Distractions

Now that you are done reading those glorious “reflecting back on 2015” kinda posts, I am giving you an altogether different one to read. For me, 2015 was the year of fighting distractions.
A lot was going on at WebEngage last year. We were undergoing a massive change to re-launch WebEngage as a multi-channel customer engagement platform. I am super excited to tell you that at the onset of 2016, my team finally achieved that goal. Check out this beautiful post by Inc42 on our re-launch.
However, it wasn’t all as easy as it seems. There were so many distractions in 2015 that kept coming our way.
Image source: Quovadisblog.com
Looking back, these were 3 BIG ones.

1. The media euphoria

Every startup was making news in 2015, except for the fact that they were all consumer internet or COOL startups. Some were in the news for funding and others for the lack of it. Some were in news because they hired by the hundreds, while others made news because they fired by the hundreds.
I cared less about all of the above; until, of-course, the time when these events lead to a heightened sense of “fear of missing out” in me. In a country like India, print media is still relevant and is considered “authentic”. These journalists didn’t realize that they are creating a consumer bias in reader’s mind, thereby drastically hampering prospective hiring and brand building for the boring enterprise and b2b businesses being created in India.
People consider lack of hype as lack of ambition. Fighting that common notion is an uphill task. There kicks in the distraction!

2. The surge of copycats

For every well executed business idea, there would be a dozen copycats in almost no time. And if you operate in a crowded space like marketing automation – good luck!
For established categories (like customer support, email marketing etc), this doesn’t impact much if you have an early mover advantage with a good product. With WebEngage, we were creating a new category; and then we had to cope up with the surge of these copycats – some of them being shameless enough to use our website and marketing content, as is, on theirs. Funnily, a bunch of them chose names sounding similar to ours. A large chunk of these companies came up in India and a couple in the US & Israel.
Some of the above also managed to secure funding. There comes in the distraction! From the coolest and always in “top 10 lists”, WebEngage became a fat-ass incumbent ready to be disrupted! Nobody knew that we weren’t fighting with these competitors in the very first place. But then, as I said before, its hard to challenge the popular notion.
Thankfully, my team was focused on the primary goal – creating customer delight!

3. Overcoming the “moonshot inertia”

There is no such term, I just made it up!
Moonshots, 10x leap … all these terms are used for large companies that are able to move with startup like pace when it comes to building stuff.
In a running business, this is extremely hard to do. And believe me, its not for the lack of intent. We have thousands of customers from across globe. They love what they use and there’s a team that loves to make and sell that software.
Challenging both of them (customers and team) to change this state of love is a very difficult thing to do. Invariably, any moonshot attempt is perceived of as a distraction. It took us good 9-12 months to re-launch WebEngage. If I had to do it from scratch, we’d have pulled it off in less than 3 months.
With all the focus we had on the re-launch, it was still a nightmare to prioritize tasks. Without the focus, I can’t even imagine. That’s precisely the reason why its rare to see companies that can take giant leaps. I aspire to build one of those.

Overcoming distractions

Knowing you are distracted is the first step. Most fall in that trap unknowingly. There are a few things that have worked for me. Here’s my 101 guide to fight distractions!

a. Being disillusioned

Not every thing that you see around you is truth. People say things even when they don’t mean it. And, there’s nothing wrong with it. People evolve. You need to evolve too. The key thing here is to find out what’s important. What is that you should lose your sleep over? Most distracted people would lose it for almost anything and everything. Disillusionment helps in keeping you focused on the bigger goal. Competition, rouge customer, badass boss .. none of that would matter if you are disillusioned.
So, next time when you come across stuff like –
5 ways to lose weight
21 tips to improve your sales by 305%
3 tips from a VC to run your business
6 tips from a founder to run your VC fund
Story of an entrepreneur who battled cancer to create a $100B company
.. take all of that with a pinch of salt. I am sorry to break the news to you – none of that is going to change anything. Be disillusioned. Read less and do more – you can achieve all of the above by focusing and working towards the task, rather than getting distracted by some random train of thought.
One of the hacks that I have applied to myself – Twitter has become the ONLY source of “discovering” content for me. Anything which is good enough and worth reading, will surely show up in my timeline. If something doesn’t show up, it is probably not worth the time. It comes with a risk and fear of missing out, but I have to tell you that it does work.

