Interview with a Successful Startup Founder

Aiming to Build a Design Agency From Scratch to Seven Figures

Garik Avetisyan
Garik Avetisyan
June 8, 2021
Category of startup
Design
Country of startup
Remote
Revenue of startups
$25k-$100k/mo
Interview with a Failed Startup Founder

Aiming to Build a Design Agency From Scratch to Seven Figures

Garik Avetisyan
Garik Avetisyan
June 8, 2021
Category of startup
Design
Country of startup
Remote
Cause of failure of the startup

Garik co-founded Flexy Global, a UI/UX design agency. The team is already 15 strong and growing with 7 full-time designers, and the rest working in project management, content creation, marketing, and lead generation. They aim to get to $2M ARR within their second year of operation.

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Hi Garik! Who are you and what are you currently working on?

Hello! My name is Garik, and together with my friends, we have founded a UI/UX design agency, Flexy Global. We aim to become one of the leading UI/UX agencies in the world in the next 3 years. Currently, we have two offices: one in Yerevan, Armenia, and another in Minsk, Belarus. 

Flexy Global is out here to help shape companies’ visual identities professionally and aesthetically. We offer two working models. The first is project-based, where we make personalized design audits and propose a lump sum amount for the project. We chose this model because the service is suitable for most rising companies and startups; particularly those developing new products or who know exactly what they want.

And the second model is a subscription-based service. In this model, we provide the client with a full-time UI/UX designer with a minimum of three months’ commitment. This offer is suitable for companies and startups for a whole array of reasons:

  • They could be working with sprints 
  • They’re in the process of ideation and don’t know exactly what they are doing
  • They’re pivoting or their in house designer cannot keep up with the projects and need help
  • The company might simply be in the process of hiring a full-time designer

Many scenarios fit our subscription model. All in all, whatever the issue may be, they probably have projects on fire that must be supported and followed through— that is where the Flexy design team kicks in.

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Before founding Flexy Global, I co-founded a cross-platform photo editor which was available on the web, Android, and iOS. I was the CEO of a diverse 20+ team and enjoyed taking care of the product. 

As a product owner, I was constantly searching for creative, ambitious designers and design agencies. What I understood during these five years as an entrepreneur, is that finding a good UI/UX designer or agency is just pure luck. In 2020, our company exited as we sold our photo editor and we decided to start our digital design agency.

Finding a UI/UX design agency or freelancer that is talented, can design a great user-friendly product, is responsible, and time-sensitive is practically an insurmountable task. Most of the top agencies have a 6-figure price tag that not many companies and startups can afford. But, we believe that the world can be a better place with more user-friendly products that help people make better decisions for themselves and society. That is why we came up with the name Flexy. We provide each client with a flexible approach to the design, support, and imprint a part of our company’s spark, our ‘DNA,’ onto their product. It is so rewarding to see a client amazed when they discover the cool design concept we prepared for them. 

Besides the cross-platform photo editor, I also co-founded the first-ever deep fake mobile app on the market. I had to shut that project down because working on two products at once was rather exhausting at the time. Aside from that, we were having a very long review cycle for the app updates as we couldn’t make improvements fast enough and that is why we decided to focus on one product. What were the lessons I learned by that time? Well, people tend to look for an option B to succeed, but that is defocusing you from the need to put ‘all the eggs into one basket’ to flourish. If you have enough money and human resources then it is not a problem; but, if you need to allocate your time on two different initiatives, you can't succeed against competitors who devote themselves full-time.

How did you go from idea to product?

We co-founded Flexy Global with three friends; my previous business was also co-founded with 3 friends: our Art director and co-founder Nastya, who helped us with our previous product’s design, and my friend Davit, whom I know for the past 30 years. My philosophy is the following— one person is better than 2 but worse than 3. You need to keep enough balance and diversity of ideas within the team. If there are just two team leaders, you can spoil your relationship because there is no mediator. If you are alone, you end up being in your echo chamber, and taking the stress of the startup upon your shoulders is hectic. Four people, on the other hand, is too much, I’ve never tried actually. But, just as states have a balancing mechanism between governing bodies, like in the US, it is a good system to implement to move the startup along. Weeks passed as we started with the first discussions, to actual operation, and our first hire; and on June 1st, 2021, we will celebrate our first corporate anniversary. 

