When you’re an entrepreneur, your investors, clients, employees, friends, family, everybody wants to see what others in your space (“competition”) are doing. So it becomes important for you to actively track your competitors, right?
Tanmaya Jain is the 21 year old brought up in Gurgaon, India who’s been running the profitable B2B SaaS company inFeedo. He took this leap into the startup world 3 years ago when he was 18, still studying computer science at Shiv Nadar University.
inFeedo Co-Founder/Founders and Team
An army of soldiers with
- A sales guy who spent 15 months in Antarctica,
- A techie who dropped out of St. Xaviers college,
- A QA engineer who became the sarpanch of 20000 member village,
- A data science obsessed sociopath and
- A batman loving product fanatic
- All lead by a chief smile officer,
- Working towards the same mission,
- Every single day.
When and how did you think about inFeedo? & Who inspired or encouraged you to follow your passion?
inFeedo’s journey began way back in 2013 just after me having completed 1 year in college. Coming from a liberal school, the general concept of university in itself was a pretty big culture shock for Tanmaya, where new ideas were often known to be ignored, shot down or lost in the ocean among hundreds of other stakeholders involved. Hierarchy, bureaucracy and bias were words that were thrown around as justification to make it seem like an inevitable circumstance in large communities. Where it got even more disturbing was that, this was a battle in almost every organization where people had learn’t to accept such an environment as their reality.
The problem that Tanmaya Jain,co-founder,had observed was that most employees in the industry felt neglected and could never get their critical feedback, obstacles or ideas across to the decision makers in their company at the right time. No matter how big a competition Microsoft’s Billion Dollar Enterprise Social Network Yammer was, this was a big yet highly specific problem in the market that was still waiting to be solved. Tanmaya’s mission was to help CEOs grow their companies without losing their culture and make their employees feel heard, with a platform that’s actually used!
Amidst this entire struggle, the addiction to draw inspiration from entrepreneurship articles, YouTube podcasts and startup talks could never be contained. In fact, it was at one such conference at SRCC, Delhi University after which the “catchup” meetings in coffee shops began..
Gaurav Kapur, IPL television presenter was at this conference to share how it was just one bold phone call to a radio station, which completely changed his life when he was just a 17 year old.
There are only 3 words from that one hour speech, that still echo in Tanmaya‘s mind as his source of inspiration that even today trickle down to every new soldier who joins his young inFeedo team.
Ambition, Audacity and Action.
People said it was unrealistic for a college student to head out and start an enterprise company without any previous job experience. And before you jump in with examples, Jobs, Gates and Zuckerberg were only considered as cherry-picked stories from the thousands of college dropouts across the world.
If you don’t dream, you’re nobody. It’s only when these youngsters at inFeedo dared to dream that they could leave their own unique dent in the enterprise space that was heavily dominated by Microsoft Yammer. They say that, one simply needs to start small with an unshakable ambition to bounce back up from repeated failure, an art of understanding people and the right kind of guidance along the way.
When you dream big, you have to take some bold steps and if you’re inexperienced you’ll end up with some big mistakes, the learnings of which stay with you for the rest of your life.
The roll-out of a platform like inFeedo required the buy-in of decision makers at the absolute top of the hierarchy and the audacity required to directly approach the CEOs from million dollar companies came in only after a lot of trial-error and learnings from some serious mistakes. It got even more painful for the team when they were greeted with preconceived notions coming from the previous unsatisfactory experiences that the CEOs had had with the implementation of Microsoft Yammer. That’s when you realize that some of these veterans have actually seen more generations than you’ve actually lived.
It got worse when they had to deal with their own emotional baggage after being publicly snubbed in front of a 300 member audience for asking a panel of 10 investors on stage some uncomfortable questions.
“I’m thinking about starting up,” is where most startups begin and end within the founder’s mind. We live in a startup ecosystem where there’s a lot of talk and most of it doesn’t translate into action.
The key for inFeedo was to just start building a platform , to influence the culture of any large or geographically spread out organization. It was only after 2 uncomfortable pivots and repeated iterations that inFeedo shaped into a usable product that then helped companies recognize any constructive input that their employees could share anonymously, anytime, anywhere.
These were the 3 A’s that helped inFeedo carve their own niche in the B2B SaaS market that’s been long dominated by players like Microsoft Yammer. With Facebook at Work joining the game, it’s been an exciting yet scary place to be in, says Tanmaya.
