On his birthday last November, just when his wit started to reign, Sunder Iyer turned wise and decided that he will either create, start or do something that will impact people's lives in a positive way before his next birthday, failing which he vowed to eat a whole A4 paper sheet with his birthday resolution printed on it.
Next week is his birthday and having looked at his work, we think he is going to succeed - no, not at devouring an A4 paper but with his startup CampusChai.com where "Campus Recruitment is done better" and targeted exclusively at Indian market.
We've asked Sunder to share with us his startup experiences and he has been kind enough to oblige.
Startup 101 from Sunder Iyer, Founder - CampusChai.com
This can help new college students make the leap to entrepreneurism. I think it captures the essence of what it takes to start a tech startup.
Ideas are dime a dozen: After listening to Jason Fried and Paul Graham, I realized that ideas are pretty much worthless but execution is everything. The idea behind CampusChai is neither novel nor does it claim to be. It was NOT built to cater to a particular Web2.0 line of thought but we are instead targeting a specific niche in a market and going after it. At the same time, it may not be a good idea to launch something very generic. CampusChai will be adding new features to set it apart from run of the mill job boards.
User interface is the new black: Put the user interface on paper (or better yet, put it in Visio). After you have a rough idea of the concept, start putting it on paper. We used Visio to draw out the application wire frames. Visio is awesome and the diagrams help us understand what goes where. Again, you can also do this using pen and paper, but Visio is far better.
Embrace change: Do you want to be a millionaire? Its simple, you can start betting entrepreneurs that their final product will look nothing like what it started out as. I bet you'd win most of the time and you will make your million very quickly :).
If your idea is not evolving as you start building the application, you are probably not doing something right. Some of the best ideas occur after you start building the
application. For ex: one aspect of the site allows hiring managers to save a profile and request other members of the hiring team to provide their opinions. In our case, this was something that occurred as the site evolved.
Designers are key: This is HUGE. This can make or break your site (yes, Craiglist and MySpace are exceptions). Get a good designer and get one locally. Decide to meet at least once a week and hammer out the designs. If your designer is still using tables, you should see warning lights flashing all over. Make sure your designer understands CSS and uses it. This will save you a lot of heartburn in the future.
Don't be a doubting Thomas! This is pretty huge too. Don't second guess every little thing. It's a waste of time and you will probably end up with something much worse. I have seen quite a few engineers' trying to be designers and fail miserably at it. Of course, this doesn't mean that you have to sit back and just take what ever your designer dishes out. If you don't like something, let the designer know and may be provide some samples of sites that you like.
Get Decent hardware: I don't agree with the school of thought that encourages getting a personal hosting account and deploying your application. It might work, but it's not how we do it. CampusChai is hosted in a world class data center in a dedicated cabinet. You can also consider dedicated hosting and scale horizontally as the application grows.
Learn from others: Follow design sites closely and keep track of what's happening in the world around you. Blogs can help you understand what people are talking about and are also good indicators of shifting trends. I particularly pay attention to -
1. Signal vs. Noise
2. Particle Tree
You gotta love it: Building even simple applications take a lot of time. Be prepared to sacrifice a great deal of personal time to get your application off the ground. Be prepared to spend at least 14 hours everyday working on building your app. If you really like what you do, you will be left wanting for more. We spent most weekends working 16 hour days. You can't put in that kind of time if you don't like what you do.
Youtube is not the norm: Don't expect the world to beat a path to your app just because you spent all this time building it. The barrier of entry is dropping everyday and we will see a slew of new web apps in the near future and 1% of them may go on to achieve decent recognition. But this just reemphasizes the previous point, don't build something to flip/make tons of money/monetize eyeballs.
They are nice to have, but don't make them your goals.
Profile of CampusChai
CampusChai was started with the goal of providing a simple web based service for all campus recruitment related activities in India. We plan to do this by:
o Providing colleges with tools to manage their placement strategy.
o Enabling employers to collaborate better with Universities, Colleges & Students.
o Helping students experience a streamlined recruiting process when launching their career.
Hope you liked our "chai" break conversation with Sunder of CampusChai.