Started in 2014 by 3 youngsters with a couple of years of work experience, the firm wanted to help companies leverage social media analytics. For the first year or so, the team built an MVP that collated data from FB, Instagram, and such other platforms. From this data, they built machine learning models to derive insights to help companies manage their marketing efforts. While they wanted to build a SaaS product to target the large SME segment, the team signed up PVR and Boom My Show to test out their product. They used the experience to raise over $500K from Indian Angel Network and Stanford Angels. On the way, they faced challenges in meeting the numbers, resulting in the shutdown of operations of the firm in 2017.

Year of commencement : 2014

Total funds raised : US $ 0.5 Mil

Year of closure : 2017

Name of the start-up: Promoters have chosen not to reveal

Names of the founders: Founders have chosen not to reveal

Key reasons for the start-up’s inability to sustain operations:

• While the customer segment that they wanted to focus is the SME, their beta customers were large entities. Their demands, needs, and experience were different. Though the team was conscious of this divergence, the lack of user experience from their target segment made it longer to build the right product. In hindsight, they could have had a revenue stream from serving large entities.
• The Angel Network works that a large multitude of people share the risk with not all of them possibly understanding the product, the business model, or the vision of the team. There was little that the team was able to leverage from the investors. Vetting of the investors by the team turns out to be an essential task from a startup’s point of view.
• The team underestimated the time it took to hire data scientists and analysts. This affected the plans and milestones, deflating expectations and souring their relationship with investors. Coupled with the fact that there was a bunch of investors with little understanding of the company’s operations, it only made matters worse when the team wanted support.
• When the team rolled out the product after the money was raised, since the segment that they beta tested was different, the team was cautious in increasing the marketing efforts as they wanted to get a good feedback from their target customers. In essence, they followed the mode of ‘let us perfect the product’ instead of allowing many users to experience their service. They could have factored multiple iterations into the product roll outs.
• The credit card payment feature in India did (does!) not allow automatic debits each month because of the 2-factor authentication if one chooses monthly subscription. This possibly dissuaded some customers not to renew after the trial period or after few months of use, when the product was rolled out.
• All 3 members of the core team were young, in their early 20s, with very little work experience. They had not seen enough of the market dynamics to be able to respond and manage the challenges they encountered. They felt a need for leadership and mentoring which they did not get from the investors.

Despite creating the “in-thing”, a product that works on machine learning and analytics of the social media platforms, despite successfully integrating over 10 channels and meeting the needs of large consumer entities, the lack of right thought leadership possibly was its undoing, apart from some execution errors.

Points to reflect for entrepreneurs

• Do you have enough intellectual and emotional strength factored into your operations?
• How close are you with the segment that you want to satisfy?
• When you commit milestones, have you thought through all that it takes to achieve them?
• Do you have enough work experience to understand the challenges of running the operations?
• Are you working on developing that perfect product before you roll it out to customers? (There is no such product!)

- Reported by
Rameshwar ,
rameshwar at healthyjio dot in

About Founders :
Total : 3
Educational back ground : Two are Engineering Graduates and one B.A
Any Start-up experience prior to this start up : None
Experience : All are between 15 month to 23 months experience
What they are doing now: Two people have taken up jobs and Arts graduate started another new Start up.

- Reported by
Ramesh kumar
rameshb at vsnl dot com