About Time You Met: Brice Dondelinger, Bob Krier, Dylan Thompson, and Marc Donis, Founders of BalloonaryBy Angelica Malin
Helping side hustlers, solopreneurs and micro businesses conquer the world of online ads to supercharge the earning potential of their small business, Balloonary is an easy-to-use AI-powered tool to create, launch and manage digital ads across Google, Facebook, and Instagram in a matter of minutes.
The brainchild of founders, Brice Dondelinger, Bob Krier, Dylan Thompson, and Marc Donis, Balloonary gives small businesses the power to stand out and get noticed by the right audience by giving them the expertise and tools that larger companies use for sales success.
Can you give us a brief overview of your backgrounds and how you came to start Balloonary?
Brice: We all have quite varied backgrounds and skill sets which are totally different but complement one another. My background is largely in consulting and managing projects, and as a result, I have experience in many things like process optimisation, legal, finance, HR, etc.
Bob’s background was in natural and data sciences before he made the switch to finances, and Mark worked as a Java consultant for various banks in Luxembourg before we started Balloonary. Dylan worked as a cinematographer all over Europe and it was a mixture of previous employments, a series of chance meetings and an old high school friendship between Bob and I which brought us all together and led to the creation of Balloonary.
Marc: Before starting Balloonary, we launched Spoticle, a trusted travel guides app for the tourism industry. When Covid hit, things changed dramatically and as tourism came to a complete halt, we brainstormed our next project, creating a tool that helped people test their business ideas before launching.
While testing this idea, we realised that where users really needed the help was with digital advertising and that many small businesses are missing out on the benefits that online advertising can bring. We sought to simplify the process and make it more affordable, seeking to help brands drive new customers to their website to give them the edge, as well as be seen by more people. This soon turned into Balloonary, and our main aim is to make the process of creating, launching, and analysing online ad campaigns fast and simple giving business owners the confidence to really explore and benefit from the world of online ads. Our main USP is that no design or marketing skills are needed, simply enter a business URL and Balloonary’s AI will analyse the website and create high-quality ads, launching campaigns in less than 10 minutes, on Facebook, Instagram, and Google, with LinkedIn coming soon.
Have you all always been entrepreneurial?
Dylan: I’ve always had the desire to build and create new things, starting my own business whilst still at school, and building websites with a friend. So, yes, I guess you could say I’ve always been entrepreneurial.
Brice: I was really drawn to work independently since I started working for a Luxembourg radio station at the age of 14, while also studying. During those wild and free years, I always preferred to earn money while my peers would pay-to-party. After university, I did take on employment, but after a few years, it became clear that I thrived on responsibility and the possibilities to shape outcomes that come from being in the driver’s seat of your own company.
Marc: From an early age I too displayed entrepreneurial qualities, wanting to build my own ideas and watch them take flight and when I met Bob, we both were keen to leave the daily rat race and do something for ourselves.
Have there been any bumps along the way, and would you have done anything differently if you could turn back time?
Dylan: Our first project as a team was Spoticle, a location recommendation platform. With Spoticle we won the tourism innovation award in Luxembourg and were accepted into the Fit4Start accelerator program. Spoticle had a rather bright future until Covid-19 hit and tourism worldwide came to a stop. We tried to pivot our product and find a different niche for which our app could be useful, but nothing seemed to work. Whilst frustrating, we learned a lot during this brief interlude.
Marc: When Covid-19 disrupted everything, we decided to shut Spoticle down, and we began brainstorming our next project. After testing a few ideas, we realised that the process itself could be our next product. We would develop an app to allow entrepreneurs to test the market viability of their business ideas before investing time and money in developing them. By using Balloonary to create online ads and a website, users could quickly measure demand for their idea. We chose the name Balloonary because we liked the image of floating a test balloon. We soon realised that the real demand was for ad creation, so we discontinued the web page creation tool to focus on that. After many small pivots, we finally settled on the current product and started Balloonary as it is today.
What would you say to someone wanting to start their own business?
