Yasmine Åkermark, Co-Founder of Tibba: „Travelling is never about the money“

10. 1. 2017 +

Rozhovory

Global business ideas emerge from various situations, in case of Yasmine and Erica, all it took was an 8 hour drive through Oman desert. ” You drive for hours and all you see is sand, so to keep yourself occupied, you start talking. As we both love travelling, we shared stories of how we stayed at places basically for free. Sometimes, you can just trade your skills for accommodation and food.” That´s how Tibba app, a digital barter where freelancers exchange skills, started. We at Business Animals were interested, how do you make essencially non-profitable business profitable? How to pitch investors? And more importantly, how do two badass female entrepreneurs run a company, when one is London-based creative marketer and the other one is a lawyer in Dubai?

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  • Tibba Founders Erica (left) and Yasmine (right)
  • Yasmine Åkermark (29) is a Swedish entrepreneur, marketer, photographer and social media specialist living in London.
  • Erica Werneman is a Swedish lawyer living in Dubai.
  • They both love extreme sports.  Erica loves diving, motorbiking and hiking whilst Yasmine ‘s into climbing, skiing, free diving and sailing.
  • Yasmine describes herself as an obsessive traveller, who loves putting herself in hard unexpected situations. No surprise, her life has turned out this way since her parents took her to Israel and Palestine at 2 years old, and at six months, she already rode and elephant in India on her mum´s lap. “Now my mum says I travel way too much.” Yasmine laughs.
  • Her current travel goals are Moscow and the Carribean. She has just come back from Bali, where the app Tibba was introduced to local digital nomad community.

Yasmine, I recall your Kickstarter campaign saying you and Erica travelled a lot, kept meeting freelancers and realized a certain space for trading skills was needed. What´s the context behind Tibba?

That´s pretty much it. I´ve been travelling since I can remember. You remember the elephant story :), so that´s when my passion started. I studied in France and moved to London for a job. Kept travelling. Once, while on all-around-the-world trip I ran out of money. But that wasn´t gonna hold me back. I started to look for ways how to trade skills for bills: “Can I stay with you if I teach your kids French? Can I help you with social media? Oh, you teach yoga and need a website, whereas I´m a freelance photographer and marketer? Let´s help each other out.“

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They share a passion for travelling and strong vision for making it more accessible to everyone as a lifestyle. „Travelling was never about money. It´s about having a great time, experiencing, stretching, growing.“

„We weren´t shy. We reached out to everyone“

So it was merely a lifestyle at first. At what point did it all fall into place? When did lifestyle turn into a business?

In 2015, Erica and I were on a roadtrip in Oman and decided to rent a car and drive through the desert. It was an 8 hour drive through sand and only sand, so we were driving, talking, talking, driving. About what makes us happy, that we´re the happiest on the road and that travelling is never about money. If you really want, you can travel low-cost and use your skills. About 4 hours in the ride we realized there is a marketplace missing, where digital nomads could just trade their skills, either with each other (you teach me how to surf, I help build your brand on Instagram) or for a place to stay, food, tickets etc. The second half of the ride was just pure excitement and us repeating: „OMG, we´re gonna make an app, we´re gonna make an app.“

What were your first steps?

For the first two months after Oman, we didn´t really see each other since Erica works in Dubai and I am London-based. We were buying business and tech books and when Erica came to visit, we pulled this intense two-week hackathlon in my kitchen. We were sketching, business planning, attending 2-3 networking events daily. We started connecting with people big time, be it developers or investors. We weren´t shy. We reached out to everyone. We even talked to investors in Dubai, but it´s hard when you don´t have a product yet. They wanted large equity so we said no.

Step #2?

Partnering up with developers. That was hard, because all the good ones have high paid jobs and nobody was really willing. We found a way around it and started pitching IT companies. One CTO really liked our vision of doing some sort of social entrepreneurship so they signed a small part of their developers to work on Tibba.

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Tibba started out as a sketch on Yasmine´s kitchen table. This was 2015. Now, this peer to peer marketplace where you connect with people and trade your skills instead of paying them for their services, has been launched in London, Dubai and Bali. „We have over 25 000 members in our community. This autumn, Tibba was launched in South East Asia. Next step is the whole world,“ Yasmine smiles.

„If you want to do business with someone, go travel with them“

The single most commonly asked question among young entrepreneurs is How do I fund it? How did you guys raise money for the app? Was the Kickstarter campaign enough?

