Welcome to another episode of LEADERS TALK with Ravindra Gautam. As you have seen in the previous episodes that in this series we welcome the entrepreneurs, founders of startups who have begun their journey of entrepreneurship. They share their experiences of initial challenges they faced and how they overcame them. There is a lot to learn from their experiences. Are there any instances when their boat shakes, and how do they balance it. Our episode is for budding entrepreneurs, where they get to learn through the experiences of other entrepreneurs. They also get the guidance from the spokespersons and they know what they have to do and what all steps they should not take.
We have Sneha Sharma in this episode today who is the co-founder of the mobile app- Tubber. Let’s know from her about her venture. Tell us about your vision and growth.
Ravindra Gautam: What does your app ‘Tubbr’ do and what does this word ‘Tubbr’ mean.
Sneha Sharma: Tubbr is the world’s first personal social network. People can upload and then share their personal photographs etc there. For example people attend wedding functions, birthday parties or other functions . They share a few pictures on some social media platforms and rest of the pictures remain on their phones or other hand-held devices only. Tubbr offers to create personal spaces collaboratively so that a group of people can share their personal spaces there. People have the option of creating personal and public spaces there. These are referred to Tubbr Walls. It can be kept both public or private. The app also gives the options to create multiple timelines and personal spaces to the users.
Ravindra Gautam: How and when did you conceive this idea and when did you begin this?
Sneha Sharma: I met Saurabh at ‘Times’ and there he shared this idea. Saurabh is the co-founder of Tubbr and Ravi is the Technology head. The uniqueness about this idea was that if few people are traveling together , then they all can collaborate to create their personal space on Tubbr and share their stories, pictures, photographs etc over there.
We also see a shift from traditional social media network to micro-communities. This is an integration of chat and traditional platform. Every space would have its own integrated chat.
Ravindra Gautam: When did you launch this?
Sneha Sharma: We registered this app in 2019 but the work was started in 2017. As Ravi is from technical background, he searched and built a technical team. Although building and keeping a team initially becomes a huge challenge. Then Eventually in 2018 we launched it in App –store. Initially we tested it with few hundred beta users only.
We didn’t do marketing in the beginning. But in April 2019 we could manage to raise a fund. And after this we started to do little marketing.
Ravindra Gautam: Who were the fund providers .
Sneha Sharma: There was a group of doctors community in the USA, who usually invests in medical startups. But we could manage to convince them that there is a huge potential with our app. They also had a experience with social networks as they had invested in Snapchat also. They invested $75000 in us.
Ravindra Gautam: How many users are there on Tubbr.
Sneha Sharma: In April 2019 we had 1000 user base which has increased to a 150,000 + users now.
Ravindra Gautam: Share your experience as a founder of ‘Tubbr’.
Sneha Sharma: Both Ravi and Saurabh are the founders. I manage all the communities, marketing and PR. All 150,000 users have come because of my effort.
Ravindra Gautam: ‘Tubbr’ was started with how much capital?
Sneha Sharma: We all were bootstrap. All put their own money, time and energy. We quit our job. Ravi invested some funds and when all was exhausted we looked out and found doctors group in the USA as angel investors.
Ravindra Gautam: What challenges you face when you quit the job and invest all you time in the new venture. How do you manage and arrange funds in the beginning?
Sneha Sharma: Initially we faced downfall and all our savings were utilized. Later when we got funds , we got some relief. Usually, in social networks, revenue comes later when the user-base gets higher. You need to stick to whatever you are doing. A lot of dedication, efforts, passion, and conviction is required. In the beginning because of the financial crunch. You would have to give up your lifestyle. At the time of job, the work usually gets over by 6 pm and we always have option to hang out, go out for party, etc. But here, we had to cut down everything. We cut down our trips and travel and made changes in our lifestyle. All this happens when we see dreams for our future that such hard-work would repay us. Moreover, you have to show these dreams to your team too, that this is a big driving factor for the social network, which is going to solve social media crisis globally. This could be a billion-dollar company.
