Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello everyone! I am Swagat Mohanty. And I co-founded FailTell with Rahul Mohanty. Our online platform FailTell offers a wide range of services to help everyone overcome failures, conquer mental health & emotional challenges, strategize career and deal with everyday concerns for personal, emotional, and professional growth. Be it mental health support, uncertain career decisions, or just someone you want to talk to who could help you lead a more meaningful and happier life, FailTell offers a one-stop solution to redesign one’s personal and professional growth, with its wide range of services.
The idea started as a free platform to build a “social community” around inspiring stories (called Failure Prism). Everyone comes up with success stories but we, in turn, came up with tales of failure, to make people believe that they are not alone in this. We built a community of people willing to inspire and share their real-life stories of overcoming failures with the vision to foster a more personal connection amongst people with similar life stories and experiences.
It has been 1 year and 1 month since we launched FailTell with only one service “Failure Prism”, and recently in Aug 2021 we launched three new additional services to further deepen the impact and expand the mission. Career Mentoring is the most widely used service in our newly introduced range of services. We, at FailTell, believe that anyone can accelerate in their careers if given proper assistance and guidance. Our team of domain-specific career mentors with diverse experiences range from popular industries like IT, Entrepreneurship, Consulting and Analytics, BFSI to lesser-known ones like Venture Capital, Product Management, Fashion Designing, Modeling, Fine Arts, Government Services, Healthcare, Hotel Management, etc. With a compassionate and caring network of counselors/therapists, life coaches, and domain-specific career mentors, our goal is to make all of our services accessible and affordable to everyone, without compromising on their quality.
Here are some of our key metrics:
● 1100 Monthly Active Users, 100 Stories, 220+ Expert Base, 11000 User Base
● Mostly Used Service - Career Mentoring
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
In one way or the other, the pandemic certainly did affect our health, career, lifestyle, mindset, and life in general. What Rahul and I found surprising is how these problems are interconnected to one another. And that addressing even one problem sets the tone for alleviating others.
Even though we are surrounded by our people all the time, we still might not find the right person to talk to and resonate with, or share our agonies without any hesitation. We have closely seen these scenarios confront our family and close friends. We also personally felt the full brunt of the increasing stress and loneliness. This made us realize that we ought to do something to address such issues and de-stigmatize failure. However, no platform could be found where people shared their “failure” stories or life experiences in one place. This is what led us to start our entrepreneurial journey, with our brainchild- ‘FailTell’ on August 4, 2020. The idea started as a platform to build a “social community” around inspiring stories (called Failure Prism) and a year later it gave way to a pressing need to further deepen the impact and expand the mission by launching FailTell 2.0, with additional services in August 2021.
At the time we started FailTell, I have been working as a Data Scientist at Fidelity Investments and Rahul has been working as a Manager (IT) at ACT Fibernet. Our startup is bootstrapped by both of us. We have domain expertise in the field of career mentoring as during our college days we were part of a club that connected our alma mater’s Alumni with its students for career guidance and advice over one-to-one sessions. But in the case of life coaching, therapy & counseling, and ‘failure prism’, we don’t have any domain expertise directly but rather we have been on the receiving end of the problems (that our idea now aims to solve). We have closely worked with a team member with domain expertise in this area before entering into this field and even discussed with family & friends to understand how everyone faces such problems at one point or another, and how effectively we can address these.
People need what we are making. We understand it is an open and competitive market with many big players but we are also convinced that this space has too much depth and is yet to be explored to its full potential. We are striving to find new ways for constantly evolving our product to make it more market-fit, which is what makes us people want our product more. Every single person in life faces such problems (that our idea aims to solve) at one point or another. When such a person requires a solution, you need to make sure it is easily accessible, reliable yet affordable, and the bonus is to find all “at one place”. The introduction is everything and that is where we excel!
Take us through the process of building the MVP and initial platform?
Within a short span of 1 year, we have achieved a user base of 11000 members and 100 stories with the help of our strong social media organic strategy. Then we revamped our website based on the feedback and market-product fit analyses to launch our new services. With that, we also managed to build a strong network of 35+ counselors/therapists, 20+ life coaches, and 100+ career mentors (across 30 domains) in 1.5 months of launching our additional services.
