Every day, hundreds of millions of people across the world practice yoga – in guided local classes, on retreats in far-flung destinations or in the comfort of their living rooms. As the yoga community grows, tech entrepreneurs are looking for unique ways to innovate in the sector, to enhance the yoga experience and connect yogis in our modern digital world. Elnura Ashimova, co-founder and CEO of Yoganect, is one of these entrepreneurs. During a flying visit to Luxembourg for the EBAN Winter Summit 2018, Elnura revealed why yoganect is more than just another social media network.
(Featured Image: Elnura Ashimova, Co-founder & CEO of yoganect / Image Credit © Pablo Tsukayama)
What inspired you to launch yoganect and what is the company’s vision?
I was working long hours in IT project management and consultancy, and it was stressful to say the least. Discovering yoga was an eye-opener for me. Feeling increasingly balanced and healthy, as well as more in sync with my myself and my body, I decided to train as a yoga teacher. The entrepreneur in me then launched a freelance agency specializing in online marketing and I’ve dedicated the last two years to developing yoganect. It is a digital hub connecting yogis around the world so they can share knowledge, book yoga classes and events that match their goals, and stream a wide variety of yoga videos. Our vision is to become a one-stop shop for all things yoga.
Tell us about some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far.
Anyone who has developed software will tell you it’s a lot of work. I read an article the other day that sums it up pretty accurately. It’s a 90/90 scenario: 90% of the time creating 90% of the software, and the remaining 10% doing another 90%! It’s been a long road and our MVP (the beta version) is finally launching end of this year so we’re really excited. The funding process has been pretty challenging, but we now have advisors and business angels from Germany and the US who see the potential we do – especially in light of the fact that one in five people around the world wants to start practicing yoga.
Why do you think a social media network dedicated to yoga will be successful?
The yoga community needs to feel a sense of belonging and engage with like-minded people. Yoga content is visual and emotional – we provide a space for it. We currently have over 300 partners and a lot of traction (120k followers on Facebook and Instagram) before even launching any large campaigns. That says it all really… At the end of the day, we provide the IT structure but it’s the community that lives it. It’s like a virtual yoga shala where teachers, students, dedicated yoga musicians and anyone with an interest in yoga can be part of the hub. yoganect is for yogis by yogis.
“We simply want to offer a space where people can find what they are looking for. Whether it’s a teacher, a class or some advice, the idea is to find the relevant information you need, then put your device away and practice yoga!”
How do you think technology will disrupt the yoga sector?
I read that Berlin-based startup Asana Rebel is exploring AR for fitness and yoga sessions so that will be an interesting story to follow. We recently discovered a company at an electronics trade fair that uses technology to track the movements of elderly people and help prevent accidents. You could probably use the same technology to correct yoga postures.
Tell us a bit about your relationship with technology.
I personally try to use technology mindfully. Technology is not bad per se. The danger lies in getting stuck in a loop of checking your emails 50 times before lunch. We don’t want to replace existing platforms; we simply want to offer a space where people can find what they are looking for. Whether it’s a teacher, a class or some advice, the idea is to find the relevant information you need, then put your device away and practice yoga! It’s not about viral content or getting lost in endless digital noise.
Launching a startup is a rollercoaster ride. How do you relax?
I integrate yoga into my week whenever I can and take time most days to meditate. Just five minutes is enough switch off and let my monkey mind rest.
What are your favorite yoga styles?
I love vinyasa flow, restorative yin yoga and hot yoga.
And finally, tell us the most incredible place you’ve practiced yoga?
I think I am still looking for that place! However, Ubud in Bali where I lived for two years is a magic and healing place to practice yoga. With healthy food, yoga, meditation, stunning nature and happy people, it has become a ‘mecca’ for yoga.