UU Prize 2021 for Inlexa – The Journey that took us here

Published in Inside Nelio.

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Last week was a busy one. Well, they all are, but last week in particular had a surprirse for us: we were told we had been awarded the UU Prize 2021 for the new product we had developed. If you are wondering what product and what award I’m talking about, today I’ll tell you how we got here.

Desire to Develop a “Different” Product

What I like most about Nelio’s team is the cohesion, trust, and level of communication we have with each other. This is essential in a small company, in which the concerns of a single person have a great impact on the entire business. In 2021, and probably aggravated by the pandemic, we felt like we needed a little break from WordPress.

Another thing I like about Nelio is our business model: we sell WordPress plugins as SaaS. If the plugins you offer are good enough, you’ll have virtually no support tickets and revenue is generated without lot of extra work. Of course, you have to make sure your plugins are compatible with the latest version of WordPress and satisfy your customer needs, but it is not always necessary to develop new features. This means you can spend some time creating new projects.

So we got down to business and we tried to brainstorm new product ideas that we could develop and launch (which may or may not be WordPress-related). The brainstorming process is, without a doubt, one of the most interesting and exciting processes in any business. And it’s very intense. In our case, we are always open to any proposal that comes to mind or that someone suggests to us, but it should meet the following criteria:

  • Scalable: the work involved in the product or service we’re building should not be directly proportional to the number of clients we have. And, ideally, customers should be able to find us and get started easily without requiring our help or assistance.
  • Recurring: the cost of acquiring new customers is usually very high. So, by offering recurring services (instead of offering a single-use product), growth should be faster, easier, and cheaper.
  • More than dev tools: we often think of products and tools that we need in our team. But we don’t want to limit ourselves to targeting such a small group of people who we know can develop their own products.
  • Motivating: earning money clearly motivates us, but there are also other aspects we like to consider when thinking about new ideas. In our case, the technological challenge a new product might imply is a factor we keep in mind. There are also a few things we don’t want to work on. For example, I’m personally not attracted to the development of products related to pornography, politics, or religion.

The process of looking for ideas involves not only an internet search, but also talking to all kinds of people with different needs in their day-to-day life and in the organizations they work with and understanding how we could help.

After generating a list of ideas, we move on to our idea validation process. Basically, we analyze what similar tools are available on the market, what functionalities they offer, which markets they target, the languages in which the software is available, and so on. If there’s no such product on the market, we conduct surveys to see if a product we’re considering would fit. And, in any case, what added value we can provide. From there, we try to get a quick idea of the MVP that we should develop and how much it would cost to do so.

Throughout this process, there are ideas that are discarded, others generate new ideas, and some gain momentum. But in the end, we reach the point where we have on the table an idea (or several) that attracts us more than the rest, fulfilling all our requirements, with a viable product development, and that we believe will have a place in the market. With some of the ideas, and before we start with the product development, we might even try to validate it by launching a website where we explain the problem we aim to solve and looking, through an Adwords campaign, if there’s prospects interested in it.

One of the Winning Ideas

During this brainstorming process I had a conversation with Francesc Sistach, General Director of Specialisterne Spain, Portugal and LATAM, a social organization dedicated to the labor inclusion of people with autism and other diagnoses within diversity. Francesc had detected that the guides and manuals of inclusivity, along with the training they provide to the company’s staff, were not enough to ensure that all their communications, both internal and external, effectively adopted an inclusive and diverse language. And his question was: “Why don’t you develop a tool to help us with this problem?” At that very moment, a new idea was added to our list of ideas.

I’d be lying if I told you it was our favorite idea from the beginning. Some of the doubts that came up in the analysis of this idea were:

  • Is such a tool a real market need or is it only needed by our friend Francesc?
  • How difficult is it to implement? Clearly, it’s not an easy product to develop and, even though the technological challenge is very appealing, perhaps its development costs are too high.
  • There is already a very good and sophisticated product in English that solves this problem by adding a style guide. What added value can we provide here?
  • Are we able to make a quick assessment of the cost of developing an MVP that also adds value?
  • Taking into account all the difficulties involved in developing an NLP tool, will be able to develop something that is good enough?
  • Don’t we run the risk of this product having some political connotation?

