Startup Insights

The PosterGully Story — How We’re Building a Killer Brand

It’s been a long time since I last wrote! We have been too busy with expanding our product mix, on-boarding new artists, fundraising & hiring. But I’ve been thinking of scribbling down my start-up journey for a long time now. So I think today is good day to stop putting it off.

Author : Bharat Sethi

It’s been a long time since I last wrote! We have been too busy with expanding our product mix, on-boarding new artists, fundraising & hiring. But I’ve been thinking of scribbling down my start-up journey for a long time now. So I think today is good day to stop putting it off.

It has been a very exciting ride interspersed with maddening events. It all started with a casual conversation with my school friend on a sunny afternoon in Feb ‘12. I bled, sweat, freaked out, laughed, and cried in the first 6 months after our launch in May that year. It was insane. It was absolutely insane. I was in a full time job and I had launched something without knowing the consequences of working without an operations team, customer care, packaging guys, design team etc. But the good part was we were getting orders without spending a dime on marketing.

Building our own brand became the top priority and we shifted gears quickly. We changed our strategy to make it dead simple for designers (contributors) to quickly sell their artwork online. Without any investment from the artists’ end, they instantly started getting 20% revenue share on their sold designs. We took care of everything from technology, customer support to production & logistics. Then is when we understood the value of content & community. I think the community building aspect really has had a significant impact on generating strong word of mouth initially.

Everyone in the company, from the customer care executives to the packaging guys clearly know about the vision of the brand. We’re building a platform that is focused on opportunities that are exciting to the artist community and also result in products that consumers want to talk about. Our vision is to grow our authentic community to hundreds of thousands of artists who have no means to currently monetize their artwork. In this scenario we have millions of designs & millions of designer products (with no real inventory as we work on a JIT outsourced model).

Our mobile app will make it possible for anyone to upload their original visual content and start monetizing immediately. Simultaneously, we’ll build the right tools onto our platform for connecting brands with designers, project commissioning, grants and acting as brokers for licensing. We’re looking at a 18-24 month timeline from now to execute that. 3-4 years from now, our business would motivate lacs of people to quit their jobs and start working full time on this. 

With over 250K+ unique visitors in Dec’14, our revenues have grown 10X from Dec’12 & we’ve achieved all this with a conversion ratio of ~3% and a customer acquisition cost of less than $1.

Lessons Learnt

You have to go ALL IN: Taking a break should be luxury when you start out. Your customers dictate your hours when you are trying to get your early traction.

Don’t take No for an answer: Persistence is the key. We could have easily been pushed down so many times. At the end of the day, if you want to lubricate your processes faster, you have to be prepared to annoy a couple of people.

Customer communication is vital: Initially we were really bad at this but swiftly realized that customers are not really worried about the delays or other issues, it’s the expectation setting they have. Many customers now praise us for communication and updates on their orders. A lot of them go out of their way to write emails saying how this was truly and exceptional shopping experience.

Cash is King: Maintaining a healthy cash flow is a make or break for any business, and its effect on operations is critical to building a fast growing company. We’ve been profitable since the 3rd month of our operations and make sure we keep our contribution margins above our targets.

Efficient Supply Chain: We map out our entire supply chain frequently which helps us uncover areas where we can increase efficiency, thus improving profitability.

Fundraising

I have always been critical of people who advocate that there is no right time to raise money — i.e. you should take it whenever you get it. Fundraising is a full time job for the top management and we thought that holding out longer will also allow us time to prove a few key metrics, which will result in a better valuation.

Over the last couple of months we’ve focused all of our energy on growing an operationally sound and cost efficient business. We’re now ready to expand our template to cross $1 million pa by end of FY 15–16. If this space excites you and you’re interested, please feel free to reach out to me. We’re raising our round on LetsVenture.

Edited version from the original post

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