What we’ve learned in the startup ecosystem?

A year has already passed when we started our startup journey. Or is it more than a year? We’ve heard a lot that startup journey is difficult, and sometimes even worse, but never really believed on it, until a year passed by and still not a significant growth apart from our engineering stack.

In this post I will summarize some important learnings and de facto rules of being in startup. Its a journey about how engineering guys have to adapt to unfamiliar territories like marketing, team management and hiring.

Our mission is well set long ago during our graduation.

Compare all consumer items in the world that has price attribute associated with it, hence the name PriceBoard.

Price compare along with cashback, should hit the right sweet spot as there were no major players, when we started. Higher cashback offers should attract users — thats what we thought, but it didn’t work out this way.

How much is your Idea worth?

Zero. Idea does not have any value unless you work on it, and until its executed properly. Don’t fall in the illusion of getting your idea stolen if you share. It only gets propagated. Even though if someone copies your idea, the other guy won’t have the experience of how you’ve crafted the idea, so chill about it.

Do not fall in love with your idea

If you’re proposing the idea then you must first hate it.

Its a human thing to love an idea which he/she has researched a lot. Our team is open to listening to any ideas but most of it gets rejected for many reasons. Someone in the team will point out a major flaw which cuts down the idea to its root. Often that happens within 30 minutes and sometimes after a day or two. People get demoralized when their idea gets rejected, but its also a step forward, as we learned to take care of some common attributes while proposing an idea. What stayed on top of any idea is whether the idea is solving a major problem.

If you’re proposing the idea then you must hate it yourself, and then try to find solutions for those hate attributes in order to defend your idea when you present to the team.

We’re showing price comparison across millions of products from all the major e-commerce stores and providing cashback on top of it. Our idea should’ve worked.

In our case we strong believed on the quote above. Turns out that even if we’re crawling millions of items it was not what 99% of the people are looking for. Same goes for Google — 80% of the data Google crawls has never been visited, only 20% of the data is mostly accessed. Instead we should have focused on comparing popular products across the major categories.

Diverse Market

You might have came across some ideas which looks really weird, but many companies are still growing using that weird idea in their core business.

The answer is pretty straightforward: There’s a market for that really weird looking idea.

Same goes for e-commerce, it has a huge diverse market. In our case we found out that most people that look for cashback are students. They tend to stick with one site if the service level is good. So if you’re wondering — How is this company making money coz to me it looks like a joke, the design looks shitty and still they’re surviving. Turns out that people don’t care about the design as long as they’re getting value from the site. Example: olx.com

Don’t think about making money — If the idea is one of it’s kind then there’s always a way out to make money. If not then you should move out from this business.

Believing on the marketing approach

Coming from an engineering background, we felt ridiculous about some of the marketing approach taken by well known startups in India.
Example: Why does PayTM promotes cashback coupons instead of just applying the same when users goes to checkout, it’s more user friendly right?
Well sure it is, but turns out that coupon promotion is a way to keep the brand alive in peoples mind, so that next time they think about buying something, there’s a huge chance of them checking out those sites as compared to others which might be offering 10X benefits.

Plan well before execution

In the beginning, we came up with lot of ideas that really sounded exciting, we tend to discuss about it and thought of pivoting to that but at the end of the week the idea itself lost its track, mostly due to lack of time investment. Although it gave us a much more insight of the industry.

Moving on we shifted our work flow from direct execution to a planned execution with hour long discussion even about the smallest decision we took. For some bigger decisions we looked over all the driving forces that might affect the idea in its favour or vice-versa. Like doing market research, human and financial resource that will be required and also keeping in mind not to get diverted from our primary goal. This helped us to save time and thus more productivity.

Building Minimal Viable Product (MVP)

MVP must be build fast, very fast. The reason for that is, when you don’t see some usable output early, you will gradually lack interest in it and that idea tends to remain dormant for way too long. Here are some advice to break things fast.

  1. Find the shortest path with respect to Time or deadline.
  2. Dividing task across the team.
  3. Modularise the system so that each one can work on its own, without considering code conflict from other members.
  4. Use tools that the overall team is already familiar with. (Although we used Docker and Git from Day 0 as the team is quite familiar about its usage.)
  5. Don’t spend time Dockerizing, or writing boilerplate dynamic code.
    Just write code to make it work.
Done is better then perfect, coz perfection is the enemy of execution.
This was a huge organizational hype (as being engineers first, we wanted to fix anything that comes in our way, coz we really don’t want to be lame in this field) but at the end it settled for the greater good as we all felt the advantage of moving fast and then iterating over.

Be in the Team, be with the Team, be for the Team

Most importantly it’s Co-Founders responsibility to make sure the team stays energize to achieve the goal and stays on the same page. Communication and honest feedback is what stays at the top of the list for managing the team.

Don’t let your emotion take over the team —Listen to your team, even if you think that the statement is not making sense by any means. Try to reason about the theme instead of simply rejecting it.

You can’t do everything by yourself — You may know much about a field but you need expert in the field in order to bring the wow moment. Utilize the team member’s experience, let them do what they do best.

Don’t be a blocker — After the task are divided across the team, everybody is in hurry to complete his assigned task, so am I. We wanted to finish our task without getting distracted, that includes queries from team members asking for some deployments, configurations or any other technical issues. We kept them on queue, or at least I did, which blocked the work flow of the overall team.

There is one and only one solution to any problem

There was so much work to do with such limited resources. Work loads, deadlines are the ignition of stress. Sometimes we wanted to went out for a week to get our minds straight, which we tried a lot. It does gives some relief, but the problems we left is not going to be solved by itself. After a week long break, long To-do list is not what you want to start the day with.

The only solution to any problem is just to keep on working, it’s that simple.

This is how we got so far. Some of you might not agree with some of my points. Sharing propagates the idea itself — Lets discuss in comments. Despite all the pivoting, ups and downs we strongly feel price comparison is a tedious problem and so it has been our primary Goal from Day 0. We will be posting about those challenges in the next few weeks.