How perseverance helped this founder turn a hackathon project into a successful business

Successful entrepreneurs never stop believing in themselves and constantly try to turn obstacles into opportunities.

From a dissatisfied student researcher to a successful entrepreneur, Saikiran Chandha, CEO and co-founder of Compose, illustrates how persistence can turn an idea into a seven-figure business. In less than four years, Typeset has grown from a simple solution for a personal challenge to a suite of products used by over a million researchers, including two Nobel Laureates.

The journey from disappointment to determination

After spending years in academia, Chandha was ready to submit his final thesis. While his research was fresh and original, the tools he used for document compilation were archaic. “They weren’t collaborative and weren’t designed for research. I lost a lot of hours of work on formatting, ”recalls Chandha.

However, after the final submission, a roadblock surfaced. The university rejected her thesis submission because it did not meet mandatory institutional formatting guidelines. To solve the problem, Chandha looked at the 10-page guidelines document and invested several hours learning LaTex, a computer programming language used for composing technical documents.

It turns out he wasn’t alone. He found that millions of other researchers, including his peers, had the same set of challenges during the publishing process. Therefore, $ 1 billion in public funds wasted reformatting academic documents which could have been used to improve and disperse the research.

To solve the problem, a weekend at AngelHack Hackathon, Chandha created a simple one page application that allowed users to download an MS Word document and format it in IEEE Journal style.

The prototype won the Hackathon, and after receiving over four thousand beta requests and positive feedback, it was clear that creating an end-to-end writing and collaboration platform for researchers would be the key. next big step.

Chandha teamed up with Shanu Kumar, an academic colleague facing similar issues, to turn the prototype into a business and Typeset was born.

Perseverance is the secret to reaching your rhythm

What came next was a challenge that almost ended the business venture.

“I remember at first we quit our jobs, invested all of our savings and hired four engineers. The underestimation of the effort required to create a real-time web editor and the lack of technically sound resources made it very difficult for us to run the business. In almost five months, we ran out of money and were about to give up, ”Chandha said.

To align capital, Chandha would send cold outreach emails to founders, angel investors, tech billionaires and VCs telling them about Typeset.

Chandha explains, “I am a strong supporter of cold email outreach. They have personally opened many doors for me. Powerful and successful people read and respond to emails because they are usually very curious. They have little time to invest. Before writing a personalized email, find out what interests them and what value you can offer them. Twitter is the best way to get a fair idea of ​​what your target audience is thinking. The key is how you write attention grabbing emails.

With cold emails, he recommends:

  • Keep the email short and concise
  • Including the data points supporting your work
  • Demonstrate your credibility and a well-defined value proposition
  • End with a clear request that has low friction and can be done in seconds

Chandha also recommends regular testing. “IA / B tested different subject lines. For ten emails I sent, I got four responses. Most of them didn’t invest but introduced me to other people interested in the product. There is no downside. “

After a month, a few of the emails sparked a $ 1 million angel investment and consulting relationship.

To spread the word, Chandha started with paid advertising models, but found them unprofitable. He also tried the community approach.

“I remember joining hundreds of college groups on Facebook and posting a link to their college thesis template on the Typeset website. Although students signed up for our product trial through these landing pages tailored to their university’s requirements, it was not sustainable. “

Eventually he and his team focused on inbound marketing and SEO.. Initially, this did not work and the company was burning money. But Chandha’s team persevered and stuck with the strategy, and after six months of effort, Google started rewarding them with better search results and better traffic.

Today, they’ve built an organic user acquisition engine that requires minimal marketing spend, making user acquisition repeatable, predictable, and scalable.

It is not a question of hours; it’s about choosing the right problem

After determining their growth strategy and product-market fit, Chandha and his co-founder thought of expanding the company’s offering to horizontal opportunities, such as the creation of a proposal model technology.

However, the team burned out performing one experiment after another, and nothing seemed to work.

“A hard-working team is good, but if they work on the wrong problem, it gets you nowhere,” says Chanda.

He underlines that as researchers, their main strengths lie in understanding the university space. “Going vertically in the research market has more advantages over the horizontal. It was a lesson in life for me. “

“Always think about your choices and your direction. I realized that what you do and who you team up with is far more important than the effort and hard work you put into it, ”says Chanda.

Never give up cause great things take time

Chandha and his co-founder embarked on their entrepreneurial adventure thanks to their determination. He sums it up: “Persistence is greater than IQ.

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About Nereida Nystrom

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