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UKRAINE – STARTUP AND
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Programmer develops silent boxes for IT companies, one box costs UAH 97,000 which is 3 times cheaper than comparable models

Svyatoslav Serbin, Ukrainian IT specialist, and his brother Yevgeniy have launched the production startup Silentbox. These are single-seat soundproof boxes in which an employee can shut themselves off from the noise of open space and work in silence.

One such box costs UAH 97,000, however, according to Serbin, it is almost 3 times cheaper than the comparable European model. AIN.UA editor explains the project details.

Yevgeniy and Svyatoslav Serbin

About Silentbox and its purpose

“Many of us work in open space offices and are always confronted with noisy office space, problems with overloaded meeting rooms, and the lack of the ability to make a call without booking a meeting room or hiding on the staircase or kitchen,” says Svyatoslav.

It is this problem that silent boxes solve. However, in the IT-companies in which Svyatoslav used to work, there was nothing like that.

Startup background

Idea and hypotheses testing

Once at a European exhibition Svyatoslav saw office cubicles of a Finnish manufacturer that solved the noise problem in offices. But they cost $ 10,000 apiece.

“I began to collect information and study acoustics, sound insulation, and sound absorption. I shared the idea with one experienced design engineer who convinced me that in Ukraine there are enough necessary materials and machines to assemble a high-quality prototype of the box,” says Serbin.

Svyatoslav decided to give it a try. His brother has his own small workshop in Kyiv (he is engaged in the production of display letters from polystyrene foam), where they decided to assemble the first prototype. The investment was relatively small (as a result, they invested about $ 10,000 of own funds).

Serbin did everything in due order: a kanban board, a Gantt chart, worked out the name, drew a logo. Before launching anything into production, he made a landing on which he used a photo of the box of a manufacturer from the U.S. and launched an advertisement on Facebook to check the demand.

“The cost of one lead was about UAH 50-80. Having received 10 leads and after calling potential customers, I found out their needs and expectations from such a product. We can say that I had a ‘Jobs to be done’ session.

In addition, I made a deal with one client to put the box for testing for free – the client paid only for transportation and assembly,” said Svyatoslav.

First fail

When Serbin came to the workshop with all the plans and charts, it turned out that the prototype in Autocad and the actual production were two big differences.

“Firstly, it is not so easy to find acoustic materials with the right characteristics. Secondly, there was a question of quality of assembly – gaps, cracks…

The sound insulation of the first cabin was weak, but the cost was minimal.”

The first prototype of the box was assembled in the free time from the main work – in the evenings. It took several months. Then we took it to the client (large IT company) and mounted it. The client already had several tops of the line Finnish boxes, and although they cost 10 times more than Ukrainian ones, the difference in quality played a role – soon the client returned the box to Serbin.

The first version of Silentbox

Svyatoslav was down but decided not to give up and remake the product. This time without trying to save on anything.

Second try

It took another three months for the brothers to work on the mistakes.

“We decided to use the best in sound insulation that we found on the market. For example, instead of thick glass, we have a complex triplex of different thicknesses. We also refused to use mineral wool in favor of a more expensive analog – cotton wool, which is safe for health and provides good sound insulation,” says Svyatoslav.

Inside, the box is trimmed with a thick felt layer that absorbs the echo, improves audibility in the box. We added reinforced ventilation, which, along with the light, automatically turns on the motion sensor.”

According to Serbin, 95% of the sound stays in the box, while the Silentbox price is 2-3 times that of comparable European models with the same quality of materials.

Plans of Silentbox

Currently, the startup is at the stage of launching mass production. So far the brothers do not make batches of boxes to keep in the warehouse, instead, they assemble them on order with a delivery time of 15 days. An order can already be placed on the site.

The display unit is installed in the HUB 4.0 coworking in Podil district, where everyone can try it out.

“We actively engage partners – these are mainly interior design studios and architects who use our solutions in their projects. Because b2b sales are long and often you need to make space for boxes at the office design stage,” says Svyatoslav.

He is also looking for investors who would help a startup move beyond Ukraine. First of all, they would like to expand to neighboring markets. According to Svyatoslav, this is a real opportunity, given that Ukrainian boxes are significantly cheaper than their European counterparts while providing the same level of quality.

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