Takeaways from the Second ProductNation Boot Camp #PNCamp #Pune

iSPIRT put together its second Product Nation boot camp for product people, by product people on 8th October 2016 at Persistent Systems’ Office in Pune. It was a day-long coming together of doers: ones who have been there, done that; and ones in the journey of getting there. The format was simple:

takeaways-from-the-second-productnation-boot-camp-pncamp-pune

Successful product entrepreneurs shared details of their journey, interesting hacks and their learning

Teardown session of early stage product startups, who are still looking for product-market fit.

Orchestrated by hand-picked facilitators, there were focused, interactive, deep conversations within small, curated groups. 

I have summarized key learning from the bootcamp below:

ankit-at-adpushupConfirmation Bias

One of the things that stood in the teardown sessions is that more often than not, founders tend to be bogged down with confirmation bias. Despite best intentions, many entrepreneurs look to confirm hypotheses, rather than test them. This is called confirmation bias and may lead to false positives.

Confirmation bias is defined as the tendency to search for and interpret information in a way that confirms one’s own existing preconceptions, beliefs and opinions. Entrepreneurs, generally known to be highly driven people, are intensely focused on their goal and therefore may be extra vulnerable to the destructive effect of confirmation bias

For an entrepreneur, the danger here is obvious: without a clear understanding of the things that might cause your business to fail, it’s impossible to overcome them.

Focus on specifics and go into depth

Another aspect evident from the discussion was that we are often trying to do too many things, and this could be with respect to also adding too many features.

Instead, you want to be the best at one thing your customers want or need. Focus on how that one thing you do best can deliver value to your customers. Become irreplaceable to your customers

To implement even one good idea takes a mountain of work–strategic planning, product development, marketing pushes, financing, administration, human resources, and so much more. Taking one idea to profits is hard. To be successful as an entrepreneur, you have to realize the devil is in the details. Don’t fall into the trap of trying–like so many entrepreneurs–to do too much.

Another benefit of focus for startups is that it enables better marketing. The only way to get mindshare is to have a simple story. It’s hard to be succinct in describing several products. By having a clear and singular focus you can more easily craft a simple story that resonates with customers. This in turn makes it easier to generate PR. And most importantly of all, an easy to describe product and differentiation allows consumers to more easily tell your story and help you create viral growth.

Identify Customer Persona

User Personas are fictional descriptions of a few different profiles of your typical users, based on research and conversations with prospective buyers. They help you understand your users better and are important tools when tailoring the message of your brand. Identifying customer persona helps early can help you in several ways:

Identify your target market – Building a User Persona helps a startup clearly identify and understand its target market

Shape your product or service offering – With this goldmine of information, a startup is uniquely positioned to shape its product or service offering to better cater to the needs of its target buyers. This can, for example, also help you decide the theme for your product landing page, color combination, UX intricacies etc. 

Lead generation – A marketing strategy that is based on well researched user personas, and defined customer decision journeys will result in higher lead generation

Content creation –Once you’ve understood the motivations, goals, challenges and habits of your users and prospective users, you can build content that is designed to address these goals. Your content will now be much more effective and will convert at a higher rate.

How are you divergent?

Suresh from Kissflow showed an interesting slide on how KissFlow was divergent against its contemporaries. Founders need to have clarity on the key criteria their target persona will evaluate before choosing their product. It could be features, price, ease of use etc, and compare it with other players in the market.

Think about this: Why do customers pay for your product or service? What makes it unique and better than that of your competitors?

Your differentiation will stem from the insights you gathered about the problem or the customer which you uniquely believe no one else has.

Rinse and repeat

As an entrepreneur, you need to clearly differentiate between fact and hypothesis. You will make several hypothesis, but you need to test them before making accepting them as a fact. 

The most important element of creating a hypothesis is that it must be “falsifiable.” That means your hypothesis can be rejected after an initial experiment of the hypothesis. 

