Failing. Not failed!
We are failing everyday and that is how a startup is different. It is a daily struggle to not be part of the ‘90% who failed’.
I started in 2012 and it has been quite a journey till Roo Kids Chat App. Always a right time to look back and revisit the lessons learnt. For the journey is not over yet.
Get Set, Go – The First Few Months in 2012
Gungroo was build with the vision of a safe & secure messaging for kids. That is how we started and that is what we are today. But somewhere along the way …
Private Family Network
The product started as a private network for families where an admin could allow kids logins to be created (without an email) and family members joining using their email address.
Instead of 1, Gungroo needed 2 passwords for a user to login. This was a crazy idea (http://hackerstreet.in/item?id=16459). The reason was simple: people like to pick bad passwords. They always do. Just by making it 2 passwords, we were increasing safety by order. ‘hello123’ and ‘password123’ are bad passwords. But ‘hello123password123’ is a whole different level.
But, no parent came. Not even the parents who had liked the idea and wanted to jump on such a product. Was it the very plain looking UI, the 2 passwords thing (it did confuse people & our UX guy disapproved of it) or what? But from the number of times I heard, ‘yes, I will create an account and set up soon’ it was obvious: our product needed a lot of setup time.
We did notice that friends whose work places had banned Facebook were using Gungroo a lot. No one in IT knew about Gungroo and they used it for all intra-office gossip.
Moderated Client for GMail
We moved on to add the next planned feature: a moderated client for GMail. The way it worked was that a parent creates a GMail account for the kid using parent’s real info. They never share the password with kid. Then they setup GMail on Gungroo. When an email arrived in GMail’s inbox, Gungroo imported it using IMAP, sent to parent, parent inspected it, approved it and then the kid gets it in her inbox on Gungroo. And vice versa for sending. Cool!?
And, no parent came. Not even the parents who had like the idea and wanted to jump on such a product. Was it the very plain looking UI, need to approve each and every message, email not being as hot vs social media or what? But from the number of times I heard, ‘yes, I will create an account and set up soon’ it was obvious: now our product needed even more setup time.
Moderated Client for Facebook
We moved on to add the next planned feature: a moderated client for Facebook. The way it worked was that a parent allows Gungroo’s Facebook app to read and write on the wall. When kids used Gungroo’s interface to post on Facebook, it was sent to the parent for approval and on approval it was posted to the parent’s wall via Gungroo’s Facebook App. All likes and comments on that post were imported to Gungroo and shown to the kid. Thus Gungroo acted as a safe & moderated client to Facebook. Cool!?
Guess what, no parent came. Not even the parents who had like the idea and wanted to jump on such a product. Was it the very plain looking UI, need to approve each and every message, right audience not knowing about the product or what? But from the number of times I heard, ‘yes, that is a great idea’ it was obvious: our product and we were targeting wrong set of people.
Users v/s Customers
This is when I realised why kid’s products are so tough. The users are the kids and have their own thing going. The customers who will pay for it are parents and they have their own preferences. There was no way we could balance the two and both happy. We had bet on the parents. Parents are busy and have a whole world of worries to keep them busy. Setting up Gungroo was something that had to be done as soon as …
We decided to bet on kids instead. If kids like something enough, they will find a way for their parents to pay for it. This was not a space where a parent could influence the kid much anyway. The only space where parents can strongly influence their kids is in education. No wonder edutech does so better.
When The Going Get Tough (Up To 2013)
Last few month of 2012 and all of 2013 saw us churn out products at an alarming rate.
Curated YouTube Content
Once we decided we would focus on kids (rather than parents), we started with adding videos. Our staff selected these videos and channels. Parents could suggest videos and they would go live once approved by our staff.
This lead to something that was not new for us: Parents liking the idea. ‘Finally there is a site where I can feel assured the videos my kid is watching is safe.’
But this also lead to something that was totally new for us: Kids started using our site. Our traffic grew! And we started to get cooperation of the parents!
We started putting up games on Gungroo.com. Many of these we sourced from sites like girlsgogames.com. Some like Kill My Time, Diwali Blast, Noisy Nathu, etc were built in-house. This section did very well.
