The pin code 560034 is popular among India’s startup scene. I am also one of them got attracted towards it. While there are so many success stories that we hear, there are multiple unsung stories will go without noticed whether it is success or failure. Everyone will go through their own path of pain in the early stage.
A couple of days back, I was self-assessing myself with a little flashback of what was I doing in the past 9 months. Here is the story of my second startup that is going on right now. It has a few fine points and a few bitter truths. This is the running commentary of my current work and not the end story. Please have a bucket of popcorn before starting. The post is a bit lengthy to read.
It all started earlier in 2015, when I bought my first Virtual Reality headset just to check how Google cardboard and their apps work. I have been in multiple positions in various startups and MNCs coded on multiple languages based on the need and also played various roles both technically and non-technically. I do travel and drive a lot.
After the introduction of Google’s VR headset, I have started exploring more on it and also started capturing 360° photographs wherever I go and built my first VR app and released it on app store. By that time, I met one of my ex-colleague who was interested in VR. So we have started the journey as a private limited company with 50-50 partnership in June 2015. It was started with a simple plan that we should provide best ever experience on Virtual Reality.
We got our first deal from a MNC at Bengaluru to make custom VR headsets and that deal went really well and we made some money. A small writeup about that was published in Times Of India. That gave us huge confidence to start this in full time. We met a few investors and tried to join in a popular startup incubation program funded by Govt. The juries in the selection panel for the program liked our idea and wanted us to join. There was one of the panel member who is running his own incubation program for a foreign MNC tried to pull us there. After a few weeks when we went back to the Govt funded body, we were told that they were waiting for the foreign MNCs response on it before getting us enrolled. And the foreign MNC incubation program coordinator told us to wait for 3 months. So we just felt, it was waste of time.
In the first two months, we were busy with multiple meetings with a few investors and also a few service project works related to VR. We were trying to ride a horse without a rope and nothing solid moved after first 2 months of execution.
I indicated this to then partner about our differences. And he decided to resign from the company post. It was a mutual split up. It is good to split on early days if there are differences between co-founders, it will become unpleasant on later days which will directly impact company and also employees.
I started rowing the boat alone.
Pivoting business model
After that, I took a couple of days to figure out a proper use-case to run VR business in India. I took a week’s time and built a couple of prototype apps that will work for real estate industry. The idea was to build a 3D model dynamically directly from the floor plan by just snapping a photograph from the floor plan in the brochure. There was a proper use-case for builders to utilize this technology for showcasing their apartment.
The technology can be utilized in both Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. I was driving like mad in and around Bangalore for more than a month and met around 40 builders. There was one builder who was ready to invest money but with major stake in the company. After one month ride, I have got multiple projects which is completely different from each other like holographic projection, 3D model building like lego and AR showcase and there was nothing related to VR.
I felt really happy on one side that I am able to convince people and making deals but on the other side, I felt really bad that none of these projects were related to VR. After thinking for a long time, I passed on those projects to one of my friend’s company who is into service industry. By this time, I have spent around 2 Lakh INR on various things like company registration, travel, advertising and marketing materials.
Again after 3 weeks of chase with real estate builders I got my first VR work with a reputed real estate builder in Bangalore to build a complete 3D model interior for an upcoming project. I started quoting a price which is way lesser than market range and the negotiation was going like in a fish market with a person from their senior management. And the price was fixed at 2000 INR as the starting fee and additional 20 Rs for each new view. And I spent more than 20K INR for that work which they wanted for free on a later case. And I did similar work to a couple of more companies. Then I posted a similar work in google play store for free of cost without selling that to anyone. And I have decided to put an end to running a pure service business.
Pivoting business model again and again:
Till then, I had pivoted the idea 2 times. Whenever I met a builder, I used to gather some data points from them for a future use cases. Good that it helped to make the next decision. After a short thought process and validation of the market outside India, I have decided to jump into hardware side of Virtual Reality industry. There is a lot of tutorials about building your own VR headset. So I bought a outer body model and other hardwares from outside India and assembled with a help of a good friend. And money flew away like crazy in this process.
But the output came out really well. And GazeMatic(www.gazematic.com) was launched with G360° Virtual Reality headset. I have mailed to a lot of angel investors and also met a few VCs. One of my friend helped me in getting those investors contacts through LinkedIn and also he is helping in operations. Till that point, I have spent around 5 Lakhs.
A few of the meetings typically went like this. I used to explain about my work and future possibilities. After listening to me for 15 minutes, they used to ask “are you from IIT?” or “Do you have an IITian co-founder?”. It is like direct slap on my face. “I have better things to do and I didn’t even appear for IIT entrance exam” is my humble reply to those souls. These kind of stereotyping mind set needs to change. I am not blaming those college guys but college kids from other colleges are never lesser compared to them in anyway. People get dragged by the media with a few companies.
With the VR headset, I tried hard with many investors and also attended a few events and met people. But didn’t get expected response since investors were skeptical about investing money in it. But our VR headset is advanced version of what is available right now in the market(Oculus, htc vive, sony morpheus). Soon all these companies will move to an independent headset model like what we have. We were working on a few apps for the platform to have it as default apps when we sell the device. Since investors were reluctant on the hardware part, we made a small change and decided to make the first app on iOS and Android platforms to capture the market that will attract them towards using more apps on VR that will eventually make them buying a headset on a later case.
I was working with my team on a nice weekend night to build our first app out. And this happened. My girlfriend left me in a jiffy. tada! Unexpected things happen at unexpected time to testify you. I didn’t even have time to worry about that and I didn’t want to spoil any work that is going on. But whenever something goes wrong, I get more energy to push things forward faster. And 2 weeks of 20×7 hard work, the app TeleportCall(www.teleportcall.com) is born.
It is first of its kind Virtual Reality caller application where you and your partner can travel virtually when you are on a call. There is no such app in any market yet. And we are building best experience to the user with their existing phones. We will be launching the app in a few days in Android market and iOS market after a few weeks. We are building things faster and growing faster. We are 5 people team now with perfect combination who can execute things very well. Our office space is switching between cafe, co working space and home. And currently my money expenditure is going to reach 7.5 lakhs INR which will touch my threshold point soon. We need to close our funding round soon. We have a solid revenue making plan and we will stay ahead with a unique model.
We are here to take you on a virtual journey and make you feel real. Talk to us if you want to know more about us. We love that. Shoot a mail to karthik[at]gazematic[dot]com.
To sum up everything, the lessons learnt after 9 months of execution.
- Find a perfect partner who will be your better half whether it is life or business
- Keep breaking things whatever comes ahead and move forward without looking back
- India needs to grow faster on technology trends and adaptability
- Finding product-market fit might take time but don’t lose hope till you find it
- Can anyone bring you down? The answer is no one except you!
And this is the beginning of our roller coaster story.
[About the author: Karthikeyan NG is the founder and CEO at GazeMatic. He is a Web/mobile/IoT apps developer, Technology Enthusiast, Traveller, Blogger, Marketer, Noob Sales guy. Contact him at karthik [at] gazematic [dot] com]