This is a result of our appreciable social media presence in the form of creative and impactful posts, Medium articles(https://failtell.medium.com/), marketing campaigns, a podcast named ‘The Failosophical Guy’, collaboration with various NGOs and organizations like Helping Hand International, etc. We also have had a few collaborations with prominent motivational speakers like Mr. Dombidhar Taye, Jovan Glasgow (top 10 motivational speakers in 2021 recognized by Yahoo Finance). We also have a very small international presence which is a result of the work of our international campus business managers who are part of our marketing team, looking after our reach and the onboarding of users and mentors overseas.
In 3 years, we aim to tie up with more than 100 educational institutes and build a network of 2000+ counselors, therapists, life coaches, and career mentors. With a vision to serve more than a million people from all across the globe, we firmly believe we can make a difference in the world by offering a perfect balance of counseling, coaching, mentoring, professional development, and performance improvement, to help a larger population unleash their true potential and lead a more meaningful and happier life, along with a fresh perspective on failures, challenges, and hurdles.
Link to our old website when launched:
Describe the process of launching the business.
We started FailTell with one service that was free of cost. We built a social community around inspiring stories and life experiences. The website saw a substantial increase in the number of stories and users, who read or wrote stories on the platform, within the first 3 months. This was achieved mostly by targeting people from our alma mater, family, and friends to initiate the buzz through word of the mouth marketing. Initially, we started with a small core team of 5 members who headed various departments like technology, marketing, and design and content. And weeks later we hired a few more interns onboarding more users.
We mainly relied on organic growth and creating a strong social media presence in the form of creative and impactful posts, Medium articles, marketing campaigns, a podcast named ‘The Failosophical Guy’, and collaboration with various NGOs and organizations. During the launch of FailTell 2.0, we released our revamped website with additional services and improved UI/UX after receiving the product feedback from our customers and via market-product fit analysis. We also had a few collaborations with prominent motivational speakers like Mr. Dombidhar Taye and Jovan Glasgow (top 10 motivational speakers in 2021 recognized by Yahoo Finance) and industry experts from leading firms to conduct webinars.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
We mainly rely on growing organically by expanding our user base with the help of our interns and campus ambassadors from India (and a very small portion from abroad as well). Our campus ambassadors promote our services and carry out promotional or educational events within a particular campus they belong to. This helps us widely reach out to the student base of that campus. By hiring 15 campus ambassadors from campuses abroad, we were able to garner around 200 users from countries like the USA, UK, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, to name a few.
We have created a strong social media presence in the form of creative and impactful posts, Medium articles, marketing campaigns, a podcast named ‘The Failosophical Guy’, and collaboration with various NGOs and organizations. Also, personalized social media advertisements and SEO help us increase traffic and sales.
We also had a few collaborations with prominent motivational speakers like Mr. Dombidhar Taye and Jovan Glasgow (top 10 motivational speakers in 2021 recognized by Yahoo Finance) and industry experts from leading firms to conduct webinars. Monthly newsletters also help us reach out to the masses and help them understand our product better. We offer various educational institutions and corporate entities all-inclusive student and employee-friendly services respectively, for their emotional, personal, intellectual, and mental well-being while propelling them into rewarding careers in their fields of interest. This helps us acquire a large customer base.
If you are a podcast fanatic, don’t miss out on FailTell’s podcast channel, "The Failosophical Guy", where we demystify what we so often refuse to mention when talking about our personal, educational, and professional lives, via a series of real-life episodes. We are at the 32nd episode right at this moment! All our episodes get more than 3k downloads in 30 days, on average.
While making the podcast episodes, we were never obsessed with the numbers. Consuming a full podcast episode demands a significant commitment from each listener. Keeping that in mind, we tried to keep the content as engaging yet informative and thought-provoking as possible, in the way of its narrative flow without compromising much with the originality of the story/experience.
