Meet Symbolt: the Intelligent Design and Revision Platform

If you are a marketing manager working with an agency, there is a high possibility that you spend more time waiting for revisions of designed documents to be done than actually implementing them to the market. Usually these back and forth iterations take forever, and delay your product’s time to market so is an intelligent design and revision space which empowers clients and designers to cut design revisions in half.

We sat down with Leart Zogjani, the co-founder and CEO of Symbolt. This platform is the result of hours of frustrations experienced by Leart and his colleagues. Initially a graphic designer, Leart runs a successful design agency but always struggles with revisions, especially on long documents where one change can break the whole layout. The goal of Symbolt is to bring a radically better process to design long documents. After realising that there were a lot of tools for collaborative design but nothing for collaborative revisions Leart decided to launch Symbolt.

Hi Leart! What is it with Kosovo? You are the 3rd founders (after Gjirafa and Blocknify) from Kosovo joining our program. Is it something in the water?

Exactly. There have been several water-related investments from Czech Republic in Kosovo. I guess they put something in the pipes to call on entrepreneurs. Also, we wanted to run to countries with enough of it, but just far enough from the sea to be safe.

On a serious note though, StartupYard has built a really good reputation in Kosovo through Gjirafa, and also other companies that the SY team has interacted with. And Mergim (Gjirafa’s CEO), is someone that I’ve looked up to, and consulted quite often. He then suggested that I should definitely consider the opportunity to apply from day one. I guess he knew a thing or two about how life-transformative this experience actually is! 

What prompted you to start developing Symbolt? What did you see as fundamentally wrong with the way graphic designers work online right now?

When in 2014 I started my design studio, as a young graphic designer, I aspired to build a company that would bring together design, contemporary art, and philosophy. We were up against a giant of “how things must be done”, and how the market works. So as a team of only a trio until 2017 we managed to exhibit and talk at Ars Electronica Festival, International Motion Graphics Festival, Doku:tech get published in several books, including a book on contemporary synthesis of the philosophical, theoretical and practical methodologies of illustration and its future development. It was all fine and dandy, with the exception that our business was barely in survival mode.

Whenever I jumped into making any work that would pay well, it would mean that there is maybe 20% creative work, and 80% technical, repetitive work with A LOT of back and forth with the clients. 

In particular, when we were working for a few clients in the financial sector (which certainly paid best), the documents that we needed to design, however easy to complete from a visual standpoint, and under strict branding rules, took forever to finish, as most changes needed to be done on the copy, and after the final design had been approved.

So what we had to do was literally go through dozens and dozens of iterations through emails, and phone calls, as well as probably hundreds of annotated PDFs that left no space for us to enjoy our work.

Now that, I call appalling. Yes, there are many ways to lock clients in contracts, or maybe get paid for changes. But, who can say that they are happy to do a gazillion technical changes, when they have a bachelor degree in graphic design? This gets even worse for the freelancing community that keeps expanding.

On the other hand though, this seemed to be no less frustrating for the marketing team on the other side of the coin – the clients. I mean, if they can afford to pay for our time, that means their time is already more valuable. And they end up spending so many hours of their lives trying to clear out to us what exactly to change and where, and then wait an extra couple of days for us to get it done and delivered. Guess what their pressure to deliver on time to market was doing to them!

To me, that’s quite a few red flags to sound the alarms of something needing to be done about it.

You are calling Symbolt an intelligent platform. How intelligent is intelligent?

Well, it’s hard to put a label on this kind of intelligence. I’m like the father who’s super proud of how smart his kid is. So, obviously, his kid is the smartest out there :).

The point is, we are really doing our best to bring in a way that this kid can soon start to learn on its own and actually increase its own intelligence. We do have quite a way to go till there though. 

So initially, we are trying to learn a lot. We allow our users to make a limited number of adjustments, while also the design environment is closed, so all the work is done within Symbolt. The idea is to allow more and more changes from marketing and other corporate teams (non designers) as we go, while also allowing designers to import files from other platforms. 

That would make Symbolt more intelligent, as would it allow users to always increase their speed to a better design results.

Can you tell us a bit more about how your technology really works?

It is relatively straight forward (or so I like to think). 

The platform gives access to different features for designers, and a separate ones to marketing teams and end-clients. 

