I’ve been working for my ex-company for more than 5 years now (a company dealing with film licenses etc. and seated only 50 meters away from here) and time has come for a chance to find something different, more interesting. We’d known each other with Áron for a long time now and therefore I’ve been following Kaptár’s story also since it’s opening and I was very much sympathizing how passionately it’s been founded and run since. We had a few chats earlier and ended up with the positive conclusion of giving us a try working together. Plus stayed close to Basil Ica just to make sure. :)
What were your funniest/best KAPTÁR moments?
First things first, my new colleagues are great. Then it is always fun to accidentally meet old friends in KAPTÁR which already happened a few times over the week, and also, the openness of people around here is super.
What is the best part of your job?
That it is new, full of challenges and learning plus that I can get to know new people.
What was the most annoying about working at home?
That I have never had the chance to do such a thing. :) I started at Kaptár just this week and none of my previous jobs offered such an option before. Maybe here I’ll have the chance to try…
Today’s guest of KAPTÁR Success Stories is Dani Farkas, the founder of Drops and one of KAPTÁR’s original inhabitants. His application has already been the „Application of the Day“ in several countries and platforms several times and lately, TechCrunch released an interview with the team about introducing the latest language – Hawaiian. Thank you for following our invitation as well, Dani! How has all of this started?
Thank you for the opportunity! This whole startup thing has started 5 years ago, but back then, it didn’t even have the name Drops. Drops itself is 3 years old. By now, we’ve managed to grow to a remote team of 13 – we have colleagues in the US, Russia and Great Britain amongst others, and of course here in Hungary.
What is Drops exactly? How is it different than Duolingo for example?
Drops is an app for learning and growing vocabulary.
We think a language is a living thing, a type of communication. Therefore, we don’t believe, that just an application can teach you a language. And for this reason, we’ve already decided at the beginning, that we only want to have a piece of this market. And we’ve gotta admit, it’s not just an important part of language learning, but also a nice challenge.
Currently, we teach 31 languages. Of course, we want to enlarge the offer, but with this, we’re already amongst the 5 most popular language learning apps worldwide.
And Hawaiian is the newest of those 31 languages…
Yes, this was very exciting by the way. It started as a gag, but it turned really huge. It was great for us because the interest of the media was big – TechCrunch, Forbes, Venture Beat, FastCompany, etc.- but it also helped to spread the Hawaiian culture.
They are colonized people, and in the 1980-ies, their language almost died out. Hardly 200 people spoke original Hawaiian.
Now, it’s returning, there is a sort of national awareness awakening. They try to revive the language and culture and we are happy that Drops can contribute to that a little. Many people think that including the Hawaiian language was just some sort of joke, but it kinda became a mission. We basically support the survival of a culture.
Is that what caught the attention of TechCrunch?
Not specifically. That was part of a conscious and deliberate campaign. We basically started our company’s PR activity with it. Until then, we’ve been „flying below the radar“, regarding media presence.
The goal and yield of that article were to make Drops „social proof“ and in future, we can build on those press connections, which will be of benefit on our American media tour.
Top language learning app, the support in rescuing the Hawaiian culture, more and more authentic publications, and an American media tour. What is your secret, Dani?
My secret? Gummy bears, they help a lot! (Editors note: We’ve been nibbling some gummi frogs during the interview)
But all joking aside, of course, we had rougher times as well… I think it was important to make the decision not to give up, even in times, when it’s not going that well.
Was that typical for you?
Very much! I had plenty of projects that just kinda started to work a little, but then something else turned up, which I could switch to. Then that also started to kinda work and I switched to another one again, and so on… In the end, I didn’t finish any of them and none of them turned into something serious.
But with Drops, I decided that I won’t focus on anything else in the next 3 years, no matter what happens. And sure, many things did happen. We had periods when nothing in the world wanted to work out. But then all of the work and experiences started to come to fruition.
According to my opinion, if you do something for 3 years, with all of your focus, then it’s almost definite, that something great will come out! It’s important not to stop at the first obstacle, and not to switch to other projects, just because that’s more exciting at that moment. New will always be more exciting.
To expand this thought… what have the past 3 years taught you?
That a new product itself is not enough. If you can’t bring it close to the people, whose life it should make easier, and if you can not renew yourself constantly, then it’s all for nothing.
If we stopped now, I think it could keep going on its own for 1 year. But the market is growing so fast, that you have to be alert constantly and pull a new rabbit out of the hat.
What would your advice be for someone, who thinks about app development?
I would tell them not to do it! (laughing)
I regularly bump into enthusiastic, young padawans, but often I don’t know if I should tell them the truth. On one hand it’s good to know the challenges you’re gonna face, but on the other hand, it’s not always helpful.
If someone had told me, what this market comes with, Drops might not exist today – though I like hearing the truth, even if it hurts.
Why? What is the truth?
Let’s start at the question if you’re willing to put all your eggs on a basket for the next half-decade, without knowing if it’s gonna succeed.
I think, there are too many opportunities in today’s world, too many options – and they mostly find the creative people. There is always a project, which is more tempting, but if you don’t push through with any of them, then you will always be stuck in one place.
