Starting up is tough…
Re-starting up is tougher…
Re-starting up with no money is tougher square (if not toughest).
After shutting down my first venture – I was dejected (a startup to which I gave up my everything and the only purpose of my life for 2.5+ years, suddenly vanished), angry (I thought I gave up too early, I could have persisted for some time more) but more than anything else, clueless – what to do next? Going back to the typical job was never an option and moreover I wanted to start something again. The question was – WHAT?
I started doing these 3 things
- At Morpheus gang, I started an initiative – RIP startup’s founders (to connect ex-founders with existing startups)
- Started helping my friends’ startups with their recruitment and marketing with no financials and agenda involved
- Started doing theatre again (my passion from school and college)
I enjoyed all these 3 activities and it was indeed a very composed and upright period of my life. Shortly onward, I decided to make a short film. The idea was to make a quality film in zero budget. I had already built a team (theatre) and for other things we did a lot of jugaads. When I was making the short film, I realized that filmmaking is very much an entrepreneurial activity and filmmakers’ stories should essentially be told to a wider audience. So, I decided to start a platform – Stagephod.org (now community.stagephod.com) to showcase filmmakers and their work. Again, it was an agenda-less and not for any sort of profit activity, hence the domain – .org
I always wanted to combine films/videos, entrepreneurship and technology but never knew how. Initially, my main focus was to feature filmmakers and for that I approached video makers on Facebook. Filmmakers liked the idea and happily agreed to share their stories on this platform. While talking to a lot of filmmakers I realized that they all had a common problem, the problem was getting the adequate work opportunities. The filmmakers did not get relevant and frequent work opportunities. On the other hand, while interacting in my startup circle I realized that so many founders were looking to create videos but were not sure of the platform where they could find quality filmmakers. My entrepreneurial bug started popping out again and I instantly saw a problem which could be solved by creating a marketplace where video makers can be connected to video seekers. I did a quick research and founded that around 5-6 companies in the US and Europe are doing similar work and are doing well. So, the idea got validated and Stagephod.com – A marketplace to create videos was born in April’2015.
First 100 clients
Once I understood the need of the marketplace, we quickly put together a website. Now the next challenge was to bring in requirements from the clients. The big question was – How to bring them? With my erstwhile experience of a startup, I knew that the traditional methods (like typical business development) of acquiring clients would not work. I realized that video makers require business development and we could complement them there. So we should do things which they are not doing or cannot do in their individual capacity. We opted for generating lots of content which can be shared. At the same time, I decided, I will not try to write “content’ just for the sake of it, instead I will write and share what I am experiencing and what I am learning (this post is an example) during this journey. I did that and people found that interesting, shared that and orders started pouring in. People read about Stagephod, liked the idea and started referring other startups and within just 5 months we got 100+ clients including Snapdeal, Commonfloor, Toppr, CashKaro, MySmartPrice etc.
Finding a co-founder
Once we started getting traction, I strongly felt the need of a co-founder. Having helped many startups with the co-founder search, I knew that traditional methods like posting a simple message on startup groups does not suffice. Co-founder is a person with whom you spend most of your working hours and you also might end up sharing most of your professional life. So I whispered in the clear communication – where I should tell about myself, my thought process, expectations and give a chance to another person to express. Compatibility is one of the main factors. So, I wrote a detailed post, circulated in social media and after talking to 50+ people, I got a startup-saathi, Akhil Gupta. He is an IIT Delhi alumnus and has worked with Shell before joining Stagephod.com
From the beginning our main focus was to find the best video maker in clients’ budget without compromise on quality. While helping all these 100+ clients, we realized that ‘Concept is King’ when it comes to video. So we started to pitch on only awesome concepts, that can be a huge value proposition in the video creating process. As we all know, thinking does not require any effort but execution does. Coming up with concepts without any advertising background for a variety of businesses catering to different and varied target segments is not an easy task by any means. But then glory lies in overcoming difficult challenges.
We introduced our ‘concept service’ for free and we started providing concepts to our clients. To prepare ourselves for this, we started watching ads, lots of ads and by that we literally mean a lot. We started watching TV for ads and not for the content. The service paid off and augmented our conversion rate. We created our first TV commercial for client – MySmartPrice.
Seeing the positive response, we started building an in-house team of scriptwriters. The idea was to associate with people who have a passion for writing and at the same time have a deep understanding of business and startups to keep a check on the quality of video.
End to End Video Marketing solution
When it comes to business development, our thought process is very simple, identify clients’ problem, solve that problem efficiently/ effectively and then own that problem. Whenever we have multiple ideas to choose from, our method is simple – we try to think from the client’s perspective that if we add this activity/ feature, will that help our client or not. So, after video creation, the next logical step was to provide ‘video marketing’ solutions to make that video content viral. How to identify ROI when it comes to video content is always an issue for companies. So in order to solve this problem, we thought to step into clients’ shoes and started creating creative video content for Stagephod.com internally. Two of the viral content we created were Funny VC Entrepreneur meeting and ProtestKaro. This internal content creation helped us aptly in understanding the video marketing and we started using these insights in video creation for our clients.
In our due time, I also realised that entrepreneurial journey is more about personal growth . The beauty of bootstrapped entrepreneurship is that it makes you realize many of your hidden or unexplored talents/strengths. We should always celebrate the learning first and then the other milestones. It has been an amazing learning journey for me and recently we crossed Rs. 1 Crore mark. 220+ startups have shown their trust in us and have used our platform for video creation. In the current post, I have only mentioned the major milestones but it is a known fact, behind every success there are numerous failures/setbacks. As a part of the game, I enjoyed those failures as they help me in remain grounded and I like to assume that the journey has just begun.