Sketching Apps – My Sketch Roo and Trace My Pix
The idea of a sketching app came in a company meeting where we were brainstorming on what next. Once the idea was on the floor, every one latched on to it. This was all we discussed in rest of the meeting.
My Sketch Roo was an HTML5 Canvas based app where one could draw and save a sketch. The sketch would show up in public gallery once our staff approved it.
Soon we had kids making sketches and saving them in their profile on Gungroo.com. Not only were we fun as a product, we were interactive and had user-generated content. Over 20K sketches have been made using this app.
Then we built a variant of this web app where you upload an image and sketch over it to create a petty accurate sketch. We called it ‘Trace My Pix’.
As the usage grew, we noticed parents were sharing the sketches on Facebook (Twitter wasn’t that popular). Pretty soon Facebook became a critical part of spreading the content and getting more users.
However, kids were not our only users. Grown ups started using the apps a lot. The idea of sketching appealed to both grown ups and kids. There was no real way to stop grown ups from using it.
The product, rather than the audience we wanted to target, was defining us. “Let us embrace this and see how far we can pull it.” That is when we thought of creating a kid’s version and a grown-up version.
My Sketch Roo as Facebook App
We created Facebook apps of both My Sketch Roo and Trace My Pix.
On Gungroo.com, which we built for kids, we were seeing grownups use our app to make sketches. On Facebook Apps, which we built for grown ups, we started seeing kids use our app to make sketches!
Kids on India were on Facebook. We had heard about it. But we were seeing it for real now.
You create a sketch and you share it. What next? We decided to hold regular sketching competitions. For every contest we used to pick a theme and awarded two prizes. One prize went to the entry with most number of Likes + Tweets + Up Votes and the other prize went to staff’s choice.
The logic was simple. The more Likes, Tweets and Up Votes we get, the more people know about us and we get more traffic. But these entries may not always be the best. So staff picked the one we thought was the best. A combination of quantity and quality.
Let Teen Be
As we came to terms with presence of kids on Facebook, we realized that many times this was happening with full knowledge of parents. So we decided to create a dashboard for parents of teens on Facebook.
We were worried it might come across as a creepy app meant for helicopter parents. So we presented it as a minimal monitoring by parents. Key aspects being: keeping track of who the friends are and what the teen is posting with public visibility. The parent had to send a request to the teen and teen had to allow the parent’s request for this dashboard to work. This helped in establishing a trust with the teen.
My Public Profile
In early 2013, there were many grownups that were not very Facebook savvy, Facebook hadn’t figured out Privacy well and users were never sure what was visible on their public profile.
We got couple of queries asked if there was a way for parent to know what is visible on their own public profile.
We created a variant called My Public Profile. This showed the pictures and posts that were visible to public. We showed it for past 7 days. In order to see beyond past 7 days, the user had to invite 10 more friends to use the app. Once 10 friends started using the app, the user could see public posts from the time the profile was created on Facebook. Due to this in-built virality, this app was very popular.
All our vital we showing good progress. Except one: Revenue. It was time to sit down and think about earning revenue. As they say, fund raised is not same as revenue generated.
War of Fascinating Galaxies
I like writing short stories. I even self-published a collection called The Murmurs of the Dawn many years ago. So when it came to creating an real world product, I decided to fall back on something I really enjoyed: Sci-fi and Physics.
Taking to parents and other founders, I realised that in India people prefer to pay for something tangible. Eg: They may use online service, but it will be to buy something tangible like a book, dress or a ticket. So we decided to make something tangible for the kids.
I used to hang around in toy stores and try to figure out what products sell most. And I had to do this without seeming like a creep
It was User v/s Customer play out all over again. This time our focus was on users. It was obvious to us within a week of these field trips that Trading Cards were big. Kids loved them. Never had enough of them. They came in small packages. They were easy to make. And, not so expensive that parents will think thrice (they always think twice before buying anything).
So we created a sci-fi backstory and some interesting characters. We created a set of trading cards in which 40% of the cards were about the characters from our sci-fi backstory and 60% were about cool Physics stuff. See what we did there? Balance Users and Customers. We talked about the physics stuff to the parents. We talked about characters & sci-fi to the kids. They loved it and the kids absorbed the physics stuff too.
