If there is a “usual way” people meet their future business partners—maybe in business school, or at a networking event—then Jyde Ojo and Karina Krivenko did not meet that way. They met at a salsa dancing class three years ago. The pair now runs Bellom, an app that allows users to coordinate cleaning, pet care, meal prep and more.
The Bellom CEO and COO don’t appear to have a lot in common at first glance, besides that they are both immigrants to the United States. Jyde’s background is in tech; he moved to Washington for a job with Microsoft, where he worked for years before leaving to start his own social media platform aimed at the Christian community in 2004 (pre-dating Facebook, as he notes). Karina moved here from Russia six years ago and has a more varied professional history, having worked in every industry from beauty to heavy machinery, typically in “a support role, operations role, making sure everything runs smoothly and easily.”
Spend some time talking with the two and you’ll notice that beyond their immigrant backgrounds, they also share a common energy and curiosity, both always focused on moving Bellom forward. Throughout our conversation, the two trade off finishing each other’s sentences and asking me about my opinions on Bellom’s services.
Karina says that the idea for Bellom originated with Jyde trying to find a way to simplify his own busy life. “About a year ago Jyde shared his challenges in just a simple task, you would think: scheduling housecleaning. And it was such a, just a mess, trying to coordinate your schedule, and get a quote, and it’s so inconvenient, and they cancel on you, and you’re overpaying…” she explains. “He was describing all that, and he came up with an idea of creating something simple, a solution that will let you basically do all your chores seamlessly, in a few clicks. And so he started building the app that we’re using now.”
Bellom users can schedule and coordinate pet care, laundry, shopping, cooking, cleaning, and even ordering fresh flowers through the app. Customers aren’t obligated to sign up for a monthly subscription, and the app advertises simple pricing without surprise service fees.
Jyde explains that Bellom’s services are useful for over-worked techies, a demographic he can relate to: “When you work for companies like Microsoft, Amazon, you are working a lot…you code all night long. And as a result, you don’t have time for anything.” The goal of Bellom is to provide a “new approach to living for busy people, for busy professionals,” so that workers have leisure time to enjoy the money they’re earning. Jyde and Karina also see the service being useful for people who are less able to perform household tasks on their own, such as seniors and people with disabilities.
Karina and Jyde both have years of business acumen that have served them well in starting Bellom, and they also point to working with the Office of Economic Devlopment’s Startup Advocate, David Harris, as critical to their success. “One of the greatest things that OED has been helpful for us, is [making] connections,” says Jyde.
“David connected us with the Women’s Fund in Portland, and he’s been advising Jyde on other sources as well,” continues Karina. “We never would have met [our mentor], ever, otherwise, without a soft introduction from David.” Their business mentor is a Seattle angel investor, who now is serving on Bellom’s advisory board. Through working with David, Jyde and Karina met investors and entrepreneurs throughout Seattle and California, and built a network of people to call on for help and advice. “That support system, it’s priceless,” says Jyde.
“OED has been very very instrumental in our core survival and for us to be where we are,” Jyde says of working with David. Karina continues, “I come from a country where if you are a small business, you are in constant survival mode. It’s not because it’s hard and there’s competition, it’s because the government is trying to shut you down. Not helping you, just the opposite. So to me, [OED’s support] is a blessing.”
Karina describes Seattle’s startup scene as “hard, but exciting.” “There is a lot of help, definitely, that’s created by the City for example. But there’s also just huge competition, because just like Silicon Valley, this place is filled with smart people. And they’re all trying to start something new.”
Even in the face of all that competition, Jyde and Karina advise aspiring startup owners to dive in. “Do it now, don’t wait for the stars to align, because they won’t, ever,” Karina says. “Something will always come up, and something won’t be right, but just, give it some more, strategize, get feedback. Talk to people, get opinions, refine your strategy and go get it.
She continues, “You will always fail. As long as you learn from it and do something better next time, they’re learning opportunities.” Jyde responds, “If you’re coming back up, they’re not failures.”