burrp.com is born out of a simple motivation and is driven to succeed. Read further to learn more about it from none other than Burrp's own Deap Ubhi.
1. What exactly is Burrp.com and by the way what does "Burrp" mean? Was it supposed to be "Burp"?
Very simply, burrp! is an online user-generated local review and recommendation tool focused on recreational activities and events. Your assumption was absolutely correct: burrp is just an extended form of burp.
2. What motivated you to start Burrp when there already are quite a few recommendation/review sites?
Interestingly enough, there are not many review/recommendation sites that are focused on local Indian content. Mouthshut.com does a fantastic job of creating a community around the whole online review format, but mostly for any product or service that is in existence. We are very focused on localized content. What I mean by that is stuff that's specific to unique cities/towns in India. What's happening in Mumbai might not be happening in Delhi or Kolkata. It's very important to be sensitive to the strong local off-line communities that already exist, and provide the best online forum for them to transition into smoothly.
Our motivation was very simple - we ourselves were searching for such a tool when we repeatedly visited Mumbai in the last 3 years, but nothing was available for people to voice their opinions about local places or events. It was all what this critic says, or where that model parties - we wanted to know what the people thought.
3. Also, within the context of the above question, what is it that makes Burrp unique amongst others offering similar products/services?
burrp! is unique because of our focus on:
1. strong local (can't stress it enough) content (both visual and meta-content)
2. user-generated content - we are trying to build a strong on-line community; self-respecting online communities are both very powerful and very wise. We want to leverage the wisdom of the crowds
4. Why should someone choose you over another competing service? Any significant features we should know?
Users will have a full suite of relevant features in upcoming releases (one-way and two-way SMS, more interaction with other community members, the ability to organize and invite friends to a certain place or event, and some really cool AI features coming as well).
Our advantages: 1. We listen to our users - all of our features and ongoing suggestions are driven purely by user feedback - we listen to and respect the community
2. We leverage the wisdom of crowds, not experts
3. We will always strive to offer a very clean and easy user experience
5. Who are your major competitors? Anyone that focuses on delivering super-localized content to their user base - on one end, Yahoo! could be considered a competitor, and on the other end of the spectrum, AndheriEast.com could be considered a competitor.
6. How is Burrp doing do so far? How well was it received by the community? What kind of traffic does it see?
While I can't share traffic details with you just yet, our soft-launch was received surprisingly better than we thought. You see, we did not market this release to anyone at all. We announced it on our blog, and that's about it. Even so, we've gotten a positive vibe from the online community along with some very meaningful feedback. Our next release is due within a week.
7. Please share any significant achievements.
We actually have a community! Growing the community will both be our biggest goal and achievement going forward.
8. Could you tell us more about yourself, your position & other key players, if any? What were you all doing before starting this company & also your previous work experiences?
Before burrp!, my experience has been in private equity, most recently for a LBO in San Francisco. There are a total of 5 co-founders, and equally responsible for burrp!'s success. Each of us has deep roots in the Bay Area, California, so we understand startup culture very well. Here is a quick rundown of the team:
1. Anand Chandrasekaran - currently a senior lead on all of EMC's customer facing websites
2. Anand Jain - is now FT with burrp! Was previously a team lead for Motorola, working out of India, China and South-East Asia
3. Krishna Subramanian - currently is the director of Product Management at Blue Lithium, a successful online advertising services provider
4. Paul Dhaliwal - currently a senior architect with Accenture in San Francisco
9. How large is the team behind Burrp. Are you all based in India?
There are 5 co-founders. Of the 5, two are FT with burrp! (Anand Jain and me). We have set up an office in Mumbai and have added two more to our team. That brings the India team to 4, with 3 of the co-founders still in the states.
10. What responsibilities do you hold at Burrp?
Personally, I see myself responsible for fundraising, legal issues, administrative issues, business development, marketing - basically, most things not technical in nature since that is not my background.