Our business has two bottlenecks: one consists of leads and incoming projects while the other is screening/hiring good designers. Since our agency kicked off, we are constantly juggling between these two priorities and, as we are growing fast, it is challenging sometimes.

To improve the designer hiring process, probably after first settling the backbone of our design team, we will start remote hiring. As for the lead generation, the first channels we appealed to were our friends and family members. For the first few months, our projects came from friends only. They are still arriving after one year. Currently, we are trying 3-4 sales channels and all of them are working well! We haven’t launched publicly and only announced to our friends.

Flexy Landing Page

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Which were your marketing strategies to grow your business?

I simply created an excel list of all my friends and sorted out whom I can notify about us. In the end, my list was 100+ people. My two other co-founders did the same and we sent emails to all. So far, we have had 5 projects from our friends and simultaneously built our Dribbble portfolio and clutch profiles. After ending each project we made sure to showcase them both on clutch and Dribbble, which became a constant lead generation channel for us. 

I tried Facebook and Instagram ads without much success. Right now, we are trying cold outreach both through cold emails and Linkedin. So far, the results are quite positive!

We already had 2 projects in the second week after our launch and are growing ever since then. Currently, we can handle up to 5 projects simultaneously and support some old clients with small tasks.

Flexy Project

To grow our revenue we focused on expanding our visibility and building close relationships with new and existing clients.

How are you doing today and what are your goals for the future?

We will be one year old in a few months but our team is already 15 strong and growing. We have 7 full-time designers, and the rest of the team works in project management, content creation, marketing, and lead generation.

We plan to get to 2M ARR within the second year of our operation and expand our offices to a few more locations. Other plans also include opening a design office in Kiev, Ukraine, and having sales offices in the Middle East and the USA. 

We are working on an internal tool right now that can make the life of our design and marketing team way easier. If we see that it will be a useful asset we might launch it publicly. 

My goal is to make Flexy Global so popular that every startup-er, product manager, and business owner will know about Flexy Global and to be the North Star for other design agencies.


Since starting Flexy, what have been your main lessons?

The people you choose as co-founders and your first core team members is a really important decision. You are going to work with these people for the next couple of years of your life and have many stressful moments too, so, founding a core team is a fly-or-die scenario. I would never co-found a business with somebody I do not know.

It is important to have an abundance mindset and think that you already have everything to reach your business goals. If you think that you are missing things and those missing things are hindering you from reaching your business goals, then that mindset will not take you anywhere.

What were the biggest obstacles you overcame? What were your worst mistakes?

One of the main challenges is hiring the right people. As an agency, we need to hire people who are creative and talented, can also work hard for quite a long period, and can jump from project to project. 

I believe we were particularly slow in the hiring process and it is hindering our growth a bit for the moment, but it is important to hire the right people. We were intentionally slow, but in the coming months, we will start hiring worldwide for remote work. 

Sometimes I can push at a speed that might be called premature scaling, and in the end, it can cost us a lot of money. Hopefully, Nastya and Davit, my co-founders, will show enough wisdom to counter my actions with common wisdom. This is the reason that I don’t like to start a business alone.

Flexy Team

What tools & resources do you recommend?

One of the tools we use specifically for CRM is Monday.com, mainly for tracking our leads. For internal collaboration, we mostly use the standard stack of platforms like Slack and Trello, but we also chat extensively on Telegram because it is sometimes faster than Slack. 

I will not talk about the standard stack of books that every entrepreneur will recommend, so, I will throw some hidden gems that you won’t meet on standard recommendations lists. The first one is an eye-opener, The San Francisco Fallacy: The Ten Fallacies That Make Founders Fail by Jonathan Siegel and Certain to Win by Chet Richards.


Where can we go to learn more?

Feel free to check out our work on Dribbble and our website.

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