These cards sold like proverbial hot cakes. We sold them in fairs, apartments, etc. If a kid played any of the cards games with us for even just 30 seconds, they would end up buying buy it!
But, we could not replicate this success online. We could never sell them in quantities we would have loved to, without them being an online hit. And we just could not crack that.
Still this was our biggest revenue generating product.
We recently added images form these trading cards as stickers in Roo Kids. You can read part of the backstory here.
Blog For Parents
As the popularity grew, we were seeing some interest from brands for advertising. These brands wanted to advertise to parents. But our site was for kids and we did not want to show ads. Also, it was tough to get ads going in Facebook Apps. So we decided to add a blog section with content for parents.
We were learning a lot about parenting and what kids liked. So we started writing articles around our learnings. We also added articles that were ‘Top 10’ like of lists, etc.
We started getting requests for review by founders who were creating app for kids. We decided to do it for free. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Roo Kids app. Without having to do any outreach, all kids app creators were find us and contacting us.
We were getting to know what sorts of app are being created and how well they are doing. This became a very important learning and motivation for creating Roo Kids app.
Almost till end of 2013, we churned out products & pivoted at rate of one every 2 months. We blindly went where we got more users, registrations, interactions, page views, etc.
We ended up with 14 products. And now it was time to consolidate and refine.
The First Purge (Early 2014)
Our first one and a half year journey was full of experiments, twists, turns, pivots and blind chase. This resulted in 23 products. Each a start-up idea in itself.
It was clear that we could not do it all and had to drop one that were digressions, had not future or just could not be maintained by our small team.
One thing that I have not talked about is our team size. Mostly by intent and at times by co-incidence, the team size has always been 4 and that includes me. When one left, another joined in and the team size remained same.
It was quite a feat for a team to 4 to create 23 products in 1.5 years. But we had to drop some if this small team had to maintain products and keep the quality high.
We listed out all the products and variants. Then we assigned them a score based on following factors:
1. Virality: We defined virality as growth driven by a user where they had to bring other users to the product / platform for it to be of use. Eg: If I download Skype to chat with friends, I have to ensure that those friends also download Skype, register, add me as friend so we can chat. And those new users would bring in others.
2. SEO: Can the product benefit from SEO and how easy will it be to SEO optimize it.
3. Busy-Parent Proof: Does this product require lot of parent’s time? Or, will it still be useful with minimal parental intervention. The less time it required, the better.
4. Ease of Adoption: Does this product require a lot of set up and users really have to jump though lots of hoops before it can be used?
5. Clear Pain Point: Does this product solve a very obvious pain point? A yes is preferable.
6. Engagement: How engaging is the product.
7. Monetizability: How easy is to monetize this product using existing models like ads, subscription, etc.
8. Low Maintenance: Does the product need lots of maintenance? Does the underlying platform update often and product may need regular work to stay compatible (very much an issue in app)? Low maintenance is always good.
9. Low 3rd Party Dependency: Eg: Facebook Apps depend a lot on Facebook’s policies and these keep changing. It may lead to rework or even at times total nixing of the product.
10. Copy Proof: How easy is for any random Tom, Dick or Harish to create a copycat?
This is what the analysis looked like:
Based on these 10 factors, we narrowed down to a smaller list of products we will work on.
We then grouped similar ones and created a more focused set of products we will work on.
Rest everything was purged. Deleted and taken offline. This was not that easy. We had worked a lot on these products and naturally were emotionally attached to these products. These were like our babies and it almost felt like we were harming our own babies. But it had to be done.
We now came down to just 7 products. And rest of the year was focused on these seven products:
ContestFu.com – Art, Sketching, Sketching Contests
DigParenting.com (as in we dig parenting) – Articles Targeting Parents and Kids app reviews
Roo Kids – Instant Messaging App
Kill My Time – A quiz app
Gungroo.com – Games for Kids
Warofga – War of Galaxies Trading Cards
My Sketch Roo – Sketching iOS app
Keeping At It (Rest of 2014)
23 products in 2 years by a team of 4 is crazy. We had to do it to explore the landscape. Now that we learned what we had learned, we purged bunch of products to focus on just 7 of them. We worked on all 7 of them for almost all of 2014. These products were:
For a Martial Arts movie buff, nothing is more exciting than picking a name that ends in Fu! Hence, ContestFu.
