From Zostel to WinZo: The founder shares his war story

Startups are tough and more often than not, a lot of things can potentially go wrong. But then, bravehearts fight it out and here is a great piece by Nanda of WinZo.


Sep’15 – @ZostelHostel @ZORooms closed a Series B from Tiger Global

Nov’15 – 7 Founders; diff. people, diff. ideologies. Sell Vs Raise? And amid conversations, TS to sell to OYO got signed

Dec’15 – April’16 – Acquisition gone wrong! [confidential/ sub judicial matter] (2/15)

2016 – Moved out of Zostel – pit of depression – mental models crashed, paper valuation in 🔥, problems were taken away from the problem solver and the tools snatched away from the builder – it felt extremely empty and purpose-less [will share more details some other time] (3/15)
2017 -Wake up Call!Helped few startups, started earning some $$ [during Zostel – cumulatively drew <15L b/w Aug’13-Dec’15 in salaries, not that as founders’ we ever cared], tossed b/w Fintech and Gaming – 2 spaces I personally found quite exciting with infinite potential (4/15)
2017 end – zeroed in on the idea of @WinzoGames – a 2-sided gaming platform, similar to ZO Rooms [Game Developers instead of Hotel Owners, Gamers instead of Travellers] (5/15)
Dec’17 – Feb’18 – met a bunch of folks for Seed Invest., but a lot of them were more keen to know about OYO-ZO story than knowing about the new venture. Got turbo-charged through those days every time I spoke to Manish Agarwal – the main man of the Indian Gaming Ecosystem. (6/15)
Mar’18 – started with a $0.5MM cheque from the v.awesome @RevantB via K-Start [who has also invested in our Series B – his ultrahigh conviction puts a <healthy> performance pressure on all of us]. @VaniKola shared words of wisdom as we started Entrepreneurship 2.0. (7/15) 🚀
Mar’18 – May’19 – built WinZO in a STINGY [not capital efficient, not frugal but stingy!] manner with a super awesome team of 9 ninjas with Anshul, Sahil, Siddharth, Rahul, Pawan, Vivek, Chander (8/15)
Mid’18 – market started 🔥; at a point WinZO was several times < funded than its most funded contemporary [never got much deterred & made the best use of resources, maintained product-obsessed approach, courtesy ZO-OYO exp. & all the hindsight perspective building in 2016] (9/15)
May’19 – raised $4.5MM Series A – the helpful++ @grahul19 came on board from @Kalaari; kept executing to a T; achieved beautiful customer cohorts and deep consumer/ market understanding; @Kaushikkingman @Iam_outofOffice , others joined the dream team; grew 6X over next 6M!(10/15)
Jan- Mar’20 –What happ? Happy to tell you but then I’ll have to kill you 😉

Apr-June’20 – aggro fundraise @ the peak of Covid; turned profitable amid global ambiguity;Déjà vu of Nov’15; only diff. this time both founders 100% aligned on strategy – stay put and conserve $!(11/15)

June’20 – heavens opened doors – got a TS from one of the most prolific interactive entertainment investors across the planet – Makers Fund 🙀

July’20 – soon after Kai Bond at @CourtsideVC joined the party 🥳 (12/15)

Sept’20 – we have $18MM, a business with +ve unit economics, a large business opportunity with a good product market fit, 2 large global gaming investors, 1 existing investor who’s seen us through more thins than thicks, and tonnes of wars to be fought and war stories to share 😊

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