On Starting A Company From A Hackathon And Generating $20K In Grants
Hello Everyone! My name is Wilson and I’m the co-founder of BlockSurvey. Myself with my co-founder Raja built BlockSurvey during a hackathon in June 2019. BlockSurvey is a privacy-focused surveys, polls & forms platform. It helps people to do market study, academic research, business validation, collection of customer feedback, employee engagement & satisfaction with complete privacy and security.
Through BlockSurvey, you own your data and we strongly believe it is your digital right. We named it "BlockSurvey" in essence ‘Surveys on the Blockchain’ by enabling digital rights such as privacy & ownership of data and identity. Our audiences are primarily people who are looking for a DIY (Do-It-Yourself) platform to collect data from a wider audience with data privacy and security in mind.
We launched BlockSurvey in July 2019. As of today, we are nearing 1000+ sign-ups and have earned around $20k dollars as grants/rewards from the Blockstack community. Currently, we are working towards making the product enterprise-ready sooner.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
BlockSurvey is our first company. Raja and I worked in FinTech space for a decade. Over the last three years, we took a dive into all the new-age tech and played with them by building hobby projects. That’s how we found Bitcoin and Blockchain. We fell in love with the tech and what it can offer to people. At the beginning of 2019, we quit our day jobs and started conducting experiments by building a product that is minimal and tested with the community every month. We built around 3 products but none kicked off well. We killed all of them. The final and 4th one is BlockSurvey.
Hit the ground first without worrying about anything. All things would follow as your heart wishes.
We were participating in a hackathon and we were validating various ideas under theme Web 3.0 / Society 3.0 (Uplifting the current web and society to the next generation). We were validating our ideas using surveys among friends, family & community. We believed the data being collected was safe and private to us. But, we were proven wrong. We did secondary research on the tools we used and found out they were neither private nor secure. This led to a realization to question the survey tools which are out there in the market and the data privacy & security they bring in. To our surprise, there weren’t any available.
This made us to create a tool for ourselves which will help us to do market research in the most private and secure way. Also connecting the dots, I felt my interactions with surveys over my career at organizations weren’t honest and genuine. I feared to voice out the truth because the surveys were filled with trackers and it naturally killed the genuinity. Frequent reminders for the survey to be completed is one of the evidence. Another is data being open and anyone being able to see it. I recollected hearing how employees were averse in giving feedback to organizations irrespective of the surveys being run internally or through a third party. There was no trustable system. Surveys weren't trustable. And they were flawed.
We believed, solving all this on the survey market would be beneficial to all. We researched and interviewed people. The need is a platform that enables participants for honest and genuine participation. By this, we solve the problem of a) collecting better data by providing privacy and anonymity to survey takers and b) data privacy and security for the data collectors.
This very own problem and solution of us created BlockSurvey.
Today, we are bootstrapped and using the rewards earned from the Blockstack community to build the product every day.
Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?
We are first time entrepreneurs. Hitting the ground on day 1 was a dream coming to reality. Though we had prepared ourselves over six months' time, there were many unknowns every day. That said we enjoyed them thoroughly.
We rented a small apartment space for our work. We bought two chairs, two tables, four whiteboards, and dual monitors. Our investments were minimal and we got started right away. Our whole objective day after day was to identify problems, research, build and go to market in 30 days' time. That's our cycle.
Today, we are a team of 5. We have grown. Harini and Selvanath are friends of ours who have joined us to work full time. Sam, who was interning with us joined us full time now. All our energy is put into BlockSurvey every day to make it the best.
Currently, we are incubated at Afthonia Labs, Bangalore. Afthonia is helping us through mentorship, defining business strategy and go-to-market.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We are yet to monetize and looking forward to doing it in 2020. We are nearing 1000+ sign-ups and looking forward to growing further in the coming year by launching again as a SaaS solution in Jan 2020.
We don’t run any trackers to measure user activity, this is with respect to our vision of providing complete privacy for our users. All our growth is measured from sign-ups and interaction in social media. Today, there is a community of about 500+ people engaging with us.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
At the core of any business is problem-solving. We deviated a few times and built fad/hype products to get visibility, however, there were no business models for running them and they failed in quick time. It’s so inviting to look for quick wins; however, without losing focus and solving the problems of yours and others alone will make a business.
We weren’t ready for the uncertainties, it is the realization that accepting uncertainty alone will move us further was the reality. The mindset of accepting things as they are and not being regretful of the past or future kept us focused every day and made us execute things at lightning fast. Growing mentally, emotionally, physically & spiritually at the same time has been a great experience and I see it as a by-product of entrepreneurship.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Since we are co-located, we believe whiteboarding and human interaction works the best. We experimented with many tools and finally here is how we look today.
- Blockchain Platform: Blockstack
- Project Management: Basecamp
- Communication: Slack
- Social Media Management: Hootsuite
- Social Content Creation: Canva
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I draw inspiration from reading books of Randy Pausch, Stephen Hawking, Robert Kiyosaki, Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Kahneman, and Guy Kawasaki. I see it has helped in my overall well being. I see things in new ways and perspectives because of them.
I also follow Stratechery, IndieHackers, Hacker News and Product Hunt to keep myself updated about products and happenings.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
For entrepreneurs to get started, is to hit the ground first without worrying about anything. All things would follow as your heart wishes.
Having a co-founder really helps in many ways to stay strong every day. I feel it is a journey everyone should try once and I’m sure it is never a regretful experience.
Where can we go to learn more?
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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