b. Being on a mission

First and foremost, please have a mission in life. For some its working for a good life, for some its buying a house, for me its building an ever-growing company. Find yours. The stronger and bigger that mission is, the lesser the distraction would be.
When on a mission, terms like can, maybe, should, but .. lose their significance.
That said, having a mission is not enough. Getting the stakeholders (your team, family etc) aligned and execute per that mission is a BIG challenge. I have seen large companies fail at it, let alone individuals or startups. The thing is called communication. Its a hard thing to perfect (ref: interesting read here).

c. Being organized

This one is a bit philosophical. Most people I know, are heavily unorganized in their lives and work. And here’s a candid confession, so am I. I worked on it extensively last year to get better. Whether its about scheduling meetings or organizing files, I see real funny ways in how people accomplish such tasks. Most don’t even realize the downsides of a cluttered life. It kills your productivity. Also, it is extremely hard to focus on the core task if you are spending a whole lot of your time on “searching” for stuff to finish that task. I have gotten much better at organizing myself, except for the fact that I still don’t use WhatsApp. Let software eat your world, atleast for work.
Just like how there’s no silver bullet to improve your sales by 305%, there cannot be a 101 guide to tackling with distractions. On the contrary, I managed to distract you with a 15min long readūüôā
Wish you more focus and less distractions in 2016. Go, win!

Bigger, Better, Hungrier @ WebEngage

The minute you’re satisfied with where you are, you aren’t there anymore.
~ Tony Gwynn (Hall of Fame Baseball Player)



There could never be an excuse to not write at all for 10 long months. I am sorry. I’ll try to post a bit regularly. This one’s an update to fill you in with events from the last 3 quarters.


First thing first, WebEngage turned 4 last week! And, this pic, clicked by my team on the eve of our 4th b’day, pretty much sums up how the two of us feel about this journey.ūüôā

Ankit and Avlesh (Co-founders, WebEngage)

Ankit & Avlesh
Co-founders, WebEngage



Looking back …
It is amazing how a small itch has gone on to become a formidable company in 4 years. It is amazing how the two of us have managed to build an enviable team of 50+ men and women. It is amazing how thousands of businesses globally have placed their trust on us.


As the business continues to expand, my travel schedule keeps getting worse. I am out of office for almost 2 weeks every month. These days, I travel at ease – without any fear in my head on how certain things are gonna be back in office. A large part of this about the people who make WebEngage.


team


If not for its people, WebEngage would be any other startup. Ankit and I, still, spend a good chunk of our time in building our team and culture. We are a people first company. Customers come in next. Everybody else, is a distant third. Read more about our culture code here and here. Or, hear it from our very own folks below:


Got appetite for more? You can listen to Ankit or me too.



Other than people, customers are the next big asset we have built at WebEngage. Such is the level of trust we have built that fierce competitors in the same geogrpahy use our product without blinking an eye or questioning data security. We are now powering customer engagement on over 30,000 websites globally. Around the same time next year, we’ll be on 100K websites. Beat that!


For me the journey couldn’t have been more fulfilling. I feel more excited about our future every day. I still lose track of time and personal responsibilities when I am at work. My 8 year old DELL Latitude is still my best mate. I still enjoy getting my hands dirty whenever I get an opportunity to code. I still try to quit smoking. I have managed to cut down the use of curse words in public. Sadūüė¶


Being the ringmaster at WE is a 24×7 task in itself. I hardly get anytime outside of my own job. Despite that, I am trying to give back to the community in as many ways as I can.


