As of March 2017, there are more than 2.8 million apps in Google Play store. Out of these only 10k apps have been downloaded more than 1 million times.
How many of these 2.8 million apps do you use?
According to App Annie, an average smartphone user have 60 apps on his/her phone and uses 30 apps per month.
Getting 1 million people to download your app and make 300k of them to actually use it every month looks like a tough nut to crack, isn’t it?
Read through this interview to know:
“How Vikas used Data and Technology to go from Zero to 1 million downloads of his News app and 18 million views on his content website.”
Check out our previous interview on “How I built one of the most active startup communities of India” if you happen to miss it.
It took me 15 deals with 2 exits to realise that I enjoy creating products more than merely helping companies grow with money and guidance. You could say that my entrepreneurial spirit took over.
I always believed that India has more opportunities for growth than any other developed nation. So, I shifted my base to Bangalore in the year 2013.
I had a few things in my mind before taking this strange decision. I wanted to:
1. Experience and Contribute to the Indian startup ecosystem.
2. Practice what I preached as a VC and become a better version of myself.
Plash is a union of the forces of Art and Technology that guides our marketing campaigns and creation of technology products.
We believe in using their combined energies. It allows us to create stuff with velocity, empathy and greater interactivity.
Plash media has two business arms:
Few illustrations of our work:
“We focus a lot on blending Art and Technology. Understanding how to use Technology to reach a larger audience has given us an edge over traditional agencies.”
2. Technology arm:
In the last 4 years, we have launched 3 products with moderate success.
The more I understood my needs, the more I felt intrinsically motivated to just come up with a CRM on my own.
Gradually with time, this thought grew into something bigger with the creation of an AI-powered SaaS tool — Alore CRM.
It has advanced CRM capabilities, a built-in email finder, a personalized Drip email campaign creator, a newsletter curator, and the option to have your own AI-powered virtual assistant capture leads and schedule meetings.
Let’s keep Alore’s inception story for another day.
I always believed in the power of knowledge.
“With the rise of internet and social media, everyone has become a publisher. It has become difficult to differentiate between Signal and Noise.”
Plash was started with an idea to segregate knowledge from information and signal from noise.
“A hell lot. It was when I realized that being a VC is unimaginably different from being a founder, and facing the pressure and stress of entrepreneurship yourself.”
Of course, having a strong network is a massive plus but the grind is inescapable.
Our First Product — Plash News App
The Version One of Plash was an AI-powered News Aggregator app that could understand your historical data to give you recommendations relevant to your reading habits.
We raised our angel round of funding in April 2013 and launched Plash News App in Nov 2013.
The mobile app eco-system was in a nascent stage at that point in time. App Store contributed to the majority of downloads and paid marketing channels were relatively cheaper.
It was important for us to rank consistently high in New and Upcoming Apps category for our segment (News and Magazine) and get good reviews from customers and influencers to get noticed by users in the App Store.
To achieve this:
While we did manage to get to 1 million downloads with 30% MAU, it was difficult to monetise our app.
In 2013, the supply of mobile ad inventory was of:
Even with 2 million page views a month, the CTRs were very low (Because of the poor quality of ads). Coupled with low CPC, the RPM was around 0.05$ and thus our revenue numbers were dismal (around $100 a month).
By August 2014, we realised that while there was a product-market-distribution fit, we couldn’t succeed with the business model.
Our angel funding was drying up and we were 2 months away from shutting down.
This is when we went back to the drawing board and noted the following things:
The silver lining — Starting Limitless, our content website:
I have one core belief — “Let Data be your North star”.
Backed with tons of data and user behaviour analytics, we decided to pivot and implement the following things:
We made the difficult decision of downsizing our Back-end and Front-end teams and started our journey of building read.plash.in (WP hosted Self-owned content website).
This time we first fixed our revenue target — 4000$ (That converts to 4 million page views a month to survive).
And we did survive.
Our first article, 14 Signs of a Truly Beautiful Girl, got almost 150k page views within a few days. It validated our assumption that there was a demand for such articles.
