Failing Since 2012 – S01E02

Failing-Since-2012-S01E02

Previously on ‘Failing Since 2012 S01E01‘, Dinker Charak, Founder of Roo Kids app, talked about the first few months of the startup. Now read on …

Failing. Not failed!

When The Going Get Tough (Up To 2013)

Last few month of 2012 and all of 2013 saw us churn out products at an alarming rate.

Curated YouTube Content

Once we decided we would focus on kids (rather than parents), we started with adding videos. Our staff selected these videos and channels. Parents could suggest videos and they would go live once approved by our staff.

This lead to something that was not new for us: Parents liking the idea. ‘Finally there is a site where I can feel assured the videos my kid is watching is safe.’

But this also lead to something that was totally new for us: Kids started using our site. Our traffic grew! And we started to get cooperation of the parents!

Kids Games

We started putting up games on Gungroo.com. Many of these we sourced from sites like girlsgogames.com. Some like Kill My Time, Diwali Blast, Noisy Nathu, etc were built in-house. This section did very well.

Sketching Apps – My Sketch Roo and Trace My Pix

The idea of a sketching app came in a company meeting where we were brainstorming on what next. Once the idea was on the floor, every one latched on to it. This was all we discussed in rest of the meeting.

My Sketch Roo was an HTML5 Canvas based app where one could draw and save a sketch. The sketch would show up in public gallery once our staff approved it.

Soon we had kids making sketches and saving them in their profile on Gungroo.com. Not only were we fun as a product, we were interactive and had user-generated content. Over 20K sketches have been made using this app.

Then we built a variant of this web app where you upload an image and sketch over it to create a petty accurate sketch. We called it ‘Trace My Pix’.

As the usage grew, we noticed parents were sharing the sketches on Facebook (Twitter wasn’t that popular). Pretty soon Facebook became a critical part of spreading the content and getting more users.

However, kids were not our only users. Grown ups started using the apps a lot. The idea of sketching appealed to both grown ups and kids. There was no real way to stop grown ups from using it.

The product, rather than the audience we wanted to target, was defining us. “Let us embrace this and see how far we can pull it.” That is when we thought of creating a kid’s version and a grown-up version.

My Sketch Roo as Facebook App

We created Facebook apps of both My Sketch Roo and Trace My Pix.

On Gungroo.com, which we built for kids, we were seeing grownups use our app to make sketches. On Facebook Apps, which we built for grown ups, we started seeing kids use our app to make sketches!

Kids on India were on Facebook. We had heard about it. But we were seeing it for real now.

Art Contests

You create a sketch and you share it. What next? We decided to hold regular sketching competitions. For every contest we used to pick a theme and awarded two prizes. One prize went to the entry with most number of Likes + Tweets + Up Votes and the other prize went to staff’s choice.

The logic was simple. The more Likes, Tweets and Up Votes we get, the more people know about us and we get more traffic. But these entries may not always be the best. So staff picked the one we thought was the best. A combination of quantity and quality.

Let Teen Be

As we came to terms with presence of kids on Facebook, we realized that many times this was happening with full knowledge of parents. So we decided to create a dashboard for parents of teens on Facebook.

We were worried it might come across as a creepy app meant for helicopter parents. So we presented it as a minimal monitoring by parents. Key aspects being: keeping track of who the friends are and what the teen is posting with public visibility. The parent had to send a request to the teen and teen had to allow the parent’s request for this dashboard to work. This helped in establishing a trust with the teen.

We even sent out a press release that got some interesting write-ups. This app became very popular.

My Public Profile

In early 2013, there were many grownups that were not very Facebook savvy, Facebook hadn’t figured out Privacy well and users were never sure what was visible on their public profile.

We got couple of queries asked if there was a way for parent to know what is visible on their own public profile.

We created a variant called My Public Profile. This showed the pictures and posts that were visible to public. We showed it for past 7 days. In order to see beyond past 7 days, the user had to invite 10 more friends to use the app. Once 10 friends started using the app, the user could see public posts from the time the profile was created on Facebook. Due to this in-built virality, this app was very popular.

All our vital we showing good progress. Except one: Revenue. It was time to sit down and think about earning revenue. As they say, fund raised is not same as revenue generated.

War of Fascinating Galaxies

I like writing short stories. I even self-published a collection called The Murmurs of the Dawn many years ago. So when it came to creating an real world product, I decided to fall back on something I really enjoyed: Sci-fi and Physics.

Taking to parents and other founders, I realised that in India people prefer to pay for something tangible. Eg: They may use online service, but it will be to buy something tangible like a book, dress or a ticket. So we decided to make something tangible for the kids.

I used to hang around in toy stores and try to figure out what products sell most. And I had to do this without seeming like a creep 🙂

It was User v/s Customer play out all over again. This time our focus was on users. It was obvious to us within a week of these field trips that Trading Cards were big. Kids loved them. Never had enough of them. They came in small packages. They were easy to make. And, not so expensive that parents will think thrice (they always think twice before buying anything).

So we created a sci-fi backstory and some interesting characters. We created a set of trading cards in which 40% of the cards were about the characters from our sci-fi backstory and 60% were about cool Physics stuff. See what we did there? Balance Users and Customers. We talked about the physics stuff to the parents. We talked about characters & sci-fi to the kids. They loved it and the kids absorbed the physics stuff too.