We took all the contests from Gungroo.com and rebranded as ContestFu.com. We continued to run online contests under the new brand where we gave two prizes: 1/ the most voted, and 2/ the best entry picked by staff.
To vote, one had to Like, Tweet or Register + Up Vote the entry. This ensured growth. The entrants were going around asking people to visit contestfu.com and vote for them.
Initially we gave iPod Shuffle as prize. But as we conducted more contests, we had to bring down the value of the prize.
The product was ready! We wanted to monetize it now. A new person joined the team with just one mission: Get schools to use ContestFu to organize art contests. We would charge schools, charge parents or get a sponsor.
We were quite successful!
Small schools were extremely open to the idea. Some schools allowed us to charge $1.00 (INR 50) per student. Some schools paid for the students and some schools asked us to feel free to get a sponsor.
We even conducted art contest in a big chain school. They had 108 branches and around 3,500 students participated in the contest. It was a wonderful time!
But we had tough time with well-know schools and international schools. They were our hope for larger revenues. Things did not go as expected.
Turns out all such mega-brand schools have Biz Dev guys. Their job is to help schools get extra revenues. So whenever we pitched Art Contests to such schools, we used to get asked how much we could pay the school as fee. Their logic was that the school was giving us access to kids of HNIs (High Networth Individuals) and foreigners. This certainly was of some worth to us as part of our investor pitch.
This dashed our hopes of making money from such schools by organizing contests for them.
Other thing with selling to schools is that each sales cycle is exactly same as selling to the school before. Typically, once you sell to one client, subsequent sales cycle is small as you have brand reputation, case studies of benefit to buyer, etc. But in case of school, we had to start from scratch with each new school we approached.
At times mentioning that another school had used us for Art contest was actually a detriment.
While we got very encouraging response from small and medium sized schools, we just did not have bandwidth to target them. The return per school was low and we need more feet on ground to cover more schools. This meant a whole different kind of org than what we wanted to be.
This was a Wordpress based site built on a commercially available theme. We wanted to keep the dev time minimum and focus all available time on producing content.
We posted ‘Top 10’ kind of articles a lot. These were very popular and got lot of traffic from Google and other search engines. Some of these articles are still online:
Top 5 Ways To Make Your Parents Feel Special
Top 10 Indian (Bollywood) Movies For Kids
Top 5 Interesting Things To Do With Kids On A Rainy Day
Top 10 Largest Circulated Education Magazines In India
5 Interesting Reason Why Kids Love Chocolate
10 Coolest and Beautiful Carnivorous Plants
We also wrote review of kids apps. Initially we did it for free. But soon the number of requests overran us. We started charging for review. People would pay us via Paypal for write review.
We reviewed only those apps that were for kids or parents. This meant the overall quality of the apps we review was high. We gave an app score between 1-5 based on three criteria:
Learn, Fun and User Experience.
We made good money from this. App developers found us and we did not have to go out hunting for business. We had very good SEO and Google Page Rank and Alexa Page rank. It was a wonderful time!
But, ads and review fees cannot sustain a whole company. The scale of revenue growth was also not there. Also, we were not natural content creators. This meant a whole different kind of org than what we wanted to be.
Our flagship website was now a gaming site. We had around 700+ odd games on it. We had games for various categories, for various age groups, for different platforms, sorted by popularity, sorted by recently uploaded, sorted by last played, etc.
We saw amazing growth in page views. In fact, founder of another startup told me that he was talking to his kid sister and she told him that she loved playing kiddie games on this site called Gungroo.com. He knew me well and was quite excited for me. It was a wonderful time!
But, we had tough time getting ads for this site on regular basis. We kept getting rejected even by Google Ads. Kids games get commoditized very fast. Once a game is popular, multiple versions show up. We were not too keen on being game designers either. Just gathering games on our platform to be a SEO magnet wasn’t exciting either. This meant a whole different kind of org than what we wanted to be.
