I don’t know about you, but if I encounter a new productivity solution, I mostly check it out to see if it might help me with my workload. Some work for me and others don’t. For all of you who are working as product managers or wear similar hats, you know that there’s always a never-ending to-do list of tasks in the backlog. Perhaps you even have a hard time feeling productive some days, but what if there was a tool that could help you get your work done more efficiently? Not8 is a productivity tool that I found quite innovative. It has been designed for product teams (product managers, QAs, web designers, and front-end developers) but could potentially even be used by a wider audience.
Today we’ll give you an introduction to not8 (pronounce as “notate”) and how it can help improve your productivity levels. We’ll also share the TechAcute interview with the not8 founders Yaroslav Medvedev (CEO) and Vladislav Dekhanov (CTO) about their backgrounds and motivation for developing not8 and maybe you’ll find it to be an inspiration in case you’re thinking about founding your own startup.
What is not8 about exactly?
The solution aims to help manage your time and web development workflows simpler than ever. Are you tired of sitting through product reviews or finding the right messages in the history of chatrooms? Not8 states on its website that it can make the process ten times quicker with its Chrome extension. It turns any web-based IT product that can be loaded in a browser into a pin board, to raise comments and tasks directly at the right spot. Using not8 you can know what to work on and where to make the changes without calls or navigating through all sorts of screenshots with arrows and circles added in a random graphic editor.
With not8, you can communicate with stakeholders efficiently and effectively. By streamlining the process of product review, you no longer need to waste precious time on making unnecessary calls, or marking up screenshots with confusing messages – instead, they are able to leave virtual “sticky notes” directly on the reviewed website or web application. At the end of the day, everyone who is involved in this type of process will appreciate it becoming less time-consuming. Using tools like not8 to make things less complicated significantly reduces the risk of miscommunication and makes it easier to identify which elements comments refer to. An improved product review experience saves product managers and their counterparts a considerable amount of time over the course of a year. Ultimately, not8 helps you and other teams boost their productivity.
Talking with the founders of not8
After finding out about the tool I had the pleasure to talk with the creative minds behind not8. We talked about their experiences in the industry and their long-term goals for the product in great detail. We even discovered some very fresh news that you might have not come across yet.
Through our conversations, it became clear that these two entrepreneurs are driven by a desire to push boundaries and create something different from what’s already out there. I don’t know about you, but as a founder myself, I’m always eager to hear how others got their ideas and found their way to creating a startup. Read on to find out how not8 came to be.
Christopher Isak: Hi Yaroslav, hi Vladislav, thanks a lot for giving us the opportunity to talk to you today. You are the founders of not8 – How did you two meet?
Yaroslav Medvedev: Hi Chris, it’s our pleasure, thank you for inviting us. Vlad & I met through Y Combinator co-founder matching platform more than a year ago. By the way, highly recommend it, I was really impressed by the quality of the people there.
CI: What did you work on before you started not8?
Vladislav Dekhanov: Well, not8 is not our first project together, as Yaro said, we started working together as co-founders more than a year ago. The first project we worked on as a team was TakeAround.me – “Uber” for sightseeing. We helped tourists hire a driver for a day or half a day. The project didn’t “fly” though, so in the Summer of 2022, we came up with another idea which became not8.
YM: Of course, we also had “regular” jobs before as well – I started my career at McKinsey, and then joined Cherry Labs – a Silicon Valley-based Computer Vision startup, and Vlad is an experienced frontend developer – he worked at Yandex – one of Eastern Europe’s IT giants, and ARRIVAL – a UK-based electric van manufacturer.
CI: When and how did you get the idea for not8?
VD: As a front-end developer I know first-hand that it takes product managers and designers a lot of time to communicate what changes they want in a website. They send marked-up screenshots, video recordings, and long Slack messages – waste their time and the developer’s time as well because then you need to “decipher” all that, you know (chuckles).
YM: He told me about this problem during one of our brainstorming sessions and at some point, we thought: “What if the product team could discuss everything right “inside the product”, use the product as a whiteboard, and could leave “sticky notes” on it for their colleagues? This would make the whole process of product review so much quicker and clear. And that’s how the idea of not8 – a platform for IT product review was born.
CI: Would it be fair to call not8 a startup and what is your feeling about potentially being considered a startup?
VD: Yes, absolutely, we are a startup, and we feel great about it. The startup game is about high risk – high reward, many projects die on their way to the “stars”, however those who make it big usually bring a lot of value to the world (and make a lot of money for both themselves and their investors).
CI: How did you two decide who would work on what aspects of the company?
YM: In our case, it was very clear from the start who is doing what. They say, you need a “hustler” and a “hacker” to build a startup – Vlad is a “hacker” (in a good sense of the word), he has a solid technical background, knows how to code and build stuff, and I am a “hustler” and networker – I know how to reach out almost anyone, which turns out to be a super important skill when it comes to sales and fundraising.
CI: Excuse me for stalking, but based on your social media profiles it seems like you’ve been to many places and a few companies before. How do you think the various locations differ from each other and how did you decide to settle for the Netherlands for now?
VD: We moved to the Netherlands for the 10-week Antler acceleration program which we applied for with not8, and decided to stay. The Netherlands is one of the startup hubs of Europe, they have a startup visa program, and we really like Amsterdam, so for us, it was an obvious decision to settle there.