From December 2014, we started pushing ourselves harder. We use to publish 20 articles daily. Two people wrote, one distributed, one analysed the results, planned and experimented.
Within a month, we started hitting a monthly run rate of 2 million page views a month.
Surprisingly, 80% of the page hits were coming from the US (Almost triple the RPM when compared with India).
However, by the first week of January, we started stagnating in our daily growth. This was when we realised that it was the perfect time to employ some Growth Hacks.
Hacking Growth in the mad dash days:
Social Media platforms promote fresh content based on the rate at which people like, share and comment.
We created around 30 dummy accounts on each of these platforms. Few days went into making them look genuine. And then, we automated everything with the help of a simple Visual Basic script.
As soon as we posted an article on our website, it would get posted on all platforms. And then the VB script would take over to like, share and comment across the 30 dummy accounts.
The hack not only helped us get traction, we got to learn a lot of things about user behaviour on these platforms. Few of them were:
All of this helped us tremendously and by month 3, we were doing 6 million page views a month.
Since our traffic was largely from the US, our revenue numbers were more than just satisfactory.
Now that we had the Product-Market-Distribution and Business model fit, we revamped and re-launched our content website by name of Limitless in April 2015.
By end of July 2015, we were doing 18 million page views a month.
It was during one of my meetings with the Brand Head of a Fashion retail chain that I mentioned how new age marketers don’t understand technology, which ultimately affects the reach and growth of their brand.
One thing led to another and I ended up recommending him 5 simple tricks that would double the performance of his social media channel.
It more than quadrupled the performance and we got invited to become the digital agency for the brand.
We became a digital agency by serendipity but worked hard for its success. Let me briefly share what worked and what not:
How did we get initial clients through Email marketing:
Learning from our mistakes and taking inspiration from Aaron Ross (Founder of Predictable revenue), we decided to do the following things:
The improvement in response rates was immediately evident to us. Since then we have sourced all our clients through Drip campaigns.
We have made a lot of hiring mistakes. I have collated a list of all the mistakes here.
On the agency side, we have the retainer and project model.
In the retainer model, we enter into an annual agreement with fixed monthly fees. In the project model, we agree to deliver the project at a fixed price.
On the product side, we have a subscription-based model.
Alore CRM is a SaaS tool and works on a monthly as well as annual subscription model, where we charge a fixed price for every user. We offer discounts on annual subscriptions.
Our focus in coming years is to build AI-powered tools that exponentially raise human productivity and engender entirely new and unknown possibilities for human achievements.
The first in this series of products is our AI-powered CRM tool, Alore CRM.
Alore CRM helps salespersons by completing their trivial tasks so that they can focus on things that matter and thus increases their productivity.
Currently, productivity at work is an intangible concept. Our focus over the next 5 years, is to quantify productivity first and slowly work towards increasing it by a factor of ten.
As a startup founder, hiring and retaining top talent was one of the biggest challenges that I faced.
In the early rush of establishing myself, I made many flawed hiring decisions. We scaled rapidly to 40 employees at one point in time but slowly parted ways with employees with whom there was a vision mismatch.
After learning from our mistakes, we took a conscious decision to slow down.
We clearly defined our culture and vision and ensured that every employee is aligned with it. Then we set up a process for everything including hiring, monitoring, and appraisal.
As an ex-VC and an active angel investor, I always tell the following things to the founders I meet and have invested in:
If you are not happy and excited about your startup — Just Quit.
Running a startup is an intense affair. Let me sum it up in a paragraph:
You have bugs to fix; Probably few months of runway left; Processes need improvement; Parents have no clue about what you are up to; Co-founders have quit; Friends crib that you never have time; You need to do a new fundraise; Clients are not paying; You’ve put on weight because you don’t have time to exercise; You cannot afford a vacation for your anniversary because you have product releases.
All of this is for real, but in the end, nothing is more important than your sanity and happiness.
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Hey! Neeraj here, the founder of Pushstart, India’s most active entrepreneur community. I release interviews with successful entrepreneurs every week. Feel free to reach out to me on Facebook | Linkedin | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter.