Treetle: Find People in Your Vicinity With Similar Interests


I met entrepreneur Pankaj Dugar at our office last Saturday. Before the meeting, I went through his LinkedIn profile (as most of us do these days) to find this, Computer Science at Dartmouth, MBA at Harvard Business school, Director of Investments and M&A at Cisco, and Consultant at McKinsey. Not bad, I say. Not bad at all. I gather up my best to hold an intellectual chat, as I picture him walking in with an air of self-confidence tinged with arrogance. But what transpired was totally different; I met a simple, affable guy with a belief in an idea and an infectious enthusiasm. What naturally followed was an amazing conversation. Catch the excerpts of my conversation with Pankaj below, along with the product review- In conversation with Pankaj Dugar.

You are based out of Bangalore, when did you come back from the states?Hmm..3 years ago, actually. I was working with Cisco when I came back.

You had the best jobs knocking at your door, why quit and startup?

It’s one of those decisions that come from the gut. There isn’t any logic that points or pushes one to take this step other than the feeling that comes from the gut. It is a leap of faith; something I had to do (smiles).

Why Treetle?

Treetle is something I came up with because of a personal need. I have changed 3 houses in 3 years and this hasn’t been an easy process. We recently shifted as we changed schools for our kid. I’ve talked about at length, on my blog, as to ‘why Treetle’, but to put it in brief, I love playing golf and biking. I had formed groups where I used to stay but it all fell apart when I moved and I was staring at the wall again as I had no company to do what I wanted to. There had to be an easier way to find likeminded people. And hence, Treetle.

Product Review- How does Treetle Work

The sign up is easy as it is with most of the new offerings these days. An easy signup is like a cardinal rule to ensure smooth user adoption. Once you sign in, a simple easy to navigate UI greets you.

The different tabs are Events, Clubs, Connections, Messages and Notifications. The screenshot has the clubs tab activated.

There are three main results for your interests. For instance, if you like Photography, you’ll be shown:

  • Photography workshops/events around you
  • Photography clubs started by fellow Treetlers.
  • People sharing the same interest.

You can form your own events or clubs too. As soon as I say this, one word stands up, “Spam!” But no, Treetle has good preventive measures here. You can form a club or event only after you verify your mobile number. The verification process is swift. Once you’re done with that, you can form your club.

Getting people on the platform will be the catch here, but going by early numbers, hardly three weeks into the soft launch with no publicity, Treetle has generated traction. To start off with, Treetle is restricted to people inBangalore, but after the initial trial, it’ll be opened throughoutIndia.

Coming back to the conversation, who is your target audience?

Simply put, anyone with an interest or passion who wants to find other people in his or her neighbourhood with similar interests. That said, two sets of people will benefit tremendously from Treetle:

  1. People who’ve had a “life event” such as becoming new parents, moving to a new city, newly retired, etc. because their routine is thrown in a flux and they need to find new things to do and/or people to do it with
  2. People with very specific interests who can’t easily find others nearby with the same interest such as a parents who home-school their children, P.G. Wodhouse fans, or calligraphists.

We feel both of these are very under-served markets today. Our belief is people will use the platform initially for these reasons and then include their broader interests once they start seeing the benefits.

How will Treetle make money?

Very early days to talk about revenues but we’re a nine member team as of now, and being funded late last year has helped us concentrate on the product. Once we penetrate the market, we intend to open up various revenue streams including merchant clubs, e-Vouchers we sell for our partner merchants, sponsored clubs and events, and maybe ads. We will never, ever, charge regular users or non-profit/NGOs for creating clubs on, or organizing events through, Treetle.

We have another interesting concept called ‘Appreciations’. Suppose that you’ve organized an event and a friend of yours who attended it liked what you had done. He can go back to Treetle and give you ‘appreciation’ points along with a small amount of goodwill credit, which is essentially money. You can use these credits, to buy an e-Voucher. We’ll have a cut here from the sellers side. The buyer will always get the full value of the e-Voucher.

‘Appreciations’ seem interesting, they’ll serve other purposes too.

Absolutely! Appreciations are like a badge of honour, which is displayed on your public profile. The more ‘appreciations’ one has, the more credible the person becomes, and it is more likely that his or her club or event will have a greater turnout as people would know that the person does indeed organize something good. It’s a very healthy, and meaningful, incentive on Treetle.

Great! What are your expansion plans? Any plans to go global?

Yes, but not right away. We’d be focusing onIndiafirst before we spread our wings. We have a broad 12-18 month plan right now to go global.

There are other players in the market doing similar things. Are you aware of it?

Of course! There are a number of ways people connect these days to plan their offline activities. Email lists and niche, single-interest websites are popular. The problem with emails is they’re tough to stay on top of, and tend to get buried under other emails very quickly. Single-interest websites are excellent but if I have multiple interests, then going to multiple websites for each interest makes for a very non-uniform experience. Our offering is very complementary to niche-websites since we allow them to build a very targeted audience on Treetle (since Treetle is where users will come), and can easily redirect them to individual websites for more information.

There are still other players in the market who offer a platform similar to ours, but our operating model is very, very different – it’s completely free to use, for starters. We also provide healthy incentives, which create a feel-good factor, and friendly competition! We continue to add features and tweak the UI based on the tremendous user feedback we’re getting so our site looks very different than it did three weeks ago, when we launched!

That’s great to hear. It has been good talking to you and it’s fantastic to see people like you entering the startup scene. I’d like to wish you all the best with Treetle.

Thank you. It was nice to share our story (smiles).

Try out Treetle here. If you like this, you might want to check out what action network, Votodo does.