Three stories of getting customers – an experience report
The first year of a start-up life is funny. Especially to those who look back from its third year. I am in that position right now and I have some stories to share with you.
In the first year, there is no CEO, CTO, and COO… although the business card may say so. I had CEO as my designation printed on my business card and I was cleaning my office toilet whenever needed. To those who do not know what a bootstrapped company is like, they wouldn’t know the CEO sometimes – cleans the toilet. However, at times, when I flashed my business card, I heard “Wow!”That’s the first dose of reality.
The second dose of reality is very simple. If you are a start-up CEO and enjoy cleaning toilet than getting your company towards the vision, toilet cleaning may become permanent.
Everybody in a company plays the role of business development. Not everybody recognizes it.As of today, I am the one who is consciously playing the role of business development for my company. My designation is Kung Fu Panda and I head Marketing and Sales for Moolya.
I like to help people. Probably this is why I am able to get business into my company. Here are three of the many stories on how I did that.
Story 1: Curiosity, being the extrovert& coffee shop
In 2010, prior to starting, I was an independent test consultant. By that I mean, small to large companies think about me when they have a testing problem they can’t solve and I help them see that they can.
On days of no work, I tried working out of Cuppa, a coffee shop somewhere near JP Nagar 3rd Phase, in Bangalore who used to provide a free wi-fi. One of those no work days, I was sitting in a corner of the coffee shop, focused towards writing something.I started noticing a conversation two tables away.
3 young fellas were demoing there product to some old guys who were asking hard questions. It appeared like an investor assessing if the money would quadruple. I was so damn curious about what these guys were demoing and it seemed to be something running on a tablet. I would love to test such stuff. I started to filter every noise from the coffee shop and overheard their conversation.One of the three young fellas jumped out of the seat to take a break.Instantly, I got out of the seat, walked towards him and said, “Can I meet you folks after your meeting?” and he said what I wanted to hear, “Sure”. I was waiting for their meeting to get over. After the meeting, the three young fellas who turned out to be Anuroop Iyengar, Deepak Kumar and Ullas Sathyanarayana came to my table. We introduced ourselves, added a lot of humour as we did it and then I understood these guys had a start-up named Cogknit developing products in the education space.I mentioned to them that I do test software products and explained how I test. I extended that with my plan to start a full-fledged testing services company - Moolya. I never said, “If you have any testing needs think about me”.
About a year later I got a call from one of those three guys and they were looking to partner with someone who can own their product testing.
They were perhaps impressed with the way we approached the testing and we have been working with them for a year and half being true partners and co-owning their business problems and solving some bit of it through testing.
Going back to the day at the coffee shop, if I didn’t jump out of my seat, extended my hand, and expressed my interest to meet, this would not have happened. Also, my pitch was not boring, they did see my passion, energy and remembered me. If I just kept to myself, interacting with Facebook friends, sipping the ever awesome camomile tea in Cuppa, I would not have got this business.
Story 2: Using Yourstory platform to connect to entrepreneurs
Our first business came throughYourstory. Yes, this awesome website that you are reading this piece of my writing. Yourstory does publish many stories of entrepreneurs and one can read it and say, “Well, hmmm, okay” and move on.
What I did was to read every story, make notes, visit the website of the company and entrepreneurs who got featured, read their Linkedin profiles, understand their background, mutual friends, Facebook search (although I don’t add them) and then write an e-mail customized to them (not a standard template) and then call them. I did this for about 100+ start-ups that got featured in Yourstory around the time that Moolya was featured.
We got our first business from In-Rev, as the timing of our email matched with a testing problem they were trying to solve. We were so excited. Every time someone said No, it still was okay because they got to know about Moolya and someday they will remember us. This idea worked too. We had someone contact us after 2 years. Hail Yourstory!
Shradha Sharma and her cool colleagues strive to help the eco-system of entrepreneurs. All entrepreneurs need to know is how to derive value out of Yourstory. By the way, I am not the only one who has cracked on how to use the Yourstory.in online platform to generate new business. Plenty others have but I am probably the one who is sharing because I care for the eco system.
At Moolya, we have expanded our usage ofYourstory platform from online to hotline. We started to attend their meet-ups and found entrepreneurs who are passionate – who will change the world – and as of today, through our start-up test lab at Moolya (where we help start-ups exclusively), we have helped more than a dozen entrepreneurs test their early stage products. We are helping entrepreneurs test their wing power and helping them fix the feather orientation to fly awesome.
We participate inYourstory conferences like E-sparks, Mobisparks, TechSparks, She-sparks (did we?), and all sparks emerge out of it.
Here is another story from E-sparks in 2011. When Mekin Maheshwari was giving a talk on The Flipkart Way of doing things, I was at the back, I raised my hand very high, got noticed and asked Mekin a question. He liked my question and wanted to take the question beyond the conference and there we did – business together several months later. Thanks to Swaminathan as well.We have been working with Flipkart for more than one year now. The value we have provided to them has helped them see us as their partners.
I think I should expand this to a separate post as we have won more than just a few business deals using Yourstory platform and if you are spending good time here, you can make every second worth it.
Story 3: Munching on Tech-Crunch
In Moolya, we have punters in testing mobile applications. These punters developed Moolya’s own model to mobile application testing and have since been inspiring the world with it. We test mobile applications for NDTV and Flipkart to name a popular few. We know about the impact of Android Fragmentation, iOS App Store Review Process, the Human Interface Guidelines, Competitive apps, what will sell and what may not.
As we are deep into mobile app testing, a twitter stream pointed towards an article on Tech Crunch on Android Fragmentation and how people test. The app developers appear to be worried about this. The problem is not the fragmentation itself; the problem is how to test in such a fragmented market. How much testing is good enough?
I didn’t just read the article published in Tech Crunch but also looked into comments and replied to all those who had asked questions related to testing mobile applications on Android. This is no ordinary “Our company can help you test this stuff” but giving away answers to questions that they have been pondering. My belief based on what I have learnt from Jerry Weinberg is – give away your best work for free. People will still hire you.
Turns out that my comments on Tech Crunch article attracted a very large company based out of Hong Kong and they approached us to test their existing app and help them with how we can help them improve their app store rating.
What a victory!
A couple of months back, I heard an entrepreneur whose start-up was recently funded say “The marketing of this app takes a lot of money and hence I can’t pay a lot for improving the quality or testing”
I immediately thought, “Wow, so you are going to spend lots of money in marketing a poor quality app and of course people will download it but also down rate your app in the app store and hence make all the money you spent on marketing to go waste or be less effective”
Spending a lot of money could bring customers but if you don’t have what customers really need they are going to go away. The effectiveness of marketing spend depends on the quality of delivery or the quality of the product.
Two things that continue to work for me in my conscious role of marketing and salesare – I have something great to sell and I know how to communicate its value. This is all someone in my position needs.
I no longer clean the toilet. I am busy helping customers understand the value of what we can do for them to make them even more successful. I like to help people. Probably this is why I am able to get business into my company.
You could help, too. Share your story in YourStory!