Scenes founder Varun Mayya on leveraging creators' communities to build business

In this week’s 100x Entrepreneur podcast, Varun Mayya, Founder and CEO of Scenes, gives an insight into his entrepreneurial journey and how he started the community platform.
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Varun Mayya, along with Shashank Udupa and Abhinav Arora, co-founded Scenes in 2019. The community platform helps creators manage, moderate, and monetise their communities in one place, besides running a YouTube channel.

However, Varun had a headstart in entrepreneurship when he was in college. With his friends, he first started a t-shirt manufacturing business called SIZR. They also founded a recruitment startup Jobspire.

His team was one of the youngest teams to raise Rs 1.7 crore in venture capital before graduating and grew the company to serve four million requests in 2016. A year later, they sold Jobspire to a New York-based company.

Besides, the serial entrepreneur is the author of Pyjama Profit—a guide for millennials to get started with an online freelance practice while developing the necessary skills.

In a conversation with Siddhartha Ahluwalia, Founder and Host of 100X Entrepreneur podcast, Varun discusses building a brand, the processes involved in content creation, and leveraging YouTube to scale business.

Coding from a young age

At the age of 11, one of the first games Varun played was ‘Mugen’—where one can create their character, and the game allowed the player to also write in their own character. Thus, one can code in their characters and change the sprites.

“I had to do a little bit of design on changing the sprites. I had to do a little bit of code as well. So I made my brother a character in the game. And, at the age of 13, I fully started coding. I used this programming language called Delphi—which was an old programming language back then,” he says.

When he joined Manipal to do his engineering in computer science, he realised attending lectures was not his cup of tea.

In his first year, Varun gathered his friends—Abhinav Chikar (who ended up becoming the Head of Design of Unacademy) and Karthik—and decided to start a company.

“We had no idea what company we wanted to run. The first-ever company we ran was a t-shirt company. We printed, put designs on the back of t-shirts, personalised them, and gave them to classes. We did reasonably well and sold around 500 t-shirts. But this was too high of an effort for a low reward. I felt like a Baniya-type person, who ran around with t-shirts every time during college fests, saying isko khareedo (buy this). So I didn’t want to do that,” he says.

Testing waters

Although Discord was typically associated with online gamers, it’s now home to many communities that talk about various projects. Varun leveraged Discord for people to start different conversations with each other.

However, he didn’t want to do everything on Discord as the platform might pull the rug and all of it will be lost. Eventually, Varun moved out and started building his platform. 

“First, we built a platform, saying everyone can be on the same platform. Then, we realised if we wanted to scale this beyond 50,000-100,000 users and prevent the noise, we need to have other creators or other entrepreneur businesses come in and kind of create their communities. That’s how we built Scenes,” says Varun.

Bengaluru-based startup Scenes by Avalon Meta hosts voice (and chat) communities to meet and hang out with like-minded people.

The startup has raised two funding rounds from investors, including Canadian company Peer Place, Purvi Capital, Kunal Shah, Gaurav Munjal, Kalyan Krishnamurthy, Tanmay Bhat, Tanglin Ventures, Better Capital, Whiteboard Capital, iSeed Ventures, and Blume Founders Fund.

To know more, listen to the podcast here:

04:05 – His journey before entrepreneurship

06:49 – Getting introduced to oDesk (now Upwork) via his mother and earning his first $100

09:10 – Starting a visual version of Naukri in his fourth year of college

11:09 – Writing an Amazon bestseller book, Pyjama Profit: The Millennial’s Guide to a Sustainable Freelance Career 

12:48 – Starting Avalon Scenes

18:07 – Raising two rounds of funding to build a community space

19:22 – Top clients and why do they use Scenes?

22:11 – Zoho Sponsored – Prashant Ganti on where founders struggle with payroll and how can they fix it?

24:09 – What excites him the most about Scenes? 

26:40 – Solving a problem well versus building a large business

28:41 – What’s the long-term goal with Scenes? 

33:02 – Can Scenes eventually replace Discord? 

34:36 – Why does he continue to be a creator with Scenes growing? 

41:25 – Learnings on YouTube and Twitter around content creation

46:15 – One of his best videos on YouTube

52:44 – “I think we live in a trust-deficient economy, and content is the only way to beat it.”

Edited by Suman Singh

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