We had earlier written about the fundamentals that helped us in growing over past one year but recently we looked back to dig further and list down few specifics that we believe helped our growth.
These come from our own experience as a consumer company and might not be applicable to every startup but we hope that something applicable and actionable is derived from the points below.
1) We operated below scale in a very patient manner (Do things that don’t scale — Paul Graham)
Early on, we saved contacts of all our top 300 active users in a company phone and spent a great deal of time in assisting them, reaching out to them. We called them all at least once a month, interacted over WhatsApp and staying tuned to their feedback helped us iterate our product at a faster pace. These users were also the ones whose feedback we gave primary weightage to. The idea was that it’s better to have few hundred very satisfied users than few thousand dissatisfied users.
This further helped us in a subjective product validation as we monitored NPS (Net Promoter Score) and gauged how disappointed they will be, if we took the product away from market.
2) Almost everyone in our team did customer support early on.
Over a period of time, many customers thought that we had a big team of customer support staff while the reality was that anyone would pick up the phone kept on the table in the early days. Reason for this was that, we wanted to listen to every piece of feedback ourselves and understand the issues users faced. The same set of issues and appropriate actions to be taken differed in many instances when viewed from different perspectives of development team, marketing team and product team.
The idea was that we need to have high capacity of attentiveness. We would respond to every tweet, call, email and resolve any issue within 10 minutes. This further reflected in our play store reviews where a vast number of them praise our customer support.
This non-scalable approach is an advantage of being a first mover in the market, the tacit knowledge acquired is invaluable and sets up time compression dis-economies (an MBA jargon for first mover economic advantage) that just can’t be overcome overnight by a clone.
3) We sold like a non-tech company!
Remember those users whom we had on our WhatsApp, we cross-sell and up-sell a lot of different use cases to them by just picking up the phone, so much so that they started recognizing us by our voice over phone. We did a user specific profiling of their spend and the use cases they spent on and carried out over quarters weekly and monthly comparative analysis to predict growth trajectory and fine tune our throttle accordingly.
These users further spread the word about product among their peers and we started mapping behavior of incoming cohorts of users.
4) We iterated very fast for a focused outcome
We have very short product release cycles to experiment and test our hypotheses and improve funnels conversion and KPIs. As a small startup, we realized that at any point of time, there are maximum of 2 metrics that we can focus on.
This ensured that we learnt and acquired knowledge of our social payments domain on a regular weekly basis and this growth is the kind that doesn’t reflect in vanity metrics like app downloads.
5) We maintained sanity when it came to data
We tracked but never over — analysed data. We largely relied on user observation and subjective feedback in early days and later ensured that the assumptions we test are based on decent sized cohorts which are statistically significant. For user observation and feedback, 10–15 users at a time is usually a good number to uncover majority of issues or problems a user would encounter.
6) We started with a clean slate with no prior bias.
We believe that there is nothing ‘standard’ about standards or best practices which is why we put out the disclaimer upfront that our learnings might not be relevant and applicable to all. For a unique product play and especially if you are not copying a product from the West, one requires patience and has to test everything about the product.
We iterated our product with constant user feedback and observation improving the conversions within the product and engagement.
We also got some validation for our approach towards very unique challenges we faced. One such example was partitioning our app in two parts — ‘Split n Settle — Post Transaction money settlement among friends’ and ‘Plan n Pay — Pre Transaction collection among friends’ and the approaches we took were also seen in products whose UX we admire like ClearTrip, Tinder and Google Play.
We have just begun and are learning something new everyday. It is this process of never ending learning from consumers while serving them, that excites and keeps us going on every day.
About The Author
Ankit Singh is the founder of MyPoolin– a payments collection and settlement app for friends. He earlier co-founded Commerce Labs LLP and Aprogift.