Less than 200 early stage deals are done in India in a year. Which means, thousands of startups don’t get funded. Which in turn means: if you are an early stage entrepreneur, you need to learn the art of bootstrapping. Like, right now. Wingify, which refused external funding and is still going strong, is one company to learn from.
The Delhi based startup founded by Paras Chopra, has its beginnings in the humble notepad. Today the bootstrapped startup has a flagship product called Visual Website Optimizer, with 3,300 customers across 80 plus countries and has around $6 mn in annual revenues.
The tool is an A/B testing product that creates different versions of a website, splits the traffic between the versions and finds the better of the two. Paras says, “Even simple changes in colours can bring change in sales and conversion.”
Their bootstrapped journey began in late 2009. He says, “It did not require a lot of investment to startup. I used my laptop and bought a $20 web server space and the Wingify domain.”
According to Paras, he did not want to waste a lot of time on making Wingify look good, so he got it up and running as soon as possible despite the code being clumsy and hackish. All he wanted was to get the problem right and not the implementation.
He says, bootstrapping, luck and being smart were some of the essential traits that helped with their success. “I was trying a lot of things and some it worked purely by chance, and things were as a chaotic as anybody starting up for the first time,” he adds.
The Idea for starting up goes back to when Paras was in the 9th standard, when his father got him a computer and instead of playing games on it, he started with programming. “Initially it was with Visual basic 6.0. I made small programs like calculator and was happy as I could get the computer to do what I wanted it to,” he says.
It all started with my website project called Naram cheez (Hindi transliteration for software), and it received a lot of interest, which made me decide to place a donation button on the site. As a boy of 10th standard, he felt good getting his first earnings, around Rs 5000-6000, for his efforts.
Over the time he got interested in the Internet and started reading about Internet giants and startups like Yahoo and Google, around this time he stumbled upon, Y Combinator founder Paul Graham’s essays. “The essays are so well written that by the end of reading he would have convinced you to start up. I was so inspired by them that I also wanted to startup on my own” says Paras.
In college Paras majored in Biotechnology, unlike a lot of computer enthusiasts, and was overconfident and wanted to try out new subjects. He specialized in computational biology, which also involved a lot of coding and data analysis.Throughout college he also had his fair stint with college projects which he then called startups.
Paras graduated in 2008 and worked for about two years at a company. “I feel everyone needs to work somewhere before starting up on their own,” he adds. He then listed out his interests and decided to work on the top two on the list, data analytics and marketing, as his side project.
“I told my employer that I am working on my own idea and took their permission to work on it parallely. I did not quit my job as I wanted a financial backup for my project. Especially since my project was not yet financially viable,” says Paras.
His idea was to combine data analytics, optimization and targeting into one tool.After 8 months of coding, he launched Wingify on Hacker News, a great place to launch tech products and get feedback, but was heartbroken by the feedbacks the product received as most people found it difficult to understand. From the feedback, he realised that some of the key things to add to the product were focus, usability, user onboarding and constant feedback since day 1.
“I said fuck it! It is time I focus on one problem,” says Paras
Tools like Google web optimizer was difficult to use back then. And the other option, Omniture Test and Target, which was acquired by Adobe, has an expensive subscription plan. Visual Website Optimizer, wanted to have all the features and yet be affordable. It took him one month to build the tool.
He then met Sparsh, his co-founder. The two started coding Visual Web optimizer. Five months into the beta launch the product got its first 1000 free users. The product was tweaked further based on the feedback from these users.
After 18 months since launch, the company crossed $1 million in revenues. So far the company has got 3 acquisition offers, but hasn’t taken up on any. The startup today has a 40 people strong team with 3300 plus customers that include corporates like Microsoft, AMD, Disney, and others.
At the recently held UnPluggd Paras Chopra spoke about his startup journey and the entrepreneurial experience with Wingify. Watch the video below.
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