What’s going on at WebEngage?
Last 12 months have been about organization building. On the operations side, we have gotten our sales and support engine in place. On marketing, we kicks anybody’s ass when it comes to creating great quality content. On product, alongside building new capabilities, we made our data stack future ready. We’d soon be releasing an “extension store”, gallery, event based targeting and bunch of other cool things inside WE.


To mark the occasion, we gave the world AppEngage!


What is AppEngage?
AppEngage is mobile marketing automation 2.0 ‚Äď we‚Äôll take you beyond the usual event tracking and push notification products. AppEngage will build enriched profiles for anonymous users and customers using your app. We‚Äôll track behaviour and interests to build user profiles. Once you segment these users, we‚Äôll help you automate engagement and communication across their entire life-cycle. You can use in-app messages, push notifications, emails, text messages, mobile web push and snail mail as the medium of communication.

We are aggressively building AppEngage and rolling out features every week for beta customers. If you wish to get early access, we are giving away a few private beta invites. Request access.


What’s next?
My team is in a “crazy build phase” right now. I am extremely excited about the stuff we are creating. There’s a lot of data and insights that we’ll power you, the customer, with. In another 2 months from now, you’d see us in a brand new avatar. If you are an existing customer willing to get a peek, drop me a note.


Finally …
Wherever I go, whoever I meet – the term WebEngage evokes emotions; Emotions that revolve around commitment, dedication, passion and respect. I am 32 and, thus far, that’s my biggest achievement. I thank each one of you for being the great evangelist you have been. Your help and support counts.


Last 4 years were about learning, executing and growing. Next 4 will be about winning. At WebEngage, we are now bigger, better and hungrier than ever before.


– Avlesh


P.S: Thanks to the nice folks at Super for getting those people videos made.

The Curse Of Knowledge

Earlier this month, at the WebEngage office, we hosted¬†iSpirt’s latest roundtable on “product positioning and messaging“. During the course of this meetup, a very interesting term was coined –¬†The Curse Of Knowledge.

This¬†phrase came up during¬†the discussion¬†when¬†founders were trying to explain their offering and highlight the problems they faced w.r.t¬†product positioning. Almost everyone struggled to “position” their product accurately in front of the small audience in that room. The problem was evident – how on earth would the rest of the world get it right, if people in that room struggled?

curse-of-knowledge

Our¬†anchor attendee, Shankar Marwuwada, coined the phrase “curse of knowledge” to explain the problem. Though the phrase has been around for a while, it was new to me. Also, Shankar’s¬†explanation of the¬†phrase stuck with me. It will continue to be a part of my thought processes and actions for a long long time. I want you to benefit from it¬†too, hence this post.

What is the curse of knowledge?

In very simple terms, it is our inability to accept that the person in front of us (during a¬†conversation) may not be as informed as ourselves. Too complicated to understand? There you go –¬†that’s my curse! Once I spent some time thinking about the whole thing¬†– it started making sense to me. We spend so much time talking¬†– giving instructions to our domestic helps, assigning tasks¬†to peers, selling and marketing our products, seeking help from others … the list goes on.

Our subconscious drives us to speak in our comfort zones. We tend to make assumptions, without even realizing that we are making them. I remember my early days of selling at¬†WebEngage¬†– I’d start doing tech speak almost everytime¬†in my pitches, without realizing that the guy I am pitching to, doesn’t care less about it.

Is it a founder’s curse?

I wish. For if it were, the problem could easily be solved by “fixing” a couple of¬†folks. Unfortunately,¬†we are all cursed – some more, some less.

As engineers, we are so cursed with our understanding of writing software that even the slightest hint of crossing¬†over that bridge, makes us uncomfortable. We “expect” everybody to understand the language we speak. We know the most, you see.

As designers, we are so cursed with our obsession around design, that we give up. We don’t talk at all, because others don’t “get it”. We are so cursed in our heads, that we cannot simply dumb it down for our engineers and customers.