If we were to compare it to text editors, it’s like what Google Docs is to Microsoft Word, or even PDF editors: Symbolt allows the clients to directly impact the copy. But this time allowing changes in complex design, without breaking it.

On the other end, comparing with UX tools, one could say it is somewhat similar to Invision, Adobe XD and the likes, where designers can design, and clients can make comments and notes. 

Obviously, this, to come to life is much harder than it sounds. I am sure every designer reading this will agree. There are so many things we need to think about for every little change in the design. Even more so, each design is very different.

So this is where the beauty of Symbolt actually is. 

Marketing teams can make the copy changes and review the design. We will soon be adding approval systems, so that larger teams can quickly get to be able to float design documents in different decision ranks and be able to actually reach a final document possibly in half the time of what it takes today.

Having been in the designer shoes for so long, I have compiled a group of rules and issues that I’m always on the lookout for. So for every change that the client might make in the text, then there are a bunch of reviews that happen to bring everything in place.

Symbolt checks for widows, orphans, margins, grids, proportions etc within a page, and makes decisions on how to deal with the issues at hand. This way, creating an almost “responsive” design for each change made, and allowing relatively good results for each interaction.

On the other hand, designers can start their project either by directly uploading the word document that they received by the client, then choose a template to start from, or just start with a blank design. In the first case, there might be some cleaning up to do. We have been working on recognizing word file structures as much as possible so that Symbolt will automatically recognize headings, body copy etc, but some files are just too complex. Then the content will be laid out in proposed pages. The designer can choose different styles, fonts, colors etc for the whole design at once, as everything is stylized, and then, instead of needing to touch every element individually, we have added a modular design system for them to access and quickly change the layout of different pages within each document.

Should anything become a design issue again, the clients have the ability to put good-old comments and annotations directly in the designed document, and instead of that being another PDF in a long string of emails, it becomes a quick notification on the designer, who can quickly access the design editing features and fix anything.

So, if I were to make a TL:DR: Designers design quickly, and worry only about design comments, while marketing teams can edit the copy away and the design will remain unbroken.

Final files can then be exported to PDF for print or web. Obviously, while all the time making sure that there is versioning of the files and nothing is lost in the air with “where the hell is that last version of the file” question.

Your co-founder is your brother. How difficult or easy is it to work with someone from your family? Why are you a good match for this project?

This has actually been a family discussion almost two years ago now. Elion joined my design agency at that time. It was a very unknown situation for both of us. But one thing we knew for sure: we went along really well, and we have had our fights. They all ended up with us clearly realizing that we are complete opposites that fully agree on basic principles. I’m the designer and chaos maker, run for the vision, don’t care about finances or chasing down unpaid invoices, or putting up a process. Elion is the extremely organized freak. Everything I make a mess of he puts in place. He’s a psychologist, knows people well, and has an incredibly powerful sense of how I should be dealing with each person. So he organizes the team, has a tougher look on his face, so invoices start getting paid once he’s on the email chain. He always makes a sanity check on me and whenever I’m flying brings me back to earth.

Today with him around I feel like don’t just make a team, but almost like a single body with a very well rounded strong personality.

But we’ve always heard horror stories of family members in business. So, first thing’s first: before we had started work, we had a serious family meeting, we sat down and got this all sorted out. We made sure to clear out who does what, and who is a decision maker. That way in less than two years, we doubled our design business revenue, started Symbolt, raised a small investment with this acceleration program while had only an idea, won on local startup events, and are crushing it every day!

Let’s talk more about your products. What would you say distinguishes you from other collaborative tools for designers? What is your “killer feature?”

We are actually adding intelligence to the revision process. 

So today, marketing teams can probably add some annotations to a PDF, or what often happens: print out the pdf, draw on it, and then send it back to designers.

Collaboration tools have been heavily focused web and app design. We are focusing on long documents (multi-page ones).

I can already see some designer shouting at me, and feeling like the design industry is at risk due to this tool. Also that a software will never be able to make the right decisions on design, as a designer would. 

I would argue that the idea behind Symbolt is to actually give designers the opportunity to dive deeper into design, and what design means, while actually giving the clients the ownership over the product that they buy, by being able to make their decisions on the copy they write anytime, and not only for a limited amount of time.

