Interview with Anton Velikanov, author of sandsign.com (sandsign.ru)

Recorded by Andrei Prokhorov.

Clay tablets with the letters of the Tutankhamun times successfully passing centuries have come down to our days. Use the Egyptians sand – the wisdom of centuries would hardly survive the nearest tide. Fortunately, today, thanks to high technologies, the Internet, photos, browsers and Anton Velikanov, the phrases on the sand reliably remain and reach the addressees.

Today, any inhabitant of the Russian metropolis and outback, being in a stuffy winter office, in a traffic jam on the Moscow Ring Road, in a polar expedition can send a message to his addressee by means of an inscription on the beach sand of Hispaniola, Hawaii or Mallorca. According to your desire, the process of writing your message can be accompanied by Mariacci and can be removed from a drones or a GLONASS satellite (about GLONASS is a joke, who will let us in there 🙂 Although, perhaps soon Anton’s idea can evolve to such an extent that the inscriptions The astronauts will take pictures of the Martian sand from the side of the Martian town named after Elon Musk)

So, the word to Anton:

  • Anton, how was the idea born?
– The idea of the service came to me almost six and a half years ago. In May, our service turns seven. I was living in Costa Rica at the time and I was doing another start-up in real estate. At that time, I was not attached to the office and we were allowed to work remotely. In addition, there were problems with the extension of the visa in America. And my comrades and I decided to work in the same time zone as the customer. So I was in Costa Rica.

I invited my friends programmers working in stuffy Moscow offices. Although I invited everyone to visit, however, Costa Rica is quite far from Moscow.

One of the friends asked me: “Write though my name on the beach in Costa Rica, that at least it would be warm in the sun!”

No problem: I went to the beach, wrote his name on the sand, photographed and sent him.

He was super-happy.

In fact, life in the tropics stimulates creativity. One evening I decided: I’ll write the same inscription for my girlfriend. Purely a surprise from a distance. The girl received a photo of the inscription on the Costa Rican beach for 5000 kilometers from her and was delighted. And then I thought: it would be great if everyone could send to each other an inscription on one of the beaches in a tropical paradise, where super-hard to get.

I went to the beach, wrote on the sand a hundred popular names. I took their photos. And they could be sent to each other for free. The idea was that everyone could write a message that it was personal, and that there was confirmation that this inscription was written for him personally. And that it was confirmed that this is not photoshop, but actually the inscription was written there. And it is desirable that it was a distant and inaccessible corner of the planet.

As a result, I agreed with photographers that they would remove the inscription on the beach with the attributes of that place: palm trees, the ocean. The most inaccessible from Russia at the time seemed Costa Rica and the Hawaiian Islands.

  • And who was your first photographer?
– In fact, this is also quite an interesting story. It was a Costa Rican named Bill. Not a local Costa Rican, but an ex-pat from the States. I was with him in a fairly good relationship, he was interested in the service and was happy to help. Everything was great. He drew inscriptions. The service worked.

However, he was at an age, and one day he had a heart attack. Today he feels fine, but now we are working with young photographers, more energetic, who have more strength. It seems to be a simple job: you live near the beach, stroll through the sand and time-from-time you draw inscriptions and send them to the addressee. But in fact, sometimes it’s quite an exhausting task: you draw an inscription, it is washed off by a wave, you redraw it again and again … All this happens at the hottest time of the day and you need to have patience and be in fairly good physical shape.

Next, I found a girl who took pictures in Hawaii. So “pulled up” the Hawaiian Islands. Service began to gain popularity and I began to find photographers through AirBNB. At this point, we received a grant from Pavel Durov and Yuri Milner and the service began to “unwind”. However, the specificity of the creative profession is that people are “not stable”. I had to get out and communicate with many photographers.

  • Are there any secrets of the “profession”?

-Yes there is. The main “trick” is to draw an inscription at low tide. The sand should be smooth and slightly moist. It is during low tide there is such an opportunity. Flush the inscription is less likely, because at low tide the surf is getting smaller and smaller. Also for the photo the best time is morning or evening. Longer shadows and the sun looks less bright.