Second, all hypotheses should be quantifiable. In other words, you must be able to predict, account, and analyze your results. A good hypothesis includes both a question and good methodology to uncover the results. After determining the question and developing your methodology, you should then run a test to analyze the information obtained.

You will be creating hypothesis related to several aspects in your startup journey, viz. product features, customer needs, website, pricing etc. 

Three important rules to keep in mind:

Do not be afraid to test your hypothesis

Be honest with yourself 

Learn from your mistakes.

In the words of Matt Damon in The Martian, “At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you and you’re going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem and you solve the next one, and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home.”

Keep It Simple

And finally an important rule that founders need to imbibe by – Keep It Simple. This applies to your product, it applies to your website, it applies to user onboarding and perhaps almost everything.  The single biggest thing that will attract customers to try you, atleast initially is trust. Trust that you can deliver and trust that what you say is true. Simplicity helps you build this trust. Shy away from unnecessary hype or claims on your website and don’t make it until you make it.

facilitators-at-pncampAll in all, PNcamp is a MUST attend camp for any early stage product startup. It is a unique opportunity to catch the brains of experts and fellow participants through product feedbacks and interactions. What particularly stands out within the iSpirt community and in this even is the candidness of founders and their willingness to share details about their journey.

Guest Post by Rajat Harlalka, Bellurbis Technologies

How to scale your startup successfully and make it Virat !

An iSPIRT Playbook round table

Virat-KohliSo India won against Pakistan in the world cup match….again. I’m sure none of you would have missed it for the world. As you watched every ball with your heart in the mouth, you would have noticed some players performed while others faltered. But in the midst of it, one man stood tall. Virat Kohli, once again proved that he can perform in the toughest of conditions against the best of teams. So what makes Virat Kohli click where other great batsmen stumble ?

Similarly, you see some startups stagnate while others scale consistently. Is there any method to this madness ?

Successful startups who scale are ones who continuously try to improvise, holding on to their strenghts while improving their weaknesses. They build a process driven organisation fixing bottlenecks as they grow. Virat Kohli also worked hard to improve as a batsman, mastering his weakness against the short ball, and learning new strokes even though he was successful without them. Every player starts his international journey with a few apparent flaws. While some work diligently to remove them, others work around them. Then there are those who become victims of their own flaws before they can eliminate them. Similarly, startups who take early success for granted, fall and ultimately perish.

So how do I successfully scale my startup ? When do I know that I’m ready to scale ? Which countries and verticals do I expand?

Should I grow organically or inorganically ? Is enterprise selling important ? How do I build a successful sales team with predictable pipeline ? How does channel sales work? All this many such pertinent questions must be bothering you when think of scaling your startup !

This is why a bunch of successful startup founders met to discuss and understand the process to scale. The 63rd iSPIRT round table on “Scaling Revenues” was led by Aneesh Reddy, CEO Capillary technologies on 13th March, 2106 at Knowlarity, Cybercity office. Ambarish Gupta CEO Knowlarity was the host and also a participant. I was fortunate to participate as an iSPIRT volunteer and met some of the great startup founders there.

RT-Atendees

The list of attendees are as mentioned below:

  1. Ajay Chauhan @salezshark.com
  2. Anand Krushnan @exclusife.com
  3. Aniruddh Jain @salespatron.com,
  4. Bishal Lachhiramka @drishti-soft.com,
  5. Dinesh Gupta @busy.in,
  6. Sachin Bhatia @drishti-soft.com,
  7. Sakshi @posist.com,
  8. Vishal Bansal  @zenatix.com,
  9. Tushar Bhatia @empxtrack.com,
  10. Kushal @fareye.in,
  11. Subrat Kar @vidooly.com,
  12. Samit Arora @salespanda.com,
  13. Rajat Harlalka @iSPIRT volunteer
  14. Ketan @Mettl

RT leader Aneesh [email protected]capillerytech.com

Host &  Ambarish Gupta @knowlarity.com

Lets look at some of the key points discussed in the round table on “Scaling Revenues”

One of the first fundamentals you want to know is that when do you know you are ready to scale ?

