Pitches from some startups are quixotic while some sound specious. Then there are those that make us cogitate while the rest outright sound cacophonous and leave a vertiginous effect.
But the idea behind this particular startup falls into a completely different category. Not only is their work discerning but also both assuaging and altruistic.
Addlepated? Then it is time you Weboword.
Anirudh Maitra, Co-founder of Weboword.com helps us decipher it all in this interview to Startups. (Editors’ note: The interview was done back in April but the publishing has been delayed due to some constraints. In any case, our sincere apologies for the delay.)
1. What exactly is Weboword.com? What is the significance of the name?
Weboword is a platform that aims to change the way people improve their vocabulary. We believe that using “Visual” techniques add a new, fun and useful dimension to an otherwise bland process.
All our words are described by the use of simple stick figure illustrations based on easy to understand, fun filled situational scenes. There is clear focus on word usage and ease of retention. We also feature crossword exercises to reinforce learning. We are currently operating under a word-a-day scheme and are about to launch user tuned products for schools in India and abroad and preparatory content for exam taking students – GRE, SAT, GMAT etc. (Our language focus is English.)
Significance of the name – Weboword represents the proverbial “Web” people find themselves in, when they want to improve their vocabulary. We aim to sort things out for them.
2. Could you please share with us the motivation and the story behind your start-up?
The motivation behind WeboWord originally was just illustrations for a vocabulary book. The illustrations created by Aakanksha Gaur seemed not to enliven just words but an entire business opportunity.
WeboWord was slated to launch last year in August and when things were almost completely ready, we felt we weren’t ready for it. We launched Pictualize instead as a Creative services company and during the course of six months picked up nuggets of knowledge and loads of confidence to finally launch WeboWord.
Currently, our motivation at the micro-level is to change the way world looks at vocabulary and at the macro-level is to change the way world learns.
3. Are there any other Indian/International players offering similar services? If yes, who are your major competitors?
There are no players in the India. But there are a few players in the International market –
wordahead.com – They use Videos to help vocabulary learning.
picturevocabulary.com – They use simple illustrations to describe words.
vocabularycartoons.com – They use cartoons based on Mnemonics.
4. Any significant features of Weboword.com that our readers should know?
With WeboWord, we are targeting at creating some firsts in our knowledge domain, like Professional clubs for Vocabulary Building – which has primarily been a personal interest.
We have spearheaded WeboWord Power through a group on LinkedIn, which helps professionals get in touch with Vocabulary. Additionally, WeboWord Connect is targeted at educators, students and everyone at large to come together, collaborate, create and showcase their own Visual Vocabulary.
Very soon, we are going to be offering our products to schools and colleges under a program called W.IS.H.E.S – Weboword in Schools and Higher Education Systems. On the exam preparation front, we are going to launch a user tuned product for GRE and SAT aspirants.
5. How is your startup doing do so far? What kind of traffic does the website see?
We launched WeboWord with the One WeboWord a Day model on 8th Feb. 2009 and since then we have had over 1200 email registrations for the Free Daily Updates and steadily rising visits on a daily basis.
We were also featured on the front page of Delicious on March 30th, 2009 and saw about 2000 unique visits to the website.
6. How large is the team behind Weboword.com. Are you all based in India?
We are a small and dedicated team of 3 people –
Vineesh Kumar – Graduated from IIT, Delhi and previously worked as an Intern in Prime Brokerage, IT Division, Hong Kong at UBS. Authored Mental Ability and Logical Reasoning at MTG Learning Media.
Anirudh Maitra – A medalist from BITS, Pilani for outstanding academic performance and also served as Managing Director at Born Unequal Interiors Private Limited.
Aakanksha Gaur is the Visual Architect and a graduate of Maharshi Dayanand University.
We are being mentored by Kris Nair of Opdrage Venture Partners.
In addition, we also have on board, a dedicated team of illustrators and an advisory team of teachers and English language experts.
All of us are based in India.
7. How is your startup being funded so far? Do you plan on seeking external funding?
We are self-funded and have been fueling ourselves through projects at Pictualize. We will be looking at external funding in the near future.
