27 followers
Nikhil Aitharaju
Co-Founder TintUp

Hey, I am Nikhil, CoFounder @Tint.

I moved to US in 2010, to pursue masters in CS in USC. My goal was to settle down and have a happy life.

During college, I secured a job offer from amazon and first question my parents asked was ‘What’s Amazon’, so I explained it to them and they were fine with it. Then in few days I got an offer from the startup. Now I had to explain my parents why I am joining a 30 people company instead of Amazon. 3 months later I told them I am going to start my own company. My Parents were shocked! 3 months later I told them I am going to start my own company. My Parents were shocked!

All I would say, It all turns out fine. “Life gives one chance. Take it” While in school, I had co-founded a company and just with 1000 users, we hustled to get Mark Cuban’s attention and managed to get 250K$ in funding and a bunch of press. However, our original product failed to grow. After 1 yr only 30K were left in the bank. So my startup, gave up the idea of applying for my h1b visa. Being an immigrant I had 2 things to worry about compared to my co-founders. 1] Get company on track 2] Stay in US. I feel US immigration is running Windows 95, while the economy is like iOS! I had decisions to make. Choose a job offer or work at a startup.

This quote influenced my decision "When I’m old and dying, I plan to look back on my life and say “wow, that was an adventure,” not “wow, I sure felt safe.” – Tom Preston-Werner, GitHub.

So we persisted. An opportunity presented in the form of a PR agency who wanted to use our technology in a different way. That worked! We remained tenacious and turned around the product as Tint and we grew to 40K customers, 1M+ in revenue in just a few months. There is one thing I would say “When you fail, don’t give up. Things work if you persist and focus on product.”

Coming close to losing my US visa status to growing our company to 25 employees and 4M$ in annual revenue, it’s been an adventure. Happy to share my experiences. AskMeAnything!

What advice you have for people who are deciding if they should start their company? How can they make the decision?

Passion, Patience and Product. Do you have the passion for the product you're working on? Do you have the patience to stick through tough times? Do you believe in the product and have a good product sense? Ask yourself these questions and if the answer is yes to all three, then do it. Sometimes it's not always required to quit your day job to start a company. You can come up with an idea, validate it and then once you start believing in the product, you can start working on it full time.

How do you manage the stress that comes up with starting your own company?

I am not doing a good job managing stress. Stress has led to some really bad health problems in my life. And my health eventually lead to unhappiness. Right now I'm spending time away from SF with my parents. My health got better and I'm more happier. I will be flying back to SF in few weeks and I'm really looking forward to it. So I figured out, if I ever feel burnt out in the future, I will go spend time with my family. I will be trying out Art of Living/ Meditation starting next week and I will update you on how that goes.

How did you guys come up with the idea of Tintup. What’s the story, were there any iterations on the ideas, what changes you made to initial idea and why?

TINT was never our idea. Our first product was called hype marks. It's a social bookmarking website similar to Pinterest but for links. One of the feature of our website was to prefetch your links from Facebook and Twitter on sign up. A top celebr...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free

What are some books, tools etc that you recently discovered and are extremely useful to you everyday?

I recently read this book called Joy Inc which I loved. It talks about making few process changes in your company that can help you achieve more joy. I also liked this book called maverick by ricardo selmer. Try headspace app for meditation. It's ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free

If you have to do Tint/startup all over again, what would be few things you would change?

Absolutely nothing. I truly cherish every moment I spent working at TINT. Right from the lowest of the lows to the highest of the highs, it's a journey of my lifetime. But if you want me to be really anal, I would say I wish I didn't stay up late ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free

What were the separation of responsibilities among co-founders? How did you decide that?

I think it was very innate. Tim (our CEO) is really good leader and he handles most of the business and people related problems. Ryo and I handle most of our Engineering and product related tasks. Trust is the most important thing when it comes to...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free

How did you comeup with the name Tint/Tintup?

Our product adds a social layer to every website making them more social and engaging, and TINT means adding a shade/ hue to something. So TINT'ing up a website sounded more apt, hence the name.

How did you get your first investor to say yes? Whats the story?

We started working on a social bookmarking site before TINT up. Social bookmarking was big then because of Pinterest just taking off. Also Mark Cuban and a couple of others tweeted about us, which helped us get enough publicity to generate some in...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free

Would you have joined the startup if it wouldn’t have got funding from Mark Cuban?

Mark cuban tweeted about our product. He did not fund us. His tweet definitely fueled us to get funding. I was on my F1 visa at that time, and trying to work on a startup with no funding was a bigger threat to my visa. Most likely I wouldn't have ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free

Hi Nikhil, Inspiring story indeed.

Did you keep an eye on any fallback options through those tough times with Visa? It is annoying hassle but also directly affects our existence here and the quality of decisions we can make.

Yes it was a constant struggle. There have been some really tough times where I was literally shivering thinking about my existence here in the US. Luckily not having a family in the US made some of the decisions easier. I definitely played all th...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free

How did you meet you co-founder? Tell us the stories about decision to start working together?

I had job offers from couple of companies even before my last semester. This put me in a really comfortable situation. I was scouting for opportunities for the last semester to get more experience. I was particularly interested in this company cal...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free

At what point you decided to charge for your product. How did you determine pricing?

