Momen Elshamy on launching a bootstrapped startup to compete with Canva

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written by iryna prysyazhnuk

Momen Elshamy is a graphic designer and a founder of Premast – an Egypt-based startup that offers presentation design tools.

Premast was launched in August 2020, in the middle of a pandemic and uncertainty. Without any outside funding or government grants, by March 2021 startup is profitable.

IMB, Johnson&Johnson, and Volkswagen are among the clients.

Premast doesn’t have a crazy idea behind it that no one ever heard about before. Nor it has millions of dollars behind it, like WeWork.

Premast operates in a very competitive environment. The company offers presentation templates and customizable graphics on a subscription basis. Canva, Prezi, SlideShare are among the main competitors.

So how it all works?

How it all started.

Momen Elshamy has a background in design and years of experience working for LG Electronics and Axon Global Education Network.

However, he didn’t enjoy working for a big company and started freelancing using Upwork. The clients started to reach out to him, and that’s when he found an underserved market.

A large number of his clients from the US and Canada were requesting customized presentation designs. He learned, that clients wanted their presentations made in PowerPoint, not just PDF, so they can easily make necessary changes themselves.

The existing presentation design tools were either too complicated to use for a non-designer or didn’t offer designs that would stand out.

Premast helps users to design presentations that stand out effortlessly

From the marketplace to a startup.

To validate his idea, Elshamy has designed a presentation template in PowerPoint and put it out at a marketplace Envato.

He had already had several templates for social media out there, but one single Powerpoint template turned out to be a gamechanger. It was downloaded so many times, Elshamy instantly knew there was a need for that product. By that time he had so many clients from his freelancing, that he had hired two other designers to help him out.

In March 2018 Elshamy started to prepare a launch of his own company. His team started adding Powerpoint templates to the marketplace account on a weekly basis. He came up with the future company’s name and created the first landing page.

In early 2019, Elshamy realized he wanted not only to give people templates to download but the tools to customize the design in the easiest possible way. He personally is a fan of Canva and wanted to create a tool that will focus on a user-friendly and very easy presentation design.

How did the pandemic affect startup launch?

Before launching Premast as a startup, Elshamy worked on its brand selling templates via the marketplace. However, he always had in mind a bigger picture and was working towards launching his own project. The team started with just a landing page and was planning on a startup launch when COVID-19 changes everything.

“The start of the pandemic was very hard for us. We started to work from home, and we were not ready for this. We had a hard time meeting the deadlines,” explained Elshamy.

Elshamy and the team had a hard decision to make – to launch despite the disrupting pandemic or postpone until the next year?

He decided to launch.

“I just had a feeling, if we postpone a launch to the next year we might not be able to hold until the next year,” said Elshamy.

“We needed something to push ourselves, to give us the power to continue.”

Premast launched and, as many businesses during COVID-19, pivoted.

Elshamy discovered the need for presentation templates completely new field – education. He noticed that with the universities going all remote, more and more educators were looking for an easy way to create engaging presentations.

Today the educational templates are one of the most downloaded at Premast.

How did you become profitable?

When speaking of the financial part of the company, Elshamy is very clear – he bootstrapped the startup and uses the profits to re-invest and expand his team.

Currently, Premast employs 20 people and has a business unit, a large design team, who works on UX and UI and presentation design team, who creates new PowerPoint templates.

“I analyzed and researched everything – how much money each presentation cost me, what is the cost of my customer acquisition, what templates are the most popular, and what is not working so great,” explained the founder.

“We are very focused on analyzing expenses and immediately shutting down the things that won’t work for us. We are a profit-oriented startup”, said Elshamy

Premast has a free and a paid plan. The plus plan costs $10 per month. It gives customers access to all the premium templates, graphics and includes multiple brand kits.

Elshamy on how the company set up pricing for its product.

Just after its launch in August 2020, Premast gained over 12,000 users in just 6 months.

The key to staying competitive on the market – constantly testing new features, making a platform faster an and adding

“The biggest challenge for us now – to keep up with the customer demand and innovate as fast at it’s possible. We’re working on the templates for Google slides now, as the customers keep asking for them,” said Elshamy.

The most important advice?

Elshany highlights that he wouldn’t go this far without his team.

Elshamy on the most important lesson learned from the pandemic

He adds, that to win a team a founder needs to help them grow and learn. The founder should educate them on every aspect of the startup, including the budget. Also, the founder needs to identify the role of every team member and what kind of work they’re expected to do.


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