From PapayaPods to IMAGO - an entrepreneurial turnaround


After a promising start in 2016, PapayaPods faced difficulties and had to close down in March 2018. In the meantime, the founding team led by Alex Just has bounced back, launching a new venture and announcing a successful proptech project with Swiss Insurance Helvetia.


The last two years have been very intense for Papayapods. After a strong start in 2016, the proptech - ranking among the three best startups at the Web Summit held the same year in Lisboa -, faced difficulties. It had to lay off employees and close its Business to Customer service in spring. Today Alex Just together with Aaron Pitts, Elliot Pitts and Jakub Riziky are back with a new venture named IMAGO and a first successful business to business project for Helvetia. A real entrepreneur turnaround.

LearningsPapayaPods closed down the Business to Customer service (web application) in March 2018. Alex Just compiled a list of learnings that are interesting also for other startups. His key learnings to take away are:


Starting  business should be focused on solving a problem for a set of people and not having an idea

Make sure that you fully and properly understand the core problem, and peripheral problems which you are solving for your specific market.

Starting a business is done with ruthless analysis of data – every decision you make should be based on hypothesis which you have set, and are either proving or dismissing as direct consequence of numbers and your data

Communication is key - we found one of the main factors in a missed deadline or deliverable not meeting specifications was due to a breakdown in communication. Each team member should have an idea of what each departments goals and objectives are, while keeping communication efficient and not wasting time on irrelevant details.

Use principles like Objective Key Results (OKR’s) to give you and your co-founders / early team clear focus and alignment towards achieving milestones

While it might seem like taking away the magic of entrepreneurship, not doing this is guaranteed to result in you surviving via sheer luck, or else joining the 9/10 club – or the start-up graveyard

Hire only when you really need to


New proptech project for HelvetiaTowards the end of 2017 the team partnered with Helvetia to build a Minimum Viable Product (prototype) of a two-sided application which allows the Real Estate Management team of Helvetia to digitise the repair and maintenance processes and communication for issues raised by tenants.

“This form of co-creation, between a corporate and entrepreneurs is what allowed Helvetia, together with us, to successfully validate the value of the prototype and continue the development of the full product. We are working to include automation between tenants and service providers, as well as extend the types of issues tenants can raise, beyond just repairs”, says Alex Just.

Pascal Gurtner – Senior Innovation Manager at the Swiss Insurance company explains: “IMAGO was brought in to help conceptualise, develop and pilot Helfy (a platform that handles repairs and all administration for the tenants of Helvetia Real Estate) in co-creation with Helvetia’s Business Innovation division and Helvetia Real Estate Management.

This form of co-creation and co-innovation is the key success factor in designing, developing and implementing a solution that not only focuses on the needs of Helvetia Real Estate, but also successfully integrates all relevant stakeholders in the process. The cooperation between a start-up and a corporate allows the resources and core competences of the big tanker to be combined with the agility and innovative power of the speedboat. This gives the project the necessary momentum needed to execute in a fast, efficient and impactful manner.”

Successful launchThe Helfy project was launched on 13 November 2017 with the development of the Minimum Viable Product. The piloting on the market has been running successfully since March 2018 and is now active for select properties across Zurich, Bern, Basel and St. Gallen.

This project has been developed by the founders of IMAGO, Aaron Pitts, Elliot Pitts, Jakub Riziky and Alex Just, who also formed part of the founding team of PapayaPods. Whilst working in a close-knit team of four people; one front end and back end software engineer, a product owner, and project manager, the four created an efficient framework which allowed them to build products in a very efficient, accurate and customer-centric way. “This framework and way of working was largely inspired by the mistakes the four of us had made during our time at PapayaPods, when connecting business objectives with product feedback, and engineering specifications”, comments Just.

Co-Creation and co-innovation with ImagoIMAGO, the new start-up was inspired by the opportunity to create value through co-creation, by supporting corporates with the entrepreneurial mindset and execution speed, to bring innovation projects to life, and see them succeed instead of collect dust in the bottom of a drawer. A big part of recognising this comes from the results achieved together with Helvetia, and their innovative approach to corporate innovation and venturing.

“In Switzerland in particular, you see a lot of corporates push for innovation through venturing by leveraging their resources (capital, market insights, market access and knowledge). However, they lack the speed, agility and “Build, Measure Learn” mindset which entrepreneurs have”, says Just.

Imago plans to build partnerships with other Swiss corporates, to support them in validating and shipping exciting new products to market, which create value and succeed. “As projects increase, we will grow our team (very slowly, and as our company grows) to share the knowledge we have acquired and the framework we have created with other young, ambitious and motivated professionals who share the same passion we do, for building products and creating companies. In addition, we definitely plan to use our experience to continue to support other entrepreneurs in the ecosystem, same as we have been doing over the past year by advising different founders and coaching them through various challenges that they typically face”, comments Just.Picture: Imago Team - Alex Just, Jakub Riziky, Elliot Pitts, Aaron Pitts (from left to right).