One Year of Call Graph, Five Lessons Learnt The Hard Way

We crossed an important milestone this month: we made it into the second year! The Call Graph client was launched on March 8th 2008 in the first edition of DevCamp Bangalore. We launched the services part few months later, paid plans in November and since then we have been making revenues. Today Call Graph is mostly a ‘Ramen profitable‘ venture. That is, the revenues are just enough to sustain our operations and meet our living costs. The last year has been an incredible learning experience. We made mistakes, stumbled, recovered and somehow managed to survive. Not sure if we can keep doing that given the worsening economy, but for the time being, here are few lessons that we’ve learnt the hard way.

Its The Business Stupid

A new venture is always about creating a sustainable business.  It is almost never about the product or the service. Its about keeping enough coming in so that you can grow and get better with time. Coming from an engineering background its a very hard lesson to learn. The focus is always more on the product. The product is obviously very important. But never ever lose sight of the business. If the product is not creating a sustainable business then maybe you’re doing it wrong.

You’ll Be Lucky To Have One Percent Conversion Rate

For any internet product or service, its assumed that you’ll have a conversion rate of one percent. It could be number of paid to free users, signed up users to active users, etc. In our case it is the number of downloads to the number of registered users. We haven’t been able to achieve that 1 percent conversion rate yet. There are variety of reasons for that, one of the most important being the large number of international users. Its a simple chicken and egg problem. Support for Internationalization requires effort but we cant do it since we don’t have the resources and so on.

Free == Substandard Product

Its assumed that everything on the internet expected to be free. What we found was, giving it away for free creates this impression that its somehow substandard. This is especially true if your competitors charge. For Call Graph the business proposition necessitated that we offer it for free. But we had a incredibly hard time dispelling this illusion. Adding a purchase option helped a lot. That is in fact our most popular plan.

Turning Cash Flow Positive Is A Moving Target

Its never ever that one single feature or that one plan which does the trick for you. By the time you implement it, things have changed and the potential customers have disappeared. It’s rather a culmination of all those features and plan which add up. What we’ve learnt is to never rely on a single source of revenue. Especially in these recession times. You never know which one is going to earn your bread on any particular day!

Its A Survival Game

Someone once said that the first 3 years of a startup’s life are the toughest. After that you just get used to it! That statement sums it up. The world out there is tough and you need to evolve yourself with the only goal of surviving. Like as it happens in Cricket One Dayers, batting through the 50 overs matters the most. The more you’re out there, the bigger are the chances of making it.

Finally a big thanks to all our users who have helped us reach here. Thanks to all those who tried out Call Graph, pointed out the bugs and deficiencies and helped us improve it. You are simply the best!

7 thoughts on “One Year of Call Graph, Five Lessons Learnt The Hard Way”

  1. Rajiv and Team,

    Hearty congratulations for completing on year with Callgraph and thanks for sharing your lessons learned in the past one year!

  2. I agree with all these “lessons the hard way”, been there, doing that and have done that as well as a tonne of other things. I wish you guys the best of luck, hang in there!

    Jon
    http://WoodMarvels.com – Create Unique Memories

  3. The first and last one are very very important , Engineer’s know how to make a module or a software , but very few know how to convert it into bread, and now bread is the essential raw material ( yeah yeah..besides booz, coffe and cigs) , if the supply of bread ends everything else goes for a toss.

  4. Hi ,
    I still remember few months back u guys gave presentation at startup saturday ( IIMB ) . Congrats on completing one year . All the best

  5. Hey man, congrats. Thought about meeting you and had a small chat about you when I had come to Bangalore couple of weekends back.
    All the best for many more years, more learnings (and money) to learn and earn 😉 Keep Digging!

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