Ravindra Gautam: How do you hire your new team and what all promises do you make. Is it in terms of salary, or equity or growth of any other kind.
Sneha Sharma: We hire people and eventually we would provide them with some promises. Server team is very important, as the server is the backbone of the infrastructure. Our AWS expenses are more than dollar 2000 per month. Tech infrastructure should be very strong for the social network and content platform. We have deployed 2 people in the server team at the USA, who also hold some equity and are founding members too. Apart from them, we have also hired 2 android and iOS developers on a minimal salary. They are also waiting for the next funds to get their next increment.
Ravindra Gautam: How do you pitch to the investors? The purpose of asking this question is for budding entrepreneurs knowledge, so that they also get to know what kind of challenges there could be and how they should pitch for the investments and succeed in this process.
Sneha Sharma: Pitching and reaching out to the investors a full-time job. There should be more than one founder, minimum two co-founders. One person could take care of business/ product and the other could be the promoter who could reach to investors. In India Start-up community there are many investors who would not invest in single founder company. The maximum of the investors would not do it. Initially, you have to develop a good team. In the beginning for fundraising, the Investors usually see the founders, your team, background and passion of the team. Investors usually invest only if you have a good team, passion and knowledge of the subject you are working in.
The next challenge is to reach out to investors. So, initially we did it through references, connections (which you need to keep finding). We filled a lot of pitching forms (around 120). We filled a lot of forms for acceleration programs and came across IA- (India Acceleration) . They called us and introduced to us the whole eco-system of start-ups. If you are a start-up you should look for Incubation centers in India. There are many incubation centers in India and if you think that your idea is really great you should try applying outside India also.
Ravindra Gautam: How would the new start-ups find these incubations centers. Where to get the contact list of right people.
Sneha Sharma: You would get on Linkedin. Try searching on Gust.com, F6s.com etc. where you would find many accelerator programs and their application. Go there and apply. Rest you may search on Google too.
Ravindra Gautam: As you told that you faced a lot of challenges after you left your job that you finished off with your savings, and you had to change your lifestyle etc. And these sacrifices are done so as to reap good and sweet fruits. Have you ever thought to leave this and start your job back again?
Sneha Sharma: No, we never thought of going back to the job as our venture has a lot of potential and we have our responsibility towards it. Although job has its own struggle, but when you start something of your own, the whole responsibility is ours. We work 7 days a week and don’t think of taking leaves. We have validated our product also, all the 150K users are loving it. So, there is a lot of potential in our product. I have collated several feedback forms, as we want it to be very user friendly. We keep getting good feedback from our existing customers, not only from India but from Europe, USA and other countries also.
We started with big influencers but we have found that the nano and micro-influencers are using this app more. On Instagram, unless you have the base of many followers you cannot be discovered. However, in ‘Tubbr’ the platform is made in such a way that you get discovered easily by right people because the community on ‘Tubbr’ is more close-knit and personal. The response is really good from nano influencers.
Ravindra Gautam: As you told that there should be a minimum of two co-founders where one can look after the technical part and the other marketing. What if both the partners are d=from technical background.
Sneha Sharma: In this case one has to take a stand because marketing is very important. If your product is good but marketing is not good then the product gets failed. And if your product is not good but marketing is good then the product can grow in the market. So, marketing is a very important factor. You should know who to sell your product, how to sell, how to keep your point of view of the whole passion and vision. As the first investor would invest in seeing your passion only without the product in the market. He would see your conviction. You should know how to put your whole idea in front of people not only to investors but to customers, B2B clients. All these pitches are different. You need to work on it. That is why you need to have a good team.
Ravindra Gautam: If we make 5 stages and divide all your marketing strategy into 5 steps, what would that be?
