Entrepreneur's Speak: Sanket Shah & Pankit Chheda, co-founders, Massblurb
About Massblurb: MassBlurb is an online automated platform that helps restaurants manage their end to end online presence. We are a venture backed, rapidly growing organization with a 100+ restaurants in Mumbai in less than six months of operations. We have recently expanded our operations into four cities in India- Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, and Pune.
Sanket Shah, co-founder, Massblurb Sanket has his Masters in Engineering from University of Michigan - Ann Arbor. His high is taking leap of faith and living in uncertainties. The moment things become certain, they become mundane.
Pankit Chheda, co-founder, Massblurb Pankit has his Masters in Engineering from Carnegie Mellon. He is a quite techie who is soon getting married, so he will become quieter moving forward. Super practical as a person overall.
Please share how it all started and how the inspiration or the idea to start happen ?
I (Sanket) was looking to move back to India and start a tech business, Pankit had just moved back and was heading tech at Coupon Dunia. We were exploring the SME space considering our families have struggled with the digital piece for SME's. It was more like a personal problem. However, SME's are too different, depending on their verticals. We saw there was a boom in the restaurant sector and started selling it to them. The inspiration was to provide a perfect digital presence to SME's. We had explored education business as well, probably we will pick it up the next time we start something!
Could you please describe the early years and the preparations you undertook before you embarked ?
We were moonlighting. We had our day jobs and coded in the evenings. We also found a couple of people in the Bay Area who were ready to work for us for a small fees - Basically we paid their rent. They were MS students and couldn't intern because of the US laws :D That was our jackpot. You see, people have to hustle and I guess we hustled a lot. Moving back to India was also in a good leap of faith. In terms of preparation - I think a lot of things come back to you when you start something - education, culture, mindset etc. One of the best preparation was we both were raised in upper middle class - stingy families. Well that is what you need - to be stingy. This was my best preparation.
What has changed since you started the business between then and now ?
A lot, well we have experienced relativity - We grew 5 years in last 2 years as professionals and probably even when it comes to our health! On a serious note, all of this is hypothesis when you start - then you meet the customer and realize, you don't have what they need. In the order of importance, things that changed were 1 - Focus on a single vertical 2 - Field sales force is a mistake 3 - Hire properly - even if it costs more
We made all the mistakes, when we changed these the business changed.
What are the most important ingredients that make your business successful ?
Hustle, Impatience, Persistence and ability to take a chance. I feel, it's all about this sentence 'I will figure it out' The other important factors are:
Market Size - When we went vertical, this suffered and our cost per acquistion went high
What are the major success drivers that you believe worked for you ?
We execute!! Everything else is intellectual masturbation that cannot take you anywhere.
What word of advice would you give to young entrepreneurs embarking on the Startup journey ?
Too young and not so successful for that - But 'Mere yaar to patang udaya kar, kat jaaye toh gham na khaaya kar' is my favorite quote. Also, delay your gratification and execute quietly. All I mean to say is - Start, execute, fail, learn, make new mistakes the next time and repeat. Anyone who is persistent enough will always do well. I wanted to start a company, raise funds and get acquired since last 8 years. Also, Quoting Haresh Chawla - The startups that are being built smartly and profitably all have one thing in common. They do it quietly.
Which are the most common mistakes or pitfalls that budding entrepreneurs need to avoid ?
Not having a big enough market size, wrong co-founder or not knowing the customer. Also, keeping your eyes off cashflow will mean you are hallucinating - You are not doing well, you are about to die.
How do you keep ahead of the technology and what are the measures you take to make your business future-proof?
That's a tough one. I feel it is just about the mindset - Pick up the things that customers want and move them from zero to one. For eg: We tried to remove the need of a graphic designer for a restaurant. Pick up things that take the most time and money and automate them - Do it constantly.
How should a new founder start building a team ? Would you like to share your experience?
Hire people who are better than you at what they will be doing. Also, deep dive into their resume - For eg: If they say, I like directing movies - Ask them: 1 - Have you ever done that? 2 - What are the cameras they use while shooting a film 3 - Where should be the light-man be placed? 4 - Give me the name of camera models or their rental cost Now, when a person has done real stuff - They can deep dive and answer things, when they haven't - They can't. Deep dive into everything they say. If they say - I want to go to the US for MBA ask them - the top 10 B-schools in US, Gmat scores you will need to enter. If they say - Michigan - Ask - Michigan State or UMich. People who are good, no their shit.
What qualities do you look for in angel investors ?
They should either add value or not bother you. Ideally, stay away from people who want to make money immediately.