“I knew I wanted to create value from nothing, and that was a dream I wanted to put life into," said Loiwal, who teamed up with co-founder Tommy Tsai to build Shopular Inc. in January 2012. They worked on Loiwal’s dining table for the first three months, till some funding seeped in from Adam D’Angelo, first chief technology officer of Facebook.
Shopular, available on both Google’s Android and Apple Inc.’s iOS platforms, is an app that determines the user’s location based on Wi-Fi connectivity and GPRS (general packet radio service that enables Internet connectivity) settings, and displays discount coupons from stores nearby.
The app gained traction instantly because “we got the product market fit correct", said Loiwal, adding, “the download graphs were looking good enough, and the dream was looking big enough. We knew we were ready for the next level."
The Palo Alto-based start-up has been backed by Sequoia Capital and Silicon Valley-based start-up accelerator Y Combinator. Shopular, which currently has over 3.5 million users, plans to tweak the app to allow retailers to connect with shoppers in real time—by either calling or texting.
FINGER ON THE PULSE
Entrepreneurs: ANKIT GUPTA AND AKSHAY KOTHARI
Alphonso Labs Inc.
Set up in: April 2010
Ankit Gupta (left) and Akshay Kothari.
Two years later, he teamed up with Akshay Kothari to build a news app called Pulse for a design class project. The app was launched on the Apple Store on 12 May 2010, and priced at $4. “With that money, we hired a designer to make the app look better," said Gupta, chief executive and co-founder of Alphonso Labs. But the app was buggy. “People even said it looked like crap, so we kept working on improving the looks of Pulse," said Gupta, who used to work out of a cafe in Palo Alto, California, so much so that he was eventually banned from entering the place.
By the time they graduated in 2010, Gupta and Kothari each had job offers from Facebook and Microsoft Corp., respectively. But their passion for news got the better of them and they continued their work on Pulse.
Their first break came when Steve Jobs, former chief executive and founder of Apple Inc., mentioned Pulse during the launch of the iPhone 4 in 2010. With 250,000 downloads, they had generated a revenue of almost $1 million. In mid-2011, they raised funds from angel investors in the Silicon Valley. Looking to expand further, they started talking to venture capitalists for a series A round of funding in 2012.
During their fund-raising talks, many companies including LinkedIn expressed an acquisition interest. “After our first conversation with LinkedIn, we realized that Pulse was a perfect fit in their offering," said Gupta.
Pulse had touched 30 million downloads when LinkedIn acquired Alphonso Labs for $90 million in April 2013. The app has been a free app on the Apple Store ever since.
The San Francisco-based start-up currently shares the LinkedIn office in Mountain View. The team has grown from 20 to 45 employees, and takes care of all news-relevant content for LinkedIn.
GLOBAL MENUS FOR FOODIES
Entrepreneurs: PANKAJ CHADDAH AND DEEPINDER GOYAL
Zomato Media Pvt. Ltd
Set up in: July 2008
Pankaj Chaddah (left) and Deepinder Goyal.
This got him thinking, and in the next few months Goyal collected menus from nearby restaurants, scanned them, and put them up on the Intranet of his company. The response was overwhelming. Some of his friends even contributed to the listings by uploading menus from different restaurants.
Tasting success, Goyal launched Foodiebay.com with his colleague from Bain, Pankaj Chaddah, in July 2008. The Gurgaon-based online platform first listed 1,200 restaurants across Delhi-NCR, making restaurant hunting easy. By the time they quit their jobs, Foodiebay.com had already launched in four cities—Delhi-NCR, Kolkata, Mumbai and Pune. To avoid confusion with global shopping platform eBay, Foodiebay.com was renamed Zomato in 2012. It raised its first round of $1 million funding from Info Edge Ventures in 2012.
Following that, the company raised more than $53 million, spanning five rounds, from Info Edge and Sequoia Capital over the last three years.
Zomato now has a global presence in over 41 cities across 12 countries. It recently acquired New Zealand-based MenuMania, a company with a similar offering, a move aimed at establishing Zomato’s presence in the Pacific area where it first launched its services in December 2013.
As of today, Zomato, has more 230,000 restaurant listings in countries like the UAE, the UK, Sri Lanka, South Africa and New Zealand.