Kill My Time
This iOS app came from a web app & a Facebook app of same name and another web app called My GK Fun.
This product did not get purged and made it to final 7 as it required almost zero-maintenance as an iOS app. There were around 700 or so questions. The UI was good and engagement was high.
It was a paid app. So it just hung around in App Store and once in a while someone would buy it. It was revenue earned from just one time investment. Users did download it and we made some $ from it.
My Sketch Roo
Our ‘kids love sketching’ idea now lived in two forms: 1/ ContestFu.com and 2/ My Sketch Roo iOS app.
My Sketch Roo had a very simple interface. When other sketching apps on iOS were trying to be super-sophisticated and feature rich, we chose to be simple. We did not let sophistications or features come in-between kids and their sketches.
We took the app to next level by adding coloring books. Kids could download these books and color them. This was both fun and educational. Our English alphabet based coloring books were very popular.
We see regular downloads and some of the coloring books are in-app purchase. However, this is just another app. Not something that will take us, as a startup, to another level. Though better positioned than ‘Kill My Time’ but still not something we could peg our future on.
Roo Kids is a safe & fun instant messaging app for kids with minimum yet critical parental controls.
All though our experiments, our original idea that kids need a safe social alternative did not wither away. We kept thinking about it. Out of all the learning, came Roo Kids.
The thing with Facebook and GMail like product was that lots of data gets retained on the server. That was a big safety risk. Whatapp was extremely popular. So we decided to give Instant Messaging a try. Once a message is delivered, it is removed from our servers.
VCs love X for Y analogies. So, we got described as ‘Whatsapp for Kids’ and at times ‘Whatsapp for Kids with Safety’.
We knew parents wanted kids to explore, learn and master the digital world. But, talking to them we realized there were 2 very critical concerns the parents had:
- Kids talking to strangers, and
- Kids getting distracted during homework time or sleep time.
We took on these two concerns head-on. The key features of Roo Kids that addressed these concerns were:
- Parents get to review and disapprove anyone in their kid’s Contact list. Thus no stranger or unwanted person could sneak in,
- Kids can block any user or message with immediate effect, and
- Parents can set curfew time slots during which the live chat will not work.
We believe that it is good for kids to experience a restricted app such as Roo Kids before moving into social networking sites, which provide less safety.
Finally we had a product-market fit that we wanted to keep working on and could bet our future on!
War of Fascinating Galaxies
If a kid knows about Princess Apsa, Prince Kowal, the Sombrero Galaxy or the Hoag’s Object, they have definitely played with the WarOFGa Trading cards.
We started with 2 sets of 19 cards each for $1.00 (INR 50). One had a pink back and one a blue back. One of those ‘for boys’ and ‘for girls’ things. The content was all same and just the color was different. Interestingly, the pink sets sold more across genders.
We then sold packs of 32 cards for $1.50 (INR 75). These continued to sell very well at city fairs and other places. It was a wonderful time!
But like before, we just could not get them to sell online. We did not want to develop distribution channels like other offline product either. This meant a whole different kind of org than what we wanted to be.
So all of 2014 we did well with most of our 7 products and were making small revenues from them. We had also learnt a bunch of new lessons in 2014. Turned out we were still stretched thin. It was time to rethink what we should focus on. Maybe another purge?
The Second Purge (Early 2015)
7 products. Each a whole start-up in itself. Small team. Limited resources.
This meant only one thing: Go all in on one of these, drop rest and not to get distracted by any more spin-off & focus.
Finding Our Sunday Passion
So which product should we choose from 7? One we would love to work on even on a Sunday and whose growth will give us a reason to celebrate on weekends?
We went back to our earlier method that I had described in Episode 3.
We dropped the criteria for which all 7 were doing well. We chose following 7 factors to score each product. One with maximum score would win!
1. Virality: We defined virality as growth driven by a user where they had to bring other users to the product / platform for it to be of use. Eg: If I download Skype to chat with friends, I have to ensure that those friends also download Skype, register and add me as friend so we can chat. And those new users would bring in others.
