“We are owlgrinners …and you are awesome!” is what they say at Owlgrin, an SaaS product development startup based out of Gurgaon. Owlgrin came to our notice with their SaaS cloud-based accounting application called Gaurilla, which is their first product! We got a chance to meet Mr Gaurilla in person and Mr Gaurilla himself, referred us to his owner Mohit Mamoria. We are still in talks with Mohit who will introduce us to Ms Gauri, Mr Gaurilla’s girlfriend. In the meantime, read our conversation with Mohit where we find out more about Owlgrin, Gaurilla, and Mohit’s startup journey!
Describe yourself in one sentence.
Let’s do it in three words – A Happy Entrepreneur. ;)
How did you come up with the names Owlgrin and Gaurilla? Also give a short introduction to both for our readers.
After Efox SoftBytes, I wanted to build a product company. I had this vision of a company working in three industries – web, mobile and games. I wanted a name that would appeal with all three kinds of products. Hence, we came up with some names with Owls. Also, in noisy world, we needed to have the domain name and social media usernames available. We kept crossing out the names, which weren’t available. And in the end we were left with two names out of which we chose Owlgrin as owlgr.in was also available that we could use as our own branded URL shortener service.
When in private beta, Gaurilla was actually called Envoicr. But then there were so many others with similar kind of names. And what when we grow the app beyond invoicing (which now we already have), Envoicr might not had been a good choice. Also, we need something that will distinguish us from others, right from first impression itself. We kept changing the spellings of animal names until something that would strike us right at the center of our head. When Gaurilla came, nothing seemed more apt for it. Even we couldn’t have Twitter handle for the same, still we went ahead with it. We just couldn’t take out Gaurilla from our heads.
So, to make things clearer, Owlgrin is the parent company, of which Gaurilla is a product. There will be more products coming from Owlgrin in web, mobile and games.
How big is your team at Owlgrin, and how big do you want to see it in a year?
As of now, the team has 5 people. 2 of us (including me) work on technology full time. 1 works remotely and is an intern on technology. And the rest 2 are the Business Executives who travel/communicate and get businesses use Gaurilla. Even I am in selling-mode all the time.
We are working to expand team; and looking at the pace we are growing, I can imagine a team of some where around 50 people by Christmas 2014. Now, we are looking for people ranging from mobile developers to web developers to designers to sales & marketing executives.
How are you funded?
As of now, we are self-funded. I bootstrapped Owlgrin to sustain for 12 months starting from July 2013. I invested all my money and raised some more from family against equity. In total, I have invested around Rs 6 lakhs to bootstrap Owlgrin.
We have launched Gaurilla and people love it. I have got so many emails saying that they love the beauty and simplicity of it. Current users are on 3 months free trial period and the revenue will start pouring in from February onwards. We can sustain and grow it with the revenue itself that would be coming but to scale at high speeds, we might need some outside money.
What are the technologies you’ve used to build Gaurilla?
I may be a little lengthy in explaining this but it will be useful to the people who are looking to build anything bigger than trivial app. I am just 22 now, but I have been building software for last 11 years. I begin programming when I was 11-12 years old chap. And thus, I might go in details.
Like the modern web apps, Gaurilla is built as two parts – frontend and backend.
Backend is written in PHP using the greatest framework called Laravel. We have exposed this backend as a REST API that can be consumed using any front-end, be it a Web App or a Mobile App. And the web frontend is written in AngularJS. It uses the REST API to communicate with the backend.
The benefit of using this architecture is that it is highly decoupled and hence, more scalable. Also, we can use same API in mobile app too. Same backend and different frontends makes it super portable too. Once we find we need to scale the app, we would simply replicate the backend on more servers with load balancer in front.
What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?
Hmm.. the biggest hurdle. Okay, the biggest hurdle is RBI. Yes, The Reserve Bank Of India and its policies. Gaurilla is a SaaS product for which people will subscribe on a monthly basis. So, I wanted a payment system where users can fill in their credit card details once and I can charge them every month without worrying them about entering their details every month. But due to RBI’s policies, no payment gateway can help in such requirements for the companies incorporated in India.