As salesmen/women, we are so cursed with our (mis)understanding of the product, that we try to fix all the problems that the world has – well, with one single product. And then, it shows in our conversations. We don’t give up, even if our prospect does.

As founders, we expect everybody to start delivering great things – because its so simple. Why is it so hard? If we could do it, why can’t everyone else? Right? Wrong. We are cursed with our larger view that has come through our experiences. How on earth would others even have a clue unless its shared as is? Not knowing that is our curse.

I don’t want to speak for investors. However, if you are one, believe me you are cursed too – with your ideas of “themes”, “hot sectors” and “market size”.

Is there a fix?

It seems, yes. Broadly, these are the two things I am working on, to fix my curse:

Learning how to dumb it down – if your role is that of a doer, this helps. No matter what you do, if you can dumb things down to bare essentials, you have gotten rid of your curse. This is not easy – your curse will come in the way to doing so. Your logic will defy your act of dumbing it down. How can you do dumb things after all? If it helps, do remember that your IQ doesn’t go down by doing that. Instead, you are helping others improve theirs.

Learning how to converse – if talking is what you do for a living, learn how to talk less and listen more. Its counter intuitive, but it does help. Arm yourself with resources while talking – data, samples, anecdotes etc.¬†The world is unfair, it wasn’t waiting for you to change it. If you still wish to change it for good, you have to¬†learn how to tell¬†stories. Stories register. Product features don’t. But then, your curse will come in the way of doing so. Why on earth won’t you¬†quickly get down to business than talking bullshit? Right? Yeah, I know … If it helps, do remember that you live in a world where Nobody Cares.

Thanks for a patient read. I wish you a very happy festive season and a “curse free” 2015. May you win!

– Avlesh

To Sir, With Love …

Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well.
~ Aristotle

This article is a tribute to my teachers who shaped me into being a socially acceptable human being. I am sharing some anecdotes from my past life Рthe ones I believe have changed my life. These are instances that influenced my thought process in multiple ways.

To begin with, I wish you and your teachers a very very Happy Teacher’s Day.

Happy Teacher's Day

Image credit: Kardsunlimited.com

Turning off the “shy button” …
I was a very shy guy in my high school. I would never appear on stage, won’t participate in events and won’t talk to folks outside of a closed gang of 4-5 people. And this is how it changed ..

There was an inter-school debate competition – the usual war of “Houses” and the campus was abuzz with activity. My job was simple – like most others, be a part of the milling crowd. A day before the finals, one of the members in our team fell ill, got hospitalized and his family informed to my house master (our teacher) that he cannot speak on the D-day.

I have no idea what made my sir believe that I can be a replacement. He gave me a 750 word article and asked me to rote it in 5 hours and be ready for rehearsals on the eve of finals. Given the kind of subjects we have to “study” (Sanskrit, Geography, History etc to name a few) to get good marks, I had trained myself into being a rote champ.¬†So,¬†that job was easy. However, there was a lot of humiliation to follow. I kept forgetting those words while rehearsing in front of team/teachers. When I tried to do it alone, I¬†did fine.

My house master turned up and said, “I know your problem. It is easy to solve”. He pointed at the tiny audience during rehearsals and said, “Look at these people. They are not human beings. They are vegetables. He is a potato. She is a ladyfinger .. What are you afraid of? Veggies? Come on. They are not¬†living beings. Go ahead and speak your mind!” It sounds silly. Right? Yeah, I know. But that changed me for my life. I learned to express myself, unhindered. I did well on the final day – spoke too fast thoughūüôā .. We didn’t win the competition. But, I was a changed person ..

Thank you Sukhdeo Sir.

Knowledge gives you wisdom (and wings)
I used to hate Physics in my +2. Mostly because of the teacher who taught us the subject. His idea of Physics was simple Рfind a formula, fit the variables somehow and match the answer in your index. Woohoo! Thankfully, this was set to change.