2. SEO: Can the product benefit from SEO and how easy will it be to search-engine optimize it.
3. Clear Pain Point: Does this product solve a very obvious pain point? A yes is preferable.
4. Monetizability: How easy is to monetize this product using existing models like ads, subscription, etc.
5. Uniqueness: Do we stand out among other offerings in Kid’s app market? While first mover advantage was not something we sought, some degree of uniqueness is was preferred.
6. Global Market: We wanted to reach out to global markets. As we are based in India, it is a market of interest for us. Indians prefer to be on Global platforms. A quick look at top apps in any B2C (non-ecommerce) category quickly confirms this. So if we did well globally, we would automatically do well in India.
7. No User-Customer Conflict: I have talked about User-Customer conflict in Episode 1. This conflict is very evident in Kids’ products. The users are the kids and the customers are the parents. It is a tight rope to walk while balancing interests and ROI for both.
Below is the result of the analysis:
So, Roo Kids it was!
The first thing we had to decide was which device to target first. We had learnt the lesson to not go all out till we get sufficient feedback from the market.
Our studies showed that while Phones were personal devices, the iPad gets passed around in the home most. It was replacing the Home PC as the default family device. So we targeted it first.
Once iPad version was out, we were able to reuse the code to add iPhone layout and release an iPhone/iPod version.
Android took time to start. We were seeing enough traction, usage and feedback from iOS versions. But as soon as things stablized, we released an Android version.
We got lot of requests to add Kindle Fire support. Many parents had bought it and the device had a strong reputation for being child-safe. With some changes (In-app purchase, notification, gathering device token, etc), we reused the Android code and released the Kindle version.
How’s Roo Kids Doing?
The app has been out for enough time for us to know if our analysis was right. Is it what the analysis promised it to be? Let’s see:
This includes messages sent to another user, message sent to canned-response chatbots like Echo, Puzzle, Science for Ages 8/9, stickers, images and doodles.
These stats look very encouraging. The analysis was right and it was a good call to go all-in on Roo Kids.
Encouraged by user response, we are now expanding Roo Kids products to include some cool features and become default safe social for kids.
We are also fundraising and welcome all interest / queries from investors.
The next article will be a season finale of sorts where I will discuss lessons learnt that other startup (in general) and startups for kids (in particular) will hopefully find useful.
I always start by pointing out it is failing and not failed! No one has given up. The journey is still on.
But, why failing? I believe that a startup is failing / dying everyday. The day that stops, you have become a regular business. Even if you are profitable, you are still failing as you should be taking leaps and risks that can bring you down to ground. That is how I define a startup.
To conclude the series, it makes sense to share my take on startups and lessons learnt. So here we go:
If you can’t find a right co-founder, go solo! Do not get a co-founder because everyone says so.
I decided to go solo. Hence I am in good position to give advice on co-founders! You know, at times the bystander has more clue than the people in middle of a mess.
a. Be Prepared For Failure
Discuss failure and eminent closure. Discuss how will you disband the startup.
b. Be Prepared For Success
Nothing impedes like success. When that first big deal comes in. When that large chunk of cash comes in. When the pictures show up in the newspapers. When that panel guest invitations comes in. Be prepared for that. Who will do what and how will you share the limelight.
Definitely, be clear how will that chunk of investor cash be used.
I know you will have a good plan that you must have discussed with investors against which they invested in you. But plans seldom survive contact with reality. So discuss how changes in plans will be handled.
c. Be Prepared for Uneventfulness
OK, I don’t even know if that is a real word. Still …
90% of your days will be uneventful. You will do what you were doing the day before. Many days you will have no clue what to do next.
This is the biggest secret ever kept. Not all days are full of action and results and decisions and power meeting and OK-GO music running as soundtrack to your life.
Most days are spent doing the same stuff and at times being adrift and clueless on how to make the next big thing happen. You will sit on your desk with your head in your hands, pulling your hair and wondering what should you do to get things to work!
Be ready to see each others in this pose and be seen in this pose.
2. Fund Raising
Unless you have reverse engineered the funding patterns and built a startup that has all elements investors are looking for, funding is going to be a nightmare.
