[Startup Bharat] Meet the entrepreneur who sold his app for $1M, built an IT augmentation firm
When Sidharth Jain was looking to raise funds for his web app development startup, he found no takers.
GraffersID was offering IT services to build apps for startups, but couldn’t get investors to back him as he was a first-time entrepreneur who hailed from the small town of Bhadwa (near Indore).
But Sidharth had an ace up his sleeve.
“While building my team at GraffersID and working on client app projects, we also built an interesting product. We built an image processing app where you could click a picture of a dish, and the app would tell you the name of the dish, its caloric values, list of ingredients, and recipe,” Sidharth tells YourStory.
However, taking this product to the B2C (business-to-consumer) market was too expensive for the B2B (business-to-business) startup.
“An investor we were talking to said they did not want to invest in us but they were happy to buy this image processing product. I did not want to sell it, so I randomly said I would sell it for a million dollars, confident that the investor would reject it outright,” he says.
The investor, who he does not name, said, “Sounds good, let’s do the deal,” and closed the deal for $1 million, claims Sidharth.
This unexpected exit turned GraffersID flush with cash and allowed Sidharth to scale the startup into a non-cloud, Resource-as-a-Service (RaaS) project.
Today, it is an IT augmentation startup that specialises in onboarding remote, vetted React and Node.js developers, and offers its services to clients on a contract basis.
The GraffersID team
Started in Indore in 2018 with an initial investment of around Rs 50,000, the startup is now raking in annual revenue of over Rs 8 crore, according to Sidharth.
“We work with 58 Series A+ funded clients, 14 unicorns, 10 Fortune 100 companies, and over 50 ideation stage projects,” he claims, adding that GraffersID is a profitable project.
GraffersID counts Gojek, Coca Cola, Duolingo, Patreon, and others among its prominent clients.
“Clients need developers who are efficient and can immediately start working on a project. Our earlier service model of taking on individual projects and completing them was not scalable, so we turned into a RaaS product and started offering high-quality developers to work on client projects,” Sidharth explains.
Aditi Moonat, who is CMO at GraffersID (and married to Sidharth), explains that the startup’s content marketing strategies have worked well in landing clients.
“Posting product and tech-related content on LinkedIn and other social media channels regularly, as well as performing SEO marketing helped us convert a few clients. This was because there was a need among startups for a service that addressed all their immediate IT and web app development needs,” she explains.
An unexpected journey
After graduating from Thakur College of Engineering and Technology (and later, IIT Bombay), Sidharth started working at Accenture as a software engineer. He was eventually presented with an opportunity to move to the US.
“At the time, I was unsure what to do with my life. But my father suffered from a heart issue a few months before I was supposed to fly out, and I had already quit my job at Accenture,” he says.
Sidharth decided to stay back in India, but was unsure about the way forward.
“In those uncertain times, I used to enjoy penning some of my thoughts on LinkedIn and sharing my two cents on how startups can solve their IT needs,” he says. “Slowly, more and more founders started reading my content and reached out to me saying they faced similar challenges with their startups, and whether I could fix it for them.”
He launched GraffersID as a consequence of being unable to fulfil the tech requests he received on LinkedIn from startups asking him to help solve their IT needs.
Sidharth Jain and Aditi Moonat
From content writer to founder
Sidharth observed that many startups faced similar IT issues while building themselves. They would hire IT companies for app development, but the vendors would make big promises and fail to deliver. The apps developed by the IT agencies faced several technical challenges and glitches, or were not market-ready.
“Not every founder has a technical or product-oriented mindset, or can develop apps in-house. So, they outsource app development, but with lacklustre results. Looking at this, I started writing even more content about the best practices in app development, combining business and tech strategy, and so on,” Sidharth says.
Unable to manage all the requests from startups asking him to help with their technical product needs, Sidharth began outsourcing some projects to trusted developers, and they would implement his product development approach.
As the number of requests increased, Sidharth began hiring developers and building his team to service these requests directly– setting the stage for the launch of GraffersID.
Over four years, the Bhadwa native built a team of 100+ people sitting in Indore and servicing a wide range of clients across the globe.
Selling the image-processing app in the first two years served as an enabler towards building his vision for GraffersID. Another enabler–and perhaps a longer-lasting one–is his mindset of making every product a success.
“In my mind, every product we make should be a big hit. If our client is failing, then we have failed. We handpick customers and ensure they become successful. They refer us to more customers, and the cycle continues,” he says.
Going forward, GraffersID aims to build a team of 500+ people and set up offices in Dubai and the US. It also plans to further carve a niche for itself in the larger $531 billion market for IT services outsourcing (as per Beroe Inc data), even as other startups including Toptal, CrewScale and Uplers focus more on IT staff augmentation and offshore development services.