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-s, 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 the 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 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 our 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!