This week we present you the second addition to our Lingohub Global Champion series - Plutio!
Leo Bassam started his career as a freelancer, and that path would lead him years later to become the founder and CEO of Plutio. Plutio now helps freelancers navigate admin and management waters in 25 languages.
Leo shared with us the Plutio origin story and some handy advice for freelancers.
You started freelancing very young, at the age of 15. What was your greatest challenge then?
Not having the support to learn how to code.
Because I didn’t know how to code I couldn’t start the project by building the software. Instead I leveraged the design skills I already had to build prototypes.
Although building the prototypes helped concretize my abstract ideas, I couldn’t take them any further as my lack in programming pulled me back from turning them into functional product.
That’s when I pushed myself to learn how to code, starting with the basic programming languages such as HTML and CSS, which helped me turn my vision into a functional prototypes.
Although I then had an actual skeleton of Plutio, it still needed backend development to make it actually “work”.
Being stuck at that stage was very frustrating which made desperately seek investors attention. That was my first and last attempt to raising investment. I learnt that raising money at such an early stage means:
- Losing a huge chunk of my company before it even started
- It would take at-last 4 to 6 months of consistent hunting to close a seed round.
So instead of going the the investor route which I knew I wouldn't enjoy, I challenged myself to bootstrap Plutio without any investor backing.
That said, I knew I couldn’t do everything myself. My next step was to find a co-founder; someone who complements my skill set.
Having a business is like having a relationship and finding a co-founder is like looking for a partner.
It has to be someone you know, trust and can rely on for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health… you know the drill.
I’ve given myself a month to find a co-founder but unfortunately my circumstance at the time didn’t play to my favour.
I lived in a small town in the north of England which made it harder for me to attend events and grow my network, and my network of people were mainly designers and creatives.
As unfortunate as it sounds I learnt a very essential lesson.
We as humans prefer to be surrounded with people similar to ourselves.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
However, if you’re running a business you need to surround yourself with people that can complement your skills and experiences.
To build a successful business you first need to build a team that believes in you and the business. - that was a lesson learnt the hard way.
Although those failures demotivated me they also fueled me to keep going and find the next possible way to make things work, and so I did! I’ve decided to start Plutio as a side project funded by my first business until it is mature enough for me to fully focus and rely on it.
Instead of dropping everything and focusing fully on a business at an idea stage that may work and may not, I continued my freelance work as a designer and used the income to hire a developer to work with me.
I was finally blessed with Dovydas Kukalis, a passionate, ambitious and skilled programmer. Progress was going well but at a very slow phase as I was only able to afford so much…
That’s when I decided to find a part-time job, and I was lucky to join Paddle.com as a designer. Everyone at Paddle knew what I was working on and they were incredibly supportive!
Although everything was going well I was always overworked and exhausted... I knew a change to my lifestyle was needed, since the business is practically me and if I’m crumpling the business will too!
Not long after, I signed a deal with AppSumo.com which helped us reach over 5000 early users and hit over $250,000 in sales within a week!
This hasn’t only validated Plutio, but helped us maintain our progress phase without the “exhaustion” part as I didn’t have to do all the other jobs.
They say that "Necessity is the mother of all invention". Would you say that was the case with Plutio?
It all started when I was 15.
I wanted a dog but my parents won’t let me have one. So often after school I ended up in pet store near us where I fed and played with some of the animals. One day I decided to try and do more, I had a vision of sheltering every homeless animal.
I started by building a website for pet owners were they could connect with veterinarians for medical advice. The website later had more features such as; pet of the day, tips and a gallery.
Building the website wasn’t too tricky as I used a drag and drop website builder called Wix.com, allowing me to create a great looking site without the need to code.
Around that time Wix launched a designers directory and I was invited to be one of the first to join. From that directory I received my very first paying client which was for an internal project at Dubai International Airport.
After spending some time playing around a bit and building a couple of different websites, I was sure I could do it for a living. Before I knew it, I’ve taken on a few more projects and was running my own design business called Loai Design Studio.
My first site turned out to be a really good learning experience for everything I'm building now. It gave me heaps of confidence.
During college, I tried to branch out into passive income by offering hosting, email and other retainer based services. But I was pulled back by the overwhelming amount of admin work involved. And it didn’t really help that the majority of productivity and management apps were designed for teams and enterprises. I couldn’t find anything focused around our needs as freelancers.
That’s when I decided to build Plutio. With a mission to support and become the right hand of the under-served community of freelancers and small businesses all over the world.
What differences do you see in freelancing when you first created the company and now? What do freelancers need nowadays?
There hasn’t been a major difference.
Our needs has been fairly simple.
Forbes named Plutio one of the essential tools for freelancers and micro businesses just last year. What sets you apart from others? What are your plans for the future?
Unlike others, our interface is designed from the ground up bespokely for Plutio to maintain an intuitive experience however advanced and comprehensive as the platform evolves.
Our vision is beyond just offering all the tools in an all-in-one intuitive platform, but to support the community of freelancers and small businesses by all means.
Everyone has access to Plutio's Roadmap. In it, you outline all planned improvements, what you are working on now, and all the reported issues. Why did you decide to share the Roadmap with your customers and the public?
We believe in transparency and in the power of communities.
Businesses from all around the world invest into a Plutio subscription to run their business, and as investors we believe they have the right to know where we are heading and offer them the chance to shape our future.
After all, we’re building Plutio for them.
Your app is available for desktop and mobile use. What was the biggest obstacle in adapting the website into an app friendly format and how did you overcome it?
This was actually a smooth process because every element was built bespoke for Plutio, and with responsivity in mind.
Plutio is available in 25 languages. What benefits and values do you see in localizing your app?
Localizing Plutio has proven to be one of the best decisions we have made as it helped us break the language barrier and reach more businesses from all around the world.
This wouldn’t of been affordably possible without the help of our volunteers who’ve dedicated heaps of their time to translate Plutio to their local language.
We're curious to know - why did you opt for Lingohub? And what is your favorite feature?
The initial manual process we used to translate Plutio was very clingy and slow until we’ve introduced Lingohub into the process.
Lingohub has offered us and our volunteers the perfect of tools to communicate and work on the translations.
Our favorite feature is how easy it is to invite a contributor and collaborate in real-time within the app.
Images courtesy of Plutio
In our Global Champions series, we share inspiring stories of Lingohubbers who are dominating the multilingual software market.