that we believe have helped us maintain a better work/life balance include accepting that there is no ‘perfect’ work life balance and in time you will find how to best create harmony between them both. Always remember to never lose yourself to your work and learn to say “no”. This will have positive effects on your overall physical and mental health.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
Something that most people don’t know about us is that we have two pairs of every shoe in our wardrobe.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
Our 3 tips that help us stay productive each day are:
- Wake up 15 mins earlier. It will help you have extra time for yourself that you don’t need to feel guilty about.
- Avoid multitasking as studies show that this reduces productivity as we become less clear of the task at hand.
- Stay optimistic!
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
It means becoming a leader in our own way and positively inspiring others to become leaders in their communities.