My name is Toshendra Sharma and I am an entrepreneur since last 8 Years in self-learning mode. Like hundreds of other entrepreneurs, I have also seen many difficult phases in my little entrepreneurial journey in the past.
My story starts in 2009. After completing my B.Tech in 2009 I co-founded Robosapiens Technologies with my brother in Noida, India. Robosapiens is in Embedded systems & educational robotics training space. I lead it as an R&D Head for two years before realizing that I want to study computer science more. I cracked the Gate exam with AIR 41 in Computer Science and got admission in almost all top IITs in India. Finally, I decided to enrol in IIT Bombay in M.Tech Computer Science.
It all begins at IIT Bombay
An Entrepreneurial bug had already bitten me 2 years back. Hence, I thought of launching a new company of my own. M.tech is not the degree where people generally think about startups in IITs. The “Matka” people generally join IITs with the mindset of getting a fat pay package or becoming a professor. Considering the above facts, finding a co-founder was out of the question. I chose a different path from the crowd and started my own company during the studies and launched “Wegilant” in October 2011 from my hostel room.
It got incorporated as a Private Limited company on 21 Nov 2011. I then rented out my own office outside the campus and started interviewing people for joining. With little money of my own from my previous company, I utilised it for this new venture. I was doing everything alone. Along with attending the classes in IIT, I used to go back to my office in Hiranandani Gardens and forget everything while keeping my team motivated for the results. I even lived in my cabin and used to sleep, eat & work from there only. Even after having a hostel room I stopped going there. I lived like this for 2 full years without complaining. Yes, I did generate some pretty crazy revenue (INR 10,000,000 [1 Crore Rupees]) in the first full financial year.
I started Wegilant as a training & services company but later in 2014 pivoted it into SaaS-based Mobile App Security Scanner Appvigil.
I founded & bootstrapped the company alone for two and a half years with my own money. Yes, being a single founder as well as an IIT student together sounds pretty crazy and enthusiastic. Hell yes, I was crazy and passionate enough to start my startup quest alone during stressful student life. I didn’t even know what entrepreneurship meant when I started my startup. I do know what it means now and in fact, I lived it for a short span and hoping to continue it further.
What & How I learned?
I learned everything (whatever little I know right now) by making tons of mistakes during my journey. I might have taken hundreds of wrong decisions but I feel proud that those wrong decisions were made only once and never repeated again. I ran out of cash 4-5 times and had no clue how will I handle it tomorrow morning. But the only thing I did right was that I didn’t give up. I had been knocked out by my startup problems infinite time but didn’t quite. I kept trying and maintained a positive attitude during those days thinking that “Sab theek ho jayega” (Everything will be OK). And yes, I cried multiple times alone and I have no regret about that either. I had got sick with backaches multiple times and honestly have no regret about them as well. ? Forbes put me in #30Under30 list for the year 2016 that made me little happy for a day.
What am I?
I would prefer to call myself a technologist who knows how to handle multiple things together. I am good at designing & building automated technology solutions from scratch quickly. Confident in implementing highly scalable architectures in AWS, good in basic web & mobile technologies, designing secure APIs, and partly knows anything needed to build a tech company. I am a quick learner who doesn’t give up. I am good but not perfect in the things and I believe I will never be due to never-ending behaviour of the technology.
During my journey, I was offered Investment multiple times and have taken two of them. Those will be discussed later in the separate post.
Since I did try everything in my company by myself some of them are accounting, finance, sales, marketing, technology, operations, HR, funding and more. I struggled and learned by doing it, I wanted to share my experience with you people so that you can help yourself in such times and save a lot of time by avoiding mistakes which I did.
Well, these are the only reasons I have for you guys to read what I will be writing in upcoming posts.
What I will be sharing?
Below are the topics I have decided to cover in the posts on by one. If you feel like adding anything, please let me know it in the comments:
- How I build a company single-handed while studying in IIT?
- What is SaaS? How do people see SaaS in India?
- Why are SaaS businesses so powerful? Why Investors are so crazy about it?
- How to judge a SaaS business? How were people judging my business?
- How not to fuck up in SaaS in one way?
- Does early-stage mistake an entrepreneur must avoid?
- Template of SaaS Business & Financial Model.
- Template of Simple yet effective cap table
- Template of Pitch Deck Universally Acceptable & Appreciated
- How term sheet for seed round looks like? What these terms exactly mean?
- Should I ignore liquidation preference?
- What is the emergency fund in a company and why it is important?
- The cost of being an entrepreneur in India.
- Does the award & prize really help?
- Does attending conferences really help? Should we go to International conferences?
- How not to hire a wrong guy out of desperation?
- When should we register the business exactly?
- Types of businesses in India? Which one should you incorporate?
- Do we really need Incubator or accelerator?
- How can Investors help without actually giving money?
- Should we take 2-3 lakh of seed money from individual investors?
- What Investors mostly ask in the pitch?
- What Investors mostly dig while giving money?
- How to shut up your parents while struggling in entrepreneurship? How did I try?
Before I begin, I want you to quickly go through Blockchain & understand in short what is it.
It is a Peer-to-peer network of computers & servers which are together taking certain decisions without having any single or multiple trusted computer to take a decision. In other words, there is no one to decide if the certain thing is right or wrong, everyone in the network decides this together using something called consensus algorithms. Reaching to a consensus without having any boss, leader or superior together is the core component of the Blockchain. And that’s why it is being considered as something which can lead the future innovations.
