BetaGlide: They will Beta Test your apps and will make millions doing it

For those who don’t know,Amritanshu Anand along with Anshul Singhle, is the co-founder of BetaGlide; a Kharagpur startup which in April 2014, got a million dollars in funding at the Rice Business Plan Competition.
Diligently, The Scholars’ Avenue caught up with co-founder Amritanshu Anand, and got him to chronicle his journey from inception to implementation. Edited excerpts follow.

 

The Beta-Guide to make a million

TSA: Hello Mr. Amritanshu and thank you for doing this interview with us. First up, how does it feel when your start-up finally gets the funds to scale up?
Amritanshu: I’ve told this story many times. We had pitched for 400,000$ in the states. And on a Sunday we were talking to the VC(Venture Capitalist), explaining to them how our product worked. And they had a team of 15 people, tearing our product apart, asking us business related and technical questions. And then they told us, give us some time, we’ll go through the product and call you back.
Now, what happens in India is that if you go to a VC, and they like your idea but don’t want to invest in you, they say “we like your idea, but you’re a little early for us. Keep in touch; come back later”. We call this getting “friend-zoned” by the VC.
We thought we were friend-zoned by the VC again. So I sent him a text saying that we were going back to the hotel, and if he wanted us here, he could let us know. He replied: “Come over, I have something to share with you”. We go there and this guy is all smiles and he comes and says, “Amri, lets go for a walk”. So we thought, “Oh My God, something is about to happen right now”.
He tells us “So you wanted 400,000$, we’re going to give you a million”.
We were excited; from rags to riches instantly. But then we controlled our emotions and asked him very seriously; “But what are the terms?” Because in the end terms are very essential. We had learnt this from our past experiences. After going through all the terms, we were shouting like crazy, now that we were millionaires. And we called up everyone whom we knew for the past two years, who had supported us, and told them that we got funded. So it was exciting. From rags to riches in 5 minutes.

The Free Lunch

TSA: Rewinding back, how did the idea of BetaGlide come to be?
Amritanshu:  Well, I’m in a 5 yr. MSc Course, so in my third year, I was interning in Bangalore with this small VC Firm. At that point of time, my stipend and PG were both pathetic. Then one of our alumnus comes over and asks to come stay with him. So we crash at his place. Now, our alumnus Shubendu, also ran an angel investment firm at the time. He had a meeting with two start-ups one day. He told me that, I’m not going to cook lunch, you come along to the meeting and eat there. So just to eat lunch, I went into that meeting.
In that meeting, these two start-ups were discussing that when they’re developing their mobile application, it’s very difficult for them to find out how the user is using this application. During the early stages of the testing process they call up their friends, family and relatives to use the app and give feedback. It’s very hard for them to actually go out and reach out to people directly.
At that point of time, there was “Cramster” which was very popular on campus. People used to solve homework on Cramster, and bag iPads and iPhones. So I thought if people could solve homework for money, why can’t they use mobile apps and get paid for the same?
So I told these guys: give me your app, I’ll get you a hundred users and they will give you feedback. So we started out like that…
It was more of a manual thing where I used to distribute these apps to my friends and collect feedback, write down everything in a doc, send a pdf to these guys so that it looks formal. With time I realized that this is not going to work.
So over time, I and my other co-founder Anshul thought we should make a product. This was till November (2011). In January, we just had this idea. We went to this competition called Tata First Dot, where we were selected as the top-5 student start-ups in India. And people actually appreciated our idea. And we thought, if these people, who hardly know us can appreciate our idea, then why can’t we work on this? And at that point of time we decided, let’s chuck the compulsory internship, let’s chuck everything, and just work full-time on this.
And by that point of time most of my… I was also placement coordinator here… and at that point of time, most of the work as a placement committee member was over, so I could concentrate totally on this. So I didn’t apply for a compulsory internship in my fourth year, and went on to work on this idea which was BetaGlide by then, along with Anshul.

Starting with the end in mind

TSA: So when you first came into IIT Kharagpur, did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Amritanshu: To be frank, yes. It was before I joined IIT Kharagpur, I always wanted to have a start-up of my own. This was because I went to my Dad’s alumni meet, and there I saw a lot of entrepreneurs, and they were different among that crowd. That’s when i decided that i’d have a startup of my own.

