part II


denmark → Bulgaria

View of Utah from our airplane on on our way to California for the first time.

Pitching in front of a  the US branch of the Techstars accelerator

Downloads were growing but so was stress. We were hard pressed for money and in dire of a victory. All of the accelerators we applied to in Europe and the US were skeptical of Swipes. "It's just a task list" they would often say.  The rejections, long hours and lack of results started to get to us. Our communication between us was starting to strain and we started to turn on one another. We were angry. This was a defining make it or break it moment for us. But what do you do when you can't even talk constructively?

Tension between the 3 of us was growing as we were getting pushed on money

We asked for help.

Lasse Chor stepped in. He was our friend and first advisor. Lasse mediated the conversation and helped us hear one another. We were reminded of a fundamental truth — each one of us cared deeply for the others. And each wanted the best for the team. We were able to resolve our differences and continue stronger.

In the most dire of moments, Lasse (right) did the impossible and brought us together.

We mobilized and renewed effort. The question of finding funding was still on our heads. At an investor event in Aarhus Stefan pitched Swipes to local angels. 60 defining seconds. Few approached, one turned out to be the right one — Kristian Ottosen. After Kasper and Yana spoke to him at length Kristian recognized the passion and potential in our team and became our first angel of Swipes. This was a major victory for us — we were not alone anymore!

Stefan pitching Swipes at an angel investor event in Aarhus where he met with Kristian Ottosen (left)

Momentum was building up. In the search of untapped needs Yana discovered a promising new opportunity — Evernote. Back in 2014 Evernote was the hottest and coolest productivity tech company on the block. They were a loved and respected brand with millions of users worldwide. There was one UX problem that was overlooked — task managements. Evernote users would have their tasks scattered across their hundreds of notes and there was no way to get an overview.

Until Swipes.

It was a very complex task that no one has resolved before. Stanimir — an experienced dev joined our team to help us solve this challenge. We created an integration that allowed users to pull all their Evernote tasks into Swipes and take action on them. People loved it. So did Evernote. A close partnership evolved with their team. That year they invited us to take part in their annual developer conference in San Francisco and we were nominated for a Best New Startup. This meant we would pitch and compete on stage against the other partner startups for the first place — a check for $25.000. This was it. That was our shot to put ourselves on the map right there right then.

Yana was preparing for the pitch competition all the time

Weeks went into the preparation. Designing, rehearsing, refining. When Yana took the stage there were 1500+ people in the audience. She was calm and collected and her delivery outstanding. The other startups followed through with their pitches and voting commenced — competition was fierce. The tension was palpable. At the second and last day of the conference it was time to announce the winner. We held our breath in anticipation our hearts racing. Suddenly we heard it. Swipes. We won! First place!

Yana pitching in front of 1500+ people at the 2014 Evernote Conference in San Francisco

Doors started to open for us. Kasper was in talks with a group of angel investors in Denmark; the Danish fond for startups also invested in Swipes. Swipes was being featured by the media even more than before. And for the first time Apple featured Swipes as #1 Productivity app on the App Store in 147 countries. We were in the game!

Swipes was lifting off. Backed by our investors we opened our first office in Sofia, Bulgaria and started hiring. Mitko and Dobrin joined to help with the product growth and user communication. Freelancers were helping with the website and the blog. The entire team moved in to our first office in Sofia. We felt confident in our future. For the first time everything felt stable and just right.

Our first day at our new office in Sofia, Bulgaria. Yana snapping a photo of the 3 of us and Stanimir (right).


Part III: Betting big