This time around, the filter:coffee, the tightly knit group of product tech startup entrepreneurs in Chennai, just wanted to give a twist to the monthly meets. So, coffee, the hot, brown liquid consumed with passion in this part of the country with relish, gave way to yet another cool, dark brown drink, the beer, for October’s event. Oktoberfest is originally an annual festival held in Munich in September/October with over 6 million people attending and consuming Oktoberfest beer prepared exclusively by six breweries. With Sharan Reddy, founder of indee.tv, playing host, more than 20 people were in attendance for Oktoberfest, the October edition of the filter:coffee meetup. The community was born thanks to the efforts of Vivek Durai, founder of Humble Paper, to connect product entrepreneurs in Chennai with the aim of helping each other. The monthly meets are brainstorming events with entrepreneurs just talking about any topic on the top of their mind and discussing it with fellow startup entrepreneurs. Experiences are shared and feedback given freely.
Oktoberfest began with introductions. When the startup is introduced, the brainstorming began. The interesting part of the introductions is how to define your product/startup. Suggestions were given freely by fellow entrepreneurs to improve the “pitch” introducing the startup/product. Strategies were discussed on how to better build and the tools to use. This happened without much prompting very much spontaneously. The startup entrepreneurs are in various stages of building the product in this group. Some have built successful products, some have mastered techniques of selling, some are pivoting, and some are just finding the right product-market fix. Some have challenges finding customers. When the discussions take place without inhibition, the product entrepreneurs are able to learn immensely from each other’s experience. “I feel I belong to this group. Everyone is just a phone call away,” says Karthikeyan Mani, founder of a successful, emerging startup ByteAlly. Shailajanandan Nayak, who is launching Careograf, a visual infographic of your career (a visual form of your CV), took feedback from many entrepreneurs on his product.
In the session called growth hack, Ashwin Ramasamy, founder of ContractIQ, gave some insights on how email marketing helps. Ashwin has found an effective sales channel in email marketing, with a 10% success rate. Normally promotional emails detailing the startup and its offering don’t evoke much response. Ashwin first perfected the email list of prospective customers who will be looking for ContractIQ’s services. Apart from connecting buyers of application development to dev shops (of mobile and web applications), ContractIQ is giving solid, useful advice on mobile app developers. Ashwin said ContractIQ now offers “an online showcase of mobile app developers.” Banking on his earlier experience of inside sales, which involves the company’s executive calling up as many as 150 customers on phone on a daily basis to understand their needs, Ashwin extended his experience to e-mails. Phone calls are less successful. If 150 calls are made, about 2 or 3 people express interest and the conversion finally into sales is hardly one customer. To reduce the time, Ashwin resorted to emailing prospective customers.
Ashwin preferred email as the response times are “ridiculously low,” as he put it. Sometimes responses come within 30 minutes. He explained why manual email address search doesn’t scale and provided some tips on how to aggregate email addresses by guesswork, which proves to be good in 90% of the cases. He also gave some insight on using non-businesslike subject lines and how not to sound cold when sending emails. He also elaborated upon sending personalized emails by adding context even in a mail blast. Using these techniques, ContractIQ has been able to achieve response rates of 10% as against the usual 3% to 5%. Ashwin cautioned that the techniques he has been able to device would not work in some contexts.
For those not responding, reminders are sent after three months. For those responding, the conversation moves to the next level, requesting for a meeting or a phone call. When the conversations prove productive, the prospect is moved to the funnel and nurtured till the prospect becomes a customer.
Vatsana Technologies can be called an outlier. Founded by Shashank Vaishnav and Vinay Singhal, this startup has reached dizzying heights on Facebook marketing. Its web pages combined garner 40 million page views a month. When Praveen Singhal, the third guy behind the startup and who is still in college, explained the process of raking in millions of likes, the product tech entrepreneurs were baffled. No algorithms, no scripts, just plain organic harvest of likes. When they floated Amazing Things in the World page on Facebook, they made sure they uploaded quality images that were already liked by more than 100,000 people or so. Messages were promptly replied and a thank you note sent to the people who liked the page initially. This resulted in a flywheel effect of more people liking the images that the Facebook page now has more than 3.4 million likes. Leveraging this, they have floated two web sites –page wage and thestupidstation.com (main traffic) – that together command 45 million page views a month. Another website that records experiences of people, Everystry, is in the beta stage. Followme is an sms service for teachers to pass on information to students and has 2.5 million messages sent in the last eight months. Everyshare (in beta) is the next website in the pipeline. Such humongous page views are achieved by diverting traffic from Facebook page to other web pages. The credit should be due to Praveen for spending time from after college to till about 3 am on a daily basis to nurture the Amazing Things Facebook page.
Participants: Sharan Reddy, indee.tv (host); Suresh Sambandam, OrangeScape; Murali Vivekanandan, Ideas2IT; Ashwin Ramasamy, ContractIQ; Ashwin Shankar, AWS partner; Magesh, AtSquare Labs; Vivek Durai, Humble Paper; Karthikeyan Mani, ByteAlly; Anand Sukumaran, Zeocode; Srikrishnan Ganesan, Konotor; Sailajanandan Nayak, Careograf; Tony and Palani, Fabbucket; Chitra Appasamy, graphic designer; Shashank Vaishnav and Praveen Singhal, Vatsana Technologies; Vijay Varadan, game development studio; Amritha Dinesh, Boxtree; Prasanna, Globalgryanz; Prem Kumar, Kanchi Silk; Kevin William, Walletkit; Anish and Aravind, Frilp.