Back in 2015, I was working as a programmer and I had huge eye problems. I put glasses for the first time in my life and I was using eye drops let’s say constantly.
My eye doctor exam was the tipping point and I decided to fix my vision. I started to read every article and medical research that I can put my eyes on and started to make some exercises and take breaks from the computer.
I found that when I program it’s super hard for me to stand up from the PC and programs like WorkRave and EyeLeo was just not strict enough for me. Not to mention that there was just no good alternative for Linux and macOS.
So I decided to make my own program which locks my screen, disables my keyboard and basically forces me to get up and look at distant objects.
You probably know that the best health advice doctors were giving these days was 20-20-20. Every 20 minutes, stand up from your PC for 20 seconds and look at objects 20 feet away.
What I hated about this rule was that 20 seconds was not enough to get some rest, but enough to lose my focus on my work. So I wanted a Timer which reminds me every 30 minutes or 1 hour to stand up for 5 to 7 minutes.
Something like Pomodoro technique, but for eye strain.
I tried the 20-20-20 with really bad results decreased productivity and the same amount of eye strain and dry eyes.
And this was something like the beginning of Iris before I found about f.lux and other blue blocking software products.
I was always some kind of a strange kid meaning that my goal in life from maybe 10 years old was to build my own business and I was always trying to make the next big thing.
I started programming in 8th grade and my first project that was made to change the world was in 9th grade. I needed 1 year to learn some basic Pascal and this is the reason why. Before 8th grade, I was modding my GTA with Freerun and Parkour tricks.
In 5th grade, I spend maybe my whole school year modding GTA and making promotional videos of my mods. I still don’t understand why I was trying to promote it, but I spend literally months making several videos. If you are interested (which I know you are maybe not) I found them on my old Vbox7 account and uploaded them to YouTube.
Yes, Yes, I know that gaming was probably not my top talent, but I was trying really hard. The same was with football, but they kicked me out of the team in 7th grade for being, well bad player.
In my defense, I would say that I trained every day 2 times per day and I was better than half of the team that played, but as an introvert, I was never kind of a team and social player. Well, I was also not so phenomenal player so whatever, this was for good.
After this, I started rowing and my dedication put me to World Championship so I am happy with my sports achievements.
Nevermind, going back to 9th grade and my super awesome Super Mario like game with snowball which was eating coins and my teacher who didn’t believe I made the game, and my bad grade for programming, because of this I almost got discouraged, but somehow I got up again.
Going forward to finishing school and half a dozen more unsuccessful software projects like spell checking, articles website like HowTo guides, I made my first finished game and put it into Google Play.
The game was called Super Dodo (you can still play it btw with this link) and I was really proud.
I was going to rock this world one more time. Several months later it didn’t become viral, nobody wanted to play it and this was one more fail to my collection.
The point when my eyes started to hurt was somewhere here. I started working as a programmer from 17 years old and after my 8-hour workday, I was programming this game in the night.
My total PC time was something like 14 hours every day +- 2 hours reading Kindle books about startups and programming languages on the bus when I was going to school.
This is after I stopped rowing. When I was only going to school and training I read this Kindle books maybe 8 hours per day, because I had 2 hours of travel to the rowing venue and 1 hour of travel to my school. Not to mention that all my classes in school I spend them reading this books because I didn’t think most subjects in school will be beneficial for me in the long run.
I started going to entrepreneurial events, I redirected my first private company for manufacturing 3D printer which failed again after 1 year and started going to university.
I build the timer and put glasses somewhere here when I was 18 years old. This was 2014 and I remember that first versions of Iris were made in March 2015 and I was 19 years old (born on 1 November).
There was some competition for programming my first year in university and me, of course, started to build rockstar team meaning my old classmates from my high school.
The school competition was international and for the world champions, there was a price of 50,000$. My pitch as you guess to the people I wanted was:
“Guys we are going to win this 50,000$ and then we are going to drink them”.
Not to mention that I don’t drink or smoke, but it sounded like motivational speech. 1 year after I realized that money is the worst way to motivate someone to work with you. Passion and sense of a mission are much more healthy ways to build teams, but I am still bad at working with people.
We were 3 programmers, 1 hardware, and 1 designer. From the initial team, the designer and one of the programmers left after 1 week, but you know this is how student projects go.
While eating something in one shopping center we were brainstorming ideas. The best ones were wireless electricity, anti-mosquito sound repeller and reminding people who use computers to blink more.
I guess we were not so innovative and creative, but whatever. After several more days, we decided to do the blinking software and started to work.
I wanted we to have a brand name, something magical, something stylish, something sexy which represented our future brand and from all the parts of the eye and the alphabet I really liked Iris.
Iris, software for eye protection. Iris, software for health. Iris, software for productivity. Well, why not, Iris – software for eye protection, health, and productivity.
Fast forward we won the first round in Bulgaria, but they didn’t like in on the semifinals and we didn’t win 50,000$.
We had a website, installer, and .exe file which all antivirus programs detected as a virus, because I was hooking Iris to disable the keyboard and we were also starting the Camera to use AI and detect users blink rate.
Later I realized that users find this camera enabling thing after installing Iris super creepy.
I found our old website with WayBackMachine, but some images are missing.
