At a time when people are busy adding friends on their social networks just to add on to the already large friend list, here was a person who dared to think differently. ‘Why do I need to be friends with someone whom I was studying with someday, somewhere or am working with, when we so painfully can’t think of being friends in real life? It is just for the sake of him/her being there that he/she is there.’
If you are one of those people who think that way, then there is nothing wrong with it. In fact it’s your view so it definitely is priceless!
In a corner of the world, that very idea was set to make waves. The brainchild of Gokul Nath Sridhar and his friends at BITS Pilani, Inu or Likewyss (as it is presently called) is a platform where it connects you to the things you love as well as to the other awesome people who share your views on those things. Team Startoholics caught up with Gokul , Founder and CEO of Likewyss to find out more about its offerings and uniqueness.
Have a look at a quick introduction to Likewyss.
If you are one of those people who love to know about startups; you follow someone pertaining to that area on Twitter, like Paul Graham. But then, Graham’s tweets don’t necessarily have to be only about startups. So the signal-noise ratio when it comes to news channels is quite low. Therefore, they are trying to shift the focus of news we get on our browser to our interests, rather than a bunch of people’s.
There was a trend in their campus back in 2011 where people took playful jibes at each other by creating fake profiles for them on Facebook. Unfortunately, he became a victim of this prank. And the one created for him was particularly demeaning and humiliating. That was when the seed for Likewyss was sown in his mind. He thought, ‘People whom we know are not necessarily our friends but people whom we don’t know, could be.’
So he set about designing a platform that connected like-minded people with the help of a few juniors. On June 24th, 2012, Inu was officially launched; about a year after the initial idea was conceived. Sometime later they found out that they had made a lot of mistakes , technically and otherwise, and it took them quite a while to find the product-market fit. With Likewyss, they believe to be one step closer to the solution than they were with Inu.
Here are tidbits from the interview with Gokul.
How is Likewyss different from the other portals?
Likewyss can be construed as a social news platform that aggregates content primarily based on your interests, instead of people you follow. There are a few other platforms that do interest-based content aggregation wherein you choose a few topics and content from magazines that are presented to you. Here’s the thing – we believe news sharing is done most effectively via a micro blogging model, and that the greatest content generators are you, the people, not magazines. And as far as the social networking capabilities of Likewyss are concerned, other social networks go by the model ‘People Bond People’. We think ‘News Bonds People’.
How has the response been from the customers?
Since the days of Inu, we have enjoyed immense love and support of people all over India and the press. Inu was covered by prestigious newspapers such as The Hindu, The Times of India, etc. and we hit 1,000 users within 10 days of our initial launch. Although we restricted signups beyond a certain point as we struggled to scale with Inu, I can say that our customer base grew pretty well and the love we received was an overwhelming and a humbling experience for me.
As far as Likewyss is concerned, we launched a beta campaign in the first week of June and since then over 3,000 people have signed up requesting for invites. My only regret now is that we have missed a few deadlines with respect to launching of the site, but thankfully the problem is being resolved right now, and you can hope to see Likewyss opened to the public very soon.
What challenges have you faced in your entrepreneurial journey? What has been the toughest decision you have had to make lately, if any?
Gaining trust and support from family is an ordeal that every Indian entrepreneur is subjected to. Although my parents are pretty cool, they were worried that I might be throwing away a secured life in exchange for the freedom to chase my dreams.
Money is fungible, so I never worried much about how Inu (or Likewyss) was going to raise funds. Thankfully, we are angel-backed now.
For me, the toughest thing has been firing people. I’ve fired a few guys and no matter how stone-hearted you try to be, it’s gut wrenching and difficult. When you work in a startup as a team, inadvertently you begin to trust your comrades a lot and when someone is not performing, someone whom you trust, someone who is a close friend, firing him/her becomes very difficult. Startups have this rule — ‘Be slow to hire and quick to fire’. I hate that because that decision hurts me a lot.
What are your plans for promoting Likewyss? Also, do you have any tie-ups?
Social media marketing and incentivising users to get their friends to signup remain our top choices for customer acquisition. There’s nothing more compelling for me to use a product than my close friend telling me it’s great and I should try it out.
Also, we are following the #1 rule for content-based startups to gain traction – we are making the content on Likewyss inherently shareable across major social media channels and we are working hard to make that experience as seamless as possible.
We do not have any strategic tie-ups at this point, but it is something that we will be looking into.
Who according to you is your biggest competitor?
I think our biggest competitors in the content-aggregation part are Zite, Vu News, etc. and in the social-media part, the behemoths obviously — Twitter, Facebook, Quora, etc.
Where do you see Likewyss in the next 5 years?
We want to think of ourselves as the future of news and media PERIOD.
We want you to wake up in the morning, and be served the news we think you should know, right on your dashboard on Likewyss.
What more do you wish to include to take Likewyss to the next level?
To speak about innovation, I think we are going to be focusing on mobile phones as I feel that is where the big bet lies for any web-based startup today. Additionally, we are big fans of location-based services and computing areas such as augmented reality.
What are you most excited about at this moment regarding Likewyss?
I’m very excited about the team and the technology behind likewise. We are hardcore Pythonistas, open-source enthusiasts and are willing to learn new things every day. I love this team and I love what we are building.
So here was an Indian who stood up against the odds that almost every Indian would face when beginning a new start-up. In a society where children somehow always remain just children, it is a challenge of a different kind to rise amongst one’s near and dear ones and show them that you have indeed grown up and can stand on your own feet.
Opposite poles attract they said. Guess it’s time for like poles to attract now!
We wish the Likewyss team all the best!