Every startup goes through establishing its niche or the product market fit, wherein you get your first 100 paying customers who are not your family and friends. These are customers who know that you are addressing their painpoint and yours is not just a good to have solution. It is very important to ensure you get it right else all your scaling efforts will be futile. Like ‘Steven Covey ‘ in his book 7 habits of highly effective people says “ If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place – faster.”

Now that you are ready to run, faster than the fastest, which market do you expand. India being an easy access, most SaaS founders start with India unless they have a cofounder in US or some associates. So is India the right market to start with ? There are multiple schools of thoughts here. Like Ambarish from knowlarity mentined that they built the company with clients from India and scaled it to a level where their core sales team and processes were established. The initial days of scaling are tough so if you have good acess to clients it can be really useful. Knowlarity then expanded to similar geo’s like Phillipines, Singapore and Malaysia which are english speaking and have similar business culture like India and other ASEAN countries.

Others like Aneesh from Capillary, Tushar Bhatia from Empxtrack and Sachin Bhatia from InsideSalesBox, prefered pitching to US clients first as they see a higher demand and buying maturity in clients there. One of the common observation the group had was that in US you will see only genuine prospects engaging with you so while the pipeline might take time to build, the conversions are better if the value proposition is right. Indian and ASEAN clients are more open to discussion with longer cycle times and lower conversions. Beyond the ASEAN and US, Sachin Bhatia also shared his experience of selling to African clients. He having travelled to 34 countries is quite qualified to write a book on this subject…May be “Selling SaaS to Nomads” or something around it J

Another interesting aspect of selling to US clients came up from Abhinav from Innovacer (watch out, innovacer might be the next mu-sigma in the making ! ) who have mastered the art of leveraging US based events to build a pipeline. Abhinav shared how they build an US events calendar and take up nominal booths there to meet larger base of prospects there. Its well planned and meetings are lined up with delegates much in advance. Event particpation helps in spending time with prospects away from office workload wherein the clients are also in a frame of mind to evaluate options. But you need to ensure, enough homework is done and meetings are planned in advance. Sachin Bhatia also shared similar experiences and vouched for importance of event participation to reach US clients.

The next question was the importance of enterprise sales and larger deals. How do you increase your average deal size and sell higher to enterprise clients?

Lets admit it. Everyone likes enterprise clients. They have the apetite to invest big and also act as a testimony for your product to scale. Aneesh shared his experience around selling to enterprise customers. The deal ticket size can be increased in multiple ways . First – you scale horizontally ie you can upsell and cross-sell. Which means you need to build multiple product modules which can be sold to same clients over the years increasing the account revenue. Next you can scale vertically by intially selling to a pilot base and then expanding into the account. For eg you can sell it to 10 retail outlets and then expand to 200 later or sell to one office and then expand to other locations. Enterprise selling needs you to have the scale or options built into your value proposition. Build new complimentary offerings every year.

RT-attendees2Channel Management was the another crucial aspect discussed. Dinesh Gupta of Busy software(www.busy.in) led the discussion. Busy competes with Tally as a market leader. They built and scaled a product in a market where tally is a houseold name amongst Chartered accountants their key evangelists. Couple of important points amonst many pointed by Dinesh are here. Firstly, Identify partners for whom your product and revenue are substantial part of their business. In other workds they need to have their skin in the game. Otherwise you’ll end up having a lot of channel partners but no sales. The other important aspect of channel sales is to educate the partners. Education helps twofold. It creates a buy-in amonst the partners who can then sell better. Plus it helps them put the value proposition better in front of their customers. The group also discussed channel margins and how much to pay. While it was a long discussion, the crux of it was that you should pay partners well , may be more in initial days to get a foothold in new markets. It has to be enough of a motivation for them to sell. Subrat Krar from Vidooly also shared his experience on how they are leveraging marketing agencies as channel partners to expand their video analytics software.

