Pratilipi turned 1 year young -or old depending on how you see it- yesterday 🙂 And it feels just like yesterday when I posted the news of surviving for the first week here on the rodindhoods: Pratilipi- You Become What You Read
Typically when I write a post, it is with the intention to help others, just like how I’ve been helped by those who came before me. But this post is different. There is no gyan, just sharing our journey from week 1 to week 52.
Week 2- Week 8: Baptism by Fire
We had left all our jobs and relocated to Bangalore before even writing a single line of code, we didn’t have much clue about how things will evolve. We knew 80% of our authors and readers either directly or with one degree of separation, and we were growing at 6-7% week on week without really knowing why we were growing or whether this was a good growth rate or bad.
The naysayers were getting stronger. We should focus on revenue, or attend that conference or include English or get another older and more mature person on-board etc.
Our own savings were almost exhausted. Our CTO was getting pressurized from his family to get married, and our friends thought we were either crazy or visionary (or sometimes both) to do something like this. A lot of people pointed out that their blogs had more visitors than our platform 🙂
Week 9 – Week 17: The days of Awesomeness
This was the age of awesomeness. We changed our reading platform to look a bit more like a web-reader and less like a blog. We started getting social love (100+ social shares a week), we started applying to competitions and making social profiles such as on Angel List, LetsVenture etc.
We grew at around 20% week-on-week, which was absolutely awesome.
People, including potential investors started contacting us, but we decided to just focus on the product + growth and raise personal debt from friends.
We still hadn’t registered the company, but my personal bank account was perennially below Rs. 10,000 and often below Rs. 10. But the awesome growth made us confident + we had great friends, so we kept on raising more and more personal debt to survive.
But in retrospect, we also made two big mistakes during this time.
1.> We got dragged by the opinion of experts and decided to make some quick revenue -luckily we were smart enough to not monetize our core value proposition-. We decided to lease out our reader as an API to outside publisher on a revenue sharing arrangement.
2.> We became overly optimistic on our ability to ship out product and sustain the 20% week-on-week growth without any external funding. We should have raised some investment right then which could have helped us add some more kickass people in the team, which in hindsight was the right and perhaps only way to sustain the crazy growth rate.
Week 18 – Week 29: The age of learning
These were probably the craziest, the hardest and in hindsight the most pivotal days of Pratilipi. We won many competitions, met Abhishek and team at TLabs and decided to join them -our first external funding-, Prashant our CTO got married and we learned how to manage over 100,000 users with just one tech guy, Rahul.
We realized that experts are very often just as wrong as normal people like us -not because they aren’t smart or experienced, but simply because context is everything and they often don’t know the context-.
We cut our losses with the B2B experiment -took too much of our focus + time, and was definitely NOT what we wanted to do anyways- we started focusing a lot more on granular data analysis.
But none of this seemed to matter, we were growing at low single digits now (3-4% per week), and we started wondering how we can survive and grow at the same time. We also better appreciated the problems of user love + scale. Since our users loved us, they also demanded more, and with just two tech guys in the team -one of whom was getting married- our 90% of tech time was just optimizing things for different devices, browsers or users.
But we learned two important lessons.
1.> We learnt to back ourselves, somebody else might be an expert on start-ups but nobody knows more about our business than us, simply because we are literally living it for every waking -and many sleeping- hours.
2.> We learnt to say No. We realized that despite all our passion and energy we were still humans and saying no was really-really important.
Week 30 – Week 41: Building the Foundation
This was the duration where in we started to implement our learning. We launched the new version of our writer panel, new reader panel, new website // in closed beta // started expanding our team and languages, hired our first employees and interns, started building local language communities, started our company blog and started talking to some investors.
Our growth rate grew steadily from 2-3% to 4-5% to 6% per week. We crossed 100,000+ content pieces read per month and we on-boarded over 1000 Indian language authors 🙂
This was when we started working a little like a company and not just a bunch of friends building a college project. This was also the time when we had finally had a runway of more than 2 months at any given day 😀
Week 42- Now: And the cycle repeats
We are largely back to our awesome growth rate of ~10% week on week growth, one of our writers has been read over 100,000 times on Pratilipi, our stories are shared over 1000 times every week and we are now available in 6 languages 🙂
We are still very optimistic about both the market and ourselves, but now we are also more grounded. We know that things can go wrong -that is their default state- and we are always on our toes trying to get them back on track.
We are now more comfortable in saying no, and as a result we are much more focused now.
But as Robert Frost once said,
of the week!!
UPDATE ADDED BY ASHA JUNE 25, 2016:
CONGRATS RANJEET & TEAM ON THE FUNDING!!