Active members of the Microsoft BizSpark social forums probably remember the Indian husband and wife team that made Remind Me This, a project management tool featured in the Silicon Valley tech blog TechTaffy.
Rutvik Dave, Co-Founder, Centramation Systems
The app is just one of the products that Rutvik Dave and his wife are working on at Centramation Systems Private Limited. Says Dave, “We are a self-funded startup based in Ahmedabad – India. We are just a small husband-wife team. Our aim is to bring cloud-based technology to small and medium businesses globally.”
Like all new things, Dave and his wife Setu think of their new app, Remind Me This, as a hybrid of mechanisms that have existed before. So, when they talk about the app, they borrow from completely different vocabularies. The app was developed to be a feature-rich – yet simple productivity and collaboration application. It has more features than a simple Task Management System; and is yet easier to use, than a complex Project Management System.
“Our product is built using a 100% Microsoft technology stack. And the complete product is hosted on Windows Azure,” says Dave.
(Microsoft Software and Technologies used: C#, ASP.Net MVC, Entity Framework, SQL Server, Windows Server, Visual Studio, Team Foundation Server, Azure
Do you build for scale first, or for revenue? How are those things related in your mind?
We are a self-funded startup, so our priority is to break even. That is why our initial approach is to build for revenue. Our product is built on a cloud infrastructure; so scaling as we grow would not be an issue. In other words we focus on building scalable products with a revenue-first approach.
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 always consider both the options. We start with a business model, and then validate, to see if it’s a sustainable proposition. And once everything is in place, we make calculated predictions on:
- what our break-even point is
- how much time we have to break-even
- where we see ourselves on a semi-annual basis
Once we have:
(i) a viable product,
(ii) a sustainable business model and
(iii) goals based on calculated predictions
There is a very high probability that our new product will bring higher revenues.
What questions do you think a startup non-technical founder needs to answer when considering a cloud architecture for his or her startup, and I am thinking specifically here during the business model generation period?
Under the current market conditions, a cloud architecture is the way to go! And if one is a non-technical founder, he or she should focus more on the Platform as a Service (PaaS) cloud option. PaaS takes care of the infrastructure maintenance and administration. This allows them to focus more on product development and less on IT infrastructure. Secondly, if they are considering a cloud architecture, they should ensure that every aspect of their product is cloud-based. That way, they will avoid bottlenecks when their business grows in future…
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?
The most important question we had to answer, was: “How to make a more approachable and affordable product, which could be converted into a profitable business.” Most of the products for Small and Medium Businesses are priced towards the Western region of the world, which often proves to be costly for the Eastern part of the world. We wanted to build a global product that was affordable, even to Asian Small and Medium Businesses.
Where do you include technical members of your team during the building of your business plan?
It is very important to include technical members throughout the plan-building process. They are instrumental in:
- Predicting business costs more accurately
- Making proper technical choices which improve the revenue streams
- Estimating a practical product-development timeline
How much of what you are building is based on leaving a legacy and how much of it is based on technical challenges, or the ability to make something just for fun? In other words, where do you fall on the seriousness scale? For fun, for profit, for life?
We intend to become a successful, self-funded and profitable startup …that is not located in Silicon Valley. We had a lot of fun building the product, and technical challenges makes the fun interesting. So I would say we are building a serious product while having a lot of fun.
When did you decide that you were “startup material”?
I have been a freelance software developer since High School. And soon after my post-graduation, I went to the USA, where I worked as a software consultant for almost four years. These opportunities helped me on two fronts: Firstly, they sharpened my skills for understanding user requirement. Secondly, I became involved in the full life cycle of Product Development and Deployment. So after ten years’ experience, I decided to solve a big problem with a simple solution!
What impact or legacy do you hope to make in the market and in the business world?
Our goal is to become a well-known product-based company from India. Most of the IT outfits in India, focus on out-sourcing and providing solutions for other countries. This has created a big void for Indian Small and Medium Businesses, as most of the solutions available here are either not affordable or not approachable. So we want to set an example, which would encourage more Indian companies towards product development.
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?
We are just a small team of husband and wife. As all family responsibilities and social events require both of us, creates distractions in our work schedule. It often requires a lot of ‘juggling’. So we weave our social life around our work life.
What characteristics do you possess that make you an entrepreneur? What makes your startup a startup?
We are a small two-person team. And based on our skill-sets we have clearly defined our roles and responsibilities. This has helped us execute our ideas within tight deadlines and limited budgets. I’m Rutvik: CEO, CTO, Architect, Graphics Designer, Software Developer, In-person Marketing and User Support guy.
And my wife is Setu: CFO, COO, UX Designer, DBA, System Admin, QA and Testing, Online/ tele-marketing and User Support.
Can you describe the relationship that you have had with Microsoft in building your startup?
Our product is built using a 100% Microsoft technology stack. All the software and the user-community platform, have been provided by Microsoft BizSpark program. Even our complete product is hosted on Microsoft Windows Azure.
Why would an entrepreneur turn to Microsoft for help in building scale, a team, or using software?
Microsoft offers solutions for almost every domain. Their products are well-maintained, documented and supported. Additionally, there is more than enough training and reference material, available in every form. Whenever one faces a technical challenge, there is a huge developer community to help out. And the best part, is that the Product Managers at Microsoft are very easy to approach. One may easily contact Scott Guthrie, Scott Hanselman and several others, in an interactive, two-way communication.
Tell us about your Azure based solution.
Most of the productivity software available, is either way too simple for your serious projects or way too complex and time-consuming. We have developed a feature-rich – yet simple productivity and collaboration software. One that will not get in your way, so that you may efficiently execute your big idea with your small team.
How is Azure implemented in your solution?
Our complete product is hosted on Azure. Specifically, we are using:
(i) Azure Websites – for our front-end
(ii) Azure Virtual Machines and Azure Cloud Services – for our business logic
(iii) SQL Azure and BLOB Storage – for our back-end and database
How did you get excited about Azure?
When we were exploring different cloud-based options for hosting our product, we found Azure to be most suitable because our entire creation is built using Microsoft technologies. What was most fascinating about Azure, was that we were able to migrate our complete on-premise product to Windows Azure in less than 2 hours!
What were the Azure features that prompted you to decide to build on Azure?
Azure’s main plus-points were:
- Platform as a Service (PaaS)
- Offering seamless connectivity with Team Foundation Server
- Easy-to-use Azure SDK for Visual Studio
- Heavily discounted pricing for BizSpark members
What advice do you have for companies that are thinking about building in the cloud?
In the current market scenario, if you are building a new product, then the cloud is the best option. In fact, even if you have an existing non-cloud product, now is the best time to migrate to the cloud. …Or at least provide a cloud-based option. A cloud allows you to grow and scale without any worry. It enables one to provide location-, platform- and device-independent solutions to his or her customers.