The team also spent some time discussion the sales team structure, hiring VP of Sales and how to build a scalable predicable pipeline. From what I gathered, it seemed that setting up an inside sales team is no brainer. It’s a must have. How to ensure it delivers is a larger discussion for which you might want to talk to an expert amounst people above who have scaled or to Sachin bhatia who has a product in the same space. But to build a sustainable pipelines, you need to also put the right metrics in place for the sales team. Eg the inside sales team should be measured on fixed demos, the sales team on closures. Few participants discussed sales quotas for sellers ranging from 1:4 to 1:10 of the CTC. Tushar from Empxtrax and Ketan from Mettl also shared their insights and metrics on hiring costs and metrics.

Depending on the product and brand pull it may vary. Ultimately it should not be so much of stretch for the seller that he does not even feel like trying nor it should be so easy for him that he does not get the aldrelin rush while closing a deal. You need to find your sweet balance.

RT-atendees3Premium/Free Trial vs no pricing mentioned on website was another aspect discussed. Different people have different models but largely the group agreed that most are moving away from freemium and those targeting enterprise do not prefer to display the price on the site at all as it varies by scale and need of clients.

Aneesh also shared his views and experience on attaining inorganic growth. Capillery having recently acquired MartJack, an esablished online ecommerce software company was best placed to answer it. Aneesh mentioned that any new startup takes 1.5 to 2 years to establish their product market fit and then to scale to a level where they are ready for enterprise sales. If you want to continuously increase your client revenue share and grow the market, inorganic acquisitions help you in cutting the time to the market. This then helps you focus on other aspects of scale.

Overall another wonderful round table by iSPIRT. Need to thank our man Avinash for arranging the round table. He is like Tendulkar, silently but strongly delivers what his fans wantJ. Special thanks to Ambarish for hosting us at Knowlarity and for his insights into scaling startups. Finally, many thanks to Aneesh and Anant from Capillery for leading such an interative round table and sharing deep insights from their business.

Okay, enough of insights and tips. Lets get down to basics. What do you think is India’s chance to win this T20 world cup ? Fine, we lost to New Zealand in Nagpur but the same thing happened in 2011 (when India lost to South Africa in Nagpur) and we went on to the win the World Cup. We are now on a high after beating Pakistan. As Pakistani team would say “Goli se daar nahi lagta sahab, Kohli se lagta hain (Pakistan don’t fear bullets, they fear Kohli)” (courtesy Sehwag commentary)

But you guys have nothing to fear. Take the leap of faith as you step forward to take your startups to new heights.

Take your wings and set on to fly

You might stumble but that’s only when you try

Don’t just give up if you face a few bump

Coz harder the conflict the more glorious is the triump

Happy Scaling guys ! And India will surely Win the T20 World Cup !

40th #PlayBookRT in NCR on “Break the Barriers of Selling” by Deepak Prakash

iSPIRT kicked off its first roundtable for 2015 on 17th January at the office of Eko India, Gurgaon. The PlaybookRT was led by Deepak Prakash, Former VP of Sales at Tally Solutions. He has led building the entire sales network bottoms up and was the #1 sales person at Tally. Under him, Tally evolved from direct selling to single-tier home grown network for dominance and further evolved into a two tier network to create availability supplementing with all possible marketing activities with money/without money to reach-out to every potential buyer of our product(s).

The theme of the PlayBook Roundtable was something that poses a challenge for all tech entrepreneurs – Sales. Sales is what riddles most of the IT Product company start-ups – each one to his riddle. The intriguing problem of sales combined with Deepak’s experience and expertise in this subject ensured we had a full house on cold Saturday morning.

2015-01-17 18.30.11Overview

There are roughly about 1.25 crore SMEs in India, and about 40 Lakh of them have computers and are ready for automation. This provides a huge opportunity for enterprise software providers. Most of tech entrepreneurs have built interesting products to address this large market, however sales has always been the Achilles’ heels. Deepak broadly outlined the following sales strategies to tackle this market.