11. Who are the key stake holders and did you receive any funding? If not, do you plan on seeking external funding?
The key stakeholders are the 5 co-founders. We did receive angel funding about 4 months ago which should last us through two years of operations of things stay status quo. Since the status quo is not what we're expecting, we will be seeking external funding from institutional investors in 4-6 months.
12. What are key technologies your service is built upon and why did you opt for them?
Our entire stack is open-source because, again, it leverages the wisdom of so many who contribute to building a particular technology. It's also free. We like free.
13. Where do you plan to take Burrp going forward?
We plan on launching a local city-specific version for each major city in India within the next 12 months. We've got all the local content (both visual and meta-content) ready - it's simply a matter of rolling it out in an intelligent fashion - this can only be done after thoroughly understanding the local markets and how to market to that demographic. We should be launching in 2-3 more cities within the next 4 months.
The product will also get deeper as we layer on more meaningful features (more user to user interaction, etc.) and enable things such as events and movies. Beyond that, we are really looking for suggestions from our community as to where they would like to see this product go.
14. Do you have a business/revenue model as well as any exit strategy on mind?
The business model will be fueled by a combination of SMS marketing (appending marketing messages from partners to user-generated outgoing SMSs for a marketing fee) and online movie ticketing for the big cineplexes in town. Beyond that, we are all aware of the low-hanging fruit (banners, affiliate ad revenue), but we don't necessarily feel that being an ad-farm is a sustainable business model. No exit strategy in mind at this point.
15. What are some of the challenges in your business and how do you plan on tackling them?
The biggest challenge of them all is creating a loyal and sticky user-base. Online communities can be fickle, and understanding what the community wants and needs is always paramount when trying to build a community. We plan on tapping into existing online communities, mostly bloggers, since they tend to be savvy internet users and try to leverage them as our early-adopters. We listen to them very carefully, because they understand what works and what doesn't. Beyond that, we're big believers in SEO (search engine optimization), and a couple of the co-founders have deep SEO experience. Making sure that your product is listed at the top of major search engines for relevant keywords is very important.
16. In your experience, what has been the most effective way to market a business?
WOMM (word of mouth marketing) without a doubt. Nothing is more powerful than word of mouth.
17. Do you have any personal advice/suggestions for current/future entrepreneurs?
Hope for the best, plan for the worst. Don't worry about taking credit, because you'll get farther that way. If you're eying India as a potential market, the wheels do turn slower here, so try and work with people that can work at your pace. Listen very carefully to the potential users of your product or service. Always try to get to the bottom of why your product or service sucks, not why it's the greatest thing since sliced bread. That's way more valuable.
18. On a personal front, who is your role model? Also, do you follow any other websites religiously?
My father was my biggest role model. He ditched a promising engineering career to invent his own cuisine and now my family runs a chain of successful restaurants in the Bay Area that are unlike any other.
Better than following sites, I USE many sites religiously. I aggregate all the blogs I follow on Bloglines - love it, such a tremendous service. I use Flickr to post my personal photos. I use Craigslist to find things I need or post things I'm selling. I use Amazon to buy books. I use Google to search and Gmail for email. I use Yahoo! Finance to check my stocks. My favorite websites are Judy's Book and Craigslist.
19. How did Burrp affect your lifestyle? Do you get enough time for yourself/family?
There's no question that burrp! has really taken over all of our lives. I've left my family back in the Bay Area to try and make something great for the internet using population in India. I get time for the things that I personally care about: going to the gym for a few hours a day (all of the most disciplined and successful people I've ever met also have very active lives); and reading as many books and blogs as I can (currently reading The Wisdom of Crowds by Surowiecki and The Shia Revival by Nasr - recommended book of the month is Fooled by Randomness by Taleb).
20. Our final question, One thing that you love the most?
The memories of my father. If you were looking for something more tangible, I love California Cabernets.
21. What is the question you would like to answer and still nobody asked you?
"What will you do if burrp! fails?"
A: I won't consider any outcome of burrp! as a failure or success. I wanted to come out here and build something from scratch that would make people's lives easier. If I can't do that this time around, I'll keep on trying until I get it right, whether that be in an online or offline medium.