In the last decades we have seen designers thinking about the psychology of design, of the target audience, and of the useability of design more than they ever had to before. And that has mainly been the case due to the spread of design in the everyday tools that we are using. So Symbolt will only allow designers to shift more and more of their focus towards making the right structural decisions, while getting rid of mechanical tasks that suck the soul out of a creative thinker.

Thus, to get back to the question, as opposed to other collaborative tools out there, Symbolt proposes a new process to designing long documents, and deepens the ownership of the process to each party involved in it: the designer, and the client, or copywriter.

What have been your team’s biggest personal or professional challenges in making this project a reality?

There have been a few relatively large challenges that we’ve faced in the past few months.

I’d start with our backgrounds: none of us actually has a technical background. Building an intelligent software without a developer in the team is quite a big wall to break, as you can imagine. As a matter of fact, we are still on the lookout for a technical co-founder. 

Took us a few months to find a team that would take the challenge of building this software, but we did it!

Then personally, well, I had never sold to large corporates before. The market we came from is relatively small, and a large company there would be considered max a medium one here. Understanding the sales within huge companies as we had to do in the past few months was one of the toughest things I have had to do in the past few years. And it still is a challenge.

At StartupYard I met with so many amazing mentors. Most of the conversations I’ve been engaging with them lately have been around negotiations, and maturity to be shown in meetings with these organizations. So it has definitely been an unbelievably steep learning curve for me.

I think at some point it’s even hard to say what the challenges are right now. We have both become like play-doh lately. We are being reshaped everyday into completely different people. I think only in a year’s time, or maybe longer, will we be able to look back and see what challenges we have overcome. Right now maybe we can’t even see how much we’re changing from all the volume of work that we’re doing.

Who is the ideal customer for Symbolt? What do people need to get started with Symbolt? 

There are two very specific groups that Symbolt is ideal for:

Marketing teams that have to wait forever for a single change on a designed document. Or if they are producing their own branded materials. 

And Graphic Designers that need quick turn-around time on layout projects and want to get rid of unpaid and head-breaking copy revisions.

For designers, it’s pretty straight-forward. Create an account, and start using it. Only pay when they like the results and are ready to download their final PDFs.

For marketing teams and larger companies, we’re providing the possibility to input all their branded materials so that they can quickly and easily access them and produce as many as needed without the direct need of the back and forth with the agencies, or designers. So obviously, there is a set up time involved.

Has there been a major surprise for you since joining the StartupYard program? Did you learn something you weren’t expecting to?

The whole thing was a surprise! We thought we’d get a little money to get us going, and maybe a contact or two by coming into a new environment. But boy were we wrong!

We mentioned the negotiating ability with large companies. That’s NOT an easy skill to come by. The ability to just so easily communicate what we’re doing, and have my doors open to anyone we could think of. Most definitely we’re sure we can’t frame all that we’ve learned here, but it is already apparent that our whole mindset has completely shifted to something we had not experienced before.

Meet Piixpay: Instant Crypto to Fiat Conversion

Piixpay is the first startup from Estonia attending our program. For the past 3 years, Piixpay has built a payment infrastructure to make the bridge between crypto and fiat as easy as a bank transfer. Transacting in crypto-currency can still be difficult and the volatility might deter a few companies from accepting crypto-currencies as payment vehicles but Piixpay has solved this by allowing real-time conversion to fiat..

Initially used by individuals to convert their crypto, Piixpay now sees more and more interests from eshops and crypto companies (exchanges, wallets) alike.

We sat down with Hannes Kree, the co-founder and CEO of Piixpay to discuss more about how Estonia is positioning itself as a crypto nation and how Piixpay intends to be a major player in the payment industry.

Hi Hannes! Tell us a bit about your personal journey towards founding Piixpay. How did you get here?

Initially, together with my partner, we launched a mining facility in 2014. Little-by-little we realized that we cannot hold all our crypto profit as we had to pay bills, which are of course in EURO.

We used exchanges to convert our crypto to Euros but our orders filled dead slow. On top of that, as the market volatility grew, and prices fell – we were losing money. We had to find a solution to make simple crypto-to-fiat payments.

And this is how Piixpay was born, where we do crypto-to-fiat transfers instantly and securely.