Sneha Sharma: In the case of B2C like on social networking platforms or any content platform, the first most difficult phase is to bring 1st 100 users to the app. So, you would need to convince your friends and family to bring them on board. If you are not able to convince them, you would not be able to convince others too.
The 2nd one is to get your self registered with beta testing platforms online like beta-family, beta-bound. Put your products there. It is a very welcoming community. They welcome new products and adapt them. And it’s all free of cost, you need not pay a penny, as for bootstraps even a penny is too much. They will fill the form and would give you the feedback too.
3rd one is to try reaching influencers and content creators. Not only form India but from other countries too. Try reaching to people from South-east Asia, USA.
Ravindra Gautam: How to pitch those influencers?
Sneha Sharma: You can get the email-id from Instagram, Linkedin, etc. There are many influencers there. You may message them directly that we have an upcoming platform, and tell them that they would be the right fit for it. Give them some promise, don’t bring them on board just for money. Don’t ask for money from them. You give them a vision that this platform would give you this, and we are going to help you become bigger with us, you are going to grow with us, give them a sense of family and promise and they would certainly help.
Ravindra Gautam: Do you have to make some financial commitments also to the influencers?
Sneha Sharma: No, it is not necessary. At the start, I brought everyone organically as we did not have a marketing budget at all. Some people would directly refuse without money and would ask for money upfront.
In the starting, I mailed around 20,000 people and got around 2000 responses. Then I sought their help to spread their word in their respective communities, without money. They spread the word for us. Try reaching out people, the more you reach the better would be the returns.
Ravindra Gautam: What are your future plans.
Sneha Sharma: We are going to launch a contest. This contest would not only for the influencers but for all the users who would bring more users to the platform. We keep experimenting with new ideas, and it is normal that some succeed and some fail.
Ravindra Gautam: Yes, this is why I keep asking such questions in the show, as the budding entrepreneurs learn more from the existing experiences than from doing it on their own. Some guidelines are general and some can be specific/ customized too according to the products. For the newcomers what would you like to share through this show ‘Leaders Talk’.
Sneha Sharma: You should study your competitors, that how they started and how they became big today. How they reached out to people. Like Snapchat started with the student community, Facebook started with college students. In the beginning, you need to define your target audience, whom you should reach out. You cannot reach out to everybody randomly. You should know what to pitch to them. This is very important and it takes much time and effort. It is not a day job. You need to study the big competitors, what strategy they followed initially.
Ravindra Gautam: Today we are in the year 2020. Where do you see Tubbr five years from now that is in the year 2025. What is Tubbr’s vision?
Sneha Sharma: We are trying to make the ultimate social communication and discovery platform. We are going to be the place for influencers where they can leverage their content and monetise it. In today’s date, we see a trend where influencers are turning onto entrepreneurs. They want to leverage out of their own content and they want to monetize it. They want to become their own brand rather than promoting other brands. They usually have good content. Today there is no platform where they are able to leverage their content. People are posting ads and sponsors but they are not getting the proper return. Youtube gives a little which is not enough, efforts are more than the returns. So, eventually, we are going to come up with a feature that I won’t disclose now, which would empower, enable and help these content creators to monetize. They would be having income opportunities through the app and they would earn through their own content.
Ravindra Gautam: How many more users do you expect by the year 2025.
Sneha Sharma: If we get next funding, post that in 18 months we would try reaching 10 million users….and after that 100 million users.
Ravindra Gautam: As you got your last funding of dollar 75000, what amount are you expecting your next funding to be?
Sneha Sharma: We are expecting it to be 7,50,000 to 1 million dollars, as for social media platforms you need a huge amount of money. We have got commitments from small angel investors. We have got many positive feedbacks from the investors. We are just analyzing and seeking who should be the right fit. It is also very important as the investors should also believe in the passion, as when the investors come in they bring a lot of networks as well along with them. You would be leveraging out of it.
Ravindra Gautam and the whole team of LEADERS TALK wish Neha all the very best in all her future endeavours.
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