Seedstars World hosted its ‘start-up competition’ event in Bangalore in September, and they have a winner: Strike, which helps email users to sort out people inside their Gmail mobile app. Aishwarya Jain, Co-Founder & CEO of Strike, kindly answered Nicolas Bry‘s questions to let us discover Strike more in-depth.
1) Target, Usage
Strike is presented as similar to Rapportive, but built for mobile. It helps you look up people, find their social profiles and public updates, take quick actions, all of it right inside the Gmail app.
- NB: Can you give us exemplary use cases for your service?
AJ: Strike aims to help people research simply on mobile. Here are few use cases:
- When a user receives an email from an unknown person; he/she can look up who the person is, before responding/ignoring the email.
- When writing to someone, a user can see what the person is up to, and be a little personal in the conversation.
- Before meetings, look up what people have been up to, see the common interests shared and previous emails exchanged. Helps in adding context to conversation and users are more prepared.
As it is mobile first, it becomes very easy to access information, right when it’s needed.
- NB: Who are the typical users of your service (business profiles, man in the street, teenagers)? What are the main benefits of your platform for them?
AJ: With Strike, our current target is LinkedIn premium users, which includes sales professionals, recruiters and the start-up community. They are the ones who constantly engage with people, grow their network and most importantly, focus a lot on building relations.
We want to make it easier for them to engage with people, by sharing contextual information, that might add significant value to their conversations.
Right now, we share the social profiles and public updates. We will soon be sharing mutual interests based information and public updates .
2) Business model & Ecosystem Marketing
- NB: How do you monetize your activity? Do you provide premium services? Is it a business model similar to Linkedin, a combination of advertising and paid services?
AJ: We have 2 models for monetization:
Premium features: We will be adding premium features like Google calender integration, interests focused data and more services.
B2B2C: We have opened up Strike as a platform for CRM companies. We are integrating existing CRM apps inside Strike, which will help the CRM users to take quick actions around people and emails, right inside their Gmail app.
- NB: What is your geographic target market? How do you plan to market your platform to the rest of the world, and develop your ecosystem? By the way where does the name of Strike come from? 🙂
AJ: Majority of our users are from US and India, followed by Europe and South east Asia. We intend to grow in these markets. We are following Dropbox’s model, where we incentivise our users for referrals by offering premium features for free. We believe, word of mouth is the most sustainable and cost effective way to grow. B2B partnerships will also help us reach a wider set of audience, and we’ll continue to focus on the same.
We were previously called AboutNumber, and were focusing on social discovery around phone numbers and emails. But, with time, we realized that focusing on one vertical was important. Emails was the obvious choice. Now, we were brainstorming on the name for few weeks, came up with really weird and funny names. But Strike struck us 🙂 It went well with our mission of helping our users Strike better relations.
3) Competition & Environment
- NB: Who are you competing with? What happens when Rapportive develops a mobile version? Are you looking to develop analytical features like Crystalknows to help people refine their communication?
AJ: Currently, there are few extensions on the web, which provide similar offerings – Rapportive, Fullcontact, Sidekick. But on mobile, we haven’t come across anyone offering a similar service. There are standalone CRM apps which offer social information, but that requires switching between apps, which doesn’t go well with most of the users.
Rapportive did try to build a similar offering, called LinkedIn Intro. It was a great attempt, but they eventually shut it down. It is always healthy to have competition, helps in innovating and leveing up the game.
We don’t intend to get into psychometric analysis on people, like Crystal Knows does. It requires us to read the emails, and that is creepy. We intend to limit ourselves to the public information that we can gather, which allows us to come up with enough data points and give actionable points to our users.
- NB: Rapportive has just been acquired by Linkedin: what is your analysis on this? Have you considered also to be acquired by complementary players to your service, Google Gmail or social networks Facebook and Twitter?
AJ: Rapportive’s acquisition by LinkedIn was great. It goes well with their vision of helping professionals connect with each other. Coming to the acquisiton by similar players, if the vision is aligned, it would be interesting to explore 🙂
- NB: What is your dependency with Google Gmail APIs, and social networks APIs Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter?
We do depend on Google GMail API, just like how every other email client does. We require the IMAP access.
Currently, we don’t depend on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook’s APIs. We only use the public information available, to show the data.
- NB: Tell us about your team, who you are, where you’re from, what are your skills, how you met, and what is your mantra? Send us a picture of your team!
AJ: We are a team of 5 (3 full time, 1 part time, 1 intern). We’re engineers by education, all from India.
I’ve worked with various, high growth startups in the last 3 years. In my previous job at a startup called HackerEarth, I was the first employee, where I set up and managed various non-technical aspects like sales, marketing, community building and operations. Akshay, my co-founder, was my colleague. He built the contact sync service for the Firefox OS phone and had previously worked with a US based startup. Our Android developer, Amarvir, was Akshay’s friend. He ran a game development studio and had built an ad network for a startup.
Our tech team has contributed to various open source projects by Mozilla, Twitter, KDE to name a few, and has experience working with startups in India and US, building scalable systems, working on machine learning and data analysis.
Mantra – Listen to the users, build what they want; Build a company that people want to work for.
- What would you describe as a success for your venture?
When we hit the retention rate of daily active users at ~75% MoM, we will consider to have achived our mission of helping users Strike better relations. Nothing can be more satisfactory than users using and loving the product every single day.