I enjoyed a few years at my IT job but after five years, excel files sucked the life out of me. This was my life at the job.
- Office to home <-> home to office
- Wasting time in useless meetings
- Accepting work that I did not like
- Preparing reports that nobody cares about (except my manager)
- Filling up fake time-sheets (so that my salary gets processed)
- Company laptop for Work-From-Home was a curse
- Late evening meetings scheduled with my American client
- I was a weekend worker because I had to be a responsible employee (promotion aspirant in coming year)
- Thinking of starting a bigger company than my current employer
One good day – I resigned from my f*cking job to start my own company.
I burned most of my savings in my first startup
I started working on ideas with my friend who happened to be my relative as well. We were in a hurry to start a company (not a startup, but a big company). We hired one person to develop an online platform for schools.
We started taking decisions that were the recipe for our failure. We started hiring from job portals like Naukri & Monster. We rented a basement and spent a lot to make it the office. We thought that soon we will have a big team and big revenues so why not spend now to avoid the hassle later. We hired people on full salary. We were greedy for equity and wanted to keep 50:50.
We were acting like a corporate company because that’s where we came from. We did a lot of mistakes, we wasted a lot of money, we lost direction. My startup failed in six months. It was mainly because of co-founder conflicts, but there were more reasons for our failure.
My co-founder joined a lavish job, but I was determined to stay in the startup. The whole experience of failure was an eye opener for me. My dream was broken.
But a dream must be broken to wake you up from sleep.
Failed But I stayed in startups
I was looking to work with another startup as an employee or partner. I still had the capacity to take the risk (minimum salary + equity). It was more important to find founders with the same vision and passion.
I met with the founder of The Morpheus accelerator who connected me with his portfolio companies in Delhi. I ended up joining another startup in education. I found exactly what I was looking for – a visionary founder.
Hit targets to secure funding, but our vision was not aligned with VCs
We worked hard; we did a lot of experiments, we changed our marketing and product. Some things went well, some fell apart. We were progressing towards our goals but without earning any income. We had to pivot for making money, but we could not figure out the way where our mission matched with VC expectations.
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” — Winston Churchill
This was the period of struggle that most of startup founders go through. I was no exception.
We observed that two business models could arise out of our product. Selling something within the app or growing install base in millions that could be monetized by displaying ads.
We tried selling mock tests, which we believed was a quick way of earning but not so good way of providing learning. We already tested that people do not pay for unlocking chapters otherwise we could have sold virtual goods within the app to unlock games & experiences. Moreover, our end users were students who did not have money to spend on apps. Parents could not perceive value in such apps and the Indian consumer is still not spending money on digital goods.
We were not confident of claiming million installs by the next year or two. Although we were the number one science learning app on Google Play Store for CBSE Class-X.
Why a million downloads is not possible for similar apps
About 15,00,000 students appeared for CBSE Class-X exam last year. There are ten times more students studying in Class-X in State Boards, which makes our target market in the order of lakhs. But the question remains how many of them have access to mobile phones? Mobiles have penetrated well in urban cities, but rural students still have to wait for a couple of years to get acquainted with the digital mobile learning.
Assuming that mobile penetration growth is exponential in the Indian market and even the sixth class student will have access to the mobile gadgets in coming years; we still have to have something strong to retain students within the app. Most of the students expect exam preparation in education apps.
We all know that very few students attend school out of their love for learning. Our education system is marks-centric so are the students. In both cases, we would have to adapt to the fact that only marks-centric apps may be successful in making money in future.
We discussed with our mentors & investors at The Morpheus and decided to stop working on this mobile app development. We just stopped working on mobile development, but the startup is still alive within us.
Now I am working as freelancer & running blog on personal finance
My co-founder joined integral education school (Coveda) in Chandigarh while I started personal finance blog, CashOverflow to educate young people about money management.
Our education system focuses on creating jobs so that people can earn money, but no one tells how to manage money and grow it with time. A single bad financial decision ruins the future of a person (like taking a personal loan to invest in stocks). I hope I will be able to help youth to take better financial decisions in their early years.
About me: I am an entrepreneur, who left his job to explore his passion in startups. I co-founded two startups in the past. Now, a freelance writer, digital marketer and running a blog on personal finance. You can connect with me @pardeepg
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