From the Indian startup circuit comes an interesting story, one that gives you true grit, friendship, persistence.
This is a story of how three friends from a smaller city like Mangalore, who've been together for years and later became entrepreneurs together. They had an idea which wasn't really what they had in mind when they began their journey but finally led to, Eventifier.co.
I had a chat over the phone with Jazeel Ferry, co-founder of Eventifier.co, and the story he had was enchanting, and underscored the hard work and determination they brought to the Indian startup ecosystem.
Their efforts achieved a first taste of success when they raised their first round of funding from Kae Capital and The Startup Centre a few weeks ago. It has certainly come a long way from the time they conceptualized the idea and made a prototype of it at In50hrs in Chennai last year.
Chennai-based Eventifier has since archived over 1,000 events with more than 17,000 unique visitors per month. More than 10 percent of its visitors have become customers and they come from across the globe, with a considerable amount of visitors from Germany and Southeast Asia.
The site collates all event-related contents from various social media streams such as Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, and Slideshare. It tracks, for instance, the official hashtag for the event which then gathers all event-related content from across the social stream.
The story began when three friends from Mangalore--Jazeel Ferry, Nazim Zeeshan, and Mohammed Saud--pitched In50hrs an idea which was originally centered around building a stock alert via sms. However, it wasn't something the jurors found interesting and they posted their feedback. So the three regrouped, brainstormed, and came up with a totally different idea.
The inspiration behind this was the real problems they faced as attendees of various startup and networking events. They always were interested in checking out what happened in previous editions of various conferences they attended. Other than organizers sharing their information from the events, they felt that the rest of the content would be scattered across the Web. Nothing really collated.
So the founders decided to build a prototype and show it to the jury, and everyone loved it. They collated content from Instagram and Twitter with a normal UI from the prototype, and people realized they could build a product from it.
When In50hrs concluded, Vijay Anand, founder of The Startup Centre, invited them to be part of the six-month resident program and took it upon himself to mentor the founders and help them build the product.
Prior to this, they had been working on building Web sites as freelance designers and developers in Mangalore (not to be mistaken with Bangalore). They realized it wouldn't be effective being based in a smaller city like Mangalore which was lacking in ecosystem and resources for a startup. Hence, they decided to move to Chennai and work with Anand and The Startup Centre as part of the accelerator and incubator for their product startup.
They spent time doing market research, trying to understand their customers, conducting surveys, and figuring out what fits best for their product. They spent a good amount of time marketing their product and trying to be global via various social channels. They wanted to know if their product was something people would pay for.
They also tried to figure out additional features such as embedding slideshares, projecting it during the event, and getting real-time content aggregated during the event and further aggregating it. After spending a good amount of time in The Startup Centre, they finally got it right.
During the time they spent at The Startup Centre, they learnt a lot of lifeskills and entrepreneurship. Jazeel said: "Building a company is a lot different from building a Web site." Earlier they used to refer to various Web sites to learn about entrepreneurship. Here, they learnt a lot of it hands-on.
One of the things that differentiates Eventifier from other players in the same category such as Storify and Lanyrd is its automatic curation and multiple social channel aggregation.
Jazeel said other tools are specifically driven toward event discovery and more or less focus on Twitter being a backbone. He mentioned another tool, called Epilogger, but he said Eventifier has the edge over others in its UI and simplicity in terms of browsing.
He added that the company is focused on building enterprise features into the product, so customized and white-label offerings are also something many customers would want to explore, even if they would have to pay a little higher for something like that.
One of the things that adds value to the product is the fact that users get real-time content and real-time conversation. Of course, visitors come to the Web site to get content, memories about the event, and revisit what occured at the event. On the other hand customers use it for to store content and memories about the event so they can market the event the next time they organize it again. With nostalgia, the value of content increases for the customer.
One of the things Jazeel mentioned during our phone interview is how spending time with The Startup centre was a valuable learning experience for the three friends. They also got a lot of insights on how to make the product global and to try and reach out to potential clients worldwide.
"If you have a vision and focus on the product, anything's possible," he said. He also added that they are still learning and building on enterprise functions, and the key thing is to be bold and try out things that have never been done before. This was something they learnt from their resident program at The Startup Centre.
Eventifier.co has about 900,000 contributors and supports over 1,000 events across the globe. He says their pricing model is two-tier.
The enterprise model has a basic plan of US$19 for events, say, a Barcamp or a page that is needed to be active for only three months. The page won't be deleted after three months. If the client wants to access the page later, they can renew it for a higher price.
For US$299, Eventifier also offers customized products including the option to have white-label event branding and branded design and product offerings according to what the customer wants.
The Eventifier team comprises Jazeel Ferry, Nazim Zeeshan, and Mohammed Saud. They may not be your Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and Steve Ballmer, but they did go to school and college together and have stuck it out since then.
They certainly didn't want to be cogs in the machine and work for MNCs. They tried to make a living by designing Web sites and building local stuff. While doing so, they attended hackathons and conferences while moving from Mangalore to Bangalore, Chennai, and various other places. They were inspired by Pycon and hackathons to go out there and build something worth noticing and that actually solved probelms.
Nazim is their in-house Python and Django developer, while Mohammed handles the design. Jazeel said he's responsible for business development, sales and marketing.