No, actually it was perhaps 5 %. If you ask me, Kickstarter is great for marketing. It´s also great tool when you have a physical product (smoothie maker, skate shoes) that you can promote with good video. Anything tech-related won´t work this well. To answer your original question, funding actually isn´t that hard. These days, students are encouraged to partner up and develop projects, so basically what you need is skilled people around you. If you get together 4 people, one for tech, another for design, third for marketing and last one analythical, it´s gold!

Still. Isn´t it risky to do business with friends?

You obviously need to have a background together and know each other very well. Erica and I know each other for over 10 years, we´ve lived together in 4 different countries. We´ve seen each other hungry, grumpy, exhausted. Business is like marriage, it´s in good and bad. If you want to do business with someone, go travel with them.

3 reasons why you should partner up with a friend:

  • Learning curve. Erica and I have a very different set of skills and we know more together than we would as individual startup owners. She trusts what I do 100 % and I do the same. We give each other feedback and slowly learn each other´s area(s) of expertise.
  • Honesty. You learn how to communicate your feelings in such clear manner. Your every word or action needs to be very transparent and open-minded. Those are skills for life.
  • You have loads of fun together! Lots of cool stories and memories.
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Yasmine has always been an entrepreneur. „As a kid, when fishing with my dad, I packed the fish and sold it to neighbours.“ Normal 9 to 5 job didn´t sound appealing enough and after graduating uni, she boldly jumped into her first business – working with Red Cross in Southern France. „They had cool vintage items, so I asked them to sell those with 10 % commission. I thought I´d just make website and people would come and buy. Learnt the hard way,“ she laughs at her beginnings, „e-commerce turned out to be harder than expected, what worked though was opening a shop in London. I run two now.“ Meanwhile, she was developing all her creative skills (marketing, photography, social media). She even started creative company with a friend.

In your „Hello world“ video, you say Erica is pretty badass at negotiating. What do you guys mostly negotiate about and what is the hardest part?

She is! Even I am becoming much better with her. Erica works as a solicitor, so argumenting with companies and facing all sorts of scary situations people usually avoid is her daily job. What I love about Erica´s style is that she is very business-oriented, she goes smoothly from small talk to establishing our position. She´s friendly and straightforward at the same time, she doesn´t make it awkward to people. She´s very convincing and great at closing. It sounds so easy watching her say „This is how were doing this, I´ll sent you a contract.“

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How did Tibba change us? „We are constantly learning new things and putting ourselves in situations when we are like WHAAAT?! This summer hasn´t been easy with Brexit and everything, we´ve lost several potential investors. You become more hardcore, you don´t sweat the small stuff.“

„London-Dubai worked for a while. As for now, we need to be closer to grow“

Whats the business model actually? From where does the money flow?

At this stage, we are non-profitable. Tech- investors invest in the vision, the idea of Tibba and what it can become. As for users, we´d like to keep the app free forever, but in some countries you need to have some fees. Then, there will be premium features for small companies. So we will basically be adding more features. This is how Nomadlist works. You pay about 40 Euro a year to get to their platform, and can add monthly or yearly payments to access more things. Tinder started out this way too. They got massive amount of people onboard and then added payed features.

You girls love to travel. Are you able to work remotely? Can you actually build a successful business from your laptop?

Yes and no. Our developer is in Sweden, Erica in Dubai and myself here in London. So our day to day cooperation requires a lot of remote work – otherwise we wouldn´t be able to innovate. From my personal experience, it is fine in the beginning, but i quite like to be around other people. Right now there is so much happening and it requires us to be close to each other.

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There are some exciting, as well as hard, steps on their agenda. „We are changing the CTO and developers. At this point, we are getting more people on board and making some adjustments in our careers. Erica´s job is very demanding, and my situation isn´t ideal either. I basically lived of money I made in my first business, but need to make some actions steps now.“

2016 is coming to an end. What are the next steps for you?

We are currently doing some changes and will be launching as a responsive website early next year so might be good to add something such as platform instead of app, it will most likely be free but we have been playing around with the thought of having it as very low subscription fee in that way we can make it a lot better but this is not decide just yet.

We are launching world wide which is super super super exciting, the exact date is not set in stone yet but it is happening, we are looking for early adopters to be the very first to test the platform so anyone interested give us a shout!

Photos: Tibba