Every now and then you come across a bootstrapper who’s done a great job of bootstrapping – all alone, out of home, with little noise and a lot of put-your-head-down-and-execute.
As part of the series big bang geek series, we caught up with one such – Akshat Choudhary of blogVault.net who’s built this service into a healthy, viable business all by himself, and even has the opportunity to now scale it!
The founder of blogVault, a WordPress backup service. Has been programming since the age of 12 and has had the ambition to be an entrepreneur since then! Has earlier worked as an engineer at Citrix for 7 years where he had the good fortune of starting a new product.
About 5 years ago, Akshat built his first product – ActivMobs – which was a group SMS service and gained a fair bit of traction.
“It was a truly viral product but like many viral products, it did not make any money. In fact spent a lot of my savings building it.”
While ActivMobs was a free consumer application, blogVault is a paid product. Akshat thinks that is the biggest difference in his approach to entrepreneurship the second time around. We agree that’s a good, healthy difference :)
The story behind blogVault
It started around 3 years ago. One of Akshat’s favourite bloggers – Jeff Atwood (of CodingHorror fame) – had his site crash. Now, this guy is the founder of Stack Overflow, so he is as technical as they get. He did not have good backups for his site. This seeded the idea in Akshat’s head.
“I mailed him and a few other of the blogs I follow. They gave a mixed response, but I took a chance on it.”
Akshat initially thought that this would be a $2000 a year business and he would code it up in max 3-4 weeks. But we know how great engineers are at estimation, right?
“I basically pursued it to try something different. It has been almost 3 years and I still have not completed the code. One other thing was that I got my first paying customers almost 6 months after launching.”
But eventually, its turned out not just fine, but pretty awesome! Akshat was wrong not just about the time he’d need to built the whole thing – but how much it would make as well. The revenues have been much much higher that his initial guesstimate. So much so that he quit his job about 6 months ago and is focusing on blogVault full-time. The product is popular and has a whole bunch of paying customers – on a regular monthly subscription! Akshat believes there is a big opportunity in the space, and has big plans for the future.
Wow. So what’s the best part of the job?
“I have loved coding since I was 12 and I don’t think there is anything that gives me greater joy. That said, there is a rush when you get a mail from a customer who thanks you for the product. It really makes my day.”
Its indeed always fun when “just code” becomes something someone uses, cares about, and best of all, not just pays you but also applauds you for as well.
So what’s been great?
Akshat’s focus on the product has been his greatest strength, in his opinion. That probably comes easy to a geek, yet, like he admits, being one comes with its limitations.
“I know this is an answer given by many, but this is one thing we know how to do. I am generally very conservative and that really becomes a problem when you are building a technology product.”
What’s a workday like?
All work and no play is the norm amongst many entrepreneurs. Yet, off-time is key.
“I prioritize sleep and hanging out with family/friends. Every other hour is spent working. I think that there are lots of things in a startup which stress you out. Often without good reason. In such cases being happy is very important. So when friends meet up, I will try and catch up with them.”
Of course, the ‘not-done’ catches up with Akshat too.
“I code much less than I want to. Customer support takes up a lot of time. I wished I was spending more time hiring. (We are looking for 2 engineers)”
Akshat does seem very work-focused. The only one he could think of was StayFocusd – “which prevents me from spending too much time on the internet.” And we know how much of a time-suck that can be, don’t we?
Do you read books?
He loves reading autobiographies and is currently reading this book called “Moonwalking with Einstein”. It talks about being able to use your memory better.
He’s quick to point out to us that “It is not a self-help book though.”
Family – they’re even more important for bootstrappers, aren’t they?
“My family has been most supportive. Though they were not terribly happy when I left Citrix, a place which I loved working at and is an amazing company. I bounce my ideas off my brother. I think of him as a co-founder who does not get any equity :)”
This is a very refreshing story and in case we didn’t mention it earlier – we love stories about bootstrappers (it’s almost like that little Gaulish village that held out….). We wish Akshat the best, and will keep you updated on how his venture shapes up. For now, it’s working great and he’s enjoying doing it, and sometimes thats what matters most.