In favor:

  • Spain’s Royal Decree-Law 6/2019, of March 1, on urgent measures to guarantee equal treatment and opportunities between women and men in employment and occupation, obliges all organizations with more than 50 employees to create an equality plan that emphasizes the need to use inclusive language,
  • It is very difficult for us to write in an inclusive way (particularly in Romance languages). A tool would help to avoid a lot of mistakes,
  • In Spanish there was a product on the market, but we could improve it,
  • We were very attracted to developing something with Artificial Intelligence, and
  • Everyone I talked to about the idea liked it.
Fragment extracted from the Royal Decree Law
Fragment extracted from the text of Royal Decree-Law 6/2019 for the guarantee of equality in which we observe how it costs to use an inclusive language. In several paragraphs the non-inclusive word “trabajadores” is used instead of the inclusive terms, “personas trabajadoras” or “plantilla de 50 o más personas”, and so on.

Surely there were many more points against and in favor that I no longer remember, but little by little the illusion and the belief that, on the one hand, we could develop an MVP in Spanish (and surely in Catalan) in a reasonable amount of time outweighed the cons. And, on the other hand, with the support of the Equality Law, we could help companies write inclusively in a much faster way and needing fewer resources. We would help to solve an existing problem in the market.

So, we got down to business and created Inlexa.

Inlexa, your Software to Write Inclusive and Diverse Copies

With the headline, I think the idea is clear. Inlexa is an AI assistant that helps you adopt an inclusive and diverse language.

Here is the product presentation video (in Spanish) so you get a quick idea of how it works:

Initially, we only created the Office add-ins and extensions for the Google Chrome and Firefox browsers in Spanish. Since we do not offer it, for the moment, in English, and since it wasn’t envisioned as a WordPress plugin, we thought it made more sense to create a completely new website for this product: inlexa.es

Later, we created the Catalan version, inlexa.cat and then, of course, the Inlexa plugin for WordPress.

Plugin de Inlexa and WordPress
Plugin de Inlexa and WordPress

Inlexa’s target market is any organization or person who communicates in Spanish or Catalan. A totally different market from the one we currently have for our plugins, Nelio A/B Testing, Nelio Content, and Nelio Unlocker, where 97% of our market is international.

This means the promotional activities are totally different and, for that reason, it seemed like a good opportunity to present Inlexa to the UU Prize 2021.

UU Prize 2021

On November 18, the V edition of Inspiring Women Leaders in the Digital Era was held, an event organized by W Startup Community which brings together leading women in startups, innovation, and entrepreneurship and aims to give visibility to women entrepreneurs in the technology sector in Spain.

The leitmotif on this occasion was Impacting your future. The forum hosted five debates with expert women who addressed current issues such as the acceleration of innovation in sustainable environments or the emergence of new markets and opportunities related to disruptive technologies such as AI, blockchain, VR, AR, and robotics.

During the conference, as usual in this event, the UU Prize 2021 awards were presented to recognize those companies that are committed to female entrepreneurial talent and the reduction of the gender gap in 5 different categories. One of them is the Startup SDG 5 category for business projects with a social component, which respond to SDG 5 and reduce the digital gender gap.

And there we are: our Inlexa project won a prize awarded by Senator Josefina Bueno, President of the Equality Commission of the Senate of Spain.

Delivery of the UU Prize 2021 for our project, Inlexa
UU Prize 2021 award for our project, Inlexa.

And We Continue…

We knew that developing Inlexa could be worthy of some recognition as it can have an impact on reducing the gender gap and getting organizations to communicate in a more inclusive and diverse way. But there is still a long way to go: the next step is to continue growing with sales in all the products that we are developing.

And not only that, we want to keep developing new products. So now it’s your turn: if you have a problem you need a solution for, let us know in the comments section below (or by contacting us ). We love new challenges!

Featured image of Grégoire Bertaud on Unsplash.

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