When you’re an entrepreneur, your investors, clients, employees, friends, family, everybody wants to see what others in your space (“competition”) are doing. So it becomes important for you to actively track your competitors, right?
Three years ago, there was an 18 year old who set out to build a niche employee feedback platform called inFeedo, with a completely different set of philosophies. Despite playing their own niche game in the same enterprise SaaS market that Microsoft and Facebook have been eyeing,Gurgaon based inFeedo has already become a profitable company with 7 digits in recurring revenue and NASDAQ listed companies in its portfolio, without any funding.
The problem that Tanmaya Jain,co-founder,had observed was that most employees in the industry felt neglected and could never get their critical feedback, obstacles or ideas across to the decision makers in their company at the right time. No matter how big a competition Microsoft’s Billion Dollar Enterprise Social Network Yammer was, this was a big yet highly specific problem in the market that was still waiting to be solved. Tanmaya’s mission was to help CEOs grow their companies without losing their culture and make their employees feel heard, with a platform that’s actually used!
Amidst this entire struggle, the addiction to draw inspiration from entrepreneurship articles, YouTube podcasts and startup talks could never be contained. In fact, it was at one such conference at SRCC, Delhi University after which the “catchup” meetings in coffee shops began..
Gaurav Kapur, IPL television presenter was at this conference to share how it was just one bold phone call to a radio station, which completely changed his life when he was just a 17 year old.
There are only 3 words from that one hour speech, that still echo in Tanmaya‘s mind as his source of inspiration that even today trickle down to every new soldier who joins his young inFeedo team.
Ambition, Audacity and Action.
People said it was unrealistic for a college student to head out and start an enterprise company without any previous job experience. And before you jump in with examples, Jobs, Gates and Zuckerberg were only considered as cherry-picked stories from the thousands of college dropouts across the world.
If you don’t dream, you’re nobody. It’s only when these youngsters at inFeedo dared to dream that they could leave their own unique dent in the enterprise space that was heavily dominated by Microsoft Yammer. They say that, one simply needs to start small with an unshakable ambition to bounce back up from repeated failure, an art of understanding people and the right kind of guidance along the way.
When you dream big, you have to take some bold steps and if you’re inexperienced you’ll end up with some big mistakes, the learnings of which stay with you for the rest of your life.
The roll-out of a platform like inFeedo required the buy-in of decision makers at the absolute top of the hierarchy and the audacity required to directly approach the CEOs from million dollar companies came in only after a lot of trial-error and learnings from some serious mistakes. It got even more painful for the team when they were greeted with preconceived notions coming from the previous unsatisfactory experiences that the CEOs had had with the implementation of Microsoft Yammer. That’s when you realize that some of these veterans have actually seen more generations than you’ve actually lived.
It got worse when they had to deal with their own emotional baggage after being publicly snubbed in front of a 300 member audience for asking a panel of 10 investors on stage some uncomfortable questions.
“I’m thinking about starting up,” is where most startups begin and end within the founder’s mind. We live in a startup ecosystem where there’s a lot of talk and most of it doesn’t translate into action.
The key for inFeedo was to just start building a platform , to influence the culture of any large or geographically spread out organization. It was only after 2 uncomfortable pivots and repeated iterations that inFeedo shaped into a usable product that then helped companies recognize any constructive input that their employees could share anonymously, anytime, anywhere.
These were the 3 A’s that helped inFeedo carve their own niche in the B2B SaaS market that’s been long dominated by players like Microsoft Yammer. With Facebook at Work joining the game, it’s been an exciting yet scary place to be in, says Tanmaya.
While they knew that they had created something that’s anonymity driven with a niche purpose of bottom-up employee feedback, it was often perceived as a competitor of Microsoft Yammer whose usage had significantly dropped in most companies out there. The “how are you different?” question always struck an uncomfortable chord in their minds.
It was these words that completely changed their perception towards competition:
“If you’re a musician and are making a new album, you don’t go look at all the other albums that are out today and see how you can make yours better relative to that. You have some songs that you wrote and we have some software that we wrote.” — Stewart Butterfield, founder of Slack
Now that age, failure and perceived competition from corporate giants didn’t matter, inFeedo set out on a path to focus on their niche market of SME’s who needed actionable employee feedback software and not full-fledged gossip-filled social networks that Microsoft Yammer had built.
inFeedo recalls that, only once these self-doubts are off one’s mind can one truly progress in the right direction. You start to carve out your own unique value in the market with a fresh perspective and a special touch of originality that can only come from you. The only comparison that you need to make is with who you were, the day before.
With this Tanmaya believes that the only one thing that differentiates any two companies is their culture and it’s a CEO’s responsibility to craft it not the HR.
When you sit with..
a salesman who spent 15 months in Antarctica,
a techie who dropped out of St. Xaviers college,
a QA engineer who became the sarpanch of 20000 member village,
a data science obsessed sociopath and
a product fanatic who’s been your college room-mate
all on the same lunch table,
all working towards the same mission,
every single day,
you see magic.
Today, more than 5000 employees from heavily funded companies like MakeMyTrip, PayU, Knowlarity, Faasos and Craftsvilla have chosen inFeedo over Microsoft Yammer as their primary employee feedback platform. It is indeed an achievement for these young individuals to have driven corporate giants like Yammer out of these companies.
Although there’s no stopping for this young team, Microsoft’s acquired 154 such companies and ruthlessly merged such solutions into their enterprise suite. Can inFeedo battle this out or will it also end up getting absorbed like Yammer did in 2012?