There is a maxim in startup culture: One must hustle. It would be hard to find anyone in the Microsoft BizSpark program who embodies this hustle like Ruchit Garg, CEO of 9Slides. He seems to be everywhere, and is an active participant in many of the knowledge sharing discussions that go on between community members. We decided to select 9Slides for our featured startup today.
9Slides offers a cross platform solution, which allows professionals to create, deliver and track their presentations effectively. The set of innovative tools allows users to add audio-video narration to presentation slides from tablets and desktops, which can be watched on virtually any device within browser without downloading any app/software.
The 9Slides Windows 8 application renders rich video presentation content on tablets over the Internet. App communicates with 9Slide core online service, which is running on Microsoft Azure virtual machines. Azure VMs are also used for encoding video and presentation files into various desired formats.
9Slides offering is gaining its popularity amongst wide range of professionals especially sales, training & education, and have customers all across the world including Fortune 500 companies.
“Our Windows8 native app allows users to add their audio-video narration to their presentation files,” sas Garg. “Its as easy as importing presentation slides into the free app, recording narration and publishing it on the web. Users have the option to upgrade and password-protect their presentation files, and view analytics on the web interface today.” The web interaction means that when users choose to share these presentation urls, the audience can watch interactive presentation on virtually any device they have, at any time. That just took the yawn out of business presentations
Here’s a quick video and info about their Windows 8 app.
And here is our interview with Ruchit, who is based in Seattle.
Do you build for scale first, or for revenue? How are those things related in your mind?
Both of these things work together, hand-in-hand. We started to charge users early on to find (1) if there is anyone who will pay for what we are building (2) to find what users would be willing to pay for what we have. Even if it’s a very small monthly $ commitment, it’s a lot more commitment compared to a free user. We rolled out a freemium service early on, and continuously iterate on improving the funnel.
Do you make reasonable predictions about how you are going to achieve revenue and then test them out, or do you start with a business model and deploy it, to see if it brings in revenue?
We make plans based on certain assumption and test them out. If it works, then we continue to move forward in the same directions and refine it further. If results are not favorable, then we adjust our direction.
What questions do you and your technical co-founder / engineering team feel are the most important to solve about the business aspects of your company?
Product market fit and appropriate messaging to convey product to that particular market is very-very important.
When did you decide that you were “startup material”?
I am not sure ‘when’. Having started multiple startups so far, it feels I am always doing it. My first one was at the age of 8, renting comic books to neighboring kids.
What are some of the challenges you face as a founder or developer at a startup, when it comes to dealing with family life, or socially? Does working on a startup change the way you associate and interact in these areas?
It certainly does impact your personal life. It takes more than human effort to put together a startup and make it grow, especially if you are relatively unknown. You will end up thinking, working, worrying, dreaming about it 24×7 and this will impact your social life including with your close family members. But it’s a choice you make to live either like anyone else or live such that folks will remember for great things you did or at least tried.
Can you describe the relationship that you have had with Microsoft in building your startup?
It’s been a wonderful experience. We got all kind of support in terms of free software via BizSpark to access to experts when it came to designing the Windows 8 App.
Why would an entrepreneur turn to Microsoft for help in building scale, a team, or using software?
Microsoft takes care of startups like no other. If you are building using Microsoft technologies, you must sign-up for BizSpark, as well as engage with your contacts in BizSpark who can not only provide you with additional information but can potentially help you find appropriate resources if needed.
Tell us about your Azure based solution.
9Slides’ online service is running on Azure VMs.
How is Azure implemented in your solution?
We have multiple VMs running at the moment in parallel, a few for website and web service and a few for processing rich video and presentation files.
How did you get excited about Azure?
Apart from basic compute and storage, Azure have some great potential as PAS. E.g. If in future we need active directory support, we have it there. If we feel a need of media processing, we have it there and so on… its extensive set of offering is what keeps us excited about Azure.