On TinyOwl: perspective of another founder


I’m seeing many kinds of opinions among onlookers of the TinyOwl crisis. One camp is shocked by the amount of money burnt by TinyOwl in its short life and believes the founders had it coming. The second camp consists of people (mostly entrepreneurs) who believe the founders did fine and should be forgiven. Some have even gone on to blame the employees for not understanding the risks of joining a startup!

Image credits: shutterstock.com

I don’t condone everything the employees have done but my feet are firmly planted in camp one. The blog post by the CEO in response to the crisis is surprisingly callous and selfish. Titled, ‘Some difficult steps towards the big dream’, the blogpost by the CEO seems to see employees as just pawns to be bought and sold in his journey towards a dream.

As part of our efforts towards refurbishing the brand in the current scenario, our focus is to optimize our current resources and move towards a better ecosystem of business management with a strong and robust backend.

The CEO might be young, but he can definitely spew intelligent sounding BS. I don’t see an apology in the post or for that matter any reference to people who lost their jobs before Diwali. Zero mention of words like people or jobs. Where is the explanation in plain speak for worried employees?

The job of a startup CEO is hard but you should never forget that you and your dream are nothing without your team. I have some perspective because I’ve gone through a similar situation while running Gharpay.

Gharpay was a cash-on-delivery company that we started in 2011 when I was fresh out of BITS-Pilani. We grew to 100 odd people. Most of the senior management was 22–24 yrs old. The founders and few founding team members went without salaries for many months during a period when the company’s economic situation was grim. It was our mistake that we hadn’t carefully planned our finances, so we bore the brunt. The rest of the employees got paid on time because they had families to feed and loans to pay off. Things were alright soon.

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I’m proud that over a period of two-and-a-half years (till our eventual sale) we did not miss a single day of payroll. We believed that our people came first because they had trusted us enough to work at Gharpay, a fledgling startup. Also we would be nowhere without the team toiling away in the sun every day to bring the money home.

We were careful spenders and focused on what was necessary for the business to grow. We traveled on buses and trains and did not see the inside of a hotel if we could stay with friends. We ran the business the way we ran because in 2011 or 2013, you had to have an exceptionally good business model to get a Series A round. Today, the bar is much lower and the capital more abundant. But that doesn’t mean it’s easier to build a good business by ignoring financial planning.

We eventually had to sell Gharpay because while we were growing, we weren’t growing fast enough for some of our investors. But no employee of Gharpay would ever say that we did not treat them well or we did not spend carefully.

So while I empathize a little with the CEO and founding team of TinyOwl, I feel little pity for TinyOwl’s founders who blew the chance they had. They just stupidly put 200+ people and their families through completely avoidable pain and seem to feel no remorse.

Also I am pretty sure the TinyOwl brand is irreparably damaged in the eyes of customers as well as current and potential employees. Dream over.


(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory)

[The article was first published here]

About the author

Abhishek was a co-founder and CEO of Gharpay, a cash on delivery company founded in 2011 and now owned by Delhivery. He is currently building Filter(http://usefilter.com) to reduce notification clutter.


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