Startup Insights

Horntell – Running like an Ostrich

This is the story of how a tiny experiment evolved into a product that is helping web and mobile businesses make more money out of their existing user base. An year ago, We were building Gaurilla (http://gaurilla.com) – an accounting app for non-finance guys. We launched it last year…

This is the story of how a tiny experiment evolved into a product that is helping web and mobile businesses make more money out of their existing user base. An year ago, We were building Gaurilla (http://gaurilla.com) – an accounting app for non-finance guys. We launched it last year and received really great feedback (http://bit.ly/GaurillaReview1) from the community. “Shut up and take my money” was the thing we heard every week. But, inspite of regular sign ups and great feedback, there was one problem – just 2% users were active.

Experiment We did several experiments, including the one where we decided to engage 10 new users manually based on what they did or didn’t do in their account.

Results? Of those 10 users, 9 of them subscribed to paid plan. The tenth one – we found out that he was an angel investor wanting to invest in us but we had been rejected by VC so many times that it felt unfair to take his money. Story for another time.

Like you, we ourselves we skeptical about this number: 90% conversion rate. We decided to automate the experiment for every single user. And here are the numbers that we saw:

  • 80% of all new users had used every feature that we offered at least once
  • 76% jump in user activity rate
  • 53% jump in monthly revenue (the most important number).

Experiment to Product We decided to run this as a side-project and work on it only on Fridays. Long story short – we gave it to some more internet businesses, saw similar results, feature requests started coming in, and 6 months later, we found ourselves working on it full-time. We took the tough decision to put Gaurilla on support-only mode and focus just on Horntell.

Horntell Horntell is automatic and real-time user engagement platform for web and mobile apps. It tracks your users and then allows you to target them as precisely as you want. It provides in-app interactive notifications and emails to engage with these targeted users. Also, set up automatic campaigns that will be fired as soon as someone matched the rules. In real-time. Engagement is not just based on one session of the user, rather on the whole lifetime of the user – from the day he signed up till the day he cancels his account.

A good side-effect to this is that you get a analytics platform built-in, where you can see how your app, users and engagement is working.

Traction Yeah yeah, the T-word! We have done pilot runs/private beta with a handful of users and saw great results. But the real-time analytics and targeting engine comes costly and we are bootstrapped. We have a lot of pending requests of invitations but we cannot on-board them yet because of small servers. But the good news is that we know we are building something useful – our early users themselves want to be our angels.

We told them about our bootstrapped situation and they came forward to help us bring this thing in the world. This is only moment (when our angels told me “don’t worry about money, just keep building the awesomeness) in my startup journey that got my eyes teary.

And that’s when I shot an email to our team, “Let’s do it. Raise money and run like an ostrich.”

Good things happening I’ve found that when you decide and believe in creating something useful, people come forward and help you realise your dream. We’ve got support and help from everyone in the community and now, we are using LetsVenture (thank you Shanti) to close our angel round. We need your help to grow the infrastructure powering Horntell so that we can on-board more users, grow fast and build something useful. We are raising $325k for 18-month runway at the end of which, we will be doing $150k MRR.

PS: Ostriches run fast and are capable of killing a human or a potential predator like a lion with a forward kick. You didn’t expect this coming, did you? After all, that’s the exact point – while the competition is busy under-expecting us, we are readying our forward kick. 😉

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