MaistorHome or How to Set Up a Business in Scapto
Students in AUBG complain from the tons of assignments they have to go over every day. Deadlines keep coming and students feel like drowning in homework, quizzes and class projects. The AUBG club activities are yet another source of time-consuming meetings, projects, and deadlines. What, really, could make someone want more responsibilities?
In 2016, a group of students kick-started their own project that changed and developed from MaistorLuck to MaistorHome – an innovative smart-house system. Zhorzh Yordanov, Radoslav Ferdov, Nikolay Stankov and Nikola Toshev have taken up the challenge of creating their own business while still in the university. Friends and business partners, the four shared that time and place do not matter – ideas have to be realized right now, and not in the future.
Their project, called “MaistorHome,” focuses on developing a smart home electrical grid system. The wired system is to be implemented in buildings that are already passively heated, making them even more energy efficient. This is done through modules installed in the building that enable the customers to control their TV, lights, AC and other home devices through sensors and already preset settings.
The team continues to work on executing the idea ever since 2014 when they decided to participate in the Startup Challenge. They have so far created a prototype of the system and further succeeded to control electrical machines via the Internet.
Meet the Characters
Nikolay Stankov is a fourth-year student in AUBG, coming from Rousse, Bulgaria. He says that he is the visionary in the group and can help with the technical development. Radoslav Ferdov says that “if you have a machine, Niki [Stankov] is the battery of that machine.” Harsh and critical sometimes, according to the group, Stankov is the one who has brought them together with his devotion to the project.
“I always played around with cables and used to work in computer services, so I said I will deal with the chips and the electrical part,” said Stankov.
Radoslav Ferdov is a third-year student from Varna, Bulgaria. In the MaistorHome team he is responsible for developing the designs, prototypes, and cases. According to him, he has a perspective vision which allows him to create a step-by-step plan of how a project should be done. This helps him to complete complex tasks successfully. Stankov shared that Ferdov is the type of person who can go through a city once and then create a 3D map of it in his head.
“If you explain how you imagine something working,” shared Ferdov, “I can imagine how it should go as a whole and how it should be constructed part by part. I am making the prototypes, details and helping design the cases. But later on, I see myself as an engineer.”
Nikola Toshev is a third-year student from Sofia, Bulgaria. He is part of several AUBG clubs while he also has a part-time job with 20 work hours per week as a junior mobile developer. As of his role in the team, he commented that he is developing the software and the mobile application through which customers could control the smart house.
“Nikola has the knowledge and the skills to program and write codes,” said Ferdov. “He has this technical knowledge. He is the one that we hope and depend on [for] writing the code and getting the system working.”
According to Stankov, Toshev is also extremely critical and needs to hear a “deep explanation of why this is the exact way something should be done.” He added that if an idea passes through Toshev, then it will be successful. Toshev explained that this is part of his curiosity. He also prefers to spend more time on figuring out the correct way of implementing the idea that will bring good results.
Zhorzh Yordanov is a third-year student from Varna, Bulgaria. His job in the team is to develop the business model on which the project will depend on in the future and monitor the finances. According to Ferdov, Yordanov also contributes to the team by asking the right question and being critical about the way things are done.
“He is basically: ‘If you give me this final product can I sell it?,’ which helps a lot because he thinks five steps ahead of us,” commented Ferdov. “He is our accountant and we depend on him on finding the best way of developing the business model.”
The four students are working together as a team well because their skills complement each other, commented Stankov. Their devotion to the project motivates them to sacrifice time and effort in learning, developing their ideas and producing wherever they need by themselves. All of them emphasize the importance of learning that brings satisfaction after completing a part of the project.
The Most Memorable Moments
The idea of the project came from experience, shared Nikolay Stankov, who had a broken door in his apartment back home in Rousse, and there was nobody to fix it at the time. As students, they are often unfamiliar with handyman services and the regular repair prices. By blending his experience in customer services with his knowledge of what customers like him might need, he came up with the idea of “MaistorLuck” [Handy luck]. The idea was to create a platform which connects handyman services and customers, telling customers the problem and the price for fixing it. When Yordanov came back from the U.S. Work and Travel program he had the same idea in mind, without any prior talking to Stankov. The team started to come together and present the idea on the StartUp Challenge that later got bettered by other teams but that did not affect their spirit. Later on, the idea of smart homes came to mind, transforming “Maistorluck” into “Maistorhome.”
