Interact with the customers often to evolve the product
Suresh Kondamudi (Co-Founder & CTO of WizRocket Inc.), graduated from IIT Madras in 2003 and joined Qwest Telecoms and then moved on to a startup called ngpay in Bangalore for almost five years and then to Network18 where he met the other Co-Founders, Sunil Thomas (US Citizen for 10 years and came back to India and was the CTO of Network 18) and Anand Jain who Co-Founded burrp which Network 18 acquired and he was heading the technology operations.
Platforms team at Network 18 headed by Suresh was working on various initiatives one of which was to understand users and their behaviour and to cross monetize across multiple content portals of the company. They realised that the portals had data that was oblivious to the other portals about the same user. On the monetization aspects of digital media, they created an AdServer and began targeted ads for the users by leveraging the data collected across the portals which improved CTRs significantly.
Having tasted some success and with a conviction that personalized targeting works, they realized that this indeed was an unmet need for every business. They found a huge market and came out of their jobs in Mid 2013 . Towards, the larger goal of personalisation, they built analytics tool that helps understand the users’ behaviour in terms of wizRocket specific metrics.
They went back to Network18 and began demonstrating the product. Since they knew them, the initial resistance was less and some of the portals there adopted the product. Though it worked well with news or content verticals, they couldn’t use it on day to day basis as the users’ behaviour wouldn’t change so often.
In December 2013, the polished product and the initial set of big customers caught the attention of Y-Combinator Accelerator and they got selected to be interviewed as part of 2013 batch. They went to the US and met multiple mentors. The primary feedback was that this product would work better with big businesses and that there is a large segment of small / medium sized businesses that might not find this product useful.
Armed with that feedback, they did away with everything they did so far and built a patent pending number crunching database that helped redefine the product on the original theme of understanding the users and monetizing on personalised targeting. Instead of reporting pre-computed behavioural metrics, the new product allows the marketing or product team to slice and dice their user data on multiple parameters at realtime interactive speed irrespective of the size of the business.
These insights can be leveraged to interact with the customers in a highly personalised manner via multiple channels like website, mobile apps, email etc.
Suresh says that the team launched in private beta and initially leveraged on their network of friends and ex colleagues to get their first few customers as they were refining and evolving the product and did not go through the traditional sales route of cold call and reaching out. They worked closely with the customers to generalise the specific cases and this helped a great deal in evolving the product. Their product was on par with multiple leading analytics companies in the US and that started VC attention and they got funded by Accel partners in July 2014. They will be launching public beta soon.
Suresh’s Advice – For product building, interact as often as possible with the customers and bring your product to market in faster iterations because no one knows what would work until it works. You should not build a rigid system that will not allow you to change but build it in a platform centric way so that you can plug and play components to adapt the product to the market. Hiring the initial set of core team is very important because they will help define the product and the market and will grow the company fast. Do not hesitate to invest in them.
WizRocket today has 80 customers and 10 employees. Today they crunch 35 million user actions per day. They raised 1.6 Mn $ in Accel partners. They were also featured in ET and YourStory