FlipSpaces, a bootstrapped hero in VR, clocks $1.5mn in revenue in less than 4 months

24th Sep 2016
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In an era where there is a lot of artificial velocity created for startups; when exits, and not market dominance, are the end game; when the means to an end — external investment — has become the end in itself; a startup entered with a vision clear as day — to bootstrap, self-sustain, keep the cash registers clinking, and rest only when they have served to their full potential and heart's content. This game plan, among other strategies, is what helped FlipSpaces hit the $1.5 million mark in revenues in a jiffy. Founder and CEO Kunal Sharma spills the beans to YourStory.

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When it all came together to form Gloob

The trio comes from a background of engineering, design, and gaming. Kunal Sharma is a product of IIT-B, and has dabbled with entrepreneurship with an education startup that he built, scaled, and exited before the birth of Gloob, the parent brand of FlipSpaces. Safe to say, entrepreneurship was always Plan A for the serial entrepreneur.

Although Gloob has been in business since 2011 as an end-to-end solution for interiors, it was while browsing through a multi-player game one day that Kunal had his epiphany. “I realised that the solution to the problem of visualisation in the interior design space was in ‘gamifying’ the consumer experience,” he says. Wasting no time, they started looking for a team to build the product, which is when they crossed paths with gaming maestros Ritesh Ranjan and Prafful Sahu, who were then commanding Banana Interactive.

“We acquired the team and they came in as tech partners. This marked the beginning of our VR tech journey. The rest, we hope, will be the stuff of legends!” says Kunal. Snooping around for signs that this was the right trajectory, they discovered that there wasn’t really a player that could walk one through a space, designing it on-the-go with abundant choices of fixtures, decoratives, wall art, floor designs, etc. “Our idea was to literally cede the control to design to the consumer,” says Kunal.

The technology and the fun of it

The model is pretty straightforward — theirs is a technology-led interior design company that enables people to visualise how the home or office décor products they are browsing will actually look, in a virtual environment similar to their own.

FlipSpaces allows users to choose from over one lakh products and a mind-boggling trillion room environments on a floor plate which is a replica of their office or home. The application can generate photorealistic images of spaces at a speed which is 500 times faster than any other applications used in the domain, claims Kunal. “This helps do away with the huge physical catalogues which décor companies have to handle,” says Kunal. It then proceeds to generate the exact cost estimate for services and products chosen by the users, in real time, thus allowing them to budget during the process itself.

The web-based application is designed exclusively for the home and office décor market, targeting new office buyers and tenants, developers, architects, and interior designers, among other industry players. It can also emerge as a strong platform for all vendors, suppliers, and other major stake-holders in the home décor industry.

“The visualisation application which forms the core of this entire tech is structured unlike a grumpy salesman, but rather as a compliant, instant solutions interface!” jokes Kunal.

The endgame

While FlipSpaces does the design visualisation, the execution is done by Gloob, which is a contractual back-end mechanism with a curated set of material and service vendors, along with their own production and manufacturing facilities. Effectively, they take ownership of every component of the process — designing, product exploration, and the final execution.

The founding team also claims to have one of the largest product portfolios in wall furnishing in India. “Additionally, we are also into ergonomic, new-age furniture design and manufacturing. This obviously helps in adding to our value propositions,” says Kunal.

Once the technology was prepared, they were in business, and word-of-mouth as a medium has been immensely kind to their traction. “90 percent of our business comes through referrals. The extended IIT and startup circle gave a lot of office design and execution business to Gloob, the parent brand,” reveals Kunal. The offices for Coverfox, TinyOwl, Indus OS, Ziffi, Aasaanjobs, Purple Squirrel, Razorpay, Rubique, Holachef, and many more startups both currently operational and now defunct had FlipSpaces written all over them, and the word got out like wildfire. Today, the company commands over 50 percent market share in startup offices in Mumbai, and is treading confidently into Bengaluru and Delhi as well.

The news that had them ‘Flip’ping out 

Two glowing examples of what set the chain reaction truly ablaze are their work with the GyanMatrix office project in Bengaluru and WorkAmp, a co-working space in Mumbai. For GyanMatrix, they were competing with conventional agencies, but bagged the multiple-crore project and executed it to the client’s immense satisfaction.

On the other hand, Smeet Gala, Founder, CEO WorkAmp himself testified to the calibre of Gloob and Flipspaces’ design acumen, and credited them for creating a space that was conducive to the collaboration of in-house startups. “Within the first 25 members itself, we are looking at member companies doing business with each other. The space is also generally getting big ops for being creative and a really favourable work environment,” says Smeet.

As of a fortnight ago, right around the time they hit their three-month mark, they had clocked a baffling $1 million. Owing to the media attention that ensued thanks to the milestone, they clocked 50 percent of that amount again in just 20 days, bagging Rs 2.8 crore of further business.

“We are a B2B-focused enterprise and our ticket sizes are fairly high. We are able to execute projects at lower costs than any other agency in India and at sharper timelines. All this allows us to maintain a robust GM even after reduction of CAC. That is key to our model and success so far,” Kunal theorises. What he is personally proudest of is that this feat was pulled off without any external funding.

Visualising their future

More recently, they have hitched their wagon to www.flipspacesvr.com, and are also marketing actively through social media — LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. “Content and visual merchandise is a component, hence blogging is another envisaged vehicle,” he lets on.

According to their in-house research, they have pegged the market size for just office spaces at $10 billion by 2018. Meanwhile, the home decor market size stands at about $25 billion in India alone. Livspace and HomeLane may be the market leaders, however, “their focus is residential, which we are not concentrating on right now since we consider it to be a lower ticket-size and higher-involvement category,” explains Kunal.

Rebutting the need for funding, Kunal’s approach is unique in today’s rat-race for lofty investments. “This is an era of a lot of capital infusion in a lot of ideas which is a great thing. However, I sincerely feel that this has also resulted in entrepreneurs not looking at options except funding to create and sustain a business. My funda is simple — evaluating how far we can go without external capital, as a hack to our sustainability.”

They remain confident of this mantra because they trust in their revenue model, have big-ticket transactions, and a tangible tech-led differentiation. Gloob, the parent brand, has grown 3–4x YoY, without any external funding. And now, scaling for them translates to stopping only after the Rs 1,000 crore mark is hit in three years.

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