Friday, April 24, 2015

What is the Biggest Challenge of Running a Software Startup?

As they say:

Startup ≥ A Roller Coaster Ride

For a successful startup, many things must fall in place, consistently in sync with one another and most importantly within a limited period of time before they start to fall apart...  and yes these should happen along with a little bit of a factor called luck.

Somehow or other as a developer / blogger I've been associated with many Startups for the past six years. A few failed and a few are moderately successful. What I inferred from my association with them is that running a startup is a 24x7 job and it requires the same level of nurturing, care &  dedication that is expected while raising a new born baby. 

Visualizing the product idea, sharing it with someone who probably shares the same level of insanity as you, refining the product day in day out - without caring if you're in traffic, washroom or in sound sleep. Forming a team, keeping them motivated even if you pay them much below what an MNC would've paid. Startup is a challenge for the founders as most of the days, most of them, end up doing multi-role tasks starting from a CEO to the office assistant and everything in between!

Let us hear what is the single biggest challenge of running a software startup from those who are into it for many years.

Dinesh-VaradharajanDinesh Varadharajan is the Director at OrangeScape, handling the engineering for KiSSFLOW, #1 workflow product in Google Apps Marketplace. He is a hands-on executive with profound experience working with bleeding edge technologies, developing great products combined with mentoring and growing highly productive teams. 

The biggest challenge for a startup is to get the first 100 paid customers. The initial days are pretty chaotic. Its all about continuously evaluating our sales process, marketing metrics and product feedback and make course corrections to improve those periodically. This continuous evalutation resulted in a heavily optimised process which will work for the next 1000 customers.
On the product front, we integrated several engagement tools like mixpanel and intercom to analyse user behaviour. We also frequently spoke to our customers to get user feedback. This helped us in maturing the product to match market needs.

For sales, our CEO spear headed the acquisition of our first 100 customers and defined the workable sales process. We completely automated the process before hiring our sales team. This gave us greater predictability and good visibility in sales numbers.

For marketing, every one in the team had to familiarize themselves with marketing which was the toughest part of all. We tracked every dollar spent to a lead and slowly we were able to find more efficient ways to spend the money to acquire more leads.

Right now, we have a cockpit with lot of meters and controls and now we know exactly which knob to turn when the numbers are not looking good.

Ezhil has over 16 years of experience in the ICT industry. His most recent role was Director of CSS Labs, the R & D wing of CSS Corp. 

Although he is known for his technical expertise in numerous technology spaces, he has gradually risen as an opinion maker in cloud computing in India.

Although India is slated for excellent growth in SaaS, the market and the cloud services scene isn't exactly mature. Identifying and disrupting a niche market and then narrowing down on the top challenges in that target audience needs a lot of focus.

Finding the right talent for our technology needs is also a daunting challenge - no start-up can afford the risk of a bad hire, so at any level, recruiting is a key priority for us.

OlegOleg Khadartsev  is CEO of Mediametric. Passionate about media monitoring, data analysis, text mining, natural language processing.

Mediametric carefully aggregates almost every piece of content, published on the web and then collects all the stats for these articles - including shares to major social networks, comments on the website and citations and links, made in other articles.

Since Mediametric is a media analytics startup, our challenges come from big data - every day we collect articles from more than 100,000 sources, and keeping it all nice and clean is not always easy. 

We're using heuristic-based approach: we filter the incoming content automatically, giving it green light or blocking it, depending on whether it is a media outlet or something else, like online store or educational site. Some sources are sorted in the "gray zone" - those we filter using semi-automatic techniques, for example crowdsourcing. This way we filter out irrelevant content from thousands of channels, effectively handling large amount of data. 

I would say that a great team is essential for overcoming any challenge — with the right people it is a lot easier to build something from scratch and deal with problems on the way.

Editor's note: In an email communication Moscow based Mediametric's CEO Oleg shared the following input regarding talent scarcity & retention:

"Speaking about developers, it's a bit challenging to hire a skilled and motivated programmer here. However, we have noticed that for skilled developers a promising fast-growing company means more than just high salary. It's essential to them to have a feeling of ownership of some part of the product or an area of research."

