Let me start with a question — Would you continue with the same founding team after shutting down? And that too in the same space as the previous startup? Please comment if you know anyone.
SplashMath’s founding team of 5, all from computer science graduates of IIT Kharagpur, had tried their hands in building an education product, made for and made in India for three years. In these years, the team built 8 products and none of them worked in the market as expected. The team came back strongly and its product is making waves in the education sector of the USA.
How did SplashMath happen?
The founding team is close followers of trends. Their calling came when iPad 2 was launched and soon they realized the potential of developing a science app for kids because iOS apps were doing wonders. The iPad apps were yet to explode. This time, they shifted their target market from India to the USA because they had a hard time selling the product to hierarchies involved in taking a decision in the education system in India.
The first step of building a product began with understanding their users without traveling to the USA. Sitting in India, they interacted with parents in the USA about the science app with a demo in powerpoint presentation instead of any real product.
During this process, the team understood that parents were more concerned about reading skills and mathematics than kids learning science through an app. They had learnt their lesson the hard way of not wasting time in building something that people don’t want.
This helped us build an audience of interested parents who would trust our product — Mayank Jain, Cofounder, SplashMath
Despite a handful of Maths apps already available in the app store, they decided to build another app because their users clearly indicated the need for another one.
This was a validated interest in the idea before writing a line of code — Joy Deep Nath, Cofounder, SplashMath
And they came up with one of the costliest application on the app store at $10 per download. Contrary to the number of B2B applications they built for Indian customers, SplashMath is a consumer app that came as a learning to avoid the hierarchical decision-making in closing a sale.
The turning point
After hustling for good 4 years since 2010, almost 9,000,000 downloads, engaging children in more than 25% of the schools in the USA and not raising any round post angel funding in 2010, there came a turning point in SplashMath’s journey.
Due to increased penetration among school children and wider acceptance among teachers, schools in the USA began to accept SplashMath as a support system in its curriculum. Hence, SplashMath began to pivot from a consumer app to an enterprise app where they developed the web version for teachers as well as children. This pivot not only resulted in increase in revenue but also a widely acceptable subscription-based revenue model.
Sitting in India, how did it acquire early users in the USA
With no money left to travel, SplashMath discovered their initial customers in the USA on social media such as Linkedin & Facebook. Simultaneously it also took help of viral marketing and it really worked for 2 reasons:
- Potential users got exposed to the product and became users themselves
- Users recommended to a set of potential customers about the app because it really lived up to the promise
Today SplashMath is used by more than 12,000,000 learners and is used in more than 30,000 schools.
5 Cofounders! More the minds, more the conflicts?
Like any other startup, the more the co-founders the merrier it is. It’s a dream to have 5 heads in the founding team working without pay, day and night to create something beautiful! But it also comes with its own perils, more the minds, more the conflict in thoughts.
Veto power for responsibilities
There were moments of conflict in opinions at many occasions but what mattered most was the decision of the person responsible for the role. He always took the final call. No one would never question it. It’s more about the belief in the individual heading the role than doubting one’s decision.
We all have a belief that each one is working for the best of SplashMath and no one is giving less than 100%. We learn from our mistakes and not by blaming others.
Even if anyone of us fought over something it would never get personal. We always fought for SplashMath and nothing else.
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