The instance and security are our focus from day one. No more exchanges, no more waiting, simple Euro payments with crypto just like your regular bank.

Moreover, it came really from our personal needs and it turns out that others share the same need. Now, with growing users we are at full speed.

Our long-term vision is to create a simple bridge between crypto and fiat with our infrastructure products. Imagine a platform where users transact in whatever currency they like and store their wealth like a modern crypto-bank

How long have you been involved with crypto and how has the landscape changed in your mind?

I started in 2013 when I bought my first mining machines. Back then, crypto was considered a hobby. The community was small and there were not many channels to gather information. Bitcointalk was one source, and some of our Estonian mining crowd. I believe crypto really got mainstream in 2016. This is when the technological and investment ecosystem really developed. It was the time when cryptocurrencies came out of the cellar.

Bitcoin especially stopped being connected only with Black markets. In 2017, during the ICO Boom, we saw a huge generational move. You see, we live in a very much digital penetrated society, soon ruled by young people. Nowadays for Millennials, crypto is the native asset to store value and transact.

On the other hand, Blockchain technology was recognized on a high corporate level. It is evident how much has been built for the past 2 years. We also see that some governments are embracing it and making regulatory frameworks. Of course, It’s not all rainbows. Cryptocurrencies are still used for ransoms etc. But nevertheless, the community and technology matured, and I think this is just the beginning. 

The Piixpay Team

You are from Tallinn, Estonia. Why are so many crypto companies coming from the Baltic countries?

I believe the case, especially for Estonia, is because of our e-government. 98% of Estonian services can be done online. With a combination of good IT talents and legislation, this gave a green light for many crypto companies. In fact, many acquired crypto licenses. That’s all good, but soon they have to comply with the new regulations. The good news is our Financial Inspection is working closely with the Estonian Cryptocurrency Association. We take an active role there to steer the dialogue into a fair and prosperous environment for blockchain startups.  


The Piixpay interface

What prompted you to start developing Piixpay? What did you see as fundamentally wrong with the way crypto to fiat payment work online right now?

We saw several problems and inefficiencies in the crypto-to-fiat payments.

Here are the two main points.

Firstly, customers find it difficult to transact with service providers. This is because those service providers don’t accept crypto.

That leads to another problem. These customers have to find a proper exchange to convert.

Let’s see they found it and now they have FIAT in the exchange. Now they need to make a transfer. But they are realizing that they cannot make transfers to 3-rd parties. And even if they do that leads to another problem, which considers banks. These transactions are automatically flagged as suspicious and now the customer is facing suspension. You see it’s a chain of events which show how the crypto and fiat world are divided. Not to mention the many unbanked people any cannot find any stable currency they can transact with you.

Which leads to my second point. Why service providers don’t accept crypto – it’s simple, it’s too volatile. How much did the Bitcoin price change per day? It goes up and down all the time but businesses want stability.

And this is where Piixpay comes into play. We allow the customer to pay the providers with crypto (Bitcoin, Ethereum… you name it) and on the other end, businesses receive and store EURO.

This is all done in a convenient experience for the customer and in a fully regulated and safe environment. 

Tell us more about your team. Why are you a good match for this project?

We have known each other for many years and our friendship started before we decided to become colleagues. We have complementary skills and have been in crypto since 2013. Our technical lead has been developing security software for big Telcos. From AML/KYC we have  one of the best intelligent officers in Estonia with vast experience with banks. Finally, we have a dedicated sales and business developers with international experience. This is crucial if you want to develop a world-class product. 

The Piixpay team

What have been your team’s biggest personal or professional challenges in making this project a reality?

In the beginning, we had legal problems since cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology weren’t understandable. After overcoming this we had to build a top-notch security system. That meant that we need dedicated servers and autonomous power. Now, I am proud to say we achieved the highest level of security without hindering our customer experience. 

What do people need to get started with Piixpay? 

Just go to and sign up. Registration and KYC are quite easy. In no time you will be able to make your first transfer. 

Who are your customers today and what kind of volume have you processed in 2019?

We processed around 20 Million Euros last year. This is another record for us.

As for customers, we see two main groups.

Private ones.

      Individual traders and crypto holders

Business clients include;


      Wallet providers

      Blockchain Developers

      Gaming Companies.

