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 a 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 decided 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 the US. Financial advisers were not supposed to do any advertisement or skill projections as per the Federal guidelines.

The requirement from local sub-broker
By that time, a sub-broker we know talked to us about the need for 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 roadblock.

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, 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, set aside for investment advise. So we thought of doing a better alternative for money control. Our plan was to give importance to user-generated content and zero advertisement website. First, we choose the name inmates 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 and started building our platform.

Our goal was to get a user base first and later bill the people who give stock advice 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 in Nov 2010.

We launched our platform as a public beta website. Initially, the user relationship on the 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 advice. 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 without 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 an 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 wants one designer who can design a static website for him.  He just needs a 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 sub-brokers don't 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 low key websites to sub-brokers and aftter capturing some percentage of the market we should approach the broker itself and convince them to offer the same to all his clients including sub-brokers.

To know whether there is a market for this, we announced this via LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. The response was overwhelming. We talked to a 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 booking companys.

We gave our first  Beonline SaaS solution to our sub-broker friend and his website is wealth line . 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 inquiries in the 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