Get our rare newsletters
Contact GoalEuropeIf you have questions or need a consultation, get in touch.
If you attended LeWeb in 2010 or 2011, you would have known Quest.li and its founder Danil Kozyatnikov by now. Who doesn’t like a story about an amazing concurrence of circumstances, which make an unlikely event possible? It might appear as if Quest.li is an accidental startup success story from Siberia (success is defined here by ability to raise seed funding). Having spoken to Kozyatnikov at LeWeb I learned another side of their story.
To start with here is what Quest.li is about. It is an augmented reality game, which encourage people to create games (quests) and participate in them. Games can be played out in the physical world, as this video demonstrates. As the team is only getting started, the quests are available in forms of questionnaires until the critical mass has been reached to take it to the streets.
One can play for free, or for a small fee if they wanted to increase the chances of success. There is also a possibility of advertisers to develop games and sponsor quests. All quests are crowdsourced; the creators, the winner and Quest.li share the revenues.
The founder of Quest.li Danil Kozyatnikov starts his story way back to his student years. After he graduated from Novosibirsk Technical University with a bachelor degree, he went to the US and wanted to stay there for a year. As any Russian passport holder will know, changing a US tourist visa to something more long term is a challenge in its own, but Kozyatnikov went to Mexico, applied for a new visa, and came back triumphant, as he completed that quest without speaking much English or Spanish.
After a year of learning English in the US Kozyatnikov returned home to complete his degree. Back in Novosibirsk in 2009 he founded a company, which developed social games which ended up being played by 2 million people. But this success in user numbers did translate into cash: the company was earning a meager $1000 per month.
As Kozyatnikov shared with me at LeWeb, the problem with posting on Russian social networks is the lack of payment mechanisms and high fees demanded by the networks. So up to 50 per cent of the money had to be paid to mobile operators for processing SMS-style payments, and another 50 per cent of the remaining revenue was retained by a social network. Besides Kozyatnikov even struggled to get the money owed to him by one social network (and apparently is still owed around Euro 15 000).
It is when he was running his gaming company, he learned about the free tickets to LeWeb on Hunch, applied and won the last ticket: “Siberian story does work”, he explained. So Kozyatnikov and his team developed a prototype of the game in 10 days, contacted every possible investor via Presdo, printed a T-Shirt that said “Have a working prototype, need a VC” and stocked up on business cards. Getting a visa for France when one lives in Siberia is another “quest” which Kozyatnikov skipped and got a Shengen visa from the German consulate located conveniently in Novosibirsk, so he had to travel to Berlin instead of Paris, and then change flights, which by then wasn’t a big deal.
At LeWeb Kozyatnikov made himself noticed, also during the discussion panels, having famously asked Dennis Crowley of foursquare a question about the purpose of check-ins. Loic Le Meur noticed him and gave Quest.li some spotlight by asking to tell the story behind the T-shirt. Afterwards Kozyatnikov got a lot of interest and ran out of all of his 200 business cards.
At the conference he met Nicolas Berg of Redalpine Venture Partners, an early stage venture capital firm based in Zürich. Kozyatnikov chased him down to Switzerland by train as there were no money left to pay for a flight. “It took forever”, he said, “but then they invested $ 200 000”. After the application was developed, Kozyatnikov managed to get into the TC Disrupt New York in Spring 2011, but could not get a visa in time, and the participation in the TC Disrupt was delayed until San Francisco event in September 2011. At point the team was “thrown out” to the startup alley. But even then Quest.li became the winner of the audience award.
Fast forward to LeWeb 2011, and Kozyatnikov has showcased his product from the main stage of the conference, and announced additional funding round. Now, the only thing Kozyatnikov needs is for his game to go viral.
And this is the story of Questl.li or the “only startup in Siberia” so far. Of course, we at GoalEurope know more than one startup in the city, which is also a base of game developer and publisher Alawar Entertainment, Intel and Microsoft R&D Centers, as well as 2GIS, developer of e-maps with integrated yellow pages and transport information, which is rapidly expanding across Russia. There is even a startup accelerator called Gurnard Perch (the website is under construction).
Going back to Quest.li, I find its crowdsourced game concept very attractive. There is a pretty big creative crowd out there who can gain from the additional quest-creating income. The time to get their rating on Quest.li is now.
Image by Livesketching.com
+44 (020) 3290 3544
vita at goaleurope dot com