Bob: That’s actually not an easy question to answer. My first thought is that starting a business is a massive but rewarding undertaking. Not every business is the same, they all have their own challenges and opportunities but there are many things that are common to them that you need to be aware of. Creating a business is like a big puzzle, you need to solve it piece by piece. If I had to pick three things that I find most important, they would be:
– Find a team of co-founders, you can’t be good at everything.
– Do your research, you need to become an expert in your industry, your products, and services.
– Make sure you understand your customers, what problem they have and how your solution is solving it for them. Having that part not aligned is the number one cause of why start-ups fail.
My final thought is: Try it, the experience is amazing and rewarding.
In your opinion, what can make a start-up company a success?
Brice: In a nutshell… execution, persistence, and a bit of luck. You know how they say, you need to do the right things and do the things right, well for a start-up with limited resources, that is easier said than done. It really comes down to trial and error a lot.
As a young company, or a company that launches new products or services, you just do not have enough knowledge yet, to know exactly what the right thing is and how to do it right. So, you need to keep trying many things, the execution part, and you need to do that repeatedly, the persistence part, and then it also takes a bit of luck to get the mixture right at the right time and at the right place to have an impactful return.
Business owners may have many aspirations as to why they start a business, but ultimately they need to sell something to be successful and marketing is one of those core activities that enable this. This is why we are very proud of how Balloonary makes digital marketing accessible to every business owner. You need no marketing knowledge to get started and our pricing is so flexible that it allows business owners to trial and error many campaign ideas until they understand what works best for their business. They remain in full control of their budgets and they do not have to worry about the technical stuff.
Being friends in business, how do you strike a balance between work and friendship?
Bob: I believe the friendship we have in our team is very special, and that’s one of the key strengths of our team. We have worked together for nearly five years and although we have been through ups and downs, we’re all incredibly passionate and would never give up.
Dylan: The depth of our relationship enables us to work together well, and we all play to our strengths for maximum success. For example, I cover the product vision and most of the creative decisions, I only do a little bit of actual development. This is where Marc comes in as our main developer. With his solid experience on projects of all scales, I have yet to see a development challenge he can’t manage. While the two of us are usually busy working on the product, Bob is currently in charge of our community and support. He handles the communication with the human touch necessary to build up honest user relations, which is so crucial at this early stage. Brice has a keen eye for numbers and is taking care of our finances. With his background in consulting, he is also our prime candidate for all things networking and investor relations. A dream team really!
Brice: We work together in a friend-like manner. It makes for good laughs and sharing good moments, whilst at the same time things can be said when important business decisions need to be made and discussed, especially when we have different opinions on a topic.
How do you see the Balloonary offering evolving in the future to further support side hustlers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners?
Dylan: Balloonary is the simplest way to create and manage ads digitally out there. No other platform has the same focus on simplicity as we do. Everything we build has to go through our “is it simple enough” filter first. This can be very hard because even our customers sometimes ask for more complexity than we’re willing to implement. But we’re keen to keep the balance, and we believe strongly that AI-powered automation is the right answer to the inherent complexity of online ads.
Bob: Balloonary is powered by advanced AI, and AI will continue to develop and completely disrupt many aspects in the future including marketing and online ads. Balloonary will be part of that transformation, but it does mean our service will keep adapting and evolving to ensure we can offer our customers and small business owners the chance to compete with larger organisations when it comes to digital marketing.
Marc: Lastly, the regulatory environment for online advertising is in constant flux. Balloonary will need to accommodate new restrictions on ad targeting and tracking. Also, the industry is currently highly fragmented, with many companies competing for similar users. I expect some consolidation to occur soon.
What insights would you give to people looking to take their business to the next level?
Dylan: Running online ads is incredibly hard for small businesses, but vital for success and for taking your business to the next level.
Brice: Time is not moving faster or slower, but as business owners, and also as individuals, we are just exposed to so much more things that we need to process at the same time, compared to even just a generation ago. World events, local dynamics, and an overload of information, to name a few. You need to embrace new technologies to help you keep an edge and stay on top of things. I am not a fan of using too many different apps, but if you are struggling with an issue or have an objective you would like to achieve, there is probably an app or digital tool that can help you with that and make the task at hand way easier.
For further information on Balloonary, see here.