Building an effective sales team

Understand the sales psyche

In order to build a successful sales team, it is imperative to understand the psyche of sales people. As tech entrepreneurs, we usually tend to apply the same yardstick for both technology folks and sales team. This approach is incorrect.

  • Engineers and techies can accept failures easily, take it up as a challenge and build upon it. If there is a defect or something is not working, they will try new approaches to solve it. But for a sales guy, who is in front of a customer alone, failure can more often than not challenge his pride and ego. It needs a lot of effort for a sales person to swallow this failure and start afresh next morning. Inorder to keep his motivation high, it is necessary that we celebrate small sales victories and communicate the role he is playing in the organization.
  • Developers and tech teams go by logic and enjoy data, analytics and whatsapp/SMS. While sales teams enjoy phone call over IM and there is more emotion in place. It is very easy for a sales person to become lost or feel small in a tech setup. Entrepreneurs need to work and ensure that both teams understand each other’s importance.

Hiring A Sales Team

In response to a question on what traits we should look for while hiring for a sales position, Deepak mentioned:

  • The person should be able to make the customer comfortable and make him speak about his problems and needs. Only if a sales person can understand the pain point of customer, can he suggest the right value proposition. Someone who talks a lot and does not let others talk is not necessarily a good sales person.
  • A good sales person will typically have his pipeline on tips of his fingertips. He should be able to spell this out at any time.
  • Someone who says I can sell anything and I don’t need to know the product is a person you want to avoid. Because as an entrepreneur you want him to focus on product demo, and confide in the fact that your product is good enough that sale will happen if the right message goes to the customer.

In response to comments that it is difficult to find sales people who are ambitious or motivated, Sumit Kapoor from Employwise mentioned that it is not entirely correct. It is for the leader to inspire their people. We are able to inspire and motivate tech people easily but not sales people.

However, before hiring a sales team, founders need to ensure that the product or startup is at a stage where someone else can do the sales for them. E.g. if the sales calls become repetitive, you know that our sales process and collateral are ready for delegation.

Sales Team Training and Measuring Success

Deepak also shared his approach of measuring the success of sales teams:

  • Do not measure the success of a sales person by the number of cheques he gets but by the number of demos he makes. As an entrepreneur, we need to believe that our product is good and so if the sales person focuses on a good demonstration, cheques will come and business will happen.
  • The target or objective for sales team should be to talk about your passion, your innovation and your pride.
  • We need to understand the dream of sales people. Rather than imposing our dream on them, if we start worrying about their dream, they will start worrying about yours.

The discussion then meandered into how to train and motivate your sales team. Everyone one chimed in with interesting thoughts and here are some of them:

  • The first sales call for a new joinee is like sending a child to school. As parents we have to hold their hands and be there at the background. In case we close sale, do not ever say that sales happened because of me. Motive the new member and make him feel that he was the one who closed the deal.
  • In technology, we attempt to solve problems that are under your control, while sales depend on other people (end user, decision maker and several stakeholders) and so we have to be patience and cut the sales team some slack.
  • The only fear that sales folks have on the road is that sale will not happen. With every rejection, they lose a bit of self esteem. They have to recover from this loss over the night and get ready for a new day and a new fight. And on top of it, we as organizations impose tools such as CRM they have to fill in. These CRMs do not talk back and understand their feeling. At Tally Deepak used to call his boys everyday at 7 pm and hear them out, giving them a chance to vent out their feelings.
  • In a tech company, usually a sales person is considered an outsider. But if the rest of the team starts seeing as a bread winner and if the sales person gets a feeling that the team depends on him, this will give him a high.
  • As entrepreneurs, we also need to understand the difference between entrepreneurs and employees. Employees live for a lifestyle while entrepreneurs live for building an organization. Employees will plan for vacation, holidays etc. and we need to appreciate this.
  • Normally we give just product training to sales teams but customers usually want to talk to someone who understands them. So domain knowledge becomes important.
  • We try to surround sales people with tools such as CRM citing terms such as productivity, efficiency etc. These terms more often than not are Greek to them and they feel you are trying to control them, while the feeling inside them is freedom. We have to explain them to them that the tool is for liberation so that they start enjoying it.