While they knew that they had created something that’s anonymity driven with a niche purpose of bottom-up employee feedback, it was often perceived as a competitor of Microsoft Yammer whose usage had significantly dropped in most companies out there. The “how are you different?” question always struck an uncomfortable chord in their minds.
It was these words that completely changed their perception towards competition:
“If you’re a musician and are making a new album, you don’t go look at all the other albums that are out today and see how you can make yours better relative to that. You have some songs that you wrote and we have some software that we wrote.” — Stewart Butterfield, founder of Slack
Now that age, failure and perceived competition from corporate giants didn’t matter, inFeedo set out on a path to focus on their niche market of SME’s who needed actionable employee feedback software and not full-fledged gossip-filled social networks that Microsoft Yammer had built.
inFeedo recalls that, only once these self-doubts are off one’s mind can one truly progress in the right direction. You start to carve out your own unique value in the market with a fresh perspective and a special touch of originality that can only come from you. The only comparison that you need to make is with who you were, the day before.
With this Tanmaya believes that the only one thing that differentiates any two companies is their culture and it’s a CEO’s responsibility to craft it not the HR.
Explain more about inFeedo, What makes you special?
While Slack is a superb “internal communication platform” and Yammer is an “enterprise social network” that’s getting outdated, we’re an “enterprise employee feedback platform” with only 1 niche focus area. That is to have 1 dedicated platform to help organizations act on “Real time employee feedback and suggestions to continuously improve culture.” With anonymity as a USP, it does not involve chat, gossip or social elements and will in fact integrate with both Slack/Yammer very soon. It is those quarterly surveys, suggestion boxes, corridor conversations, unstructured town-halls and half-built unused in-house tools that we wish to replace.
What challenges did you face in your life and while setting up inFeedo?
The number 1 challenge in the early days was hands down, recruitment. It took me 2 horrible tech outsourcing experiences and 1 cheating freelancer to finally code the design of the first version of inFeedo on my own. It is only after 2.5 years that I learn’t that startup hiring can never be a documented work flow driven process, it will always be over a casual catch up conversation in a coffee shop.
2nd Challenge :
Product-market fit was the 2nd biggest challenge in line because we fired all our cylinders in the first 3 months building a full fledged product which we never validated. If only I had read the book Lean Startup by Eric Ries back then, we would’ve learn’t that an MVP can go live super-quick with 5 day sprints using the build-measure-learn cycle.
3rd Challenge :
The 3rd challenge for an inexperienced 18 year old was to ask stranger CEOs out there to pay for a product they’ve never heard of, across their entire company. It is only because of the first few CEO’s who looked past the nascent stage product and believed in our vision, that we’ve reached so far. We learn’t that B2B sales is an art that cannot be taught unless experienced hands-on.
It was only after multiple pivots in 2 years, a resume of failures and an inflexion point in our learning curve, on 20th April, 2015 that we got Groupon India (now nearby) as our first paying client. We got the meeting with CEO, Ankur Warikoo after an extremely personal (borderline creepy) cold email but I was an absolute wreck by the time we reached his office in Saket, Delhi.
I was at the funeral of a close friend’s father just an hour before this meet and had already convinced myself that this was going to be another “I will internalize and get back to you” meeting, which in simpler words means no. It was only 20 minutes into the meeting when Ankur stopped our presentation midway and said “Listen Tanmaya, I need this product more than you need the sale.”
That feeling in that very moment is one that I still can’t explain even to myself till date.
What’s the current status and future plans?
All 50+ employee companies with distributed teams, who wish to outsource their idea generation or continuous employee feedback initiatives would love to try inFeedo. Today, more than 5000 employees from people-oriented companies like MakeMyTrip, PayU, Knowlarity, Faasos and Craftsvilla have chosen inFeedo over Microsoft Yammer as their primary employee feedback platform. We don’t make any plans beyond 6 months. Our 2016 growth plan has a singular focus of touching 10000+ paid users in the international market, with an integration heavy platform that’s almost invisible in terms of its adoption/fitment into the people oriented companies out there. The ultimate goal is that, when an idea strikes anybody, anytime, anywhere it should always land up in inFeedo as a habit for it to be channelized effectively.
Being product guys at heart, we’re actively (almost desperately) looking to partner with B2B HR companies having a multi-national presence to help us with the same.