Andrey Solovyev became interested in chemistry at school. Him, the contestant, took no examinations at St. Petersburg state University. After graduation he enrolled in graduate school in the United States. In 2012 he held postdocs at Berkeley. But after a year decided to make a career of the Professor and engaged in the development of educational mobile applications. The scientist said “invest-foresight”, as you can earn on a quiz show and why he hesitates to expand the business.
Chemistry and life
I was in the 8th grade when a neighbor gave to read the encyclopedia of chemistry. I soon began to understand the subject. Then he enrolled in the chemical circle. Participated in school competitions. At the time of admission to the University I was a winner of several competitions, including Russian, and a silver medal in the international chemistry Olympiad in Groningen (Netherlands). With such results I could choose any University of Russia without entrance exams. Since I was born and lived in St. Petersburg, stopped at St. Petersburg state University. After 4th year got an internship at a small University Bowling Green State University (Ohio). The difference between the vehicle devices and reagents, access to literature in Russia and the United States was very high. After an internship decided for myself: if you want to do science, you need to go abroad.
Towards the end of the school with twin brother Alex, who studied at the faculty of applied mathematics and control processes, filed papers in graduate school USA. To enroll in an American University is difficult: you need to pass the standard tests, collect letters of recommendation, statement of assessments, send this package of documents fall, for the year prior to the study. So the fallback was considering graduate school in Germany, where it is much easier to get. But in 2007 we took in the University of Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania).
Our adaptation was easier than most: we know what we do and where we live. With a letter of admission to graduate school is easier to rent a house. Health insurance paid by the University. To open a Bank account too was easy during my internship, I received a social security number (social security number). Our life was planned for the next 4-5 years of graduate school. After her graduation in 2012, I started working as postdocs at Berkeley (California). But years of study and work in the laboratory cooled my ardor to become a Professor of chemistry.
Today the Professor is not only a science. He has more managerial tasks — how much time you have to spend to find the money. The pursuit of publications and grants me does not appeal to me. Toward the end of graduate school, also found that I don’t have their own ideas for which should stay in the academic field. I imagined myself as a mediocre Professor in a very small University and thought about other ways of earning.
In 2011 my brother is a mathematician proposed to develop mobile applications. I liked the idea. I thought so you can quickly earn good money, and then return to the chemistry of an independent researcher and not to think about grants. First, we wanted to implement ideas while studying in graduate school. But it turned out that it is undesirable to do business on a student visa. The idea had to be postponed until receiving a green card in 2012.
In our tandem roles were distributed quite logical: brother took over writing code, and I answer for everything else — content, translations into different languages, marketing, etc. the First app we did for the month. It almost brought nothing. As we searched for the niche, do apps of different genres, focusing on the market trends. Then released several applications in chemistry. Turned out that it is quite narrow in the global scope. At one point, saw a small but steady income bring educational quiz.
I suggested my brother to write a universal code that can be used under different quiz. So Alex was able to focus less on development and more time to devote to scientific work (he was working postdocs). Based on the code I started making the quiz. In total we’ve got about 50 apps on different topics. Some of the quiz to generate $10 a day, others $50. But to reach the monthly income equal to postdocoral salary, it took me 1.5-2 years. All this time I lived on savings, and housing was paid by a brother. Now our monthly income is $15 000 before taxes. Enough to live on, but to open an independent chemical laboratory it is necessary 10 times more.
The simpler the app, the more profitable it is. Our most popular quiz is “Flags of all countries of the world”, the “Capital of the world”, “Animals, all animals and birds in the test in Zoology” and “Famous people — a quiz on world history.” The names may seem strange, but it is app store optimization (search optimization in the app store). I call the application, as they are usually looking for people. It is better than if the quiz was called “Andrei Solovyov is animals.”
Usually the success of applications to measure such a quantity, as ARPU (average revenue per user — average revenue per user). It should be more than CPI (cost per install — the installation cost), that is, the marketing cost of attracting a user. I have a global ARPU of about 3 cents at zero CPI. We do not buy advertising and paid articles. The promotion is due to the “organic” search (user finds the app’s description and keywords) and cross-promotion (in a single app provides links to others). If the app becomes popular, it pulls the other quiz. Some users wrote me that he had downloaded all of our apps.
Money-making apps I translated into more than 20 languages. It was just the same flags and capitals to be found in any language in Wikipedia. In recent times the bulk of the revenue comes from Germany and a little less from France. I think there is less competition. English translate your apps, French and German — no. Although it also big markets with good advertising revenues and an educated population.
Before I experimented — did app paid, free. It turned out, popular quiz bring more money if they are free. Unpopular, including chemistry, on the contrary, it is better to leave paid. Now 95% of our advertising revenue and 5% of domestic purchases. We plan to change strategy of development is to take not quantity but quality. Some of the quiz to join, the failed close. 50 leave 5 most popular application with large databases of questions.
Why is the US easier
After finishing graduate school I had the idea to do mobile development in Russia. But there are added complexities such as exchange controls. In the US we give Apple or Google account number in the Bank — no more questions and additional papers. There is also a lot of bureaucracy, but if you work with American companies to do business in the US easier than from any other country. If you are here for business, automatically become sole proprietors (you just need to fill in a tax return). In this status, you can even hire employees. Obtaining a business license requires a County or city. The design is done very cheaply and quickly. At the level of the Federal government I have a SSN (tax identification number) that is assigned to all who work in the United States. That’s enough to drive tax reporting. Last year I paid 25% taxes, including Federal, state, and city. The transition from sole proprietors to the company is in our plans. We need designers and programmers. But my brother and I are business people. There are people who know and love to manage people, to negotiate, to seek investors and to engage in accounting Affairs.
I was happy with our total freedom from employers, with no staff. We are not bound by deadlines and time constraints. Can at any time to go on a journey. Our income from the applications can be called passive users themselves find them to download, even if we for a long time nothing updated, watching commercials. In theory, we would like to grow, but when you go out on a good income, begin to spend time and money on other projects and entertainment.
A reasonable choice
I do not regret that went from mid-level and focused on educational applications. We have more than 20 million downloads. Don’t know how useful our application, but we receive positive feedback. My scientific articles such audience would never read. Well, if I typed a thousand people. And then the millions of people who I helped prepare for the exam and expanding horizons. But I’m still sure that will bring more benefits to mankind, if I engage in pseudo-scientific activities — at least maintain the chemical blog or to do chemical application. For me the ideal situation: to be an independent researcher with my lab. If science did not do or go in the negative, there are always applications that will cover the cost.
Last year I got citizenship and I see no reason to return to Russia. The US has long become my home. I live in this country 12 years, most of my adult life. Versed in us taxation and policy better than in Russian. In the US easier to do business. Russia may involve relatively low taxes. But this advantage is offset by the instability is unknown, as is the relationship between Russia and the US affect business mobile applications. As far as I know, other developers are moving from Russia to Cyprus, Singapore or Ireland, where there are more opportunities and better investment climate.
Text: Olga Grinevich
Photo from the personal archive of Andrey Solovyov
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