The BizSpark startup of the day is Flud, based in the US. Below you will find an interview with Bobby Ghoshal, CEO and Co-founder of Flud. All the best to them and congratulations for being the startup of the day!
Web site: http://www.flud.it/.
What did you do before creating your company?:
I’ve founded two other companies: a software development company and a design firm. I am applying what I learned from those experiences to Flud, which is the most exciting project I have been involved with. Before that, I oversaw all design and brand-related efforts for a WPP subsidiary in Southern California.
How do you feel being the most promising ‘Startup of the Day’ per Microsoft BizSpark?:
BizSpark is so influential in helping startups develop, and gives such great guidance across the industry, so it’s an honor to be selected from among the many companies in the program. My team and I have worked extremely hard to get to where we are today. We are in a great position to expand our audience and product offering and continue to push out beautiful, quality products that change the face of news. This encouragement will help us as we build the company.
What is your company’s mission?:
To reinvent the way people consume, share, and discover news, all in a beautiful, convenient, ubiquitous platform.
In 140 characters or less, tell us what your company does:
Flud is the first social news reader where the things you read give you topical credibility among your friends and followers.
How did you get the idea for your company?:
I was tired of reading ugly news. Yes, there are other apps and programs that aggregate news and blog sites, but none of them did it beautifully. I wanted to make news sexy. As for 2.0, the move into the social space -- creating news personalities -- just made sense. We saw an opportunity there and we had the user-base to make it a successful transition.
Tell us about your funding history. Are you currently looking for funding? If so, how much?:
We started out with nothing. Matt Ausonio, my COO and Co-founder, and I worked nights and weekends over the summer of 2010 while we were still both juggling our full time jobs elsewhere. It was really fun and exciting time. Then, in April 2011, we received $1 million in seed funding from VCs that let us drop our 9 to 5 jobs and commit to Flud full time. As for right now, yes, we are currently looking for funding. We are raising between $5-8 million for our Series A.
How many employees do you have? How many developers?:
We have 10 employees total, and seven of those are developers. We also have two interns.
Are you hiring? If yes, what are you hiring for and where?:
We are hiring a Senior Java Developer in San Diego.
Which platform are you building on? Why?:
Part of our brand promise is to “read news with friends” and it requires that Flud be cross-platform. In 2010 we wanted to launch Flud on a tablet. At the time, the only tablet with market share was the iPad, so that’s what we launched on. Once we had proof of concept we expanded to all iOS devices and have recently launched Flud 2.0 for Android and Windows Phone. We’re also developing a web application that will sync with users’ mobile accounts. We want to make Flud available cross-platform because a more diverse user base makes the Flud news ecosystem a more interesting place for discovery. It also allows for more powerful, intimate connections to be made and increases the amplification potential of news stories.
Where do you see opportunities today in the Software/Internet area?:
I see an open opportunity in the mobile-social news space and Flud is the first news reader to take advantage of it. Music has Spotify. Photographs have Instagram. And now news has Flud. I also see an opportunity in going after the millions of markets of dozens, and not the dozens of markets of millions. Networks like Pinterest and Instagram have proven that niche communities with smaller groups of people following each other have higher engagement because the network’s signal-to-noise ratio favors context.
What do you think about the BizSpark Program?:
The network and technical support BizSpark has offered us, like so many other startups, is phenomenal. This is the type of program a lot of entrepreneurs need to get their ideas off the ground and it’s positively contributing to the growth of small business, as well as the number of innovative software products we’re seeing today. This is an exciting time for technology, and there’s a lot of opportunity out there. BizSpark is helping people realize that. We are very grateful for their support and advice.
Do you have any advice for young Software entrepreneurs?:
I am young myself and don’t profess to know much more than what I have experienced over a few short years. However, here are a few things I do know:
First, everything between starting and finishing is very scary. No outcomes are guaranteed and a certain emotional fortitude is requisite. Without emotional fortitude in yourself and your team, your company will be dead within 12 months.
Second, when you raise less money you are forced to move quickly, but risk missing key opportunities for your business. When you raise more money you have time to think more clearly, but risk getting out-built by your competitors who move swiftly and with a purpose. Decide which is more important to you, the answer varies per market and per startup.
Third, start with a business model in mind. Investors appreciate you thinking it through even if you aren’t fully able to execute on it yet.
Fourth, obsess over your users and not over features in your product. Your users will be honest with you about your product if you engage them often enough. Look at patterns in their day; do they have room for your product? If so, when? And how can you prove it? Don’t lie to yourself here, it is a learning process and if you figure out how to properly fit into your user’s day, you have a real shot of becoming gold for them. Also, when you see competitors launch feature-after-feature in their product, more often than not it’s because they are doing it out of insecurity and not because the features are critical. If you copy them, they will beat you because they will always be a step ahead. If they copy you, you can easily corner them. Have you ever played chess? It’s a whole lot like chess.
Fifth, be really patient with your brand. Focus on your brand’s message and continue to experiment with what does and doesn’t work. As an example, Flud started off as a “Sexy news ecosystem” and moved into “Be well read” and then moved into “Your news personality” and then moved into “Read news with friends.” The first one worked the best in terms of bloggers hooking onto the message, but I think the latter one is the strongest in terms of brand promise and clarity. Each tagline had a shelf life of about 4 months and we are still experimenting.
Sixth, find your company’s breaking point early on. You will constantly be under pressure from users, from investors and from the market to deliver day after day. This means you need to manage the pressure your employees feel every day and when the going gets really tough (and it will) you need to know how far they are willing to go before they break. You never want them to break, so move swiftly, but tread softly.
Seventh, don’t fall victim to analysis paralysis. Whatever you do, make a decision and execute on it. Change the decision if it was the wrong one, but at least you will have decided on something. Don’t let anything linger, the market isn’t lingering and you can’t afford to. Instill this into your company’s culture and make sure everyone is equipped to make decisions without requiring a team meeting for everything.
Eighth, don’t be afraid to throw it all away and start over if you can afford to. The best designers and developers in the world don’t get “it” right the first time, rarely get it right the second time and maybe get it right the third time. As an example, Flud designed and launched four web apps privately, and we’ve continually thrown them all away because they weren’t creating the right experience. We finally have something that works and it will be launching soon. It is far from perfect, but it is an experience our team believes in.
Finally, the force is with you if you choose it to be.
Who’s your role model?:
I’ve tried to think about it for the last 10 minutes. I don’t think I have one. That’s a problem. We should all have role models so I shall spend 2012 trying to find a few.
What’s the ONE THING you would like readers to take away from this interview?:
Flud was built with love, so we hope you love what we’ve been able to build.