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Bootstrapped First, Raise Money Later: Manick Bhan, CEO of Rukkus (Part 3)

Posted on Wednesday, Jun 8th 2016

Manick Bhan: At a high level, the preparation included me learning how to code. I had spent about nine months on that. I spent a lot of time in my apartment staring at a blinking cursor on a black background. Every time I hit an error, I put that error into Google to figure out what the answer was. I just did that over and over again until I built my first computer program. My first computer program was to download music from Spotify as an API. I was downloading all the tracks and saving it to a database. That took me maybe a day and a half to learn how to do it from start to finish. After that, I just kept going. Do you play a musical instrument, by any chance?

Sramana Mitra: Yes, I play the piano.

Manick Bhan: Do you remember in the early days when you were learning how if you practice for a week, you can become twice as good?

Sramana Mitra: Yes.

Manick Bhan: Then maybe the next time you work two weeks to be twice as good. Now you have to work a month. Do you remember that experience?

Sramana Mitra: Yes.

Manick Bhan: For me, it’s incredibly addictive. Especially early on, the learning curve is so steep that you just get this exhilaration of being able to do these amazing things with software. That becomes a powerful motivating factor. That propelled me through the seven months of incubating myself and learning how to code. At the end of it, I was able to get to an MVP product.

I definitely made a lot of mistakes along the way and had a lot of tricky things I had to figure out. Nevertheless, we got to the finish line and we got an app. We put it on the app store. The first day that we launched Rukkus, we did something like $17. It was exciting to sell something to someone.

Sramana Mitra: We need to go a little bit slower. When you decided that there was a gap, what’s the first thing you did? You went to Goldman Sachs and told them that this is what you were going to build and they give you seed capital for that idea? Is that what you’re saying?

Manick Bhan: I wish it was that easy. It was somewhat like that. I had the idea and explained it to my boss. At that time, he didn’t invest in the idea. I had to put my money into it first. What I learned in the beginning is it doesn’t matter how successful you are in Finance or any career outside of technology. They want you to prove to them that you’re serious and that you’re committed.

I don’t blame any of the early investors for doubting that I would be successful. After I threw my hat over the fence and left my job, which was lucrative, they realized that I was serious. Initially, I hired these offshore development teams. I told them all that if they can build my product, I’ll pay them. I didn’t want to hire just one because I knew that the chance of them being successful was low. I was wise to hire five. If they all were successful, they would all get paid. I didn’t think that they would all be successful and that’s exactly what happened. One week in, one team gives up. Three weeks in, the second team gives up. A month and a half in, the third team gives up. Two months in, the fourth team gives up. Then there’s this last man standing. You really want to believe in all these relationships and all these people who are telling you that they can do what you want them to do. They’re giving you assurances upon assurances. They really try to make you feel good.

The reality is they’re not investing in your idea. They just have to believe that you have enough capital that you’ll pay them for the services. It’s a very treacherous landscape. Not a single day goes by that I don’t get at least three messages from people soliciting me for software. It’s incredibly annoying. It’s very dangerous to be honest. I can’t say that I know a lot of people who have been successful with the outsourcing model.

I have to say that the first thing that any entrepreneur should do if they’re building a real tech product, they should have someone at the company who understands how the technology works. So when someone tells you the reason for being behind schedule, you need to be able to understand if they’re making it up or if they’re justified in thinking that way. I couldn’t do it in the beginning and I think that might be part of the reason that none of these companies were successful. After I learned, then I hired my own engineers.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Bootstrapped First, Raise Money Later: Manick Bhan, CEO of Rukkus
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