Credit to the great design and the initial Iris logo design goes to Alex, our second designer which was really fantastic for our age of 19 years old. Credit to the first versions of our software also goes to Bozhidar, Martin, and Ceco who along with me were coding the app.
We had our “Why?” as Simon Sinek said in his famous TED talk god damn it. (Taken from the movie Wall-e as you see, but whatever).
We believed in a world without glasses. We believed in a world without eye pain. We believed in a world without Computer Vision Syndrome.
Or at least this was the thing I believed in.
After we failed at the student competition I was ready again with my motivational pitch. We were going to get investment for this project, we were going to make millions, fuck the judges, fuck the money, we are going to directly help the whole world with our project.
From 5 people team, 2 decided that they don’t like enough the project and Alex and Bozhi slightly agreed to pursue the startup team, but only if we get investment.
Fast forward several months, I talked to all accelerators, venture funds, angels and all of them told me one thing. Our project was stupid, there was no way to make money from this, no one is going to buy it, it doesn’t have the potential to be a successful business.
I was really discouraged at this point. Maybe all people were right. Maybe Iris is really not so good idea and the fact that we didn’t have any users aside from me was also really discouraging.
The thing I didn’t realize back then was that aside from me, no one else was really passionate about the eyes. No one from the team had this big kind of problems with the glasses and with the eye pain thing. And investors, well they are just stupid and like to lose money, so there is no point to listen to them anyway.
This was the death of Iris and all of us returned to our normal jobs. The other people from the team seemed like they accepted this quite well, but I felt miserable. I don’t remember any other point in my life in which I was so sad and unhappy.
All my projects and tries to make my own business were a failure. My 3D printer business failed several months before this, my game did bad and now, no one liked Iris also.
I was young and I missed my whole childhood pursuing my dream to start my own business. When the other people were having fun I was learning. When other people took the summer and went to the beach I was training in the woods for competitions. When other people were partying in university I was working as a programmer in office in front of computer whole day.
I had a girlfriend, had some money, had some friends and had some spare time, but I felt miserable. I didn’t though life is going to be like this.
After the fail of Iris, I tried to analyze myself and what made me fail every time. I had read all startup manuals and I still failed. I tried to solve a problem every time and I failed. Back then I was still living with my parents so I have never felt hungry and broke.
They fought quite often when I was young, but back then something started to change and the shouts and screams started to feel unbearable.
I can’t tell I had a bad family since thanks to them I’m who I’m right now, but they were a little bit toxic. All my life I didn’t want to go home because there were constant fights.
I started planning to get out of this and I went through one military training school for several months. I didn’t start new projects because I didn’t saw the point in this, but I still wrote many ideas in my “Ideas notebook”.
Analyzing myself I realized that the one thing I haven’t done was to leave my comfort. I never left my job to pursue my own business ideas and it was always really easy for me to give up.
I never felt like I’m going to die if my idea fails. Now I realize that exactly this is the reason why some businesses succeed, but back then it was not so clear.
I realized that if I don’t try one more time when I’m young maybe I will never do it and this was the tipping point after which I decided to quit my job.
This was the summer of 2015. I quit my job I think around July 2015 when I was 19 years old to try to start my own business one more time. This time giving everything I have.
I had 5000$ saved money to live several months until I find a way to make money from something.
The next half a year was really hard. I tried different projects, but somehow I always thought about Iris and that maybe it’s something I would love to do my whole life.
Then one day I decided to do Iris again. This time alone and giving all my energy and focus on it.
I decided to commit to Iris.
The first thing I did was to connect to all my old teammates to ask them if they want to be part of no funding, working day and night new business with no guarantee for future money.
They didn’t want to do this of course, but I wanted to make sure that they are ok if I continue to build the project all alone and if it becomes successful one day they will not come and tell me that they made this project successful.
All of them agreed that they don’t care about this project and I started working. I started working like hell.
In the next several months, I quit university, I got away from home and started to live alone and I was programming Iris basically every waking hour.
I wrote posts, articles, tried to do some marketing, I talked to every new user and asked what was their problem and I was hungry. Literally hungry.
At the beginning, Iris was donation based, but after half a year and 0$ income, I started to make some activation codes and license options.
In the first year, Iris made 0$. The first sale came at the beginning of 2016.
I was also selling some Chinese things like Google Cardboard to have some income and to not die from hunger.
Little by little more and more people started to use Iris. Little by little some of them decided to buy. And little by little you found about Iris.
I build Iris from the thing on the left to the thing of the right and then much more.
Even to this day I continue to improve the software and at the time of this writing it looks like this
And I’m going to improve Iris until it becomes the best software in the world.
A lot of things happened in the past 3 years. I’m now 22 years old and some people look at me as some kind of a role model.
Iris has more than 2 000 000 users worldwide and is used in more than 180 countries, but there is still a long way to go.
I’m still the same kid who just wants to help other people be more healthy in front of the PC and my goal is still to make the world a little better place, but at this time with a lot more experience.
And I still believe that you can be anything you want in life. If you work hard, if you are good to others, if you are helpful to society, you can achieve anything. 🙂
If you liked the story of Iris you can download the software from here.
CEO Iris Technologies
Publishing date: 16.12.2017