  • How many “beaches” are now at your disposal?
– Now we make the sand signs in the Dominican Republic, in Bali, in Australia and in Thailand. Due to the presence of several locations at once, we are less dependent on weather conditions. Also, thanks to this, we launched the service “Circumnavigation of the inscription”, where we create a message in various parts of the world. Mostly Russian photographers work with us. Although at first some Americans worked.

  • Your site sandsign.ru you wrote with the same group as start-up real estate?
– I understood one thing in my work: When you do project alone without co-founders, things are much faster. In addition, I could do everything for the site myself. For layout or design work, I could hire people. So MVP I built myself, and “features” to the project was added by the team as it developed. The initial budget of the project was close to zero: I just bought a template and optimized it for the needs of the project. Back-end development was my profession, so there was no difficulty.

  • Did you submit the project to some accelerators? Participated in pitches?
– Not really. Initially, I applied to the fund, which was organized by Yuri Milner and Pavel Durov.I did not even expect that they would respond and that I would be nominated for a grant from this fund. For me it was a big surprise that Pavel Durov himself registered on the site and ordered an inscription. I also applied to the accelerator BootCamp, which is in the Netherlands: our communication ended with the fact that they also liked the project, they were ready to accept my application, but they demanded that I find a business partner in the Netherlands that would deal with the financial component project.

  • The site immediately acquired its “fans”? Or you had to sweat?
– No, not at once. After Costa Rica, I returned to Moscow to our office in Moscow City. Our neighbors were the service of one of the “coupons”, who sold discounts on goods, services and all sorts of original services. We talked and they offered cooperation: selling “inscriptions on the sand” with discounts through the service of coupons. This became for my site the starting point in obtaining the first customer base. After that I already cooperated with such services as “Buy Coupon”, “BigLion”, “Grupon”. I got hundreds of sales with them. But now coupons have become more “niche”. So now we are working in the standard mode. Viral promotion, promotion through social networks…

  • Is your main client: Moscow office employees tired of the winter? Or are there extraordinary personalities?

If you count Pavel Durov and the guys from DST fund, that is, the billionaires 🙂 But the main customers are friends and relatives of birthday people. The greatest number of orders falls on February 14, when people are already tired of winter, spring is already close and there is a wonderful occasion to give a smile to your “half.” There are cases when through our service they made an offer to a girl. And one day the girl answered with consent through our service.

  • So you have become an exotic “cupidon” 🙂

There is such a thing. Although some hide that they ordered photos through our serviceand send the finished photo. Although there are skeptics. One girl did not believe that the inscription was made specially for her. Although the video was musicians who performed a song for her while writing an inscription, the girl continued to believe that this is “photoshop”. 🙂

  • What is happening now with your service? High tech? Helicopters? Video?

– Now we remove the inscriptions from the drones, we take pictures from a bird’s eye view. Create masterpieces with the help of Andres Amadore This is a world-famous artist who takes a whole beach and paints it. And we remove this process from a bird’s eye view. It will cost the customer several thousand dollars. (You can order here: https://sandsign.com/service/andres-amador-sign)

Of course, this is laborious and expensive. Therefore, the most common are the usual inscriptions on the sand. While writing the inscription, we began to record video. For example, an ensemble of Mariacci, words of congratulations, which must be told to the addressee from the tropical shore. We tried different variants: inscriptions from burning candles in the cities, made inscriptions from multi-colored paper on the snow and shot them from drones, inscriptions from the snow in front of office windows in Moscow City.

In Moscow City we made an inscription on the ice of the Moscow River. It was “viral advertising.” In Moscow, the main entertainment of thousands of office workers was to look at the fishermen on the Moscow River. We chose the coldest day with a temperature of minus 20, so as not to fall under the ice. There was a large group of people. However, the ice was layered and under it was water. Probably this situation is due to the fact that the river merges into Moscow. Draw on this ice was extremely difficult. But we drew the name of the site. The attendance of the site increased sharply the following days.

The next project is an extension with the advertisement of the site between the drones. We want to do it and fly over Moscow.

© LaGente.do

© Photography: sandsign.com

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Testing the "beach messenger" on the "second half".
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"Beach pager" will enhance the joyful moments and help to find a way out in difficult situations.
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