After bootstrapping for a year, Indiez raised $500,000 in seed funding. Here is an overview of their journey, how the platform works, and also the pitch deck they used to close the deal in four hours.
Indiez, a community platform to recruit tech talent for short-term projects, announced on Thursday that it had raised $500,000 in seed funding from Haresh Chawla, Partner at True North (India Value Fund), and an unnamed investor. The founders noted that they were able to close the deal within four hours of the meeting with a term sheet that they were happy with. Haresh and the other partner invested in their personal capacities.
YourStory spoke to Nitesh Agrawal, Indiez Co-founder, to learn more about the company and the journey so far. Here is their story.
A Bay Area- and Bengaluru-based startup, Indiez was founded in 2016 by Nitesh, Ishan Shrivastava, Archit Kejriwal, and Amrose Birani. All the founders were batchmates at IIT Bombay and had worked with startups and companies like Housing.com, UpGrad, Ola, and Bay Area-based Tribal Technologies and SnapLogic before starting up.
Nitesh explained that they are building an AI-powered platform that enables community members to work from anywhere, anytime, on things that they like. Companies share their product requirements with Indiez which, in turn, puts together a virtual team and assigns them tasks based on their experience and skill sets. Indiez claims to have a network of over 300 freelancers from about 30 countries, who work with them on either full-time or part-time basis. Nitesh said,
We’re building a community of top-class software talent. We get projects for our members and take care of end-to-end management.
Nitesh also noted that the startup has been profitable since inception, with a simple business model — get work for their community of freelancers and keep 15 to 20 percent of the paid amount.
Nitesh said that Indiez has designers, developers, and product managers from companies like Google, Facebook, Spotify, Uber, and WeChat working on their platform, which helps them assure quality.
But how does Indiez negotiate all the challenges involved in working with freelancers? Nitesh shared the process they follow, which he claims has worked well for them.
Nitesh explained that Indiez is very selective about the freelancers it onboards on its platform and the company’s website also states, “Only five percent of all applicants are invited to interview with us.”
On the other side, Indiez works with companies to understand requirements, take care of end-to-end legwork in putting together a team, and also to prepare a technical document and guideline for the workflow. Nitesh remarked that Indiez checks over 20 data points ranging from skills and proficiency to time zones, past record, and whether the person is a solo player or team member.
Both brands and freelancers are also required to sign nondisclosure agreements or confidentiality documents on a case-by-case basis or as needed.
Once the client sets the wheels in motion, a virtual team is formed and job roles and timelines are assigned. Indiez relies on a lot of textual inputs and data to keep track of whether a project is going as per schedule. Once a project is completed, Indiez delivers the solution to the client and also connects them with the concerned project manager in case of any queries.
Clients can get clarity on who worked on their project and freelancers are also mostly open to revealing their identities. But in most cases, Indiez found that if companies are happy with the final output, they generally don't have too many follow-up questions. The most popular skills in demand at this stage are artificial intelligence and machine learning.
On being asked about Indiez's team strength, Nitesh remarked,
Apart from the four co-founders, we don’t really have our own employees. We believe in our own product and hence use our community to get stuff done.
Keeping in line with their overall vision, the founders work remotely too and on being asked to share a picture of the team, Nitesh said they don't have one at this stage but could share a picture from one of their virtual meetings.
While Indiez has been able to bootstrap and run its operations for about a year now, Nitesh explained that they decided to try and raise external capital to invest in technology, community building, and marketing.
Their first fundraising attempt was unsuccessful because, as Nitesh says, they weren't able to showcase the technology aspects and market potential well. The team then took inputs from their mentors Zishaan Hayath (CEO of Toppr and investor in Ola, Housing), Beerud Sheth (Co-founder, Elance), and Rajinder Balaraman (VC, Matrix Partners) and made several versions of their pitch deck. Nitesh said,
The inputs were immensely valuable and I’m thankful to them for giving honest and blunt feedback! We focused a lot on building the pitch deck because its importance is evident as it creates an impression before you even meet an investor. And the first impression matters.
They also took a lot of learning and inspiration from Airbnb and Mattermark’s pitch decks. They were able to communicate their goals better and things worked out this time around. Here is the pitch deck they used.
Platforms like Uber and Ola (in India) and platforms like Freelancer.com have made the concept of freelancing mainstream. According to a report, the market size of the global gig economy is pegged at $1.5 trillion, with over 77 million freelancers currently operating in Europe, India, and the US.
Apart from Freelancer, Gigster, Fiverr, and UpWork are some of the platforms that are popular among the freelancer community. While some platforms work on an auction model, where freelancers bid against each other to claim gigs, Nitesh believes that severe undercutting and fighting over prices has brought down the quality of work on these platforms. So, Indiez plans to stay away from such a model.
While conventional wisdom states that it is always good to build a tech team in-house, Nitesh feels it is always hard for early-stage startups to hire great techies full-time because of the costs involved and also because some techies don't want to be tied down and prefer working on diverse freelance projects. On the bright side, hiring techies on a freelance basis can also be cost-effective for early-stage startups, who don't have complex requirements all year round.
Indiez plans to invest the raised funds in further strengthening the backend technology and also expanding into the US market. Nitesh remarked,
We have clear milestones to achieve with this investment and are working hard towards that. The bottom line is to build future of work in terms of time, place, and what they want to work on.