What An Entrepreneur Learned From His Failed Startup

By • Jul 10th, 2008
Category: Bangalore, Entrepreneur Interviews, Internet and Telecom, Interviews, Start-ups, Technology, YouTube Videos

Rajiv Poddar is a Bangalore-based entrepreneur, who is bootstrapping his second startup. His first startup Sedna Wireless is in the process of being wrapped up was probably the first Indian startup focused on delivering a VOIP-based phone. But, After 2 years of working on Sedna Wireless Rajiv made the difficult and tough decision to take a different course and changed his business plan. He started Call Graph, which is a call recording and indexing application for VoIP systems. Rajiv represents a small group of gritty entrepreneurs in India, who are doing their bit to create the necessary framework and an eco-system for entrepreneurship.

It takes rare courage to be honest about your startup failures, and in this interview Rajiv has been very candid about what he learned from his “debacle” as he puts it. I would instead say that failure is a stepping stone to success.

KB: When you look back at your first startup Sedna Wireless what lessons did you learn from it? What do you think would have helped you succeed?

RP: I learned a lot of lessons learned from that debacle. The first is that your startup is only as good as your team. Having a competent, committed and professional team is imperative to succeed. For a first time entrepreneur it’s even more so.

Another important lesson was that you should raise money only if your startup is capable enough to pay it back many times over. Assess yourself before you approach anyone for money.

One of the biggest reasons we failed was because we committed mistakes which we did not know about. There was no one who had been there, done it to guide us. So I guess having a mentor from the same space and background would have been really good.

KB: Do you think Sedna Wireless died a premature death because of lack of oxygen, which in your case was funding?

RP: Finances were just one part of the story. The other part was that we failed to execute our own plans. Both external factors (e.g. the hardware ecosystem in India) and internal reasons (e.g. the expertise of the team) played a role. With money it would have lasted a bit more longer.

KB: Why do you think you were not able to raise funding for Sedna Wireless?

RP: Several reasons. We could not build an impressive enough prototype. The concept had lot of unknowns attached to it. The team was not proven. The amount of money required to take it to market was large. I could go on and on.

KB: You are clearly still passionate about entrepreneurship and are now working on your second startup Call Graph. Tell us about Call Graph and how did the idea for Call Graph come about? What about funding?

RP: Call Graph was something I had been working on the sidelines. I had noticed that there were lots of Skype call recording solutions in the market, but none of them were free and unrestricted. I knew how to do it, so I decided to release it as a freeware. The idea was to check out the interest and see if something can be made out of it. I kept talking to users and realized that there might be a play in offering premium services around it. So we have launched storage, sharing, search and transcription services around the product.

Call Graph was done with the money which was left over after Sedna. We are looking to raise money for it.

KB: This is a VoIP-based application and it is interesting that you chose to work in this area in India given the controversy involved around VoIP in India? What is the status of using VoIP applications in India?

RP: Our service is more generic in nature and not restricted to VoIP The same concept can also be applied for example a mobile handset. We chose Skype since the barriers of entry were the lowest there.

Regarding the status of VoIP in India, things are picking up. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has been mulling about lifting the restrictions on VoIP according to a consultation paper they released recently. I think this will happen in a few years.

KB: What has been the response for Call Graph? What trends are you able to find out from your user base?

RP: The response has been great, far beyond our expectations. What we can see is that there is a market for service offerings over VoIP systems. We call it VoIP value-added services. We hope to carve out our niche in that market.

KB: What is the revenue model?

RP It’s based on premium services. We charge for higher storage capacity, transcripts etc. We are also planning to offer hosted solutions for small enterprises.

KB: Who has been your biggest believer?

RP: Me, Myself and I and a few close friends.

KB: Who do you turn to when you hit a bump or problem? How did you work through your challenges?

RP: To the community. To the people here who share my passionate for entrepreneurship, products etc.

KB: Do you have a plan B for Call Graph? How much are you willing to risk this time around in terms of money and time?

RP: Yes. Plan B is to open source the product.

