AUBG Team Healthit Wins Gold at Bulgaria Innovation Hackathon 2020
For the second consecutive year, AUBG won the Bulgaria Innovation Hackathon. The team led by alumnus Yuliy Yuliev (’19), current AUBG student Emil Todorov and Metodi Kanazirski, who studies Computer Science at the University of Leeds, presented Healthit – the first Bulgarian mobile application for healthy lifestyle. This year, AUBG shares the first prize with New Bulgarian University whose innovative dragée soap also got them 94 points from the jury.
The idea for Healthit originated after Yuliev, Todorov and Kanazirski joined the AUBG Accelerator Program Elevate with their startup Barzo.Anabolno.Vkusno. Help people look AND feel good – that is the premise of Healthit and what makes the project stand out in a highly competitive health app industry is that it gamifies the experience of building healthy habits and offers real-life rewards to its users.
“Joining the Elevate program completely shifted the way we approach our business,” Yuliev said. “It gave our team knowledge, insights, and opportunities for mentorship that we couldn't even imagine before that. (…) Perhaps, the major lesson that we learned was that without commitment, and I mean 100% commitment, the idea was doomed to fail.”
Read the full interview with the alumnus below to learn more about the team’s winning project, their aspirations for the future and Yuliev’s experience with Elevate and AUBG.
How did you first come up with the idea for Healthit?
To be honest, when we first entered AUBG’s accelerator program in November 2019, we had a completely different idea for the app. After one month, we realized that we have missed one of the most essential steps - validating the idea with our potential customers.
That started a process that lasted for two months in which we did surveys, customer interviews, and A/B tested our hypotheses. At the end of January, we had a solid foundation to believe that people really had a problem with building and maintaining healthy habits, so we only had to decide how to tackle it.
Trying to differentiate yourself in the world of mobile apps, especially for health, is not easy. Even though we are the first Bulgarian app for healthy lifestyle, we were aware that we are competing with the international apps as well. So, we decided to situate Healthit in a very specific niche. Inspired by mobile games, we decided to gamify the whole healthy lifestyle experience, making it easy and fun. At the same time, we wanted to reward users with real life rewards for the completion of their daily challenges. We combined these two elements and Healthit was born.
What is the purpose of your company?
We want to help as many people as possible look AND feel good.
What are your aspirations for the future of Healthit?
We want to make our platform - WWW.BAV.BG - the best platform for health & wellness in Bulgaria and turn our app Healthit into THE marketplace for such products in the country over the next 24 months.
What do you think helped you win at the Bulgarian Innovation Hackathon?
I believe that there are numerous factors behind any victory. Of course, we had a good idea, we knew our numbers, and we did our homework to prepare for the pitches but these are the things on the surface.
The attitude helps a lot. Before the event, we believed that we are going to win. And here’s something interesting. After the first round, Healthit was the team with the least points from the jury. It was not an enormous difference, of course, otherwise we wouldn’t be among the finalists, but it’s not a comfortable position to be in. Being the underdog and, at the same time, holding the firm conviction that you are able to out-work, out-improve, and out-prepare the competing teams was a game changer.
And finally, and perhaps most importantly, we are very receptive to feedback by our mentors and this helped us enormously. I would like to make three special shoutouts here. The first one goes to Bobi and Niki from the Elevate program. I literally have no idea what would have happened with our company had it been not for you guys! Also, special thanks to our mentors Ognyan Vasilev from SalesForce and Petar Kolev from Amazon, who both helped us with our pitch. You are living legends!
Even though we are three founders at the company, we have a larger team of amazing people who believe in our mission and contribute to our growth. They help us with writing articles, producing content for our social media channels, optimizing that content for the search engines, among many other important tasks. You know who you are guys! I love you!
In what ways was your participation in the AUBG Accelerator Elevate beneficial to you? What were the major lessons learned? What challenges did you face?
Joining the Elevate program completely shifted the way we approach our business. It gave our team knowledge, insights, and opportunities for mentorship that we couldn't even imagine before that. The program was well-rounded and structured in a sensible way that enabled us to continuously learn and strive to improve our product.
Perhaps, the major lesson that we learned was that without commitment, and I mean 100% commitment, the idea was doomed to fail. That was also the biggest challenge. Two of our founders are full-time students and the other one had a 9-5 job. We worked on the idea every morning, every night, every weekend, during the holidays, during the pandemic - all in, all the time. Thank goodness we love it!
Elevate truly encapsulates the entrepreneurial roller coaster by fully immersing you in the startup environment. After many iterations of our idea, we exited the accelerator with a product ready for Beta testing - something that would have required much more time and mistakes along the way, had it not been for the program.
What role did your education and extracurricular activities at AUBG play in your personal and professional development?
No matter what I say here, I feel it wouldn’t be enough. A good chunk of who I am today is because of my four years at AUBG and I think this should come as no surprise to anyone.
The extracurriculars at AUBG are the perfect way for anyone to taste the richness of the community, have fun, and explore their own interests.
What also fascinates me is that many of AUBG’s courses have implications way beyond their official scope. For example, one of the courses which had profound effects on my professional development was the Foreign Policy Analysis with Prof. Phillips. Even though I never used the knowledge from it in an official political setting, it enabled me to prevent hundreds of mistakes and biases over the past few years related to group decision making, which saved me a lot of time and money.
Thinking of my personal development, what strikes me [as a turning point] is my junior year. It was the year in which something happened and I really felt the effects of the liberal arts education and the critical thinking element rooted in it. I started questioning my own fundamental assumptions about the world, society, and my role in it. I don’t know how else to describe that but by saying that AUBG simply made me a better person.
So, yeah, AUBG is the place to be. No doubt.