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Bootstrapped First, Raise Money Later: Manick Bhan, CEO of Rukkus (Part 4)

Posted on Thursday, Jun 9th 2016

Sramana Mitra: How did you get your MVP out? Before you got any seed funding, I take it that you had to get an MVP launched and get some customers going.

Manick Bhan: Yes.

Sramana Mitra: That’s how the industry works. There are exceptions. Usually, first-time entrepreneurs are not exceptions. I’m just trying to see if you had to go the normal route.

Manick Bhan: It was the opposite. It was the most unexceptional way to build a product. I believed, naively, that our launch would be two months away. I invested some of my own capital. It didn’t really take that much in the early days. As far as starting a company goes, it was not a whole lot. I had some family and friends put in some money. It was just enough to get some initial stuff going.

The product, frankly, didn’t look good. It was too complex and complicated. I thought that it had all these bells and whistles, and it was a bad idea. If I could go back and do the whole thing differently, I would have just said, “What is that truth of the idea that I have?” The way the people go and experience live events is so different. Some people need to discover them through another app. Some people know what they want to go see and they’re just looking to find the best deals.

The problem that we had was we tried to be all things to all people. We just couldn’t do that as an early stage tech company with almost no capital and limited technological expertise. When we started to do it right, I remember that we were almost out of money. Everything was on the verge of not making it. We said, “Let’s just try to sell a ticket. Let’s stop trying to over intellectualize the experience. Let’s just build a simple app that shows you these are the upcoming events that are happening near you. Just pick the popular ones and let’s give people a few options of what to buy. Let’s see if we can get one person to buy.”

That was our fear all along. Our fear was failure. We had to build something and over intellectualize it to make it seem interesting and special when in reality, we should have taken the alternate approach. The essence of it was just to sell something. The first day that we launched it, we got a sale. It was a $17 sale. We weren’t making money. We bought it for $17. What we knew is if we could sell one ticket for $17, we could sell a hundred tickets for $100. We just had to do two things. We had to get really good at solving the problem of ticket selection. You want to go to see the Giants play and you want to figure out where you want to sit. That part of the experience was where we focused on.

We tried to get as good prices as we could. In the beginning, we said, “Let’s try to make the tickets cheaper than we can find.” We were doing that for a while. We did that for about six months in the early saga of our post-launch days. The great thing was we went from doing $17 in the first day to $1 million run rate by the end of the year. I know your goal is to help a million entrepreneurs get to a million dollars in annual revenue. It can absolutely be done because of how broad and vast e-commerce and the Internet is in terms of being able to generate revenue. It can happen almost anywhere.

This segment is part 4 in the series : Bootstrapped First, Raise Money Later: Manick Bhan, CEO of Rukkus
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