Our advice to entrepreneurs who plan to start a podcast around their businesses is to just avoid judging the podcast harshly. Tell yourself you are not going to judge this podcast until your hundredth episode. Until you get there, you are going to just experiment and put out the content that resonates with your “brand”, its mission, and vision while serving your potential audience. Even if your audience is small, don't take it for granted. It is still a significant achievement!
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We are already making a profit in the B2C business with most of the customers opting for career mentoring. We have a 30% platform fee which is charged per session that makes money for our startup. Along with this, we have our B2B bulk offering for educational institutions, coaching institutions, corporate entities, MSMEs, etc. We are also conducting webinars and would be charging fees for the same as the time proceeds. Along with this we also have our news feed page with stories, blogs, and podcasts, whereas traffic increases, we will be generating revenue from the ads. We have our plans and other exciting projects which would be adding to the business model but by just considering even the current idea we expect a substantial turnover in business in the coming 5 years.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Wearing multiple hats, whether it is the visionary’s hat, finance hat, day-to-day hat, sales-and-marketing hat, and even your hat(s), as you get your business off the ground requires a fierce commitment to your startup, the ability to seamlessly and quickly switch between critical tasks, and a degree of balance that not everyone can master. One way or another, entrepreneurs must master this balancing act to be successful, at least until they can build a robust team. We learned, grew, and learned some more about various aspects of starting up while maintaining this balance.
We missed some of the opportunities to avail early investment and continued bootstrapping till we made it big. We were also blindsided by the market size. Hiring technical people was one of the hardest things. And also hiring and retaining people at an early stage is a difficult job.
We started with one service but it came about to be a good decision when we turned it into a suite of services and also actively forged collaborations and partnerships that fuelled our vision.
The pandemic situation presented us with a plethora of woes as a need of the hour that our startup is working towards. Some of the valuable lessons we learned were about measuring/understanding the market-product fit and about the VC world.
Some of the abilities/skills that helped us involve hard work, time management, foresightedness, patience, determination, drive, and passion.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
- Tech(AWS ECR, EKS, S3, LB, Fargate, MongoDB Atlas, GitHub, Visual Studio, NPM, Docker, Kubernetes, Jira)
- Design (Figma, Photoshop, Illustrator, Canva)
- Communication(Slack, Google Docs, Zoom, Google Meet, Google Sheets, Zoho)
- Social Media(Instagram, Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, LinkedIn)
- Other tools(Spotify, Anchor, Google Podcast, Medium)
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
These books have given us a fairly good overview of the startup ecosystem. Whether you are an entrepreneur with a brilliant idea or a founder to take your startup to the next level, there is a wealth of written advice to lean on and learn from these books.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Don’t hurry the hiring process
Don’t be guilty of rash decision-making under pressure. A successful startup starts with hiring the right people—those who value working toward a common goal, are goal-oriented and respect the hierarchical structure that your startup requires. Make sure you invest enough time to build your dream team.
Don’t rush into taking financing decisions
Many founders rush into seeking venture capital or other modes of financing without fully understanding what they are getting themselves into. Every form of financing, dilutive or not, has its pros and cons. Make sure you take your time to identify and research various funding channels that suit your business. Be sure to weigh each of your alternatives carefully and pick the financing structure that makes the most sense for you.
Don’t build the complete product without consumer feedback
Start with a prototype and see the market appetite. Product development is a continuous process. Every time you unearth new learnings about your customer, their needs, or their workflow, you need to take a step back and see if things still make sense for your product, and course-correct if needed. This is why, your product development process doesn’t stop, nor does it go in sequential steps. You might have to go through multiple, smaller iterations of your product before you launch.
Don’t go ahead with One-Man-Army strategy
Even the most innovative entrepreneurs cannot scale from an idea to actualized success without the help of a team. There’s simply too much work for one person to do alone. As good as a business idea might be, it cannot be a proper business without a dynamic team working cohesively to execute a shared business plan.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are currently hiring web developer interns (skilled in MERN stack, GraphQL, Socket.io, and AWS), sales managers, creative design interns, and marketing interns. Interested people can drop us a mail at [email protected], to know more.
Where can we go to learn more?
To know more about us, visit our website or find us on:
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