I met Sid almost 5 years ago at the very first ever Chennai Open Coffee Club meet. I need to thank him, since some of the coolest people I met in Chennai were through Chennai OCC. I got the inspiration to do these blog series from watching people like Sid, Shri Krishna, Asif, Suresh Sambandam, Kiruba and other entrepreneurs. There is one characteristic of an entrepreneur that truly stands out. They are constantly learning. They learn from every thing including setbacks and failures. And they are generous about sharing what they learn.
Here is a bit of Sid’s story. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
What inspired you to become an Entrepreneur?
I think it was reading about the Silicon Valley culture when I was a kid. The books made it sound so cool – young kids doing cool stuff out of garages, changing the world, and becoming billionaires. Sometime around 7th grade, a group of my friends got together and we would type out programs or games, take printouts and try to sell them to others for a few bucks.
By the time we joined college, the dot-com boom was in full swing, and we started a full stack webdesign consultancy, including backend programming in Perl. We even did SEO, tageting Altavista (anyone remember that?).
After graduation, I ended up working for another startup for 5 years before I had this itch to start up again.
What products or services do you provide?
We have two products:
Tools For Agile: This is a project management toolset for distributed software teams who follow an agile process.
The other product, Tour My App, tries to solve the user conversion problem in SaaS apps. Very few users on the free plan upgrade to paid. There are two areas of drop offs – insufficient guidance when they login for the first time, and not using all the functionality of the product.
Tour My App allows web app developers to create step-by-step in-application guided tours that help users perform tasks in the application: be it a new user getting started tour, tours highlighting advanced features, or even tours that guide potential customers through a demo prior to sign up.
Who are your target customers?
Tour My App is a product that all web application developers can use – startups, larger companies with web applications (eg: banks, telcos, etc), portals and even Intranets.
For now, we are focusing on the startup web app segment in India and abroad.
How did you get your first paying customer?
Tour My App just launched a few days ago, so we dont have a paying customer yet.
For Tools For Agile, we promoted it in all the agile communities, and people signed up and one day some one just converted.
What challenges do you face in your business?
Marketing for sure, especially when trying to reach a global audience. There aren’t a whole lot of Indian product startups who have figured out how to market globally. I can think of maybe FusionCharts, Wingify and Orangescape. Freshdesk also seems to be doing it well. So the knowledge in the ecosystem is still scratchy and we are all really experimenting around.
How do you interact with your peers (both offline and online) ? Do you have mentors or coaches?
I think peer learning is super important. This is the main reason I started Chennai Open Coffee Club back in August 2007. Luckily Chennai has a really large number of active groups like Chennai OCC and Chennai Geeks.
What lessons have you learned that you would like to share with others?
Be persistent & keep learning. You are going to screw up many, many times. Don’t quit the first time you mess up. Nobody gets it right the first time (or the second, or third). It’s how you pick yourself up and keep going that matters.