During the course of preparation for IIT-JEE, I started visiting Professor Abhay Singh. His classes were a refreshing change. Physics became Mathematics. And everything started making sense to me. I managed to (just) clear the JEE. However, the long lasting impressions those lectures have had on me, go beyond Physics tutorials. I started daring myself to Olympiad problems Рsomething that I never had the confidence to do before.

And then, I realized confidence only comes from knowledge. Which in turn comes by exploring beyond the obvious. Before I joined ISM-Dhanbad, I helped Abhay Sir co-author the fourth edition of his undergraduate book Problems in Physics.

Thank you Abhay Sir, I am glad to have met you – I would have never understood the meaning of “no depth in knowledge is deep enough. there’s always room for more“.

When on a mission, insulate yourself from rest of the world
For me college days were mostly about being a retard¬†and an arrogant asshole – the guy that¬†¬†people love and hate at the same time. But you know what, there’s this one thing that I was truly in love with – those mean machines that were used¬†in mineral processing and metallurgy. Their sheer scale and size used to fascinate me.

My Professor Bhattacharya Sir saw that in me and prompted me to take one of his long pending ideas further. Since it involved physical modeling, I jumped in. Well that was the start of an agonizing journey. I got so much into it, that I skipped classes, sat for hours creating programs and models Рsome friends thought I was faking it while others thought I had lost it! Irrespective, I got my work done.

To get a patent on the idea, we had to create a prototype and prove our model with data. Given the minuscule R&D budgets that colleges in our country have, we had to run throughout India seeking support from industry.

We failed to raise money. But I won¬†–¬†in many ways. I learned how to insulate myself from the surroundings when I am on a mission. Thank you Bhattacharya Sir.

Sirs, some day, I’ll make each one of you proud. I promise. I am on it.

– Avlesh

We, The People

Its been over 2 months since I last posted. I am trying hard to overcome the laziness, that comes with age, for all things “unproductive”¬†– like writing. Also,¬†it gets a bit difficult to take time out these days from my work scheduleūüė¶

We, at WebEngage, are fast growing on all counts Рrevenues, reach and people. This post is to share my experiences with one of the most important pieces in the growth puzzle РPeople.

Photo credit: Pixgood.com

Photo credit: Pixgood.com | Calxibe.com

As founder(s), do you have growth in your DNA?
Its a tough question to answer. For the world outside, companies are viewed in a top-down formation. ¬†A¬†company’s culture code trickles from the¬†top. Are you transparent enough? Can you articulate your thoughts? Do you review your own performance? Do you question your own decisions? Most importantly, do you ever think you were an idiot on certain instances? It takes a lot to answer “Yes” to all of the above. Let’s pick one of these traits – say, transparency. The very fact that you are transparent, makes you¬†vulnerable. You will be asked questions that is unacceptable for others, but since you are the flag bearer of transparency in your organisation, you are supposed to respond.¬†You’ll discover that there’s a natural tendency of people¬†around you to¬†piggyback and hide their inefficiencies behind your otherwise seemingly beautiful quality. And in all likelihood, you’ll give up that trait. That’s what differentiates good from great. That’s what DNA means. When they use terms like¬†“vision”, this is what they mean. The ability to stick to your great qualities.¬†The ability¬†believe in what you stand for. Once. Forever. Back to the original question – please ask yourself, “do I have it in me?”. Your growth depends on your answer to that question …

Why people matter?
My work life spans across a 9 year window – of which, 8 long years have gone¬†into building startups. Most of the prior startups that I worked for, unfortunately, could not grow into becoming large organisations. Why? Well, when drunk, we’d blame it on lack of money¬†or¬†market. But, whenever I used to contemplate, the reasons appeared to be way more¬†simpler¬†– People. We were just not cut for it. We thought way too small all the time. Growth is a mindset. All startups that grew early had just one thing in common – they had¬†people who were¬†hungry for growth. And for that one simple reason, people matter.

