[YS Learn] From co-founders turning security guards to reaching 2 million homes, the MVP journey of MyGate
When Vijay Arisetty, Abhishek Kumar, and Shreyans Daga started security management startupin 2016, the trio had found a gap in the security systems of most gated communities.
They realised that on average, at least two to three people visit their homes in a day. And it can be a challenge for one single security manager to check and allow the right people. This led to the birth of MyGate.
The end-to-end community management platform, which uses automation to disrupt the sector, serves 2 million homes in 100 cities. Prior to the coronavirus-led lockdown, MyGate was doing close to 90 million visitor validations every month.
The startup has raised $56 million in Series B funding led by Tencent Holdings, along with US-based JS Capital LLC and Tiger Global Management. MyGate now aims to deploy the funds to achieve 10x growth.
It is also looking to serve nearly 30,000 societies across 100+ cities by the end of fiscal year.
The journey, however, began with a clear understanding of what the team was aiming to solve.
Founders of MyGate (L to R): Shreyans Daga, Abhishek, Vijay Arisetty and Vivaik Bhradwaj (sitting)
Who are you building for?
“In our case, we were looking to eliminate friction at the gate and, ultimately, build a solution to address all problems of community living. We were not looking to build an electronic register. This is important as only by looking at the problem from the right lens can you make the right decisions for the long-term,” says Shreyans.
To achieve this, he adds it is essential to understand the users and study how they are going to use the product. Shreyans says at MyGate, the team observed several users like residents, Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs), security guards, developers, and facility managers.
“But the group we paid most attention to was the security guard as the adoption of technology was least common among this community. We knew that if we didn’t get the guards to use the product, we would not make any progress on our larger goal,” explains Shreyans.
So the team tried to understand the capabilities of security guards, their interactions with residents and visitors, the way they make entries, and above all, the struggles that they face. He explains,
“We learnt that most guards aren’t educated, but do know basic mathematics. We knew that they would need to be nudged in the right direction. So we adopted colour coding of all buttons in the app for guards. Rather than yes or no, the guard just needed to press green for yes (allowed) and red for no (denied). This easy-to-understand approach made it simple for them to grasp all the features.”
It is also important to focus on only those things that you want to test and validate first. You’re building a minimum viable product, so it’s important to focus on only the core. “We started with several thoughts, but only scoped it out and didn’t build them until later,” adds Shreyans.
Get on-ground feedback
Once the MyGate team addressed the core problems, it was time for them to go on the ground and gain feedback.
"My co-founders, Vijay Arisetty and Abhishek Kumar, even worked as guards to get the feel of the features and understand if it was addressing the issues effectively. Every piece of feedback we received, we analysed carefully from all perspectives and developed features if we thought necessary.
"This habit of sourcing constant and continuous feedback and working towards addressing the issues raised is at the heart of our operations even today,” he says.
He adds, “It helps us make quick improvements. In just our third or fourth society, for example, we realised the need for a pre-approved entry feature. It took us about a month to develop the entire workflow, along with the e-intercom, but it was very worth it as it enables societies to get rid of the traditional intercom completely.”
For any startup, time and resources can be scarce. Therefore, Shreyans explains that it is important to be cautious about what you’re building. He emphasises on the need to focus on three or four problems and just build those.
“From the start, we were aware of the many issues within gated communities, but knew we wouldn’t have time to build all of them in the beginning. We had to prioritise. My suggestion would be to stay focused on resolving the core issues right from the beginning and the,n based on user feedback, start building the value additions.”
For MyGate, one example of a core issue was time spent by guards and residents on phone calls regarding the arrival of delivery executives and house help. Therefore, they made sure to include a notification feature in the product right from the start, saving time for the residents and the guard.
Focus on innovation
Shreyans says innovation is at the heart of MyGate’s operations. They have been adding features at regular intervals. But all features must meet three key principles:
- It has to increase the livability quotient of the society;
- It should be applicable to the majority of communities;
- It should lead to a significant increase in user convenience.
If these metrics are met, then the team prioritises that feature and develop it. They have also been trying to understand – or rather forecast – the needs of customers, and come up with new features that will make the user’s life easier.
Learn from your mistakes
However, like any startup, MyGate too faced problems in the early days. While the team was cautious about additions to the product, there were always going to be some mistakes in the selection process.
“It’s only later that you realise that a particular feature isn’t going to stand the test of time. So our notification approval system initially wasn’t very scalable, and maybe a bit crude from a tech standpoint. We could have taken more time to design it in a scalable fashion, but we didn’t. "
Six months after building it, we had to go back to the drawing board and then introduced a six-digit passcode system. This was built in 2016 and is still in use today, even though we’ve grown manifolds,” Shreyans elaborates.
He advises that it’s important to be focused in your approach but mistakes are still bound to happen. When someone points it out, be sure to be receptive and flexible. Listening to the feedback coming from the ground gives a very realistic and honest viewpoint. Staying focused and continuously striving to achieve it will help in reaping better results.
Build robust products but frugally
Shreyans explains not everything you do initially will scale well. You are strapped for time and money and you will take some shortcuts because you want to ship the product. He says,
“This is also important because you can’t spend all your resources on building, because the market will want changes anyway. For any product, the foundation has to be very clear and robust. Before any product is developed, there should be a robust and clear roadmap on why you are developing it and how far you are going to take it.
He explains it is never advisable to put in all investments into developing a particular feature at the beginning. There should always be room for change and recalibration. One needs to observe the market closely and prioritise.
“Right from the start, we knew sooner or later that we would need to do ecommerce integrations for our customers to enjoy the convenience that we had set out to provide them. And we had laid the tech groundwork for it in the initial days itself. This forecasting made it easier for us, especially after we went ahead with the integration,” says Shreyans.
Get your initial base of early adopters
“We made sure that we were selling our product in the right places. It is very important for any consumer-facing application or product to have your potential investors as the users of the product," says Shreyans.
He adds, "Prime Venture Partners, who invested in MyGate, were all users of the product and were intrigued by what we were doing. In fact, it was they who approached us rather than the other way round. Being visible to the right audience is, therefore, very important and you need to take steps to become a talking point in their circles."
He adds, “Give the team a very clear understanding of what you are trying to solve. Identify the key problems areas, build solutions for them, and be ready to keep evolving with the on-ground understanding. One needs to take feedback from the ground very seriously and make changes to address the issues.”
Clarity, focus, quick execution, and the ability to absorb feedback constructively is very important while starting to build a product.