CI: If you could travel back in time, is there anything that you’d do differently, with the knowledge that you have today?
YM: I would definitely try to close all the “administrative” questions like getting residence permits (we are not from the EU), registering a company, and opening business accounts sooner because it distracted us from building our company, but we couldn’t influence some of the things, really… Maybe I could also spend a bit more time searching for an individual lawyer, rather than a company to help us with the incorporation and Shareholders Agreement. We ended up spending more money on legal fees than I anticipated, but, at least, now I feel 100% sure that we didn’t miss anything important.
CI: There are some exciting upcoming news for not8. Can you share a little bit about the raised funding round?
VD: Indeed, we are excited to announce that Antler has decided to invest in not8. More than 1500 people applied to our cohort, but only 3 teams eventually got the investment, and we are lucky enough to be among them. It’s just 100k EUR for now, but with this money, we will be able to turn our MVP into a product, get more traction and then raise a bigger round later this year.
CI: How do these funds support you in achieving your goals?
YM: Our main goal is to make not8 a go-to tool for product teams around the world and revolutionize the way they work. This funding will bring us one step closer to that vision. We are planning to focus on the improvement of the product in order to achieve Product-led growth in the future (like Miro, Slack or Dropbox did back in the day), so about 50% of the investment will be allocated to that. Around 40% will be spent on our Sales and Marketing efforts, and the rest will be spent on other things like legal fees, bookkeeping, and so on.
CI: I had a look at not8 myself and from a publisher’s point of view, I had many ideas as to how I would use the tool. I’d imagine that it would also support publications such as TechAcute with some of the editing and review runs with the team and partners. Maybe even allow the readers to share direct feedback with us.
CI: Did you ever think about what not8 could be used for beyond what you currently had in scope?
VD: Yes, not8 has great potential in this market as well, we already thought about it. Pretty much anyone who works with text extensively could benefit from using our tool – you can leave notes for yourself and then easily access them at any time in your “back office” (this is something we’re working on right now) or you could collaborate with your team, as you said. Would you like to have a pilot with us? (chuckles)
CI: I’d be keen on testing for sure. (laughs)
CI: And beyond that, did you encounter any unusual challenges along the way that you’d like to share with others who might be also looking to become a founder?
YM: Well, there’s going to be a lot of stress and uncertainty in your life, but you would like to hear about the unusual challenges, right? (laughs) Oh, I know one. Our MVP is a Chrome extension and every time we want to publish a new updated version of it, we need to go through the moderation process. In some cases, it literally takes 10 minutes, but in other cases – can take up to 2 weeks. So, make sure you test your software well before publishing it (even in the very early stages of your startup journey) because you don’t want to be stuck with a “buggy” version of your product in the store for 2 weeks (which is something that, unfortunately, happened to us once).
CI: If you had to explain your work to a 5-year-old, what would you tell them what you do and how that helps others?
VD: Imagine, you and your friends want to draw a big picture on the wall. Say, you want to draw a scene from “Frozen” (kids love “Frozen”, I know, I have a daughter who’s 3.5 years old). You have a plan, it’s a printed image of how the wall should look like. The others are drawing. You all want the picture on the wall to look exactly like it looks in the plan. Now imagine, you leave for an hour (your friends are still drawing), then come back and notice that the picture that your friends have drawn doesn’t look exactly like the plan. Now here’s a challenge for you: stick your hands in your pockets and try to explain using just words what exactly is wrong. Difficult, right? It would be much easier to just come up to the wall and point to the exact place where the drawing doesn’t match the plan. Well, that’s exactly what you can do with not8. The picture on the wall is a product (website or app) that the team (your friends) is building. not8 – is a tool that helps you point out where exactly the problem is, it saves product teams time and makes communication clearer.
CI: Are you currently hiring?
YD: No, we try to stay very lean, at least, until we reach the product/market fit. We will hire our first employees after the next funding round.
CI: What are you planning to do in the coming months and years ahead?
VD: We plan to further enhance the functionality of our software by adding integrations with other tools such as Jira, ClickUp, and Loom, developing a back office, and developing a mobile app in the future.
YM: Yes, and of course, we will focus on growing our user base and fundraising, we plan to close our next funding round in Q3.
CI: What else would you like to share with our readers?
YM: Eat your veggies. Just kidding. Building a startup is a very fulfilling journey despite what I said earlier about stress. I really like how one prominent VC once said: build a startup only if it is impossible for you to not build it. So, if you feel that itch, that desire to build stuff, and are ready to sacrifice some things in your life for it – then you are going to make it. If you have that level of motivation, then you will push through any difficulties that may arise on your way. And, as a bonus, it just feels great to build something new that has the potential to improve other people’s lives. Good luck to all future entrepreneurs!
Thanks so much, Yaroslav and Vladislav, for your time and your insightful remarks about your journey. If this sounds like something you’d like to try out, check out the not8 solution. This new productivity tool was designed for product teams with a focus on simplicity and ease of use. Just install the Chrome extension and find out how it can accelerate and simplify your workflows.
Photo credit: The images shown are owned by not8 and were provided with permission to TechAcute.