Building and maintaining the¬†company’s culture code
This is one of the most difficult things to do as you grow. I am experiencing it first hand. A good chunk¬†of my time goes into resolving people issues these days. When you are small, it is easy to control the flow of information and communication. You can simply stand up, wave your hands, get the other guys attention and speak up. With a¬†slightly bigger team, by doing the same thing you are unnecessarily distracting¬†several others. Small things like these create an impact on people’s minds in terms of¬†what’s acceptable in the¬†culture versus what’s not. It, ultimately, boils down to being clear about what’s not acceptable. Wanna know what’s not acceptable at WebEngage? There you go:

  1. Don’t command respect, earn it.
  2. Don’t lose your patience, ever.
  3. Don’t encourage mediocrity, negativity¬†and¬†arrogance. Find it, kill it.
  4. Don’t be gut driven, have data/logic to back your thoughts and¬†actions.
  5. Don’t hire a person who doesn’t¬†understand the meaning and importance of all of the above.

Did you ask what has any of the above has got to do with growth? Hmm. Its not an easy thing to explain my friend. But here’s what growth is – a disciplined execution of an otherwise set of arduous and monotonous tasks that you have to do everyday. Our core belief is that people who believe in all of the above are the right people to build a well oiled execution machine called WebEngage.

And, in the end …

Know what your priorities are
Here’s something I have never said before in a public forum –¬†We are an employee first company. Customers come in second. Everyone else is a distant third. This pretty much drives all the decision making in the company. Happy people create great products that¬†gets us happy¬†customers. I work everyday to find people who we’d love to keep happy. People who love to challenge the status quo. People who love to deliver more than what is expected¬†of them. People who want to be a part of the next product onslaught. People who can imagine the unknown … Rings a bell? Come, join us – we are looking for you.

I hope to have made some sense in this post. I’d love to know if your idea of people versus growth is any different.

The WebEngage Story

After a few months of “downtime”, I am opening up. All over again!

When I finished my engineering in 2005, I had a dream – a small one. I wanted to learn how to run a large scale “website” end-to-end. It was a good enough dream to give me the much needed push to join a lesser known startup (Onyomo, IIT-D incubation center).

When I joined Burrp in 2006 as the first employee, I had another dream – a slightly bigger one. I wanted to build an amazing consumer product and a kickass engineering team. While the former was a no-brainer, the latter had a hidden agenda. I was sick of the so-called “engineering talent pool” that this country has to offer. Finding the right team, was a HUGE challenge.

When I and Ankit (my co-founder) started sowing the seeds of WebEngage in 2011, we dreamt once more – this one was BIG. We wanted to build a global brand. More importantly, we wanted to create a space – a market that didn’t exist. We wanted to democratize how on-site marketing is done. Look how far we have come – with a little over $500K in funding and 30 months since launch, we have achieved a feat which is definitely not ordinary. From far east to far west, we have over 21,000¬†websites using us – everyday, every minute. We influence close to 20% of all online sales on the e-commerce sites we work with. That’s our impact!

Yesterday, I received a call from a senior during college days. Of the 15 minutes that we spoke, a large part was dedicated to WebEngage and how he thought I was smart to make certain moves. When he hung up, I went into contemplation mode. I realized that the world’s perception of who you are is primarily based on what they see today. And then, people connect those dots by themselves to weave a story. This post stems from that thought, because I want to tell you our story. The real story.

How it began?
Simply put, from our past experiences of building consumer products as engineers. We realized how difficult it was for marketing teams to push promotional messages on their own website and measure the impact. Development teams and deployment cycles were always the bottleneck. This made us think that the problem is huge. We thought it was time someone democratized on-site communication. So we did.