2015-01-17 15.29.56Digital vs. Feet on Street

The discussion also got into choosing between Digital and Foot on Street and whether startups should try both. Sumeet opined that it is best not to get into a situation where we do both.

  • A digital strategy takes time to build as you have to create content, online brand etc. that does not happen overnight.
  • You also need to ensure that your customers are comfortable going through the entire sales cycle digitally including making payments. If there is any trade deficit, digital may not work.
  • While building your digital content strategy, you also need to ensure whether your target SMEs are coming online to search for data. Do they have enough time or knowledge on how some of their problems will be solved.

While if you are going for feet on street, you need to remember to bring in processes that will help you scale. E.g. you have to build a sales engine through which if you run a new hire, he can go and sell your product.

Sometimes combining both digital and feet on street can mask problems in either of the approaches. E.g. if customers are not comfortable making payments online, we get our sales team to talk to them and make payments offline. This prevents us from addressing the real problem, which perhaps could be a trade deficit.

Building a Channels Strategy

The mantra of success was that they created their own channel network, this lead to a dedicated network which will take all the products Tally would have created or will create. They ensured that their channel has enough activity to do, opportunity to encash and inclusive work for their growth was charted.

Channel works well when people already know your brand. There are three major things that channels can help you with:

  • Sell your product
  • Act as fulfilment centres for your product
  • Extension of network for messaging

Your channel strategy also has to evolve in-time. When you want to create deeper reach and availability you need to recruit another set of partners, and in parallel ensure that the already present channel also gains from your expansion.

Channel strategy has changes considerably between pre MNC and post MNC. Earlier there was a lot of relationship building, but now most of the channel partners play around very low margins. Entrepreneurs need to be wary of which strategy they want to adopt here.

Bundling Your Products

Another strategy tried by several companies is to bundle the product with another product that sells more. FMCG industry has done it very successfully. A couple of things that need to be taken care when pursuing this path are:

  • The product you are bundling with should resonate with your own product. E.g. both products can complete each other
  • Are the sales people selling the original product understand your product or are able to explain to customers about your products.

Referrals

Referrals are another avenue that startups can explore, however before doing so you need to ensure that you are capable to handle all the leads that come in. Throwing a bigger net that you can manage can actually backfire for you.

Right Business Model

Several SaaS based business have a monthly model where they would call businessmen every month to pay. This may not work well with SMEs. Your customer’s business is not to buy software with you. He would rather want to concentrate on his business. Hence it may make more sense to opt for an annual model. The serious customers will anyways buy this. Exotel had a similar experience.

Reaching out to different stakeholders

Often in an B2B setup, the user, decision maker and paying authority are different. The discussion moved to what should be the order in which different stakeholders are reached out. Usually sales team members are hesitant to meet the owner as they face the possibility of heavy rejection. Also owners are not interested in features but in how the tool can either help them save money or make more. However, they do depend on feedback from the user or beneficiary. Hence the sales team should first reach out to the user or beneficiary and then the owner. Sometimes the owner also depends on inputs from a Subject Matter Expert, who could be an IT guy or engineer in his friend/family and sometimes others (e.g. CAs in case of Tally)

However, in case of channels the approach is opposite. You first reach out to the owner to get them buy your proposition. Following this you want to reach out to the sales team of the partner so that they are well educated and trained to sell or demo your product.

2015-01-17 15.30.21Monopolistic Market

Dinesh Agarwal from Busy Software shared insights on how they penetrated a market which was dominated by one large player – Tally. He banked on users and stakeholders in accounting software to identify niche features that were required by a segment but not offered by Tally. One of such feature was statuary compliance. They launched this feature at half the price and this helped them penetrate. They also carved out their channel strategy and ecosystem that helped to build a strong market base.

