Startup Stories: Voila Norbert

Many of us understand the frustration that comes hand in hand with trying to contact someone in another company. Often, you’ll already know the name of the person you’re trying to reach but even searching online can prove unsuccessful.

Whether you forgot to get someone’s contact details at a networking event, or you simply stumbled upon an interesting article or online resource, just being able to get in touch with that person could make all the difference. Voila Norbert solves this issue with a beautiful and simple to use interface. We caught up with Voila Norbert founder Cyril Nicodème to find out more.

So What Exactly is Voila Norbert?

Voila Norbert allows you to “find anyone’s email address based on their full name and company’s website.” Cyril explained. Using a clean design which feels reminiscent of those used by popular search engines, a user simply needs to enter a person’s name and the website of the company they work for.

Just to clarify, this isn’t a gimmick which simply pairs the two pieces of information to create an email address, instead – the website returns genuine results. “In a nutshell, Norbert helps anyone search someone’s email in a specific company.” Perfect.

The Idea Behind Voila Norbert

Like many startups, the idea behind this brainwave came from a personal requirement. “We needed a simple tool to find someone in any company with just their name and website domain to reach them for a product we were working on.”

After searching online with no success, Cyril and co-founder and UI/UX designer Antoine Minoux decided to build their own tool. They agreed on the name “Norbert” to tap into the omnipresent theme that much like a real butler, Norbert is a service that’s there to help you.

How Long did it Take to Transform This Idea Into a Working Website?

“It depends on how you see things. The initial version was built and not updated for about a year” Cyril explained. The original version was built without key functionality like a payment system. However, after receiving a boost in traffic, Cyril and Antoine decided to do more work to Norbert.

“So to answer the question, it would be between 3 days (the time to develop the new, payable/business version) or one year if you take into consideration the popularity.”

The Biggest Difficulty So Far

“Norbert is a really simple tool, so biggest is a bit strong, but one of the challenge we had to face was the blacklisting of email servers that came with the increase of demands.”

When searching for email addresses, Norbert queries lots of email servers and some limit the number of queries allowed to a certain amount per day or hour. To solve this issue, Antoine and Cyril had to alter the code in a way which meant Norbert could communicate with 100 servers when needed. “That was fun” Cyril added.

Would you do Anything Differently if you Could go Back in Time?

“I don’t think so,” was Cyril’s initial response. “Of course we made some bugs and initial code didn’t take into consideration all the use cases possible, which resulted in a lower success rate.” But as Cyril identified, “we learn from our mistakes, analyze the results from our users and try to optimize the code where possible in order to constantly provide a better product.”

“We also have great plans for the future to increase Norbert’s functionality and maximum potential.”

Advice for Others Looking to Start Their Own Business

“Release early” It’s the biggest advice I could give” Cyril told us. While you may launch a product which is not yet perfect, or might be filled with bugs, “your product is useless if you never release it.”

Cyril also pointed out the great fact that, “early adopters are often kind and nice and will query you about their problems instead of destroying you.”

Getting your product out there and listening to the feedback and enquiries you receive is the perfect way to confirm whether your product is a good one. Not only this, but genuine feedback can guide you when it comes to spotting important improvements that you hadn’t noticed yourself.

“You can have the next gen biggest idea but if you don’t release it, chances are you will never find out.”

What does your business need?