We are at the Public Beta stage right now. I plan to give it a few months during which time we can test the system with real world data and get an estimate of the demand for such a service.

KB: How has the ecosystem for entrepreneurs changed in the last year? What are some of the things that are still missing?

RP: One good thing that has happened over the last two years is that there are a lot more groups focused on entrepreneurship now. There are more events, more people involved and clearly there is more interest. Although only a fraction of the people actually take the plunge, it still bodes well for the ecosystem in India.

What are missing are exit paths. Acquisitions either do not happen in India or they do not make any news.

KB: What is the best part of being an entrepreneur? What is the worst part of being an entrepreneur?

RP: The best part is being treated like an outcast by the society around you. For a person like me who’s never been able to “fit in” per se, it’s fun to be different from the rest and doing what you love for a change.The worst part is being treated like an outcast.

We wish Rajiv every success in his second start-up.

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13 Responses »

  1. [...] Kamla Bhatt has an interview of Rajiv who’s the man behind Call Graph. Read it here. [...]

  2. Hey Rajiv,

    That was an honest post-mortem on what went wrong. Hope that other entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs have something to learn from that and not repeat the same mistakes. You will definitely see success this time around. Wishing you the very best in your endeavour!

  3. Kamla/Rajiv : Great job guys, this is a very insightful post, full of candid but real learnings from the world of entrepreneurship.

  4. [...] callgraph.in, kamla bhatt, startup failures, Startups |   Kamla bhatt blog has a very good interview with Rajiv,  he shares some candid but real learnings from the world of [...]

  5. [...] Off Entertainment Unit; To Unlock Value – Hungama Acquires Stake In Nautanki.tv – What An Entrepreneur Learned From His Failed Startup – raman roy on babel and more… – RCOM-MTN Exclusive Negotiations Extended Till July [...]

  6. Kamla/Rajeev thats a very good post. Rajeev I liked your spirit of continuing with your entrepreneurial dream. Am sure you have learned a lot from your 1st startup experience. Keep trying. Best of luck..

  7. Thanks all for your feedback. And special credit goes to Rajiv for being candid and open and like I said it does take courage to talk about it esp in India that has a nascent startup culture and an evolving ecosystem for entrepreneurs.


  8. All the best to Rajiv for this startup CallGraph.It takes a lot of courage to be in the open and share such thoughts !!!!!

    Thanks Kamla for this interview and special thanks to Rajiv.

    -Himanshu Sheth

  9. Being an entrepreneur is fun, provided the dream that you envision comes to fuition at the onset of its execution. Moreover solid plans and prototypes foster your case as you will have a solid financial backing besides the technical expertise around you that the plan brings along with. As long as the entrepreneur has a clear cut plan of nurtuing, planning, execution and the market, the growth and exit strategy would be a follow up.

  10. Although people find it very exciting to join a startup company anticipating tremendous growth opportunities, I would like to warn people to check the company properly before joining as I have been a victim of the same.

    I was working for an organization of repute. Expecting huge growth in a startup, I joined K2 InfoEdge Private Limited that promotes a portal Skills4U.com. The CEO of the company Mr.Manoj Nagaraj utilized my Services in the capacity of Sales & Marketing Manager for one month. After completion of one month, he did not pay me Salary due to which I had to quit the organization. The organization had the malicious intention of just utilizing my rich experience of working with a well known company that was in the similar line of business for a short term and no intention of retaining me as an employee of K2 InfoEdge Private Limited.

    Please refrain yourself from associating with companies like K2 InfoEdge Private Limited/Skills4U.com that cheat people to the core.

  11. [...] Title:  What an Entrepreneur Learned from His Failed Startup (interview) Company:  Sedna Wireless Author:  Rajiv Poddar | Kamla Bhatt Finances were just one [...]

  12. [...] Title: What an Entrepreneur Learned from His Failed Startup [...]

  13. [...] Title: What an Entrepreneur Learned from His Failed Startup (Interview) [...]

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