The 18-year-old monk who sold his college education for entrepreneurshipBinjal Shah
The exhilaration of perfectly capturing carefully-arranged frames plummets as soon as you return home, laden with three memory cards full of raw footage that demand a sleepless night and some heavy-duty sieving to be converted into a coherent video. Now, there is a way for you to find your own bunch of do-gooder elves, or shall we say, Mystery Monks, to swoop in overnight to knit all your chaotic visual raw material together. Aditya Vikram built the platform that would facilitate that in 2014, at the age of 18.
Never have I ever
The fiery entrepreneur is no ordinary 20-year-old. Perched at the helm of a seasoned portal that has kept the cash registers chiming for over a year-and-a-half now, Aditya is a self-learned app developer who never even went to college.
“Right after completing school, I decided to drop a year and study what I wanted to learn. I found that Stanford is offering open courses where they provide lectures, assignments and other study material online on iTunes U. I took these courses and started freelancing in app development. I was making good money and convinced my parents I could do a lot more without going to college,” he quips.
This also implied that he would probably never be eligible for a job, which he was more than alright with. “I never wanted to get a job because I knew that would restrict my abilities,”Aditya adds.
The monks who build your video
When he wasn’t getting enough app development assignments, he decided to foray into editing videos using iMovie. “I started thinking of problems I was facing. As a professional, customer discovery is difficult. People want to get videos made, but it is a pain. They face multiple problems. The need to find multiple freelancers, like scriptwriters, voice artistes, graphic designers etc., who will entangle them in a web of technical language and delayed deadlines. Plus, the whole affair costs a bomb,” Aditya points out.
He wanted to give customers a one-stop solution. His friend Kartik Puri came on board and in February 2014, they started working together, and launched the first version of Mystery Monks in June 2014.
Mystery Monks is a platform for creative professionals to collaborate with each other and work on a video for a customer. “We provide tools and technology to make collaborations easier than ever. Our process is tailor-made for a layman. Our intelligent system will automatically assign a team of professionals – like video editors, animators, creative writers, voice artists, graphic designers, etc.– to your order who’ll collaborate and work on your video,” Aditya explains.
Decoding the mystery
The parties involved on this aggregator platform are sellers, who are professionals looking to offer their services in collaboration with other professionals, and customers, who are businesses looking to create marketing or advertising videos, or individuals looking for non-commercial videos, like video gifts, YouTube video editing etc.
The professionals must sign up at Mystery Monks and qualify a series of tests that evaluate their talent and qualification, after which they simply need to make their status available on their dashboard, and start accepting orders. Once the client places their order, a chat window, is generated where they can swap the brief and specifications, and exchange footage. Mystery Monks collects a 30-percent cut on each order.
Currently, the startup is using third-party tools integrated with each other to make this possible, but a new version of the platform which is fully automated will be ready in about three months.
Editing to make the perfect team
They received pre-seed funding in February 2015. Their angel investor has worked with them as a mentor since the beginning. Together, the three scaled the platform to 39 professionals, and reached their first 50th-transaction mark in October 2014.
The startup has a seven-member team of designers, coders and marketing professionalsand Gaurav Arya as its CTO. It is clocking between $3,000and $5,000 monthly.
Mystery Monks is only available in a few countries, but it is working on expanding its reach. Other platforms in the space are US-based Videobrewery and Fiverr, the latter having a much wider gamut of services. But Aditya feels that the former doesn’t facilitate collaboration among their artists, and doesn’t vet them as thoroughly as Mystery Monks, while the latter is more expensive.
His greatest learning is that you must build for users. “If they don’t like it, there’s no point in building it. Keep taking feedback from users. Build a product so good that people start talking about it enough for you to never have to spend much on marketing,” he adds.