How it evolved?
Well, in the last 30 months, we have evolved from being a “for the engineer, by the engineer” product to a super sophisticated realtime customer engagement engine for thousands of our customers globally. How? Simple – we never gave up our focus on the product; also, we didn’t cease to grow – be it countless number of rejections or our ability to walk past cynics. Our head and heart has always been in the right place. Underneath is a quick timeline of what we have achieved so far:

Oct, 2011 First version launch (team of 3) wp.me/p20VHj-4P
Mar, 2012 1000 websites were actively using WebEngage wp.me/p20VHj-80
Jun, 2012 Notification product launched (team of 5) wp.me/p20VHj-e2
Jul, 2012 We raised our seed round of capital bit.ly/O80PES
Dec, 2012 Custom Targeting introduced – our innovative solution towards handling issues like cart abandonment wp.me/p20VHj-j1
Dec, 2012 5000 websites were actively using WebEngage wp.me/p20VHj-jR
Mar, 2013 WebEngage goes Enterprise, introduces Custom Data to facilitate deeper enterprise integrations wp.me/p20VHj-lY
Jun, 2013 Our first BIG milestone – 10,000 websites were actively using WebEngage! wp.me/p20VHj-s6
Jul, 2013 Our pricing model revised, we become 3 times expensive wp.me/p20VHj-tV
Aug, 2013 We go beyond e-commerce; find customers in BFSI, Brands, Education etc wp.me/p20VHj-wd
Oct, 2013 WebEngage turns 2! wp.me/p20VHj-Ac
Nov, 2013 Leave Intent Targeting introduced wp.me/p20VHj-xq
Feb, 2014 17,000 websites were actively using WebEngage; integrations for all major platforms bit.ly/1hSodOz
Apr, 2014 WebEngage is now a team of 18. We’ll be 40+ by end of July, 14! bit.ly/1m1TCFh
Team WebEngagewk-team[1]Team – Apr, 2014Team – Oct, 2011

Looking back …

  • If not for the skills acquired while fulfilling my first dream, nothing like WebEngage would have ever taken shape – technology is this company’s core DNA and strength.
  • If not for the team built while building Burrp, WebEngage would have never seen light of the day – a bulk of our team today comprises folks that we hired and loved at Burrp.
  • If not for the obsession of building a brand, we wouldn’t have come this far – powering customer engagement on 21K websites globally (and counting) without any paid marketing is NO joke.

What’s happening right now?
Wish I could summarize!ūüôā .. there’s so much happening, on all fronts – product, team, growth, sales etc. In the last 3/4 months, we received a flurry of inbound interests from VC’s. We pursued with the one’s we liked. And hold your breath, we got two soft offers too! But, the valuation at which money was offered became a deal-breaker. We had to let go. As they say, the common wisdom in fundraise is “take money when its available“. Given the idiots we are, we chose not to follow common wisdom. Why? Well, if I had chosen common wisdom, you’d have never experienced WebEngage in the first place. I have great regards for most of these VC’s, and I am sure, soon they’ll understand why we were rigid on a few things, including valuation. We have believed in creating more value for our customers and stakeholders. We have believed in building an enviable product. Everything else is secondary.

As the team continues to grow, retaining this company’s culture code while keeping its growth engine intact is one of the bigger lessons that I am learning on the job. In short, right now is THE time to be a part of this onslaught called WebEngage. If you have ever had a hidden desire to work for this company, talk to us.

What’s next?
We created a market for “on-site customer engagement”. We are now defining the rules for it. In another 3/4 weeks, WebEngage will become your de-facto analytics and conversion engine for all things real-time on your website. We are building GOALS into our product. Your goals could be reducing cart abandonment, increasing sales in certain categories, increasing the number of registrations on your site, generating more leads, increasing the count of your Twitter/FB followers, optimizing conversion funnel for SEM spends etc. Each of these goals will have a set of solutions that you can use out of the box. Each solution will then generate real-time stats on how we helped you achieve your goal. Basically, we’ll demonstrate where you were without WebEngage and how we impacted your conversions on each of these goals! Sounds cool? We are taking beta customers for this pilot. If you are keen to try this out, lemme know – avlesh[at]webengage]dot[com.