Pranay Sanghvi
Pranay Sanghvi is Founder & Director – Strategy+Business at Intellibuzz, ExpenseBuzz. ExpenseBuzz is a SaaS that helps you to Control & Cut your company’s communications cost - Reduce recurring expenses on your landline, mobile, IT & internet, every day

In India, lack of reliability on small vendors/developer-team for software/product building is a challenge. This results in        

                          -- delayed roll out              
                          -- increased cash burn rate
                          -- toss of plans and finally
                          -- demotivation.

Hugo Messer has been building and managing teams around the world for over 10 years. His passion is to enable people that are spread across cultures, geography and time zones to cooperate. Whether it’s offshoring or nearshoring, he knows what it takes to make a global cooperation work. 

Hugo recently started Ekipa : the global marketplace for the world's best software teams. He's been running with an office in Cochin, India, since 2005.

The biggest challenge is to get traction. We've launched our new platform in January of this year [2015]. We've spent about a year on developing the core of the platform and gathering the initial provider foundation. Since January we're promoting the platform. 

As you are not a known brand yet and you don't have customer experiences to share, it's like you're standing in the desert almost lost. As an entrepreneur you've to find your way out of it. Somehow you have to start running around to meet people who are ready to take the plunge with you. 

It's relatively easy to build a product, it's tough to market it

I am used to 'sales' and have built a successful software services firm. Launching a product that relies on marketing as the main driver of customers is a whole different story! 

Thanks everyone who shared their views here.

If you are a software entrepreneur and want to share your views you're welcome to do it at the following link [submit it before 29th May 2015] :

                       -- Participate here - What's the Single Biggest Start-up Challenge?

Want to read a few more discussions at Techno-Pulse?
                       -- Techno-Pulse Discussions

Friday, April 17, 2015

Why Should I Replace My Landline with VoIP?

For generations, a landline phone connection was the hallmark of a reputable business, a company’s main method of communication with its current and potential customers. However, skyrocketing rates and evolving technologies are quickly leading to the decline of traditional voice calling.

VoIP is one of the most exciting alternatives to landline voice calling, offering the same utility along with a range of advanced features such as visual voicemail and standard Caller ID. VoIP also offers much more affordable pricing than with established phone carriers, and small businesses will especially appreciate the benefits VoIP calling provides.

Bargain Pricing

One of the main reasons VoIP calling has become such an attractive option to business leaders is the cost-effective service it can provide. Where landline companies are bogged down with outdated and expensive infrastructure as well as regulatory complications that often drive up the price for the consumer, iiNet’s phone systems forbusiness make use of your existing Internet connection to deliver high-quality calls across its proprietary network, delivering high performance at low cost. VoIP calls can also be routed through a smartphone over a WiFi connection to save on mobile calling costs.


Another advantage that VoIP calling offers when compared to traditional landlines is unrivaled mobility. A VoIP connection is contained within the equipment itself, meaning that it can be easily transported wherever business takes you as long as you have access to a phone jack and Internet connection. Even better, VoIP service can be configured to send notifications to multiple phones and devices whenever you receive a call, so you’ll never miss a curious customer.


VoIP also offers significant potential for customization. Many VoIP providers allow clients to choose their own phone number from a list of available numbers, and even select their own area code to better identify with an area or target market. VoIP can also quickly be adapted to meet the changing needs of a growing business, as lines can easily be added, reassigned or deleted as needed unlike traditional landlines.


VoIP is not only an entirely viable alternative to landline voice calling, it’s actually a superior option in many aspects. The convenience, options and value delivered by a VoIP phone system are impossible for a traditional phone carrier to match, and getting started with VoIP is as simple as getting a VoIP-enabled phone or an adaptor for an existing handset.

Information: This is a Sponsored Post.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Your SaaS May Not be Multi-tenant–But Why Should You Care?