Going International

Deepak also touched upon some key considerations while eyeing international sales:

  • Your product will need to be adapted to the particular market you intend to tap into. It could be for example statuary compliance or local language support.
  • International markets can be expensive and hence you need to plan well
  • From a sales strategy, there will be broad similarities. E.g. international markets also have channels that work on the same motivations and contours.
  • You need to accept the fact that no one in a new market knows you or your product. So if you start from scratch.
  • The business problems and challenges are similar in different markets. They too have similar HR problems or business problems.
  • There also needs to be a culture adoption, especially the way you communicate or conduct your sales effort.
  • Before starting to build a channel in an international market, it usually makes sense that you acquire the first 10-20 customers yourself. This will help you understand the market better, ensure your product is ready and help you exploit the channel strategy much better.
  • Set clear expectations and objectives so that you know when to get out if things are not working.

Conclusion

One thing that stood clear from inputs of all participants was that there is no size that fits all. Different solutions and strategies yielded results for different teams and entrepreneurs. It is imperative not to wear someone else’s stripes. Pick up a strategy that is doable for you based on the types of person you are and situation you are in.

2015-01-17 13.36.59The high level of interest and engagement from all participants was evident as the session that planned for 3-4 hours got extended to beyond 7 hours. We finally concluded our first Roundtable for 2015 with a promise from Deepak that he will back with us in a couple of months.

Appiterate: Instant publishing & A/B testing on mobile apps using visual editor for iOS and Android apps

Product management and development teams have been using A/B Testing on the web to optimize the experience for users. However, doing A/B testing on mobile has been a challenge especially because the way native apps are deployed currently:

– Native apps are deployed via the marketplaces, making MVP and beta releases very difficult.

– The app stores, especially iTunes, has a review cycle which means apps are available download only after a period of time.

Therefore companies aren’t able to experiment as quickly or thoroughly as they are on the Web. Every app release is a gamble that relies on the assumption that every aspect of the release will appeal to the app’s audience. If it doesn’t, or if there’s a problem, filing an updated version of the app and having it reach the marketplace can take days or weeks.

Developers and product managers need to see how small changes affect engagement, retention, lifetimes value and, of course, monetization of their apps. AppIterate intends to solve this problem with their WYSIWYG A/B testing platform for native mobile apps. It allows app publishers to A/B test and iteratively optimize their designs/UX and functionality of their mobile apps to improve in app purchases, user engagement and conversion metrics. It also allows app publishers to run tests and deploy based on user segments and see real time conversion metrics.

Some of the main features of the app include Real Time A/B testing on native apps, using which developers can test new designs, copy, call-to-action buttons in real-time and push the winning version to all the users without pushing a new update to the app store. Feature Testing and Roll-back is another feature using which developers can test new Features, UX-flows etc during an app update process on a sample population. If the feature does well, deploy it to all of the users, otherwise roll-it back, all without pushing another update through the app store.

appiterate

Many a times, small changes to the app are required, like a change in copy, change in phone number, increase/change in size/position of a button. The service also gives app-publishers, the ability to make these changes and push them to the users live without re-submitting the app to the app store. Segmentation lets you target a subset of your users based on the criteria defined by you. You can target users based on their OS version, activity, location or any other custom criteria defined by you. Thanks to WYSIWYG editor, even Marketers and Product Managers can create A/B tests easily without any knowledge of coding at all.

Mobile A/B Testing has seen a flurry of activities in the last few months. This includes startups with venture backing such as Apptimize, Swrve and Leanplum. Most of these allow publishers to do A/B testing on native apps using a web interface and get interesting analytics. Other rivals include Pathmapp and Bees & Pollen.  There also players such as BetaGlide which can also measure CPU and memory consumption of an app while it is running and can track it against an event.

Appiterate: Instant publishing & A/B testing on mobile apps using visual editor for iOS and Android apps

AppIterate is a WYSIWYG A/B testing platform for native mobile apps. It allows app publishers to A/B test and iteratively optimize their designs/UX and functionality of their mobile apps to improve in app purchases, user engagement and conversion metrics. It also allows app publishers to run tests and deploy based on user segments and see real time conversion metrics.

