The bootstrapped giant series is based on Velocity’s deep-rooted belief that small but viable business ideas can scale and be highly profitable without VC Funds or angel investments. Inspired by the mantra that chasing customer satisfaction is always more profitable in the long run than chasing investors, our series covers stories of entrepreneurs and their brands who made it big. As part of our journey of celebrating bootstrapped heroes, we bring you the story of one of India’s leading marketing technology companies, Wingify, and its founder, Paras Chopra.
The Wingify Journey
Wingify is an India-based, fast-growing software company that makes globally-admired marketing technology products. With over 4000 customers in 90+ countries and a whopping USD 30 Million in annual revenue, the brand brings in more than a hundred crore of valuable foreign exchange into India every year.
How It All Started: The Startup Bug
Paras was bitten by the startup bug early in his life. When presented with a computer, unlike his peers who were busy playing games, Paras learned computer coding and went on to create various website projects. One such project, Naram Cheez, which he created when he was all of 15, earned him INR 5000-6000, pushing him to continue the journey. He then explored coding and came up with various ideas for starting his own business. It wasn’t until his first three startup ideas failed that Paras realized where he was going wrong: He was building products but wasn’t marketing them correctly.
The Twist in the Tale: Introduction to Marketing
Being the coding ninja that he was, Paras was more intrigued by the data and science side of marketing. He studied marketing and decided to test his knowledge in an established firm before starting his next venture, Wingify. He used his coding and marketing skills and developed a marketing platform, which he decided to share on an open online forum, Hacker News. Paras was sure his product would be an instant hit as it was comprehensive and had all the necessary marketing tools in one place.
However, the feedback he received brought him back to reality. Most feedback pointed to the tool being too confusing and hard to navigate. It was then that he decided to focus on just one aspect of marketing technology and master it. He then recoded Wingify intending to make the interface and user experience as simple as possible.
Fun fact: Wingify did not even have an official logo for two years since its inception
The Birth of Wingify As We Know It
Once the recoding was done, Paras joined hands with his college senior, Sparsh Gupta, as a partner in the business. Wingify launched its flagship product, Visual Website Optimizer (VWO), in 2011. It was initially presented as a free tool to a select number of people who would really benefit from it. Five months into the beta launch, the product got its first 1000 free users.
Based on the constant feedback from the users, the duo developed Wingify further. After improving the product, they decided to roll out the paid version and made 4x their target profit in the first month. One thing to note here is that Paras did not quit his full-time job when the startup bug bit again. Instead, he worked on his idea on the side so that he could bootstrap the project if it worked out. One thing led to another, and the team kept growing. In 2015, Wingify launched its second product, PushCrew, a platform for marketers to send push notifications to their subscribers from within their website. The rest, as we know, is history. In the financial year 2021, Wingify’s profits crossed INR 51Crore!
Lessons Aspiring Startup Founders Can Learn From Paras Chopra
Starting a business can seem daunting if you do not have proper, timely guidance. Here, we take you through the five most essential parts and processes of a startup and how you can ace them, the Paras Chopra way. Read along!
The five processes we will be covering here are:
- Customer Success
Having the right team is vital to any business’ success. Sources say Paras is very particular about who is hired to be a part of Wingify. In fact, up until Wingify became a team of about 120 employees, Paras would insist on being a part of the interview process to ensure they hired the right fit. With a rapidly growing team, the process changed, but the aim remained the same: hire the person who is as obsessed with the product as you are.
Additionally, in a recent article, Paras explains why startup founders must hire for a change instead of hiring for roles. “Before you hire, assume you’ve hired the perfect candidate and visualize what specific changes have they brought into your organization’s growth. Then go ahead and hire the person who can bring about those changes,” he said.
The product (or service) is the backbone of any business. We were intrigued by Paras’ philosophy here. Paras talks about how startups shouldn’t look for product-market fit and instead strive to achieve market-product fit. In simple terms, he suggests one should always research the market first, scout for problems that need a solution, and then work towards building that product. He suggests understanding a customer’s pain points and desires instead of assuming one knows what the customer wants and then building meaningful solutions. Paras says, “Rather than starting with an idea and then doing research, it’s much better to start with a blank slate and start observing customer behavior and trends. Such market-first ideas have a much higher success odds than product-first ideas which may or may not address an unfulfilled customer desire.”
Marketing has been a gamechanger in Paras’ startup journey. He strongly believes marketing is an essential part of getting your startup noticed. As mentioned before, Paras attributes the failure of his earlier startup ideas to poor marketing. On many occasions, Paras mentions how he feels entrepreneurs today have the wrong understanding of marketing.
Paras has even developed a marketing framework called the Motivation, Emotion, and Repetition (MER) Framework. The framework requires you to find answers to three questions: What motivations do your consumers have? What emotions will they relate to? How much do you need to repeat? “It really doesn’t matter if you are running a non-profit, a startup, an enterprise company, a consumer app, a B2B app, a free or paid service, or a side project, if you need to attract people’s attention, you need to be a good marketer,” he says.
Customer-centricity must be at the core of every business’ operations. Tech marketplaces like G2 and Capterra have become fantastic platforms for people to research software through authentic reviews from actual product users. In fact, Wingify’s VWO is #12 on G2’s list of best software sellers in India. This has mainly been possible due to Paras and his team’s focus on building products and services that customers ACTUALLY need. Paras, in an article, also talked about how your most successful customer can help you set the right direction for your business. Paras said, “Your most successful customers will use your product in ways you never designed it for. Your job is to polish these ‘newly discovered’ use cases and offer them to the entire market,” he said.
Wingify was bootstrapped. And so was Zoho. If the outside world has got you thinking that a startup can pick up ONLY if it gets external funding, Paras Chopra has proved them wrong! In many of his interviews, Paras has spoken about how Wingify was so busy building great products and bringing in profits that the thought of getting external funding never crossed their minds. Paras also talks about how refreshing it is to have 100% say in your business when you don’t have an external investor telling you how you should run your company. And, we agree!
Giving away a part of your equity can be one of the most significant downsides of getting external funding. However, we have a better solution. If you are looking for a flexible, highly scalable, 100% digital process of raising funds that require no equity dilution or any guarantee, we recommend revenue-based financing. Velocity’s founder-friendly approach lets founders raise funds without diluting equity or providing collateral, and the repayments happen as a percentage of monthly revenue. You can learn more about revenue-based financing in our blog – The ultimate guide to revenue-based financing.
We loved diving deep into the minds of bootstrapped empire founders. Our series aims to show everyone who dreams of having their own business that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Is there any other brand you want us to explore as a part of this series? Let us know in the comments section below.
Being India’s largest revenue-based financier, Velocity provides founder-friendly revenue-based financing to growing DTC businesses. If you are a D2C brand looking for funding to manage your inventory and marketing needs, apply here, and get funded within 7 days.