Sunday, February 12, 2012

Our startup journey

It's been more than a month since we posted our last blog, we have been too busy with developing the features that are important to our new client. We have been thinking of scribbling down our start-up journey for a long time. So we think today is good day to stop putting it off.
It has been a bumpy but exciting ride so far. It all started with a casual post lunch conversation. Speaking about the future plans we both were thinking of start-ups mostly. We both had some history of trying some things on our own. One of us started an open source software rating site, and another started to build a contest pool website for people to share about contest's happening around the world. Not to mention nothing really worked out for both of us.
We talked a lot about these and finally we decide to try out our future ventures as a team.


Early days
The first thing we tried to do was a platform for financial advisors in the US. The idea was an open platform to show off the skills of a stock adviser. Our plan was to provide financial analysis tools plus customer management features on the same platform.  During the first stage itself we dropped this idea due to compliance issues in US. Financial advisers were not supposed to do any advertisement or skill projections as per the Federal guidelines.

Requirement from local sub broker
By that time, a sub broker we know talked to us about the need of a software for him to manage all his client accounts across 3 of his branches. We discussed and collected his requirements and decides to start with a real requirement from a customer. Then came the market crash, and recession. Our client was just starting his business, he couldn't survive the bad times and he went out of business. That was the second road block.

Public website 
We talked to a lot of employees on brokerages and people like us who invests in stock markets. All of them were referring to a common website they all use, moneycontrol.com. They use this website to get quotes, know the latest news about the market and maintain their portfolios. We too were using the same website, here we realized one thing. This website everyone uses is full of clutter. Filled with lots of advertisement, lots of spammers around, it's hard to use this website for market news, let aside for investment advise. So we thought of doing a better alternative for moneycontrol. Our plan was to give importance to user generated content, and zero advertisement website. First we choose the name finamates for our product, only to find that name was already used by one of the HP products. Since we didn't want a cease and desist letter for HP, we choose domain finahub.com and started building our platform.

Our goal was to get a user base first and later bill the people who gives stock advise for money. Investment  advisers can use this platform to find prospective clients as well as for managing customers. Along with the platform development we started the process of registering our firm as LLP (Limited Liability Partnership) firm. Our firm Finahub Internet Services LLP got incorporated on Nov 2010.

We launched our platform as a public beta website. Initially the user relationship on platform was like facebook friend. Later we thought that the natural relationship among fellow investors is not that of friendship instead they just follow people who give good advise. So we changed it to twitter like "follow" and "following" relation.

More than 150 people signed up with just twitter based inbound marketing alone. Our mistake was we kept on adding new features with out taking any real feedback. Thus we introduced, portfolios, models, stock picks etc.  We realized that it will take some time to make this website a hit, unless we do advertisement.

Products for Businesses
The sub broker who went out of business during the market crash time contacted us. He talked to us saying he is now back in business he want one designers who can design a static website for him.  He just need plain website with some free stock market widgets in it. We gave him the contact of one of the  web designers we know.

Later after doing some analysis we found out that most of the subbrokers dont even have a website for them. Even for big brokers the websites they have is just static ones except having a facility for online trading. Our thought was to turn our product into a SaaS platform and license  it to stock broking companies.  As a first step we thought of giving a low key websites to subbrokers and aftter capturing some percentage of market we should approach the broker itself and convince them to offer the same to all his clients including subbrokers.

To know whether there is a market for this, we announced this via Linked In , Twitter and facebook. The response was overwhelming.We talked to lot of people who responded and decided to start on this path. We created two new product offerings called Beonline platform meant for sub-brokers and Kinship platform for broking company s.

We gave our first  Beonline SaaS solution to our sub-broker friend and his website is wealthline . He was the first customer we billed and that was our first deposit to our current account. It was a sweet moment.

Kinship platform
Even though we had a lot of  enquiries in queue for  Beonline  platform, we always knew that the real business is with our Kinship platform. So we tried to contact big broking company s with our product.
Soon we got our first customer for our Kinship platform from Kochi. Right now we are working with them to provide a solution that suits their need.

Getting market fit was the key and finally we reached there. We know, as a company we are still evolving.We will continue to write about our start-up story. Keep tuned in.

Finahub founding team