We were running out of funds and had a tough time raising money. So the only option we had is to charge our customers. You can only figure out the right pricing after multiple iterations. The key is to first start with something and then adjust yo...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
How long it took to go from the 1st paying customer to 10 to 50 to 100? Was the journey steep?

Facing so much uncertainty, how did you manage your anxieties? Were there certain philosophies, daily habits, and or routines that helped keep the right attitude?... via text message

3 P's.Passion, Patience and Product.Can you rank them from most important to least important. #AskNikhil @askmeanything50 @tint @Aitharaju
At what point do you decide to leave the private beta stage & decide to launch the product to the public? Features & team wise. #AskNikhil
3 P's.Passion, Patience and Product.Can you rank them from most important to least important. #AskNikhil @askmeanything50 @tint @Aitharaju
What are the things you will do to keep your employees happy and engaged with each other? #AskNikhil @askmeanything50 @tint
How did you land a partnership deal with Wix? And how did you find the right person to make a deal?
How do you get time to blog while doing a startup and working crazy hours! Blogging never gets a priority leave aside attention for fledgling and mid size startups.
"What are the major challenges you face while working on your startup?" #AskNikhil @askmeanything50 @Tint @Aitharaju
How did you get in touch with the 14 investors? Have you contacted them again since you're profitable and raised money, or is it more a one-chance thing with them? ... via text message
Company culture: how do you hire early stage contributors? Engineering, sales, business positions... via text message
What are the three things you have learned while working on your startup?
Can a person with H1b status be the CEO and founder of a company? #AskNikhil
What role does culture and strategy play in your company growth?... via text message
#asknikhil How did Tim your CEO convince you to join his crazy startup idea instead of going to Amazon?
Can a person with H1b status be the CEO and founder of a company? #AskNikhil
How were you able to influence people (celebrities) to tweet you? How did you get that kind of marketing?
When you are searching for/vetting cofounders/early-contributors , what were you looking for? ... Experience, attitude, tech skill... via text message

Bootstrapped my startup ~3 months ago. I have a v1.0 MVP of my product ready. I have the company in-corporated as well. Although I do not have any visa issues by issue is I went to CMU and I need to pay back a huge fat loan. Having a couple of months without money flowing in will be hard. I believe you might have had the same problem. How did you work around that ? Also, how open are VC/Angels to the idea: “The day you write the check is the day I quit my job, guarantee”. I hear from a lot of people that the founder needs to be on the project full-time. How true is that ? - Abhi Sharma ... via text message

How exactly you moved your product from dev ready state to market, if you could explain it in precise way, thanks.... via text message
What are the top 5 venues/events for finding good engineeers/product managers/sales managers.... via text message

I want to start pitching and start raising funds while I still keep my day job. Where do you start, any tips on how to get into the VCs doors? Also, does this threaten your day job legally ?? You happened to know Mark Cuban to tweet about TINT. How do I find the Mark Cuban for my start-up ? - Abhi Sharma... via text tessage

Bootstrapped my startup ~3 months ago. I have a v1.0 MVP of my product ready. I have the company in-corporated as well. Although I do not have any visa issues by issue is I went to CMU and I need to pay back a huge fat loan. Having a couple of months without money flowing in will be hard. I believe you might have had the same problem. How did you work around that ? Also, how open are VC/Angels to the idea: “The day you write the check is the day I quit my job, guarantee”. I hear from a lot of people that the founder needs to be on the project full-time. How true is that ?

I want to start pitching and start raising funds while I still keep my day job. Where do you start, any tips on how to get into the VCs doors? Also, does this threaten your day job legally ?? You happened to know Mark Cuban to tweet about TINT. How do I find the Mark Cuban for my start-up ?

Sometimes you feel you need these few key resources on your team. For certain domains resources are hard to find. Do you try to spend a lot of time and hire them before getting funding or rather do it later once you have some money to add to the equation ? For example: People who have experience in hardware or computer vision or operating systems

Have you ever collaborated with competitors like Tagboard or Postano? #AskNikhil @askmeanything50 @Tint @Aitharaju
@Aitharaju How did you assess the market potential and demand of this idea? Before you start development #AskNikhil
@Aitharaju How did you test the assumptions? Before you start development #AskNikhil
@Aitharaju How did you assess the market potential and demand of this idea? Before you start development #AskNikhil
@Aitharaju How did you get this idea? Why did you choose this idea? How did you research this idea? Before you start development #AskNikhil
@Aitharaju How did you test the assumptions? Before you start development #AskNikhil
What was something you thought was easy but turned out to be very hard while building your startup?
Where do you envision Tintup to be 5-10 years from now? How do you think you will need to evolve your product?
#AskNikhil How did you come up with the idea of RevShare and salary disclosure with employees. Practically how has the experience been?
What was the first consumer startup idea that you started with, but then later decided to pivot and how many pivots did you go through before finalizing on TintUp?

What is your (or a person with similar visa) ownership position(what kind of ownership) in the company? Do you get profits(from the revenue) or stock if your company is bought over?

 

 

Can you talk candidly about some challenges you faced during your startup (team, investment, stress etc) and how you overcame those?