TSA: That’s Interesting, So going forward from here, what do you see as the future of BetaGlide and of course yourself and your co-founders?
Amritanshu: Currently we are into android mobile app device fragmentation. So when we talk about device fragmentation… you have a different phone, I have a different phone, all with different screen sizes, memory etc. So we help app developers optimize their applications across all of these devices. But with time we are going to make a much more mature product which won’t be that much of a data collection, which we do right now… But also a certain layer of intelligence above the data collected, plus there is a whole boom of Internet Of Things coming up. So, IOT is where we will be entering in 2 or 3 years. So right now we have an office in US, and one in India, with time we will be expanding into other continents as well. Mostly Europe and Australia. That’s the next two years.

Kyonki entrepreneur bhi kabhi student tha

TSA: With an active startup, there must have been more than a few missed classes right? How were the professors? And the feedback from the institute?
Amritanshu: Recently, it has been very good. So when we were Crowdbeans, the Kgp- Centric Startup, there wasn’t that much of a bunking happening around. But when we actually became BetaGlide….I had to drop a semester for BetaGlide. That was a difficult choice, but till then we had achieved something: top 5 student start-ups in India, we had won the MIT-AITI competition, we were appreciated by a senior executive of Google India, plus we were selected into T-Labs, which is one of the most coveted incubator programs, so we had some credentials backing us up. So that actually proved very beneficial for us.

TSA: And professor PPC has been very supportive?
Amritanshu: Yes, he has been very supportive. So he actually allowed us to take a semester break and go ahead and work on our startup. That really helped us.
And when I was going to take the decision to drop a semester, I actually went ahead and talked to the professors in my department, in TnP (now CDC), and all of them told us to go and follow our dreams. There was actually not many problems, but then again we were also doing some serious business. We weren’t sitting around our rooms sitting idle or playing games, we were onto something.

The Escalator Pitch with Sundar Pichai

TSA: So you went to the Google I/O Conference, and you bumped into Sundar Pichai(Kgp Alumnus, Senior Vice President, Google) there, right? How was that?
Amritanshu: It was a completely different experience. All of these events were going on the third floor of the Moscone Center, San Francisco. And it was the second floor where the start-up alley with the start-up booths were. And I was on my mobile phone when I saw Sundar near the escalator, and I thought, “Is this really Sundar Pichai?” And then I saw closely, “Yes, it is.” Initially he was alone, but two or three people actually joined him and said, Sundar we are from India, let’s take a picture together and they were taking selfies . As soon as I got an opportunity, I told him, “Sundar I’m from Kgp.” He said “Oh, Kgp. Nice.” Then I asked him, “Have you been to Kgp for a long time?” And he said that he hadn’t. Then I asked him, “Do you have a minute? I have a start-up and I want to pitch my idea to you.” So we had practiced this thing called an elevator pitch, where you imagine you’re in an elevator with Warren Buffet and then you have to pitch your idea. It was a Warren Buffet moment for me. So I was able to pitch the idea to Sundar. He told me he’d give feedback, and he actually did.

Kgp Startups, here’s the question you came for!

TSA: For the start-ups in Kharagpur, what advice would you have for them?
Amritanshu: So when you have a start-up in KGP, we think that of the product which is ideal for the KGP Junta. So when we started Crowdbeans (BetaGlide’s earlier moniker), the first thing in my mind was, people solve homework in Kgp for money. So the initial crowd was only “Kgp Junta”. Most of the start-ups here think of a market only in terms of Kgp, but when you actually go out and become a start-up, people are not like Kgp. So here the intellectual level is a lot higher. So you have to deal with people who are somewhere there (gestures with hands on the disparities of intellect). Various demographics, various culture, various income group. All of that. So when you’re starting up in Kgp, you must be sure that your decisions are not biased on the basis of Kgp Junta. You should have a sample size which covers all of your target customers. That’s very essential.

That’s all, folks!

TSA: Concluding our interview, out of all these experiences, what’s the one main lesson that you have drawn so far?
Amritanshu: So one thing which we have learnt, is learning from our mistakes very quickly. So that is one thing that we have learnt. So we made a lot of mistakes.The only reason we changed our name from Crowdbeans to BetaGlide to changing our name right now is because what we thought was an ideal product, wasn’t an ideal product. In one case, our billion dollar competitor actually launched the same product that we were planning to launch in a year.

Initially the Beta Testing Platform that we had for example had a total market size of around 200 million dollars. So what happens in this industry is that, you generally assume that you’ll be able to acquire 10% of this 200 million, which amounts to 20 million, which is a very small amount for any company or any investor to grow. So we realized that this is a very small market, a lot of competition. Let’s shift. Then we actually found that this market is not comfortable, a billion dollar competitor is coming in: Shift. So we have to learn from our mistakes very quickly, so this is a quality that our entire team has developed with time.

Reported by Kritarth Jha

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