Also, we see start to see interest from institutional investors and hedge funds. 

What do you think is the biggest problem right now in the crypto market, and how does Piixpay help solve that issue?

I see as the biggest problem the interoperability both in crypto and fiat world, but also on a protocol level. By that I mean that still, crypto is not quite streamlined to the traditional financial system. And on the protocol level, the connection between chains is not good, not to mention the connection to external systems.

I can also add to that the lack of education and misconception. For instance, people still consider Bitcoin a scam. But it’s all math there, a protocol just like the internet. This is very needed to be communicated in order to see mass adoption.

As mentioned previously, we want to make Piixpay a crypto bank. A place where businesses and consumers will transact freely. This is how we are solving the market issues. 

You are for the first time in an accelerator. What did you expect from the experience, and how has that compared to reality? What has been your biggest challenge in the program?

Essentially, the program was very useful for us in several verticals.

Firstly, we connected to the CEE Blockchain ecosystem. Furthermore, we established vital relationships with investors, while preparing for our next round.

I think one of the key aspects is that the programme is intense but not *too* intense, giving us space to develop our ideas, follow up on business opportunities and run our business as usual as much as possible. Some of the encounters with mentors are leading to large e-commerce players which is very important for us to scale. Finally, we love the StartupYard team and Cedric’s sense of humour.


Meet Qoobus: The OS for the Freight Industry

Qoobus is the first startup from the Republic of Moldova to make it into the StartupYard program. Qoobus is a LogTech company that provides transportation companies and their clients with the best freight and transportation solutions to make their operations more efficient, secure and transparent. 

A 3 trillion market in Europe alone, the logistics industry is experiencing disruptive innovation rapidly. We sat down with Mihail Cernei, the founder and CEO of Qoobus. Mihail has been working in the freight industry for the last 10 years and being an innovator at heart saw how to make the life of truckers and shippers easier. Qoobus was born.

Hi Mihail! It might surprise people to learn that you were originally a lawyer, before getting into the logistic industry and founding Qoobus. Can you tell us about your journey?
Actually it might sound even more surprising but I also have a CMA ( Certification in Accounting and Audit). It was something I needed to combine with my law practice when consulting corporate clients on their financials and legal issues.

Talking about my venture in the logistics industry, I can say that it was a pure accident. 

In late 2009 a friend of mine convinced me to invest in a transportation company. It was quite an encouraging time back then, 2008’s financial crisis was ending, ecommerce was booming and it was pushing the transportation industry to be faster, and more efficient than ever before. In some ways I was sure I invested in the right direction. But my ideas about it changed, when I found out that things were not going so well inside the company.

From one side, the company was growing at a fast pace but on the other side it just could not sustain its own growth. Because of lack of technology and market visibility it was being run un-efficiently, we were operating at very low margins and every mistake was hitting us “like a truck” financially. It was a real struggle. 

It took us four long years to finally stabilise the company by developing and implementing an inhouse technical solution to manage all the workflow, from client acquisition, to transportation management and payment optimization. At that time, I realised that we were not the only ones having this problem and that our solution was applicable to the whole SMB (small to medium-sized businesses) transportation market. 

So around late 2014 we started developing our first concepts of what later we called Qoobus. 

Are you saying the desire to help others is at the core of Qoobus?

I think back then, we did not know much about technological disruption or revolution. We, as a team, were emotionally driven and having that feeling of successfully helping somebody was our main motor to drive us into this venture. But it was a no brainer to apply all the knowledge we had, into a product that had very deep disruptive potential even in that “just an idea format” we initially were brainstorming on. 

What did you see as fundamentally wrong with the transportation industry?

It’s a highly fragmented sector, composed of hundreds of thousands of businesses (SMB), varying enormously in size, that are moving billions of freight of widely varying sizes and weights on a myriad of possible routes. It’s an industry using “backbone technologies”, stuck in piles of paper, fax machines, e-mails or in closed data silos. 

Given the scale and complexity of the freight transport system, it is just impossible to analyse and understand it in the absence of large statistical databases.

It’s like a linked chain of events. A lack of technological evolution and adoption, leads to a lack of automation, that leads to a lack of Big Data that leads to lack of transparency.

For us, “logistics is just broken”. 

