Not many people build an app that reaches a million users within the first year of release.
However that’s exactly how Daniel Vassilev and Jacky Koh, the co-founders of Vector AI, discovered their passion for tech and entrepreneurship.
“We built our first app by accident,” Mr Vassilev said.
“We were talking about doing something. I could code and he had the idea and marketing skills, so we built the app and released it. It was an android app for playing youtube music in the background.
“A few months later it gained traction so we monetised it. In 9-12 months we hit a million users installing it.”
Mr Vassilev created this app without any formal programming training, having only graduated from high school at the time.
However his interest in app development continued throughout university and the reach of his projects increased.
“Throughout uni, we kept building and monetising things,” Mr Vassilev said.
“Our biggest app was PokeWhere – it showed you where Pokemon were and it hit 4-5 million users in a couple of months and also hit no. 1 on the app store.”
Meanwhile Mr Koh was busy diving into data science, becoming the president of the Data Society at UNSW and winning the national EY data science competition.
Mr Koh and Mr Vassilev then went on to found Vector AI, a data analytics company that uses vectors to help businesses improve their products.
“Vectors enable you to capture the DNA of data – e.g. images, audio, documents – and converts it to a format that you can analyse using statistics.”
Despite being a powerful data analytics tool, Mr Koh found that vectors were heavily underused.
Whilst tech companies or large businesses would have teams dedicated to data analytics, smaller businesses would neither have the time, resources or knowledge to tap into their data.
“Data science is not the main focus in many businesses. If you’re an ecommerce company, your KPIs are around sales and conversion rates. So we realised there was a huge gap where we could provide them with the tech to drive their KPIs without having to worry about building and maintaining.”
Through Vector AI, Mr Vassilev hopes that more businesses will become aware of the untapped potential of data analytics.
“We want to have a wide array of customers that are using vectors to better capture the data they own. Around 70 per cent of data is unused and that’s a waste because one of the most valuable assets is data.”
However venturing into data analytics for the first time without a background in technology can be difficult.
“For people who don’t know much about data science and are in a managerial position and want to make better use of it, I understand it can be daunting because there’s a lot of noise out there.
“But I think the best way to overcome this is to have data experts internally that you can talk with and help you distinguish between the real and the fake, the useful and the not so useful for your business. But if you don’t have that, just write down the list of KPIs that you have and think if there is anything you can derive from your data that’s relevant to them.”
Despite Mr Vassilev’s success as an entrepreneur, he never planned this career path.
“I didn’t see entrepreneurship as a career option. When we first set out to build an app, we didn’t say we’re going to be entrepreneurs, we did it because it sounded like fun. The entrepreneurial side only developed after when we realised you could build and reach people from your home just by hitting some keys from your laptop.”
Passion, he argues, is the key to his success.
“Be really passionate about what you do,” said Mr Vassilev.
“I think people might want to build businesses because it sounds great and fun and exciting. But there are a lot of really hard days and you don’t get through them unless you have a burning desire and passion to solve the problem and help the people you target.
“If you are going to start a business, find something that even in the worst of times you feel so passionate about that it’ll keep you going.”