It’s like executing an election on every second of every decision among 1 Billion people without having any election commission. Isn’t it beautiful & sounds something interesting?
What I have explained you just now is a very generic sense of Blockchain, there a ton of other things as well which makes it more powerful, secure & fast.
This Blockchain technology which empowers the Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies can be used in much powerful industrial application such as:
- Data Security
- Record Keeping
- Cross-border banking transaction involving real money
- Voting System
It is an independent and distributed technology which empowers Bitcoin. Cryptocurrencies use Blockchain technology just to confirm and record transactions and make it cryptocurrencies which have features of real money but exist on computers only.
We can use it in any field to bring transparency like in Voting, Real Estate or any other big or small sector which we will discuss in upcoming series.
Everyone wants to make as much money as they can. Many people go out of the way to ensure they make enough money. That’s fine as long as it is NOT illegal as well as unethical. Media have mentioned the “Like Scam” of the Noida Company, the quantum of the scam and the luxury life of the founder including the highlights on sunny leone (Lol Really?). But no media house has answered how it was the scam, what exactly was the fraud, why it is considered the scam. So I decided to write this piece. If you are a media house and interested in republishing this article, please reach out to me at [email protected]
I was aware of this company since last 2 months and advised some of the people in my network & Uber Drivers to not engage with this company. Yes, I generally engage Uber drivers in conversation on multiple topics and 3 of them have asked me about this. I told them that it is a pure scam & unethical. They should not do such business. Though it was a legal business.
Was it “Like” scam of “Click” Scam?
Media is completely wrong about the word Like here. It was a Click Scam. How was it a click Scam? Please continue reading to know more.
What exactly was the Scam?
Alice, a woman & Bob, gentlemen were two ordinary humans who wanted to make more & more money. They had some savings and wanted to use their savings to make more money. This is perfectly reasonable & is a very genuine way to grow your capital. Everyone should do that. Perfectly normal till this point. Then they met the Social Blaze, Noida company who scammed people.
Social Blaze informed the Alice that she needs to pay an amount between INR 5.5k to INR 55k into the company’s account and also provide one advertisement of anything they like to get the clicks on. In return, the company will give them a login portal (dashboard access) where they will see the other people & they will get INR 5/Click once they click on ads of other people (visible for 1 minute) on the dashboard. Using login ID & password Alice’s can have more parallel dashboard sessions (up to 10 initially) so that she can make more money. She will also be rewarded with more parallel sessions if she will add more people to the platform. (Incentive for referral, perfect for organic growth of the businesses)
Similarly, Social Blaze has taken money from Bob & given him the membership as it did with Alice (Login ID & Password). Now Bob is clicking on ads given by Alice+others & Alice is clicking on ads given by Bob+Others.
Here, neither Alice nor Bob was actually seeing anything on the screen; they were just waiting for the computer screen to be updated so that they can click again. Alice has in fact taken this to the next level, she hired 10 more people at INR 100/day and asked them to keep clicking on the ads as soon as it gets updated.
Hold on a sec dude, how it is a scam? This looks genuine? Well, the model looks attractive and comfortable as long as there is no upper limit on making money. But this is not how businesses are built.
For the sake of simplicity, I haven’t mentioned other features & restrictions based on a type of packages taken (Packages are from INR 5.5k to 55k ).
How was it the scam?
Well ask this question to yourself and answer it. Does this look genuine to you? Why not genuine? Read on.
First of all, the business was legal as per Indian law but it was completely unethical. That’s why it survived for 5 years. Dishonest because supply & demand of ads/clicks were created by paid members in-organically & no one was interested in looking at ads. Paid supply or demand is also ok in some context until the whole transaction is making any sense. Ads supposed to serve a purpose must have a Call-To-Action (like “Signup Now”, “Buy Now”, “Visit Now” etc.). If no one is interested in the CTA & just clicking to make money then it’s a fake click. Social Blaze was creating fake ads & asking people to give fake clicks in exchange for money.
Technically the company was taking money from one person and distributing the money to others in the name of ad clicks.
How exactly were they making money?
The model was designed in such a way that it didn’t make money initially but when hundreds of thousands of people will pay the money for membership, it will tweak the payout model or clicks allowed per day in such a way that it will make the money slow (but steady) for the people. In turn, making tons of money for the company. Don’t forget the FD’s interest the company is making even if they pay the entire money back to the junta.
Google Adsense has a very clear & highly strict policy around it. If Google found you clicking your own ads or clicking ads on your website they will suspend your account seize your money. Google is good. ?
What should we learn from this?
Businesses can be of four categories or group in this context:
- Legal & Ethical: Google, Facebook, TCS, Tata, All belongs to this group. Everyone must stick to such businesses.
- Legal & Unethical: A grey area where it’s hard to identify the right or wrong. Social Blaze belongs to this type.
- Illegal & Ethical: Again a grey area, examples include Robinhood, Batman, Pablo Escobar, all belongs to this space. Stay away from this type. Don’t be a superhero. Lol.
- Illegal & Unethical: Robbers & criminals belong to this space. Strictly stay away from this type also.
Due to dynamic & fast-evolving Internet space, there are tons of business model which are legal but unethical. Be careful when you engage with such businesses.
Please comment on what you feel or this about this scam. Subscribe to my blog to read my upcoming articles.