It is not the outcome, but the experience that matters. Noting down a few of my learnings over the past years.
During my school days, the only thing I wanted to be was an astronaut. Yep, I wanted to literally fly to the stars. But then, as life progressed, I realized that I wanted to build things and I found happiness in creating things. When I joined my college for a bachelors degree in Computer Science And Engineering, I was sure that I would startup, even though, we didn’t have a single CS related course during our first year. I was starting to get increasingly frustrated and then I got into Google Student Ambassador Programme and I started doing something that was not part of the curriculum. Around that same timeframe, I built a whatsapp bot for Fifa updates, and the game was on.
Sometimes, you got to take a leap of faith
If your environment is not helping you with your aspirations, change the people around you, no matter how hard it might be.
During my final year of college, I got into SV.CO and built my first startup, which had some traction, but hyperlocal proved to be too big for our small team which eventually disbanded. At SV.CO, I learned a great deal about taking decisions, leading a team, running a product, focusing on what was important etc. Yes, we failed, but everyone in my team, landed with on their feet with high paying jobs. Apparently, our experience building products were valued by many startups around the country. Many others thought of us as failures, but we were happy about the experience, and I was barely 21.
You failed because you tried.
It is okay to fail.
Find great mentors and work your ass off .
Thank you, Gautham, Sanjay Vijayakumar, Vishnu Gopal.
May 2016, during my final exams, me and my long term mentor Sanjay Nediyara had a discussion on how things would radically change if everyone could work at their own time.
Sieve was born. Sieve started out as a curated freelancer platform. We did the first few projects ourselves, to test out the concept before building anything. I went around building 3 iOS applications, 1 API backend, and 1 web app in 2 months and we finished building Sieve 1.0 hours before our pitch at Draper University.
Go lean before you go full on
All you need is a google form and a good article to test out your concept
Things were looking great till now, early traction, our freelancer counts were increasing on a daily basis. We were working on the basic platform for the team. We were trying to raise a small angel funding to keep testing and iterating on the concept. We went broke but kept pushing and finally, we found our first angel investor. We had weathered through a 4-month funding winter.
No matter how hard you work, sometimes, it takes time.
Rejections are okay, but giving up is not
We kept working on the platform and launched the next version in February 2017. We did it by launching in design to clickable prototype in 100 hours. We got our first paying customer on our platform with this. We scoped, speced out, finished the design prototypes for 6 apps by the end of 3 days and we landed a client with our platform.
Do something that no one else is doing, its okay to do things that won’t scale (#copied)
The market was not developing as fast as we expected, our small angel round was not giving us enough leg room to do global marketing and we had to find other ways. We dug deep and started working on our product, talking to more and more customers and figuring out their problems. We started building mock app UX for companies like Jaguar and sending it over to them, explaining how we could improve the application. Our managed offering was interesting, but the fact that we were just a 1-year-old company was making it hard for us to penetrate the market.
And increasingly our freelancers wanted to have their process managed, rather than find work with our platform. We kept the idea in our idea book. But we were again at a point where we would run out of funds soon.
Get your customers talking
We were back to the point where we were failing to penetrate the market and our freelancers wanted a different problem solved. And we decided to go back do a beta product, while my co-founder kept working on the marketing side of things. We launched a beta in product hunt, but we couldn’t get anyone to signup. It had basic the features but we made the cardinal sin of collecting money via a jotform. Sometimes, too lean is also not alright. But we went to hackernews and asked people about it. We talked to a lot of people and it was amazing to get so much feedback.
When in doubt, ask
Its never about the idea, but about the execution. So don’t keep your ideas hidden, put it out in the open and get feedback.
Full Steam Ahead
We had gathered enough feedback to build the SaaS version, which allows freelancers to manage their workflow. And we did this, by building our the first 3 core features in our workflow and getting people to use it. We got in around 300 users and we went on to build the next version.
We hired 3 engineers, one senior engineer, and 2 junior engineers. This was an entirely new experience for me. Now that we had 2 junior engineers, we needed to train and teach them. Me and my colleague started teaching the juniors every single day, about different concepts, helping them out and finally, at the end of 2 months, we gave them their own independent projects to work on. We were working 7 days a week, 16+ hours and we were in the trenches together as a team. We all knew each others issue. We launched the next version in less than 2 months.
Talk talk talk but learn to filter the signal from the noise.
Its okay to not implement every feature request.
Learn to delegate
Teaching is important, but at the same time trust them with some parts
Create a culture where learning is encouraged.
Know your team but never let it cloud your judgement.
The Perfect Storm
We have some traction now and even as we speak we have 1 or 2 users signing up without any marketing. We are however unable to generate recurring revenues. We had “secured” a round of funding, but the money never came. Our team has not been paid for the last 4 months. Finally, we decided to call it a day and we decided to disband the team. So everyone including myself in engineering and product is being let go. And the other half, the marketing will continue to work on trying to revive the product.
Sometimes you have to make sacrifices .
We fell down, we tried standing up but we are giving up. [ I know that its contradicting what I said earlier ] . The thought here is that, we built a product and we put it out in the market and we measured the growth. The metrics doesn’t support our thesis and its time to stop. If not we will be pushing further and pushing our team into a really bad financial situation.
Update: Sieve recently raised funding from Mr BizStone, co founder of Twitter.
Feel free to ping me at https://www.linkedin.com/in/arunpurushothaman :)