At a time when number of impressions are everything for a portal, how does one evaluate a startup that delivers in-text advertising solutions which seek to engage? This was the question that we at YourStory had in our minds when we set out to interview entrepreneur Bhasker Kode, co-founder, Hover.in. Read on to find out more.
So, Bhasker, if someone asked you to tell them about Hover’s business idea in about three sentences, what would you say?
Hover adds context to the web, using tooltips. Publishers can decide what words on their website they want underlined, and what related information they want to show their readers. We also allow marketers to run targeted campaigns that show ads apart from a self-serve lead generation product, which eventually indicates how publishers can opt-in for monetization.
Then how is Hover different from other ad networks on the web?
We are the world’s only multi-lingual in-text network. Also, we’re pretty much the only one to give a huge roster of customization features for publishers in terms of what elements users engage with, what event triggers the engagement, look and feel, analytics and so on. We also have a simple API that allows them to create any mashup they want within the hover bubble (called the hoverlet), which frankly has been a black box until Hover. So, publishers can change the look and feel of the hoverlet as per the theme of the blog/website.
Our focus now is on the offerings for marketers. We allow brands to run marketing campaigns in the shape of the product - a first in the country marketed by NetworkPlay; while we also started a self-serve lead generation platform that has done never-before-seen conversion rates, out-performing old & new networks alike.
How did the idea for Hover come about?
About 4 years back, the two large companies in in-text showed no innovation for several years. And I was an accessibility geek at that time, building word processors for the visually impaired, speech recognition apps and so on. I simply decided it was time to innovate in the browsing experience. And since it involved solving both distributed computing challenges as well as intricate choice in user-experience, I was hooked into it and I invited my co-founder to join me in turning it into a blogger utility.
At that time though, we didn’t think it was big enough. It was only after spending considerable time meeting folks from the online advertising industry, investors, portals, agencies and marketers did we finally keep pivoting our distribution plans & business model. This happened over the last 3 years.
Tell us about your background.
In my college days, I was involved in managing few dot com’s, doing freelance work and creating prototypes of web based applications. I joined Tutorvista when it was a two room startup in Bangalore and was proud to be a part of its success with several web products like the calendar, chat & whiteboard products.
Having built products used at web scale by several users simultaneously from all around the world, I felt it was time to make my own mark by starting up and creating something out of nothing. That’s when my colleague introduced me to the world of Erlang. Hover's love affair with functional programming started there. Hover's future is looking very promising now that we think we've nailed the product, the biz model and risk-taking-abilities.
We understand that you've been seed funded by serial entrepreneur, Alok Kejriwal. How did that happen? Is there a plan in place for the next round of funding?
Alok was a panel member when the co-founder of Hover, Arun and I presented at startup event Proto in 2008. In an age where people think twice about letting a week's salary go by when even changing jobs, I'm definitely going to look back one day and ask myself how I managed to stay pumped when it took us 3 years to generate cash flow. I think that perseverance, along with craziness is what Alok liked in us.
Alok Kejriwal co-founded Media2Win; invested in Hover which was announced early 2009. We ran our first pilot on a large portal around that time and crossed our first million hovers that year. By the end of 2009, we were doing a million hovers every month. Today, we're doing the same number every 5 days.
I'm now more excited than ever before. Our daily revenues crossed the 5 digit figure with our first lead-generation campaign. From where Alok stands, the next immediate target is clocking a lakh a day. Post that, we will definitely look at raising funds.
How does Hover make money?
We are fortunate to have NetworkPlay as our sales partners to sell brand marketing solutions on a CPM basis, on India's biggest portals. With that offering, any brand can run campaigns where the ad creative is in the actual shape of the product - be it a phone or a car and so on.
At the same time, like other technology driven platforms, our self-serve lead-generation product allows us to take a look at the other side of the spectrum. The marketers we have worked with have recently indicated to us that Hover has outperformed Google, Yahoo, Komli, Shiksha, Minglebox and other networks based on leads delivered on a daily basis, which is very promising. But we don't want to hold back by the subjective success of a few campaigns.
Some of the educational portals who work with us are earning Rs.15,000 a week with the number of hovers equaling half the number of daily impressions. And suddenly not only do they have added display inventory, there’s also contextual targeting. That's a killer combo if our conversions are any sign of the effectiveness of HoverLeads as a medium for customer acquisition. That’s a big money-spinner for us.
This is the first half of a two-part interview with Bhasker Kode, co-founder, Hover.in. Please do come back for the second half tomorrow. To know more about this exciting startup, please visit www.hover.in. You can also find them on Twitter (@hoverin) or check out their blog for developers - http://developers.hover.in
Sriram Mohan | YourStory | 28th October 2010 | Bangalore