I am having a tough time working this issue out with the payment gateways. If nothing helpful happens, then I would have to work around it by incorporating Owlgrin in USA too and then using a bank account there to charge users.
You started Efox SoftBytes when you were 18! You decided never to start a services company again. What made you take that decision?
Yes, at 18. I was very passionate about building things. With technology, I started building since I was 11 (before 11, legos). I remember I wrote two minimal computer viruses and a few games (without graphics). I was so excited whenever I learnt anything new that I wanted to build something with it.
And 5 years ago, I build my first software that was used productively and it wasn’t just a pet-hacked-project. Then, I decided, I would build the world’s greatest company. You see I have this thinking of “world’s greatest” with whatever I do.
I just started with college when Efox SoftBytes came into existence. I even failed in first semester itself. But that failure made me think, “When all these people would be sitting for interviews, I too would be sitting for same but on the other side of the table.”
I worked through Efox for client work but then as college’s curriculum grew, time beat me. I couldn’t find time to focus on everything and hence I shut down Efox SoftBytes.
The time I shut it down, words like “entrepreneur” and “startups” started doing rounds all over. And following those cues and the ideas I had in my mind, I decided to start a product-company so that I could build things I want to build and not what other people want me to build. I was tired of building same thing for different people and the excitement of creating things I want to create made me take the decision of never doing a services company again.
Now, I want to serve through the products. I love delighting people. And I think, doing it with a product-company sounds more interesting to me.
What do you wish you’d known before your started Owlgrin?
If I’d knew about these RBI regulations, I would have got Owlgrin incorporated in USA too while the product was in private beta and it’d have saved me a lot of resources (including the most important one – time) now.
Not knowing that made me to iterate schedule of Gaurilla again. But as I am an Indian and quite good at Jugaad, I will not waste more time and begin charging current users on half-yearly plan and in the mean time would work around this problem. Nothing is impossible if you have some Jugaads up your sleeves. ;)
Which website do you check first when you wake up?
Either Gmail or Twitter. I follow so many magazines through RSS or Twitter that every day I wake up; I get a warm doze of fresh content. I spend at least an hour reading every morning. And if some is left, I read it through out the day in bits and pieces. Newspaper’s turn come in evening, ironically. I use it to update myself with some local tid-bits or just to pass half an hour after the work in evening.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
Currently, right now, I am excited about marketing our superhero for startups – Mr Gaurilla. Most of the heavy development in the product is done. Bug fixes/small improvements will keep happening.
We had an awesome launch of the product and over 280 businesses use Gaurilla currently. Now, we want to bring more people get on using Gaurilla and also make current users more active. I have donned the hat of salesman and I am all feet-on-street while a team had kicked off a social media campaign.
Everyday at Owlgrin has been exciting. Every day brought a new challenge, a new opportunity and a new start. Building a product company was my dream and now, I am 100% entrepreneur. Owlgrin is on my mind 24×7. And everytime something exciting is up on the schedule. As of this interview, the social campaign about Mr Gaurilla is the thing that keeps me awake at nights.
Just on a side note, would you like to see Ms Gauri, girlfriend of Mr Gaurilla?
What advice would you offer to any soon to be startup founders out there?
I tweet @mohitmamoria regularly about startups and the experiences. Right now, over the top of my head, I could think of following advices:
- You are building a company and not just a product. Adding more features to your product doesn’t mean you’re growing. Build a business around your product.
- Do you really feel important when an automated voice says, “Please stay on the line, you are important to us.” I hope not. At least, I am pissed off. So, you better care about your customer and not just let a machine tell them that they are important. By caring for them, you build relationships.
Can you convince the reader to start using Gaurilla in under 50 words?
“Businessman or Entrepreneur? Get Gaurilla to handle the numbers and you do what you love to do – business.” (18 words) ;)