It’s really hard, especially when you’re young, to say: „Ok, my next 4-5 will be only about this one thing!”. And when you’re alone it’s even harder. Finding the right people is essential nowadays. But everyone has to find their own recipe.
What are you most proud of regarding your career?
Maybe about not having any investors and that we never went for them. Because of that, we can be independent and can build the company we want. We don’t need to follow the general start-up clichés and chase the next investors, strive for becoming a huge team and get an own soccer table.
I’m not saying that these are bad things. Otherwise they wouldn’t exist. They do work out. But I’m not sure if it’s really good for the companies which are in it.
We rather strive to optimize the team’s wellbeing and try to enjoy the journey itself.
Thanks for the interview, Dani – I wish you and Drops all the best!
Thanks a lot – back at you!
I’m a software developer from Los Angeles, California, though I’ve been a digital nomad for 18 months now. After spectacularly failing to learn Spanish during my 8 months in South America, I’m now failing to learn all of the European languages I’m encountering at a world-class pace.
What is your most important life lesson, since you became a nomad?
Say yes to (almost) everything!
What is the best part of your job?
I’m a software developer and the thing that most people don’t realize about software development is that it can be quite artistic. Not in the traditional sense of the word, but in that there is a lot of creativity and elegance involved in writing good code. Despite not having a traditional “artistic” stretch of DNA in my cells, this brings me satisfaction almost every day.
What were your funniest/best KAPTÁR moments?
When Matild thought my name was Diarrhio :)
Hi! I’m Connor Feemer! My gamer bros just call me co/fee!
I can work like a frickin machine, but sometimes I just blow off some steam. Let’s just say, I have ground moments ;-)
I’m totally social: always up for a great coffee and I can hardly wait for the community lunches. I’m vegan though, so the only thing I get roasted is coffee, muhaha.
I usually take short coffee breaks, but „if needed“, I can let it flow a little longer. Don’t miss out on my foamy features! You know where you find me: I’m the only FIXIE in the FLEXIE area!
Man, I already love being a KAPTÁRmember, this place is gonna make me boil!
Learn more about me HERE!
Hi Zsuzsa, thanks for the interview! Could you please introduce yourself? What should we know about you?
Thank you Bálint! I studied environment research and have worked in this branch ever since, which I’m pretty proud of. On the other hand it also starts to feel natural for me, even though it is not all around the world. From this perspective I consider myself lucky. The opportunities keep coming and there is a nice work-flow in my life. Since I left University, my work has been about sustainability, raising awareness and communication. The best example for this is developing a curriculum.
This sounds exciting, tell us more about it…
I just did some summer camp programs for the Education Agency. These are programs of some days, for 1.-11. classes, full of activities around sustainability. Just to mention the most popular ones: ethical consumption, global outlook, eco footprint, recycling and the waste pyramid. But you know, the best waste is the one that doesn’t even arise.
We’ve been hearing all over again for a while that the earth will run out of resources and that there is no way back from that. But still, I don’t really see that anything happens… Everyone knows about it, but hardly anyone notes it. By being one of the few, doesn’t it sometimes feel like fighting windmills?
Yes sometimes. But I can’t do anything about it. It’s like there are different forces that pull the same thing, just from different sides. Sometimes the other side is pulling to strongly. But what can I do? I get up the next day and pull even stronger than yesterday. Either I convince people to join me, or I write curriculums for children and try to raise their awareness and make them become environmental conscious people. For me, this is not just a job, but my calling.
I find it very hard to learn what I can do to make this world a better place. I read about the topic, but found very conflicting information…
Yes, unfortunately this is reality… On the internet many people can write many things, but if you look up the website of bigger world organizations – like the IUCN for example – then you find reliable information.
I recommend the video „Follow the Frog” from the Rainforest Alliance. It perfectly sums up, how we can contribute to this complex system as an individual and still make a difference.
Another possibility is charity work at any likeable organization. No matter which background you have, they always count on your help!
I understand that this is your calling, but there must be a point when you are tired of everything and want to switch off. What are your methods for that?
I do yoga!
There are 2 things perfect for relaxing. One of them is acro-yoga.
I started in December and feel like a child again. It feels like a new playground has opened. Every time, I can do something that I couldn’t do before. It’s a fantastic sense of achievement.
I go quite often, 3 times a week. Balance is very important in acro-yoga, it’s what we have to seek in the positions. You could also call it partner acrobatics – we do it in pairs, one has to stay in the air and we have to find our balance.
This physical balance works align with the balance of my soul. When I try to fit everything into my life, the work, private life, family, house work, sports, business networking, and friends – then it helps me a lot to find balance.
The second thing that gives me energy is spending time in nature. One of our projects also fits to that, the #NatureForAll.
We will shortly get to the end of our interview, but we already talked about curriculum development, the waste pyramid, acro-yoga… What do you think is the secret, that whatever you start, you can do 100%?
Well, everything I do, I do with passion. If I’m not enthusiastic about something, then I rather don’t do it at all, or try to change something about it. I think if I don’t do things with passion, it’s completely redundant.
If you could send a note to your 5 years younger self, what would it say?
A few years ago, in a tough situation, someone told me, „This will be over one day.” May it be good or bad, nothing lasts forever. This „permanence in change” principle helps me to overcome hard moments.