20 Questions With Serguei Sofinski

What is the name of your business? 

Strol, LLC

Is this your first business?

 No, not the first one. I founded my first Internet startup in 1993. I shut it down in 1995. In 1997 I joined another startup (Intermedia.Net) becoming the CEO of the company and successfully exiting in 2011.

What is the biggest reason for your success so far?

 Speaking of Strol, I believe that the idea of "no idle time" while traveling and exploring cities on foot is everyone's idea of travel, but existing travel apps (and books) mostly send you from one attraction to another with nothing of interest in between. I found a way to feel this void with less known, but still interesting things to see. My co-founders helped me to turn the idea into a smartphone app.

What were the earliest indications that you might have a good idea?

 We have had steady growth of the user base and about a 4.3 average rating at the App Store since we had launched our app in June of 2015.

What is working best for your marketing right now?

 We are running a minuscule Google Adwords campaign. We are just starting marketing and PR which we will ramp up through the fall and winter.

What is your biggest differentiator?

 Crowd sourced attractions data - about 90,000,000 visual interest markers around the world today. All other travel apps use curated data and attempt to measure quality (which is wrong), we count emotional reactions - the number of writings "John was here" on the wall (albeit electronic ones) and recommend places based on popularity - number of votes.

What is the toughest decision you've had to make in the last few months?

 The toughest decision thus far was to launch the startup. The second toughest was to postpone the launch until Spring 2015 from midsummer 2014 due to difficulty finding developers for specific roles.

If it was possible, what advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?

 Go to business school right now! I went to a Harvard program in 2011-2013. I would have been much more beneficial if I had done it in 2005.

What is your morning routine?

Exercise, breakfast, kids, work.

Where is the best place to eat in your city?

 From the nearby ones - The Sea by Alexander's Steakhouse in Palo Alto,CA. I would rather go to NY.

What book do you recommend?

 Business - Judo Strategy by David Yoffie. History - Europe's Lat Summer by David Fromkin. Novel - books by Joseph Kanon.

Favorite place to travel to? 

Spain. Go to Madrid and then drive to smaller towns from there. Works well in Spring or Fall.

What business would you love for someone else to start?

I like the Uber model. I think it should be applied to all kinds of services - from house cleaning and gardening to airline tickets (airlines are just carriers that need to bid against your travel needs. It was done in part by Priceline, but today someone needs to go further - airlines bidding for business.

What is your favorite local business?

I really have none - aside from coffee shops, groceries and laundry,  I do not think we use anything else locally.

How did you finance your business? 

Myself.

How long before you took a salary? 

No salary.

Do you have any co-founders? 

Two co-founder with whom I worked for over 10 years at our previous business.

What position did you hire first? 

 My two co-founders came first bringing development and product/UX expertise. The first hire outside of this circle was a backend developer who is still with us.

Who is your ideal client? 

Leisure/culture traveler exploring on his own or with a friend/family, or business traveler who happens to be in new cities and have some (not much of free time on his/her hands).

What advice do you have for new founders? 

Make sure your idea is executable and prepare for a long run which will test your endurance and patience.

Check out Strol for yourself at strol.com

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