The team behind Fluttr shared their startup story behind this amazing app in an interview with us, how this young brigade from IIT Gandhinagar thought of starting a community for college students who can’t express their feelings, views, thoughts openly with their communities. Co-Founder of Fluttr Mr.Shivam shared the wonderful journey :
Introduce yourself and where are your from?
I’m Shivam, and I hail from Faizabad, a small city in Uttar Pradesh. I completed my Btech in Electrical Engg. from IIT Gandhinagar (Ahmedabad, Gujrat) in Aug 2015. Together with my co-founders Pankaj, Rajesh and Ujash, I’ve been working on Fluttr since then.
Explain Fluttr and how is it different from other startups?
Social image, in this day and age, has become a barrier to free and honest exchange of opinions. And not being able to openly convey feelings, thoughts or opinions has become stress factor in a community. As a result, due to fear of negative social judgment, very few people openly express themselves on existing social networks in spite of being highly active on such networks.
Adding oil to this fire is popularity-bias of social networks. The voice of a popular person receives more attention than a quiet person, and hence, a higher social status. Social networks no more reflect one’s true self, instead have become facade for social attention.
We are building a platform where people can truly be themselves, and be able to freely speak their hearts out within their communities.
In doing so, we’re building communities where people feel free and welcome to share their views on things important to them, where it’s not important for someone to have a bunch of followers first to be heard, where the closeted, reclusive guy and the college queen bee can reach out, all the same, all anonymously, where everyone can say what they really think. When people speak up openly, they are heard by others. In this manner, one is always connected to his/her community.
Our product, Fluttr is a mobile platform that lets people openly speak their hearts out within their communities. It lets the users anonymously share their ideas, thoughts and feelings within the whole community.
When and How did you think about this startup?
Social judgment is undoubtedly one of the greatest perils of India. We all have been subjected to and/ or have subjected others to prejudiced views and judgments at some point of time. After graduation, and before our (me and my to-be co-founders) jobs started, we wanted to work on something interesting. Being the socially awkward geeks that we are, we conceptualized a platform where students could openly share their ideas and opinions without fear of social judgment. Talking to fellow students made us realize that to express our views in an unconstrained manner, we needed anonymity on our platform. We agreed upon a content-centric approach: content exclusive to our platform with high relevance to the user base. Thus, anonymity and community-driven moderation became core components of our platform.
We quickly prototyped an Android app and launched a beta in 3 colleges in Ahmedabad. We targeted people we understood well: college students. To our surprise, not only students but even professors and security guards downloaded our app. Professors were talking about who should take their course, and giving life advice. Everyone could now stay connected to the campus even during vacations. Students were talking about: terrorism, sexism and feminism- a debate (read fight) about a joke; politics- Modi vs Kejriwal; courses- is the new Prof taking CS423 any good?; current affairs- what Aamir Khan really meant with his comment on intolerance in India; college management- when can we stop paying for the mess that we never go to and why does an announcement of Smriti Irani’s visit trigger rapid construction in the campus when we had been asking for it for months – to name a few. These voices and opinions were unheard and unseen publicly before. It was an epiphany for us; we were onto something bigger than the student community.
A month later, we decided to not join the companies we were placed at, and instead, go full-time at Fluttr.
Introduce your Co-Founders and Team.
I started with three of my closest friends, and here are their short intros and roles at the startup:
- Pankaj Gautam, Design, Worked with multiple startups, brings in critical and design thinking. This eagle-eyed person helps polish features with just the right amount of depth. Pankaj graduated from IIT Gandhinagar in 2015 majoring in Elec Engg.
- Rajesh Patidar, Content Creator, this GYTI awardee epitomizes the word hustle. The in-house humor bomb handles the mood of users with super-engaging content. Rajesh graduated from IIT Gandhinagar in 2015 majoring in Mech Engg.
- Shivam Mani Tripathi (me), Tech, A couple of Caltech internships and multiple wacky projects converted him into a tech backbone + product visionary combo.
- Ujash Dave, Marketing, Fun, dependable and the go-to guy to get things done. The network he builds gives the kick-start to penetrate into communities. He graduated from IIT Gandhinagar in 2015 majoring in Elec Engg.
What’s your Current Path and Future plans?
Currently, we are exploring college communities for the first phase. People in college are bound by very strong underlying context which makes them our ideal users. Being fresh graduates, we understand this user segment the most.
We have around 8,000 users (primarily from IIT and NIT) as of now and are seeing thousand posts and comments daily. An average active user spends close to nine minutes on our app daily! In short, our current users are highly engaged.
We plan to rapidly expand and engage college communities first. Then we plan to explore & discover other communities: Geographical ones such as workplaces, or temporal ones such as concerts and events. We’re currently bootstrapped and will be raising the seed round in coming months.
— Fluttr (@getfluttr) March 6, 2016
What challenges did you face while setting up this startup?
We aim to empower people to speak their hearts out within their community without any concern for social image. And in doing so, we’ve faced numerous challenges. We were four young college graduates, with no background in business, zero professional work experience, and no funding. All we wanted to do is to solve a problem that we were facing. We had zero and no connection with the investor network.
Building active and healthy communities is another extremely difficult task, as tough as nine great labours by Hercules in my opinion. Marketing a product in a specific geographical community is a local network phenomenon. One has to have a very precise knowledge regarding know-how of the community. In our journey, we’ve discovered that administrative authorities in most Indian colleges have made students unreachable for marketing. Some universities even asked us to pay a ridicuous amount of fees to place a poster on their notice board. Others just had no communication channel in place to reach out to the student body. Marketing to such communities seemed more difficult than finding evidence of alien life!
But we didn’t give up! Innovation happens in the dearth of resources, not when people have abundant capital. We trained ourselves in lean marketing strategies. Our pride as IITians refused to let us believe that the problem didn’t have any solution. We turned our weakness into our strength – our inexperience led to out of box solutions to the problems. We stretched every rupee in our pockets. We knocked enough doors till people who believed in our idea decided to join and mentor us. We found efficient, frugal and intelligent ways to market our app, and convey our value proposition to the people.
My only message to the readers, and especially any college student who is thinking of starting a startup, is that if you are really passionate about your idea, do not worry if you don’t have Bill Gates or Ratan Tata to back you up. Work hard, and people around you – college community, friends, the family will believe you. People around you will help you in any way they can. With that and your power to think, your success is only limited by your imagination.
At the end of the interview, Shivam shared these kind words about VID :
I think The Viral Indian diary is an amazing platform where anyone can share all good or bad experiences of life. The best thing I like about them is that they give opportunity even to the less popular and smaller people/startups, and in the exact stage they need help.
I’ve seen numerous online publishing media, and the problem with them is that they’re incredibly hard to approach. Most of their stories are either about something that gets them immense traffic or some wildly successful startup. What they fail to understand is that many startups wish to get their stories out in the early phase, and not when they have crore rupees marketing budget or a million users. I am incredibly impressed to see that editors here clearly understand the young entrepreneurial mindset, and even stand for the small guys.
Thank you for the kind words Shivam and thank you so much for spending your valuable time to share your amazing startup story. That is exactly VID’s goal, to motivate people, inspire them by sharing interviews and wonderful life journeys, motivate them that how to be bold and confident. Our aim is to empower everyone to achieve their goals in their life. We wish you and your whole team all the very best with your venture.
Join Fluttr On :
Facebook : facebook.com/getfluttr
Twitter : twitter.com/getfluttr