Niall McManus is the founder of Kuingia, a tool for people involved in challenging export markets sourcing information from mainstream media, research institutes, consultancy reports and multiple social media channels. Kuingia gathers stories in multiple languages and returns headlines and links in the query language. We spoke with Niall to learn more about his business.
Bartek Ciszewski: How was Kuinga started?
Niall McManus: About two years ago, I was talking about consultancy work in Africa. I needed information about the market sector and geography. I didn't know much about industry involved. I needed to gather information from many sources: local newspapers, radio stations, research institutes, OECD, World Bank. I was trying to do that and realized I was finding a lot of this information in social media.
I thought about a better way to do it. Mainstream media use social media to promote content. For example, The Irish Times tweets every story they publish. What's more, social media posts carry additional information, such as the place of origin of a story. If you are looking for information from specific location, let's say Kenya, social media can do it. In traditional search engines, you would need the keyword "Kenya" placed somewhere in the body or title of an article.
I also realized it would have to be done in multiple languages. If you are gathering information about Algeria, you need sources both in French and in English.
We are not looking at what is trending at the moment. We don't care about that. All we want is to deliver to the users the story on the topic and place in which they are interested.
Bartek: What were the main challenges in building such a tool?
Niall: To be honest, cost is a big thing. Moreover, Netguru was very helpful in solving it. What I liked about working with Netguru is a very defined budget, and being honest about what can be done for a certain amount of money.
After the scoping session, Netguru estimation for the project was 160% of my budget. The solution was to cut down some of the works that were not indispensable for the MVP.
Another challenge is the access to the tech know how that's out there. I work as an analyst, but I'm not familiar with the development technology. The problem was different tech people I asked for advice were giving me their own insights on the project. Netguru impressed me. They told me the five things I heard before from five different people, and they added some more. That was reassuring.
Bartek: What was your experience working with Netguru?
Niall: The budget, the expertise, accessibility. When I had a question or concern, there was always the PM, or at times the developer was ready to answer me. I never felt I was running blind. Having access to the software and the team at every stage of development gave me much confidence.
Bartek: How is Kuingia doing now?
Niall: We are in the process of fundraising. This and next month we meet with investors. We already have a tech partner - Netguru - which is also a big step forward.
The moment I receive next round of funding, I'm on the flight to Poznań immediately. I know that there's a quality dev team ready to work on my product. Netguru understands startups, they have shown patience, and realize it takes a long time to succeed.
Bartek: Why did you decide to work with a remote team?
Niall: Netguru was recommended to me by an Irish startup founder. I talked to few other people, and all of them confirmed that working with Netguru remotely was not a problem, and you were offering the best for the money.
The very first interaction was positive. Working remotely proved to be an advantage. A close friend who had experience with hiring local software firms said it would be rare to give such attention to the questions I send, they would just wait for a meeting in person. From this perspective, working remotely with Netguru is much more efficient.
Bartek: How is Kuingia doing now?
Niall: The first version of the app has already several corporate customers who find it useful. These are blue chips in areas of law, finance, international trade, and ICT. They are happy with the product.
What's interesting, all of them said they liked our very simple UX design. The truth is that because we were short of money, after the scoping session we had to cut out most of the cost dedicated to UX. It proved to be a great decision we came up with together with UX design agency's team.
Bartek: What are your future plans with development of the app?
Niall: I already have feedback from users, and a notebook full of things needed to be improved. They are waiting for the next round of financing. The first thing I'll do when I receive the money is get a plane to Poznan, which is on Wednesday, meet with Netguru team and come back on Friday. I'm sure this would be enough to come up with a precise development plan.
Bartek: What advice would you give to people developing the first version of their product?
Niall: It may be very simple, but make sure that your MVP is good enough to do the job for your customers. Just make ake sure that it does the core functionality well.