[PODCAST] BrowserStack’s Ritesh Arora on thinking global and scaling up
We continue with the #InsightsPodcast series, and this time, we have Ritesh Arora, Co-Founder and CEO of BrowserStack, a mobile and web testing platform. In this episode, Ritesh recollects his journey from a young engineer to how he pivoted through a few startup ideas before landing on BrowserStack.
He talks about scaling up - how he bootstrapped his startup to more than $20 million in revenue - a humongous achievement for any founder.
Ritesh comes from a family of business-people and always had an eye on venturing on the entrepreneurial journey. Teaming up with his roommate Nakul from IIT Bombay, he started his first startup in the final year of college: building a product for sentiment analysis in 2005, which led him to work on machine learning and natural language processing way before AI/ML became fashionable.
He says, “I probably read almost every research paper published on the topic at that time - about 76 of them. Went through them multiple times and came up with our own algorithm.”
Unable to come up with a go-to-market for the product, the duo decided to take up jobs. But the desire to build something consumer-facing soon got them started on their second venture - this time, in the space of information aggregation on the internet. While they were even able to gain traction, monetisation and identifying the right business model proved to be a challenge.
Ritesh and Nakul spent a year brainstorming before stumbling on the problem that BrowserStack solves today. ‘Testing website on internet browsers’ was a challenge for thousands of developers globally - something that they had experienced themselves.
The two set out to simplify this by helping developers test and debug their websites on different browsers (mainly Internet Explorer at the time). The traction they received was explosive, starting with 10K beta users in three weeks (thanks to John Resig’s tweet).
Soon, the duo moving to a paid offering that grew to $20K monthly revenue in about 4-5 months and $1 million annual recurring revenue at the end of the first year. This was all when they were just a team of two, working out of a coffee shop in Mumbai.
Their focus on the global market from the beginning helped Ritesh and Nakul scale to annual recurring revenue of $20 million in a span of four years with just a team of 50. They realised they needed to scale up to be able to sustain the growth and decided to get advisors on board, who could help mentor the team in the right direction.
Raising funds for BrowserStack was more about finding the right partner than about raising money. Ritesh speaks about the value that a good investor brings on board especially in the scaling phase because the founder is always doing it for the first time, while VCs have helped many such companies scale.
Ritesh also shares learnings for younger entrepreneurs, emphasising on focussing towards solving large problems, getting feedback from customers, not solving for monetising in early days, and building a great product that makes the customer’s journey frictionless. “When your customers use your product, they should feel that it has changed their lives,” he says.