In this month’s feature, I caught up Shruti M Krishnan to discuss her plans to disrupt the £3bn market research industry with Startup Powr of You.
Here is Shruti’s story.
Q) Can you tell us how Powr of You got started, where did the idea come from?
A) My brother and co-founder, Keshav Malani, actually thought of it right outside the Baker Street station 🙂 We had been exchanging emails about value of social data, value of our connected lives, and the constantly changing consumer trends. He sent an email as soon as he was out of the station and I still remember the subject line said Idea: get paid for your data.
The rest is the amazing journey over the past year…squeezed in between a crazy amount of work and learning as we’ve brought our platform live.
Q) Can you explain your business model in very simple terms?
A) Simply put, our platform allows users to be an active part of the online data economy, while remaining anonymous, and earning rewards along the way. Simultaneously, brands are able to get a deeper understanding of their consumers through natural data.
How do we do this… we aggregate, anonymise, and generate insights from user data, with user permission, and create market research reports. We then sell these reports to brands looking to understand their consumers better. The money generated here is shared back with our users. Furthermore, when users login to their account – they are able to see personalised insights about what their data says about them, fun things to better understand their friends and social networks along with their habits.
Q) What does your team look like?
A) Currently, the core the team is just the two founders: a brother/sister duo. We have 3 developers working with us full-time and a data scientist as well.
Q) Do you outsource any work, if so what, how and why?
A) We outsource our development (backend, frontend, and mobile) to India due to the costs of hiring in-house in London. Finding the right talent is quite a challenge in the UK, especially London when trying to balance out costs.
Q) How have you funded the business?
A) We are self-funded at the moment. We are exploring investment opportunities that align with our business goals though.
Q) How did you get from idea to product, was there much project management involved?
A) Moving from idea to product has required and continues requiring an incredible amount of project management. From managing the outsourced development to managing the bazillion events and meetings, all the while being able to get some work done – all this has required meticulous tracking of tasks, constant check-ins between the co-founders, and love for what we are doing.
It’s a good thing both of us come from a fast-paced consulting environment.
Q) How much competition is there in your space? How do you stand out?
A) There is only one direct competitor to our business model in this space who is also in its nascent stages of development with its private beta phase. But Market Research as a whole is a very established industry with major players such as – Nielsen, GFK, Kantar, etc.
Q) What does your typical customer look like?
A) Given our two-sided business model, we technically have two customers:
Consumers – individuals looking to understand their quantified self through visualized insights, e.g: Travel Map, Social Trip Planner, War of Words, etc.
Brands – a company looking to leverage social media, understand their customers more deeply, or giving back to their consumers
Q) What have been your major hurdles when starting up, how have you overcome them?
A)The major hurdle we have faced is explaining the entire model to consumers given its complexity. It’s an ongoing exercise but we have to continually simply the message to be easily digestible. We work to share our tenets of transparency, privacy, and empowerment through all our messaging and branding. It’s an iterative process and we’ve gotten some good coaching along the way through the London Business School Incubator as we’re a part of the program. We’d also been lucky to be selected for other programs that have helped us hone in on the art of branding through a program called BrandAmplifier run by a talented team at JP Creative in Lambeth. They did various workshops with us to coach us on various media tools we can use to get our messages across and engage our audiences. This is a great program and came just in time as we’re starting to develop and execute our marketing plan.
Q) Are there any services or tools that you can recommend for startups who need help with getting stuff done?
A) We’ve been lucky to be a part of the London Business School Incubator program which has provided invaluable resources and guidance along the way over the past year.
Task management – Wunderlist, Zoho Projects
Web Development – Axosoft Bug Tracker – can be used for all development for early stage companies and very affordable!
Email and Calendar – Gmail (Google App Suite) for small businesses is incredible for this and easy integration with phones, chat, google drive, etc.
File sharing – Dropbox: Great for sharing files with developers given it’s accessible anywhere.
Finding freelancers – Elance: Incredible way to source small projects and compare easily.
Software – Microsoft BizSpark Program: Free software, support, and visibility for startups.
Q) What customer recruitment channels are you using, and which are the most effective in terms of conversion?
A) We haven’t started tapping into any defined recruitment channels just yet. We are working to hone our product and messaging before starting a multi-channel outreach. We believe this will provide a better bang for the buck.
Q) What are your long-term plans for the business?
A) There are quite a few paths for us to take for the long term but we are working towards the goal of being able to provide our users a package of benefits, both financial and a service offering for them to understand their data and make the most of their social networks.