in 4 years Universe made it to the top-3 world iOS tools developers
The Ukrainian IT company Universe developing iOS tools Guru Apps made its first million during its first year. In four years it entered top-3 world iOS tools developers by income. This was made possible by the team, united not only by professional gains but with values — to invent and create technologies changing lives for better. Leading Universe experts tell AIN.UA all about Guru Apps developing from an idea to apps used by millions.
Seven years ago its founder Yaroslav Morozov started working at Genesis as a Junior iOS Developer. In 1.5 years he grew to a team lead position and started thinking about a business of his own. Not something local, but a scalable international story. Yaroslav came up with an idea to create a VPN service and asked top managers to help him launch a startup for that.
As it appeared VPN market was quite crowded at the time. At some point, the team managed to reach 100 000 monthly installations but still struggled to offer users something totally new. So Yaroslav started searching for new app ideas and thought about tools for iOS devices: small pieces of software designed to help users fix one important issue.
In 2018 Yaroslav launched his first iOS tool: a mobile scanner for iOS named Scan Guru. In the next few years app for translation Translator Guru and Cleaner Guru, a cleaning tool for iPhone, followed. That’s how Universe came into existence. All its apps are united into the Guru Apps ecosystem.
In a year the company made its first million dollars and in four years it entered top-3 utilities software publishers in the world.
Startups who made the first million in their first year might appear just as rare as unicorn startups. The Universe's success could be explained by two main reasons: its team and its approach to product making. Head of Operations at Universe Roman Shevchenko puts it like that: the company since its very beginning has set a goal: to create technology that makes people’s lives better.
These values unite us as a team and for 4 years we’ve been continuously committed to it. Before starting on each of our products, we always study users' needs and demands. Thus allowing us to nail down a specific problem and find the optimal solution for it.
The team has been working on the motto ‘let's test it’, constantly testing hypotheses generated by the team, from the customer support manager to UI\UX designers and product managers, till they find an optimal model likeable by every user. That’s why in Universe it almost never happens: a team working on something very hard but the feature just not making it to release, rendering all the efforts obsolete.
This approach together with a thorough recruitment process secured a rapid growth rate and good financials for the startup. The Universe is looking for T-shaped specialists who not only have a deep knowledge of their field, but also understand how other teams operate. Not only being a pro but sharing company values: proactive, engaged, getting things done and passionate about their work.
A special bonus only a product company can offer is the feeling of achievement. All the development cycle from idea to support is going on the team’s side. Every team member can actually see their share of the product’s success, and their role in achieving it.
downloads all over the world
Scan Guru tool in 55 countries
by income among all the developers that create iOS tools
average app rating on the App Store
So which tools does the company create and what makes them unique enough to make it to the top of AppStore ratings in dozens of markets?
Despite all the challenges, the company continues its growth by developing products and the team. Universe proved to be quite resilient during the pandemic and does not lay off teams even in times of war. On the contrary, it shows stable growth, raising compensations for those who perform well enough. Universe donates to Ukrainian Army (more than 3.5 mln overall) and helps the team’s friends and family who are now defending the country.
With the war raging and pending crisis, there is still a hunt for good IT specialists in Ukrainian IT. And the company is inclined to offer the best terms to its future teammates. There is one more obvious bonus: a chance to work with services from the top ratings of international App Stores.The Guru Apps tools ecosystem created by the team is constantly developing standing on the three whales: mobile scanner Scan Guru, translation app Translator Guru, and cleaner app Cleaner Guru.
Transforming a smartphone into a powerful mobile scanner, that could fit in a pocket.
Granting to a tablet or a phone the ability to speak more than 100 languages.
Helping to clear iPhone memory from unnecessary and trash content in one tap.
The way to millions of users was not a simple one. Scan Guru was the first one from Guru Apps bundle, its first version was released in 2018. Those were the times of several ancient scanner apps ruling the market. They were visually cluttered and crammed with lots of unnecessary features. So the Universe team decided to fix all that in their own service.
Creating Scan Guru we were focused on simplicity and usability, for users to perform all the needed actions swiftly and without strain. Our service quickly received a favourable user response, and we had our place on the market. But we are not going to stop and are reinforcing our positions.
Translator Guru was a totally new experience for the team. Scan Guru was created for more experienced clients used to working with documents. And Translator Guru was an app for everyone having a smartphone. A wider user base meant additional challenges for marketing as well as for the technology team, because of the necessity to communicate with various clients and to make them eager to try the app. The app differed from others - both in features and in colour scheme: black and yellow (most rival apps being blue and white). Translator Guru was one of the first apps on the market to get a Chinese keyboard, so it became available to millions of Chinese users.
