The following post was originally composed on 24th, June, 2013 and was shared as a Facebook note.
It was right before lunch, on this day, one year ago, that we launched, what in lean startup terms, is called a Minimum Viable Product, or MVP, of Inu. A minimum viable product is exactly what it sounds like — a patient on life support, a bare skeleton with no flesh, a baby right out of a mother’s womb — unclean, dirty, shabby and highly unstable. I don’t know what it was to everyone else; my parents, cofounders, early employees, everyone — but to me, it was the most precious thing on the planet.
An idea, a seed that I had been mulling over for about fifteen months suddenly sprang to life, yes thank you Apache and Filezilla. Our programming knowledge was, and still is, quite limited; so our barebones application ran on a low level PHP framework called Codeigniter, which I later found is impossible to scale with. Also, we had no idea of the amazing frameworks for front-end like Bootstrap, Backbone.js, etc. We didn’t know what md5 hashing was. We didn’t know you had to ‘salt’ your passwords before you put them in the database. In short, we knew shit. Yet, we incorporated some basic functionality into the platform and powered on the servers.
Needless to say, the product was met with a lot of criticism, suggestions, mockery, praise, and lots more! We were hailed as new-gen dorm room entrepreneurs in reputed dailies like The Hindu, the Times of India, the Deccan Chronicle, the Indian Express, etc. Meanwhile, our product’s screenshots were being mocked for it’s lack-lustre quality and barren outlooks across social media. I didn’t know whether to be happy that we reached 1,000 users in less than 10 days — if you want a reference, Twitter took 6 months to achieve this figure, or so Quora says, or to be sad because I was being publicly ridiculed and had no freaking idea on how to scale the product!
I decided to calm down and trust it would all work out okay. I intently listened to people over email conversations, Facebook chats, phone calls on what they are looking for in an upcoming social network. In MBA terms, I was trying to determine the market fit for the product that I was trying to build. Over the next couple of months, I iterated the product design thrice, Mrudula wrote endless lines of code, and the third version seemed to kick things up a bit — people took note of the product and me; I was featured on Inc. magazine with the cofounder of Facebook, Dustin Moskovitz, thanks to a Quora answer that I wrote which really helped us in marketing the product.
The traffic to the site surged through October and November, and we were faced with the perennial problem of scaling. Guess what, PHP scales horribly. Yay us, for writing in PHP! We had to either find novel ways of scaling in PHP, like Facebook and WordPress did, or we had to switch to a completely new platform like Python or Ruby. Owing to the traffic, our site had considerably slowed down and was experiencing server faults often. I was forced to kill the PHP version towards the end of November. And we started rewriting the codebase in Python, understood the awesomeness of tools like Git, in December and we shipped furious amounts of code in February – to me, this was a make-it-or-break-it version of Inu. I decided that if this version did not work out, I would kill the product, and retire to some dark corner of the world where no one would know I was a failure.
On February, 9th, 2013, I pushed the final git commit that triggered what eventually turned out to be the last version of Inu, but all for good reasons. Right from February 10th, we got over 1,500 visitors per day — okay bro, stop comparing with Facebook’s traffic, really now! That gave me a little bit of confidence to go ahead even if this version didn’t work. Four days after our ‘final’ version was shipped, we received an angel investment offer — wow!
And under the guidance of my angel investor, I completely rethought the product, and my visions for the future changed. Drastically. In order to incorporate the changes that I envisioned for Inu, I had to rework the codebase. Again. Meanwhile, we also ran into certain bureaucratic issues which prohibited us to retain the name Inu — so we rebranded ourselves as Likewyss. On the 25th of April, 2013, Likewyss Technologies Private Limited was incorporated as a company with headquarters in Chennai.
And right now, I am writing code for the first version of Likewyss, having fun at The Startup Centre, every hour of every day. I envision a similar build-learn-repeat cycle to occur with Likewyss as well, as it did with Inu. But now, I’m armed with a far more advanced knowledge of programming, a better understanding of startups, marketing, and thanks to the investment, a pile of cash — so I hope to build and ship better products in the near future.
Ultimately, you might ask — why this blog post da? This is just my way of recounting everything that has happened with Inu in the past one year, my way of saying thank you for helping us all along the journey, and my way of promising you we will do a good job with Likewyss.
Here’s to the many more years to come. At Likewyss.
With love and endless gratitude,