8. Did you come across any problems while setting up your start-up? Is there any decision you made that backfired?
Our startup isn’t what we had originally perceived it to be nor have things shaped up as were expected. Startups as a ball game are extremely different from all that we have seen till now in the short span of our lives.
Anirudh has already been through a successful product yet a failed startup which has had its toll, but created an even stronger desire for success. Vineesh has failed with his first startup at the team building stage and Aakanksha has been dabbling with a large number of ideas but not to the extent of being called a startup.
We three individuals had originally come together for a totally different project/startup and have landed onto doing something totally different.
Every decision is almost never a decision. Three people, three opinions, three directions yet one common aim. We fight, we decide to leave everything at times and yet we stick together and magically things continue to happen. When things don’t happen as we plan, we support and encourage each other and find a way. And that’s how it has been working till now.
9. What are key technologies your service is built upon and why did you opt for them?
As far as the technology part is concerned, we have tried to keep our efforts focused on building strong, differentiated content. We have used WordPress as a platform for hosting our One Word a Day system, are utilizing LinkedIn for WeboWord Power – Vocabulary for Professionals and Ning for WeboWord Connect – A platform for Vocabulary enthusiasts to share, learn and have fun and collaborate to create their own visual vocabulary.
Moving ahead, we are developing/outsourcing development work for our Desktop Application and an e-Learning platform.
10. In your experience, what has been the most effective way to market a business?
The short period of time that we have marketed WeboWord has been primarily through Twitter. We are not in a position to state the most effective ways of marketing nor are too experienced in the domain. But we have been learning each day and also discussed with Seth Godin – the marketing genius about Permission marketing.
Twitter helped us in carrying out Conversational Marketing, which has actually seen us through till now.
SEO i.e. organic visitors via Google, Live and Yahoo are rising faster than ever with each day as more and more content gets added to the core site. Despite being a visual offering and very low on textual content, we are achieving a top view on Google among niche keywords.
We are keeping our focus on building a Tribe (As Seth Godin puts it) rather than carry out sabotage over the net. WeboWord Power and WeboWord Connect are two other modes where we are bringing in value and also carrying out strong marketing.
11. What is your take on increasing number of Indian startups? Do you have any personal advice/suggestions for current/future entrepreneurs?
The increasing number of startups in India is clearly a sign of the increasing strength of the Indian economy. The rule of numbers ensures that as more and more startups happen, chances continually increase for India to be the home of not only the next biggest thing, but also change India’s socio-economic system. The churn has begun and it is fabulous to see it increasing exponentially.
Personal advice for future entrepreneurs is “Live your dream” and “Start Early”. Many people are fazed by the risk of failure of a startup. The only point we believe a person must remember is – If you didn’t take the plunge, it is only then that you have failed. For current entrepreneurs it shall be “Stay Focused, the light is around the corner!”
12. What is the best advice you’ve ever received.
Too many have been received. But one that Anirudh has created is “The sky is not the limit. It’s where we play!”
13. On a personal front, who is your role model? Also, do you follow any other websites religiously?
14. How did being an entrepreneur affect your lifestyle? Do you get enough time for yourself/family?
Being an entrepreneur is one thing in itself and running a startup from home is another. Both result in their own pros and cons. Lifestyle seems to go awry as we schedule our meetings to match those of our clients in India or abroad and moreover focus seems to peak only at nights, so it has become sort of an extended college with a lot more fun and lot more effort.
Running low on resources has some interesting effects; there is always a truck load of work pending; you keep working in your dreams; you dream even more of success and work harder to make those dreams come true.
The issue with time is not about having enough of it for ourselves or family, but for working more and more. There are times, when you abhor sleep just because it causes a loss of concentration when you are enjoying work the most.
15. Something that is dearest to you?
“WeboWord” & “Pictualize” at the moment. However something that’s dearest to all of us is “Changing the World”, “Creating Value” and “Success”
Are you as venturesome as Weboword? Then, let us hear about it.
(If you are an Indian startup and would like to be interviewed or featured on Startups.in then we’d be happy to talk to you. Contact us right away.)