Why this successful startup founder turned to driving with Uber

7th Apr 2016
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(Editor’s note: This post was written by Pradeep Soundararajan, Co-founder at Appachhi & Founder Managing Director at Moolya. The post has been reproduced unedited to retain the intended tonality.)

So, you read it right. I am driving an Uber to fund my startup that has built a kickass Analytics Driven Automated Performance Testing for Mobile Apps. Getting funding from VC's seems to be a very long, very tough journey but then I found a way to fund my startup. Guess what - I make 50K per month being an Uber Driver. Enough funds to keep paying a good young star programmer to keep coding. And then my co-founders in Appachhi - Avinash Nishanth (the geek with coffee in hand all time) and Nandan Pujar (the bearded grizzly product guy) are fellow Uber Drivers too. So we make 1,50,000 rupees a month. Add the tips from customers and bonus from Uber. We are there. Enough money to pay for all expenses we incur. Our car running costs are 30K. So, our profits every month is 1,20,000+. Have we hit monetisation? Hell yes. We probably are the first startup to monetise during idea stage. What a justification to our multi million dollar valuations.

Pradeep Soundararajan_YourStory
Pradeep Soundararajan

We meet VC's in our Uber Drives

VCs love Uber. They keep traveling and they don't want the same driver - so they keep booking an Uber and I speak great English, so I make them ask me, "What do you do?". With all my humility despite my billionaire status I say - "Me, I am just a startup co-founder CEO" and their instant reaction is, "What?". I get their attention easily. We get all the time we want from top VCs in India. Name a top VC and they have been in my car. Most of the drops we do is to Bengaluru International Airport so there is plenty of time to talk to the VCs. Our cars are equipped with a headrest screen where we run the slides as we drive. They are damn impressed with it. Before they hit the 5 star rating for our honkless driving in Uber, they actually send us a term sheet. That is how easy it has been for us to get the term sheets from VCs.

We really pity those entrepreneurs who speak to hundreds of VCs and keep getting a response, "You are too early for us". As an Uber driver, if we are not early to pick them up, they miss their flight. The VCs know how important it is for them that Uber Drivers like us come early to them and not late.



Also read: Why my first startup failed and what I learnt on that journey


We meet customers in our Uber Drives

We are building a B2B SaaS product and have also tried the typical selling. Thanks to the busy schedules of everyone. They don't have time for emails, calls or anything in life. People stopped listening to their parents. We even tried that route. Finally, we convinced them to buy. How? Wife and girlfriends are the best influencers. Wondering why nobody cracked this kind of selling so far.

Anyway, back to the ways we succeed in life. By the time we send a contract - they tell us about their internal re-org and the funding difficulties they have and blah blah blue. Final message from them - "Can you deal with this new guy who has replaced me?" With that new guy it is like government tender - we begin from start. Kyuki SaaS bi kabi bahu thi. We go through the bad mother in law treatment with the traditional route of selling.

After becoming an Uber Driver - we hear entrepreneurs and their pain points. They come, sit in our car, don't talk to us but are on phone all the time. They talk about all sorts of things thinking that the driver is the dumb guy or they become oblivious to where they are. What happens when you are traveling in a car and you are on the phone? Network drops off. So, they stop talking and stop making calls. Today's entrepreneurs are quite restless. So, they need some high adrenaline talks. That is the opportunity we seize. By the time we drop them - our sale is done. We pick the pain points they discussed in the car with someone on the phone and show them that our product exactly solves that problem. Sold.

We meet angel investors in our Uber Drives

Angels. True Angel fund. Of course, the extra tip we get after the drop is the funding that these angels give us with no questions asked on valuation. That is why they are angels. Superb stuff actually. In our experience of driving Angels to the place they want to go, we found that Angel funds do exist. I believe it is the entrepreneurs who are not willing to sell their car for the funding who needs to be blamed.

In our experience, some Angels booked our cab only with an intention to fund us. Angels know what you want, come give it to you even before you ask for it.

We meet startup advisors in our Uber Drives

Oh, advice. Valuable ones. Really valuable ones. Like - can you avoid this road because it will be heavy traffic during these times. It helps us save a lot of time. They beat the Google Maps sometime.

We meet our competitors in our Uber Drives

Oh sure, as drivers, we can't say no to competitors. So, they come in to our cars and take a drive on us. No, we are not talking about those who sign up to our beta to sniff what is happening. We are talking about those who really book an Uber and we arrive. Some people mid way uninstall the Uber App and switch to Ola just to avoid us. A competitor helps us to analyze app uninstalls. We are a part of the eco system - so that is the way we see.

We meet ourselves in these Uber Drives

You got this far in the journey, huh? We are sure (and hoping) you did figure out that this was an attempt to make a joke of ourselves. It would be a viral story if we really did Uber-strap our startup and made it large. The world wants to read stories like that because it is uncommon. In reality, there are tons of entrepreneurs who work hard, day in day out of their startup to get funding to achieving their vision. Going through the journey, we thought we will write something that makes us laugh at ourselves and get back to work. Nothing comes to the rescue, as much as work does. Look at our work. 100K tests we ran last month.

  • We built a kick ass analytics driven automated performance testing and benchmarking for mobile apps.
  • Bootstrapped with friends, families, ex-colleagues, school mates, testers from India and college mates contributing to close to a crore. We are doing beta with a few top customers and looking to get supported by Seed Funds - VC firms
  • Looking for Seed Stage - VC funding from those who want the car on time :)
  • Our work has been mentioned by the world's first book on Analytics Driven Testing - by Julian Harty and Antonie Aymer - The Mobile Analytics Playbook
  • Looking for more customer sign ups : www.appachhi.com/beta
  • Looking for support from those who think that hitting a like or commenting would actually make us win.
  • Looking for those who are willing to sponsor our patent filing charges in the US in exchange of convertible notes for that money.
The true angel and investor in everybody's life is always their mother.

This post first appeared here.

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

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