The Qoobus Main Interface

What are you trying to accomplish with Qoobus that you think no other platform has been able or willing to do?

First of all, Qoobus at its core, is a state of the art Artificial Intelligence freight matching engine, built on the latest available technology, not only to connect freight demand with supply but to also predict it by using big data. This enables us to empower SMBs logistics & transportation companies to operate efficiently in the market. 

Exactly the contrary of what big industry players are willing to do. Most of them are keeping it as complicated as possible by enabling layers and layers of legacy IT infrastructure and rigid processes that are hard to transform into the cloud-age. 

When we started building Qoobus we had only one thing in mind – to make life easy for truckers and their clients. 

Consequently, we are changing the rules of the game. It is no longer “the big eats the small” but rather “the fast eats the slow”

What have been your team’s biggest personal or professional challenges in making this project a reality?

Taking aside the financial factor that usually makes it hard for any startup in its initial stages, I’m convinced that the biggest challenge we had as a team was to learn to completely trust each other, be united and stick together. 

The Qoobus team

For our readers who are not too familiar with the freight industry, why do you think we are seeing so much innovation happening. What is driving this innovation?

Let me put it like this, transportation is the world’s second largest industry. All of its branches combined, generate a global market worth 7 Trillion Dollars a year and it’s an industry in growth mode. But also transportation is one of the most outdated industries in terms of technology. 

A strong digital DNA is a prerequisite for corporate success in the 21st century. However, to date, the majority of industry players still work with largely manual processes, relying on phone, fax, spreadsheets and e-mails. Using such “backbone technologies” means that its results are by definition slow, error prone, not exponentially scalable and come at high costs per unit.

Future industry players will be those who understand how to exploit technologies such as cloud based services, IoT/sensors, predictive data analytics and blockchain

Lack of digital DNA in this industry is not a secret, so everyone is well aware of these problems and of course there are a lot of startups trying to innovate it. In fact there are so many startups doing it, crying disruption, innovation, revolution that it got to the point of a “kid crying wolf”; it’s not raising eyebrows anymore. Disruption has been mentioned one too many times. 

Both enterprise and SMB customers nowadays expect to get shipments delivered faster, more flexible and with a higher degree of transparency at a lower price — like the “Consumer Market” did 15 years ago, driving the fundamental digital disruption that has happened to the travel & taxi industries.

So answering your question, yes, there is a lot of innovation but most of it failed. Because of too many reasons, maybe because it was addressing the needs of the big industry players instead of the ones that actually need it, we will never know.

But don’t get me wrong there will be a disruption in this industry in the very near future. A revolution so big that it will change everything, it will be a fundamental disruption. 

How many clients do you have today and in which countries are you seeing the biggest interest?

We started with operations in the Republic of Moldova in mid 2017 and naturally expanded to the Romanian market in 2018. At the moment we are expanding in countries like Belarus, Ukraine, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia. We should be hitting the 9,000 Registered Companies mark as we speak. The biggest interest doesn’t come from companies based in particular regions, but from companies that happen to be in a certain stage of their development. Our core user base is mostly small to medium-sized businesses. 

What do you hope Qoobus is going to be in 5 years, as a business, or as a technology? What would be your ideal scenario?

In an ideal world, our vision of Qoobus being the one stop shop freight marketplace should be materialised. By then we would have an army of partners all over the world and with our services we would be strong and viable enough to offer SMB transportation companies and their clients a platform where they can interact and do business with ease, in complete transparency. 


You’re based in Moldova which geographically and historically is a very multicultural country. Are there particular quirks about the Moldovan market or culture that you would say give your company an advantage or a fresh perspective?

Being based in Moldova mostly helped us gain valuable know-how of western and eastern ways of doing logistics. When it comes to doing business we are very flexible because of our understanding of western and eastern european culture. But I would say that our biggest advantage as a team, as a company, doesn’t come from our geographical location or our multilingual capabilities. It comes from us being at the right age to have seen and experienced the world without the power of the internet to actually being part of the internet revolution. 

Has there been a major surprise for you since joining the StartupYard program?

Actually the whole StartupYard program was a surprise for me, every single bit of it. I found it to be very challenging at first but then, with time, I progressed on a personal and professional level. It really is an accelerator, meant to accelerate things and challenge you to achieve your milestones.