Cleaner Guru was the third app in Guru Apps family. It solved a very basic issue: every smartphone user has its memory cluttered from time to time, with the need to clear it to get the device working. Cleaner Guru got its market share because it ultimately simplified the process. It has also been loved by young iPhone users for its modern design and neon colours.
To create technology capable of making people’s lives better Universe team has to fight technological challenges on everyday basis. But at the same time, this makes product companies attractive to specialists who are eager to grow professionally. It creates the need for constant service upgrade, learning new tech, and literally taking up the race against the world’s tech giants.
At the same time, it means a great opportunity to grow; many team members started from scratch and finally got a manager position. Roman Shevchenko joined the team in 2018 as the one and only QA. In several years he became a Head of Operations. Together with other developers he (being a direct participant in the service development) told us about the tech challenges and service features that helped to win users' affection:
‘Find a job you like, and you won’t work a single day’ — many think this to be a quote by Mark Twain and many others. Tim Cook, СEO Apple, corrected it: ‘If you are passionate about your job you’ll have to work hard, but you’ll never regret it’. It so appears these are the exact feelings of the Universe team. To be involved in creating services that help millions of people is motivating and inspiring, and developers themselves admit to it:
All the developers’ efforts are not wasted. Users love Guru Apps tools, leaving plenty of 5 stars on App Store and reviews like ‘I love this app’ and ‘This app saved my life.’
I love this app! I do my best writing long hand, and before this app, I either had to type the results (painfully slow and tedious) or dictate (faster than typing but still tedious, and then Dragon dropped Mac support). With Scan Guru, I take a photo, have the app convert it, and it's ready for editing. Very accurate and they keep improving it. What more can you ask?
It's a very fun thing to help you with your language I'm starting to learn Spanish and it's really helping me I really like how the keyboard works it really helps me and I can pretend know it to my friends and they're very surprised and they want to download it so I'm gonna keep telling everyone about this fabulous game thank you for making this!
Dont know if I like it yet. Installation was easy....since the installation I've had a good experience with this app. I appreciate it so much when we are given opportunities to secure what is valuable to us and be rid of what is not. Thank you so much.
Завдяки пільгам для українців, вирішилось важливе питання, дуже дякую! Коли буде можливість придбати у майбутньому, зроблю це!
Personally I totally recommend this cleaner. I was trying to use another one (don’t remember the name) and I guess there was smth wrong with the scanning algorithm, cause it suggested me to delete photos that weren’t event a duplicates. This app doesn’t have this problem. Don’t know how they do it, but it’s smth really cool!
This is really awesome I can talk to other people now.
The team tells a story of a writer in New York who uses Scan Guru app to write his book and has already digitalized more than 1000 pages of handwritten text.
The US teachers told Universe developers in user interviews that mobile scanner helped them to teach during the pandemic and simplified the educational process in times when live education was not accessible.
Still one of the most amazing use cases took part in Ukraine. In March 2022 one of the volunteers in a small town constantly shelled with missiles sought a way to scan tons of documents for the volunteers' headquarters. The stationary scanner was the only one in the town, so volunteers had to wait through the shellings in a bomb shelter, which halted all the work. So she saw a news piece about the mobile scanner Scan Guru and ‘recruited’ it for volunteering operations. The story about scanner helping out the volunteers has been told at the job interview. And the volunteer joined the Universe team as a UX researcher.
In four years the company grew from a few developers to a team of 70 people, becoming one of the most financially successful developers of iOS tools in the world.
I’m thrilled to work together with the best people, each of them inspiring me to move forward and make ourselves and the world around us better.
The hi-tech world is in a constant development phase and to retain its top positions in App Store Guru Apps can’t afford to simply hold its ground.
So the team is getting ready to release the new app versions with plenty of new features. In Scan Guru they plan to add the option to transform scanned documents into real editable .docx-documents with all the formatting: text blocks, tables, and images. They also plan to make working with PDF files more comfortable. The team is aiming at transforming a pocket scanner into a universal tool.
The long-term goal is to transform Scan Guru into a multi-tool for complex work with any type of tasks with documents.
To update Cleaner Guru the team is now conducting a series of user interviews to see their ‘pains’ and to make new features more effective and comfortable. The Guru Apps ecosystem is in constant development but the team is working not only on the existing successful apps but on fresh ideas. Now Guru Apps show tens of millions of downloads. But Apple has more than 1,8 bln devices all over the world so the Universe team has much to get done yet. Now they are looking for new Universe people who could help them in this task, those who are proactive, take initiative, love mobile development, ready to make this world a better place.