On April 21st, Avinash and I had a telephonic chat with Tanuj Mendiratta on the story behind Appiterate, their current traction and future roadmap.

Q. Could you give our readers some background about Airwoot and how you started the venture.

[Appiterate]: Appiterate was founded by 3 cofounders who were each pursing different paths. Anuj and I started working on DSYN while I was still studying at IIM Calcultta. Anuj was my batchmate from DCE. We figured out the in the mobile space a lot of tech was happening but nothing much on design. DSYN was trying to fill this gap. By December 2010, we had signed up a few clients including the likes of Vodafone. We both, then decided to skip the placements. We soon got in touch with Mayank, an IITD grad, who was working on tech offerings in the similar field. Given our complimentary offerings, we decided to partner together. We grew the services company to 35 people, with more than INR 2 Cr annual revenue and signed up clients such as Zomato, Ixigo, Sears, P&G etc.

Q. How and when did you decide to pivot from a services company to a product company?

[Appiterate]: Our services business was growing pretty well. But we wanted to scale quickly and build a big company. A lot of interesting things were happening on mobile, and with age at our side, we wanted to experiment with something that could grow big quite fast. We also felt that running product and services together was impossible as it meant compromising on the services delivery.

We started working on a product in January 2013. By middle of last year, we raised funding from SAIF and by October we closed down the services business completely.

Q. What happened once you decided to close down your services business?

[Appiterate]: Once we decided to pivot, we felt the need to hire a completely new team as working on a product meant different skill sets and approach. However, we worked with every employee to ensure that they were able to transition to positions at other companies. This included working with our clients to absorb some of engineers as well as conducting interviews at our office for our employees.

Q. Was the decision to close down services business completely triggered by having investors on board?

[Appiterate]: No, it was a completely internal decision. We wanted to purely focus on product.

Q. Was the decision to close down services business completely triggered by having investors on board?

[Appiterate]: No, it was a completely internal decision. We wanted to purely focus on product.

Q. How did you identify the product that you wanted to focus on?

[Appiterate]: During our services business, we interacted with a lot of clients to figure out what they were looking and whether we could productize any of these. We figured out that there was no platform in the market that allowed companies to interact and manage relationships with their users for their mobile apps. Hence we narrowed down to Appiterate.

Q. In terms of your approach and mindset, what did it mean to pivot to a product company?

[Appiterate]: There is a mindset challenge that you need to overcome when pivot to a complete product based company. With services, revenue was coming in steadily and we were a decently established profitable company. From this we moved to a company with no customers and start building out a new product from scratch.

Q. There are a couple of other A/B testing platforms that have come up, so of the backed by accelerators such as YC and TechStars. How do you see them?

[Appiterate]: There are a couple of startups that have come up in the silicon valley offering an A/B testing platform for mobile. This is a good validation for us about the market opportunity. However in terms of product, we believe we are more refined than the other players.

Q. Which is your current focused market?

[Appiterate]: We are focused on the global market. At the same, the Indian ecosystem has also matured, and we are seeing traction here as well.

Q. Given that you do not have presence elsewhere, how are you tapping the global market?

[Appiterate]: In today’s globalized world, location does not matter. We travel to meet our potential customers, organize webinars etc. to get in touch with and explain our offerings.

Q. Tell us something about your current team

[Appiterate]: Our current team strength is 10 and that includes some brilliant folks.

Q. What is Appiterate’s business model?

[Appiterate]: We are offering our platform on a SaaS model.

Q. What does Appiterate’s roadmap look like?

[Appiterate]: A/B Testing is just the start for us. We want to help app publishers better monetize post download. We want to be a CRM for mobile apps wherein a product manager can manage all communication with the users.

Q. What is your marketing strategy?

[Appiterate]: We intend to use both inbound and outbound marketing and position ourselves as a complete relationship management platform for mobile apps.