Stankov was motivated to have a working module which is why he stayed in AUBG during the 2017 spring break. He wanted to turn on a water boiler via the Internet connection. He spent a significant amount of time trying to figure out how to do it, finally getting a working prototype at the last day of the break. But he was unsure of one thing – how many amps go through the cable (connecting the water boiler and the electric grid) to the unit.
“I was like: “Ok Nikolay, now you will go and buy a multi-meter and you will test it,” explained Stankov. “I bought a multi-meter, I took it with both hands and I plugged it into the power outlet. It was like sticking a fork in the electric outlet. Poof. I got electrocuted.”
Stankov said that the burn marks could still be seen on the actual working prototype and the multi-meter that was five-minutes-old burned in his hands. Instead of discouraging him, this served as an important lesson – be careful when you play with electricity.
Another memorable moment for Yordanov and Ferdov was with the Amazon voice control system called Alexa. The team has worked on incorporating the Alexa voice control in their smart houses. According to Ferdov, the hardest part was to program Alexa to work on a microcomputer. The team was in Skaptopara III, connecting Alexa to one of the TVs through two cables and to their amazement, it started responding.
“You can recognize that she is running because when you call her “Alexa” she has to respond “Hello,” said Ferdov. “Niki [Stankov] connected the cables and he said “Alexa” and she said “Hello.” After that, he thought that every time we want to call Alexa we have to connect those two cables. We just sat down and talked about what we could accomplish if we could connect her around the house and call Alexa. She responded in this particular moment.”
Advice from the Team
Time is one of the things we never have enough as students. We want to have good grades, social life, and healthy sleep but that’s not always possible. According to Yordanov, time is the most precious currency that we have and we have to spend it wisely. His advice is to decide what is the most important task, do it, and then move on to the next one.
“When I wake up in the morning,” explained Yordanov, “I decide what is important for me, and I follow this throughout the day until I complete it, then I am going to the next one. I am trying to be efficient with my time because it is probably the most precious currency that we have.”
Toshev shared Yordanov’s opinion and said that he had to learn to manage his time really well. Otherwise, he would have fallen behind with his work or classes.
“Since I am not so good at doing that [time-management] I spend a lot of time stressing out,” said Toshev. “But after a while, I kind of started coping with it. It kind of grows on you.”
According to Stankov, sometimes the team had to sacrifice either social life or a good night sleep while working on the project. For him, social interactions were never the problem because in his words he is working “not only with partners but good friends. It was the whole combination of friends and work, which was brilliant.”
For all those who want to have their own project, but never had the courage to execute it, Ferdov said that “risking is actually a positive thing.” According to him, taking risks is part of the equation and actually, signals one’s determination and confidence in their idea. This also translates into other areas of one’s life, especially when students enter the job market. If people are not confident in their own knowledge or skills at the market they cannot convince others that they are worth hiring.
“Most of the people face this problem of trying to come up something innovative, but there are so many things that already exist,” commented Ferdov. “You don’t necessarily have to create something that does not already exist. It is enough for you to be determined that your product is better than what already exists on the market. And that you can make it better.”
Another feature of this project is that it is not done by one person, but four. For all of them, coming together as a team brought wholeness and balance in the project. According to them, they learn and try, fail and succeed together, and work and stress out together.
“Before I came here to the university, if I had some idea I would keep it to myself and do it on my own,” shared Yordanov. “But when I came here I understood that if I share my idea I can improve it, upgrade it and be more successful when I implement it. If I have the support of someone else who is also passionate about the idea it is easier, helpful and much better.”
According to Toshev, the nicest trait of the team is that they are four individuals with their own ideas, skills, and opinions that are different and complementary at the same time.
“Everybody knows what they should be doing,” said Toshev. “But at the same time, we share our progress in such a way that everybody understands the work of the others. I made a button, you press it, and it works. Also, it is nice that the four of us are retarded in our own special ways, but also understand each other’s ideas.”
The MaistorHome team will not be together during the summer, bringing the project to a halt. However, they shared their determination to be back in Fall 2017 and continue to work on the project.