Over the past couple of years, single-tenant vs. multi-tenant SaaS debate has been creating loads of buzz in the technology circles. Let me ask you a few questions:
1. Does multi-tenancy matter if you are a SaaS provider?
  • 2. Does multi-tenancy matter if you are a SaaS subscriber - do you need to care if your SaaS is a single-tenant or multi-tenant?
  • If you are curious to know an instant and short answer, it’s an emphatic - YES, it matters! Either you are a SaaS provider or a SaaS consumer multi-tenancy matters to you. To simplify your decision making process let me tell you convincingly that if it’s not multi-tenant it’s not a true SaaS in the first place!
Yes, The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), The European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA), Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) and many other authorities have already mentioned multi-tenancy as one of the essential (or at least desired) characteristics of a Cloud SaaS.

Disclosure: Many SaaS architectural considerations and the term multi-tenancy have been (over)simplified in this article for the sake of understanding.

Who/what are tenants?

In plain English, Tenants are subscribers (consumer/customer/client) of a service. For a B2B or Line-of-Business application like a CRM, a tenant can be a company with 100s of users. Examples: and Google Apps for Business.

Similarly for Consumer oriented or B2C SaaS, individuals like you and me (yes, general public) can be tenants. A few examples could be Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox etc. But it’s important to note that though these services started themselves as a consumer oriented apps, of late they are trying to diversify themselves in to the B2B segment as well. Gmail is a true consumer oriented SaaS.
I must add here that in most of the cases, B2B services require more sophisticated architectural considerations and development efforts in comparison to the consumer oriented applications.

What is a Multi-tenant SaaS?

Do you know how a traditional web application is developed and deployed? It’s generally designed, developed and deployed keeping in mind the requirement of a single client. Simply speaking, it’s like developing and deploying different code base and different database instances for each client. So, if you have 100 clients this translates to 100 code bases (builds) and 100 databases to be deployed and maintained!

See figure# 1 below for a graphical representation:
Multi-tenant SaaS architecture, in plain English, is an application that is designed/architected in such a way that it maintains only one code base and possibly (though not necessary) one database for all the clients. So, all your 100 clients now may use a single code base and a single database instance! See figure# 2 below for a graphical representation:

How does it Benefit the SaaS Provider?

Reduced Support and Maintenance: It’s indeed no-brainer, as maintaining a single code base and database is far easier than maintaining and releasing patches for 100 code bases! Also, if you are upgrading your code or infrastructure it’s simply a onetime effort at one place rather than updating it in 100 different versions at many places.

Cost Efficient – Sharing of resources (development and maintenance effort, infrastructure etc.) almost always converts to cost savings. Although a multi-tenant SaaS may require more time and effort initially yet it definitely pays in the long run once you’ve increased subscriber volume. In most of the scenarios, new subscriber’s signup and onboarding process can be automated for a low or no touch sales and support.
A provider with single-tenant service can’t continue to provide the service at an affordable price point and hence may find it difficult to compete, hence may become financially unviable.
Security – You don’t need to worry about the security of every client’s applications anymore. Implement state-of-the-art security features in your single code base and database and deploy it with an infrastructure (IaaS) provider having good track record of security and uptime. Peace of mind!

How does it Benefit the SaaS Consumer?

All the points mentioned above would obviously lead to make a provider as an efficient SaaS player who can in turn pass on the extra benefits to her/his subscribers. An efficient service may attract higher number of subscribers and as SaaS is all about economies of scale, you have a better chance of getting the service at an affordable price point. Also, as the provider is managing all her/his subscribers from a single code base and database instance s/he will put her/his best effort to offer a quality service.

Multi-tenant SaaS is like sailing together on the same boat with everyone else. There are indeed some cons as well like even a minor hiccup can affect every subscriber (not in the scope of this article). However, on any day the pros of a multi-tenant SaaS far outweigh its cons hence do enquire about it before you sign up for your next SaaS. Is your SaaS multi-tenant?