This is what I mean by reverse engineering the Series A funding patterns: If you are in India, as per current gossip, pick a product that is doing good in US, be young male, gather few IIT grads and go pitch! Or, pick an ecommerce idea, show how you can get millions of rupees flow through your system (even if 80% of that will come from investors via Discounted Cash Flow), be young male, gather a few IIT grads and go pitch!
But I digress.
a. Always Have Investors
Fine, you can bootstrap. Fine, you can generate revenue. Fine, you can do it with your own money. Still!
Nothing challenges your optimism than to sit in front of someone and get her or him to see your vision. You are the entrepreneur. You are the ones with dreams, energy and will to dent the universe. But if you can’t convince even one person to buy in, something is not right.
You need to get an investor to make sure you know that you are a seer and not delusional.
b. Find a Entrepreneur-Investor
All my early investors were entrepreneurs themselves. They had seen failures / tough days and have achieved big success.
So every once in a while I get a, “I hear you! Keep going. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
Nothing strengthens your core than someone who has followed the pagdandi and found success.
Also there is one more thing: It has to be their own money they are investing. They will decide to invest in you based on the same gut feeling and analytics that made them successful in first place. This is a massive up vote!
c. Say No to Institutional Money
Here is how I think VCs work. They take bunch of money from rich people and organization and promise them some x return in n time. Say 10x return in 7 years. Along the way they assure that their money will make lives of poor, middle class, diseased, etc. better.
The only (and big) difference between someone who is investing her / his own money and someone else’s money is the flexibility on time!
Never hesitate to take money from an entrepreneur. Think a lot before taking it from a VC during early days. Go to a VC when you are sure you can get them the returns on their investment in a predictable span of time.
3. Conserve Cash
Cash in hand is the only friend you have. Conserve it. Instead of paying someone in cash, see if you can pay back in kind. Pay closer to due dates. Don’t spend on something you did not need critically last week / yesterday. Try trials version before buying full product. Use open source or free versions.
4. Get a Life
If your startup is the only thing going for you, here is what you need to do: get a life!
Very soon you will run out of money or ideas or friends or energy or all of these in one go. What will you turn to then? How will you get your groove back?
Nothing invigorates me like a short trip to a nature rich destination. You should find something similar.
5. Pivot, Experiment, Concede, Change
Very rarely does a successful startup get everything right from the very beginning. So be ready to pivot around one successful aspect of your startup, experiment, concede when you are wrong and be ready to change.
Success is directly proportional to your elasticity and plasticity.
6. Lead from Front
Be a leader of your team. They will turn to you for vision, direction, ideas, etc. Always be few steps ahead of them. And that means you have to work harder than anyone else in the team.
Always be full of ideas for them to try out. Always be ready to focus on what next, rather than failure. Don’t waste time blaming them and spend time nudging them into all new directions.
7. Hiring & Firing
Hire people better and smarter than you. Give them a purpose and direction, be transparent how they will be judged and then get out of their way!
And if you hire a person who is not right for the task, fire early. No point letting them continue. They will not have good time working with you, others working with them will not have good time and you will burn cash!
Guide them in finding a job that suits them best and let go.
Do not turn a misfit employee into your favorite project. Do not believe you can make it work somehow, however smart or great a people person you are.
Other hard working & performing employees will feel demotivated when they see an under-performer getting same benefits. The under-performer will feel bad that inspite of being smart and hardworking your startup is unable to give the role she or he can excel in.
It is not going to work and all involved will suffer.
Forget aura, charisma, reality-distortion field, etc. Develop a sense of humor (the self-deprecating kind is best), learn to praise others and be patient when dealing with people.
In conclusion of this series: It has been a wonderful journey, met wonderful people and learn a lot about myself.
My aim is to treat kids more than just a school going, IQ improving and exam passing bots. They are individuals who have a purpose and personality of their own and deserve the best of new technology and innovations. Roo Kid is one of the ways I am working on this aim.
I hope to succeed in building a neat product and taking it to right audience. Along the way I will have fun, meet more wonderful people, make difference in lives and maybe make money!
Wish me luck!