We created games that could be played using these cards and made videos demonstrating those games. Though it was all games and fun, there was also some serious learning happening.

These cards sold like proverbial hot cakes. We sold them in fairs, apartments, etc. If a kid played any of the cards games with us for even just 30 seconds, they would end up buying buy it!

But, we could not replicate this success online. We could never sell them in quantities we would have loved to, without them being an online hit. And we just could not crack that.

Still this was our biggest revenue generating product.

We recently added images form these trading cards as stickers in Roo Kids. You can read part of the backstory here.

Blog For Parents

As the popularity grew, we were seeing some interest from brands for advertising. These brands wanted to advertise to parents. But our site was for kids and we did not want to show ads. Also, it was tough to get ads going in Facebook Apps. So we decided to add a blog section with content for parents.

We were learning a lot about parenting and what kids liked. So we started writing articles around our learnings. We also added articles that were ‘Top 10’ like of lists, etc.

We started getting requests for review by founders who were creating app for kids. We decided to do it for free. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Roo Kids app. Without having to do any outreach, all kids app creators were find us and contacting us.

We were getting to know what sorts of app are being created and how well they are doing. This became a very important learning and motivation for creating Roo Kids app.

Chasing Audience

Almost till end of 2013, we churned out products & pivoted at rate of one every 2 months. We blindly went where we got more users, registrations, interactions, page views, etc.

We ended up with 14 products. And now it was time to consolidate and refine.

(cont..)

Originally posted on LinkedIn (E01, E02, E03, E04, E05, Startup Lessons) and Roo Kids App blog as a single post here

Failing Since 2012 – S01E01

warofga art

Failing. Not failed!

We are failing everyday and that is how a startup is different. It is a daily struggle to not be part of the ‘90% who failed’.

I started in 2012 and it has been quite a journey till Roo Kids Chat App. Always a right time to look back and revisit the lessons learnt. For the journey is not over yet.

Get Set, Go – The First Few Months in 2012

Gungroo was build with the vision of a safe & secure messaging for kids. That is how we started and that is what we are today. But somewhere along the way …

Private Family Network

The product started as a private network for families where an admin could allow kids logins to be created (without an email) and family members joining using their email address.

Instead of 1, Gungroo needed 2 passwords for a user to login. This was a crazy idea (http://hackerstreet.in/item?id=16459). The reason was simple: people like to pick bad passwords. They always do. Just by making it 2 passwords, we were increasing safety by order. ‘hello123’ and ‘password123’ are bad passwords. But ‘hello123password123’ is a whole different level.

But, no parent came. Not even the parents who had liked the idea and wanted to jump on such a product. Was it the very plain looking UI, the 2 passwords thing (it did confuse people & our UX guy disapproved of it) or what? But from the number of times I heard, ‘yes, I will create an account and set up soon’ it was obvious: our product needed a lot of setup time.

We did notice that friends whose work places had banned Facebook were using Gungroo a lot. No one in IT knew about Gungroo and they used it for all intra-office gossip.

Moderated Client for GMail

We moved on to add the next planned feature: a moderated client for GMail. The way it worked was that a parent creates a GMail account for the kid using parent’s real info. They never share the password with kid. Then they setup GMail on Gungroo. When an email arrived in GMail’s inbox, Gungroo imported it using IMAP, sent to parent, parent inspected it, approved it and then the kid gets it in her inbox on Gungroo. And vice versa for sending. Cool!?

And, no parent came. Not even the parents who had like the idea and wanted to jump on such a product. Was it the very plain looking UI, need to approve each and every message, email not being as hot vs social media or what? But from the number of times I heard, ‘yes, I will create an account and set up soon’ it was obvious: now our product needed even more setup time.

Moderated Client for Facebook

We moved on to add the next planned feature: a moderated client for Facebook. The way it worked was that a parent allows Gungroo’s Facebook app to read and write on the wall. When kids used Gungroo’s interface to post on Facebook, it was sent to the parent for approval and on approval it was posted to the parent’s wall via Gungroo’s Facebook App. All likes and comments on that post were imported to Gungroo and shown to the kid. Thus Gungroo acted as a safe & moderated client to Facebook. Cool!?

Guess what, no parent came. Not even the parents who had like the idea and wanted to jump on such a product. Was it the very plain looking UI, need to approve each and every message, right audience not knowing about the product or what? But from the number of times I heard, ‘yes, that is a great idea’ it was obvious: our product and we were targeting wrong set of people.

Users v/s Customers

This is when I realised why kid’s products are so tough. The users are the kids and have their own thing going. The customers who will pay for it are parents and they have their own preferences. There was no way we could balance the two and both happy. We had bet on the parents. Parents are busy and have a whole world of worries to keep them busy. Setting up Gungroo was something that had to be done as soon as …

We decided to bet on kids instead. If kids like something enough, they will find a way for their parents to pay for it. This was not a space where a parent could influence the kid much anyway. The only space where parents can strongly influence their kids is in education. No wonder edutech does so better.

(cont..)

Originally posted on LinkedIn (E01, E02, E03, E04, E05, Startup Lessons) and Roo Kids App blog as a single post here