This is it for now. I won’t write this story the next year. Why? Because I believe it would be compelling enough that you’d love to tell it instead, rather than hear from meūüôā We are unstoppable, because for each one us here at WebEngage, growth is a mindset.

The Billion Dollar Indian Dilemma

Let’s go invent tomorrow instead of worrying about what happened yesterday.
~ Steve Jobs

Of late, a lot of people have been discussing about how long would it be before Indian startups hit the billion dollar club more often. More importantly, can India actually deliver billion dollar companies? I am glad that Indian startups have atleast become worthy enough for suits to discuss topics like these. Mainstream media writes about startups often now, startup events look more like mela these days, accelerators continue to show up at an accelerating pace Рall these are great signs.

But you know what is more exciting? Seeing the Flipkart delivery boy everyday in my building, without fail.

Innovation creates BIG opportunities, not cash flows
Of course, we want billion dollar companies. And, I want mine to be one of them. Let’s face it though – do we have it in us to create such businesses? Billion dollar businesses are not created by companies that keep themselves busy with cash flows and targets based on a 5 year revenue projection plan. Instead, these are companies that innovate – every day, every minute. These are companies that thrive for perfection in what they do. That takes balls of steel, and a lot of time in a country like ours.

Image credit: Charteredbanker.com

Image credit: Charteredbanker.com

Who sets the tone for billion dollar companies? Founders, and then, Investors
For internet businesses, it take 10+ years in this country to go public. Leave it to the founders, and they will continue to create value – we have seen that in the past and we continue too see it in the current breed too. But, who creates disproportionate valuations? Investors. A typical valley based startup will “graduate” into the billion dollar club within 4-5 years. Can Indian VC’s spot and take early winners into that club? I don’t think so. We are waiting for some “success stories”. Who will create them in the first place? It takes us a Tiger (Flipkart) and Softbank (InMobi) to propel companies in that league. Indian VC’s were busy worrying about cash-flows, profitability and a bunch of other “sane concerns” when these companies were approaching them. When was the last time somebody sane innovated something? For now, let’s keep cutting tiny cheques at meager valuations and wait for companies to innovate. I wish it were simple to understand that starvation doesn’t lead to innovation. Well, valuation doesn’t lead to that either – but it creates room for it, for teams that are really worth it.

Founders, consumers and everyone else around us need to make this work
Before I put the blame on anybody else – I’ll put myself in the dock. Along with gazillion other cynics, I had the same viewpoint on Flipkart, as most others. Where are the profits? They kept saying look at my warehouses. But, we kept asking the same thing – where are the profits? Does it matter? No. They know how to win. That’s what matters. They were just a bit ahead of time, while they were doing (in)sane things that we could not understand. I am glad that some of us have matured. But, mind you friend, we are still a minority. And, unless that shift happens – good luck! Post Burrp, I lost faith in Indian consumer internet stories. Silly me, every single founder (working on a consumer product) who approached me for advice, got only one – run for cover and find a b2b angle in your idea. I pledge not to do that anymore. Also, thanks Sequoia for taking that leap of faith in Zomato.

Is it end of the road? Hell, NO! We WILL create billion dollar companies
More importantly, we will create stories – far more impactful than our global counterparts. Why? Because our heart is where it should be – in the right place. It takes time to build large companies. It takes a lot of courage and conviction to disrupt existing businesses. Atleast the new breed has that resolve. Time will tell how many of us will get there, but we are surely not giving up. We will push ourselves to the limit. Some have already started to shine –¬†nextbigwhat.com/high-growth-indian-startups-2013-297/

I can see a change already. A lot more needs to happen though. I have chosen not to wait for it. How about you? I say, let’s build valuable companies – together.

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If you liked this one, you might like these as well:

Let an entrepreneur be: wp.me/pS1t-h4
Selling is a state of being: wp.me/pS1t-iQ
VC money is not curse: wp.me/pS1t-dv