In Silicon Valley, they use the term Paypal Mafia to identify early stage employees of Paypal who later created some of the most disruptive internet products. I’ll tell you about a desi avatar. And trust me, you’d be taken aback by this revelation.
Allow me to add some context related to the Burrp Mafia first. Burrp, a local listings and recommendations platform, was co-founded by Deap Ubhi and Anand Jain in 2006. I joined the company in its infancy when the tool wasn’t live. All of us were supposed to work out of the hall of a suburban flat in Mumbai. Burrp went live on the 15th of Aug, 2006. The company got acquired by Infomedia18 in 2009. While the three of us were there until the exit, there were many rockstars who joined the party, played their part and became amazing contributors to what Burrp stood for — a true kickass consumer product which most companies in India wanted to copy. I have had my own differences of opinion on certain things, but the fact that there was no better consumer facing local listings application in 2009, is not an exaggeration. Well, the company is still around. Very much in business and driven by some kickass people including Anand.
Now lemme tell you about those significant few who played their part and then moved on to pursue their own dreams. Here’s a stream of the Burrp Mafia’s activity for you -
- Deap Ubhi — Inspired by what Yelp means to consumers and businesses in the US, he wanted Burrp to be an India equivalent. Well, he did succeed to a great extent in doing that. Led the company to its exit in 2009. Later in 2010 he quit the acquiring company for personal reasons to move back to the US. Founded an e-commerce venture there and pivoted to deal-a-day product called Hopscout. He is back in India now, assisting Freecharge and helping a team build Jaypore.
- Avlesh Singh (aka me) — Played my part with heart, soul and integrity to give shape to burrp! Local and burrp! TV. Moved on in April, 2010. Founded Webklipper in Oct, 2010. Launched a beta version of WebEngage in May, 2011. Raised first round of capital from angel investors at IAN led by Rajan Anandan, the Vice President of Google India. Raised another round from GTI capital in July, 2012. Ankit Utreja, who was earlier an engineering team lead at burrp, is a co-founder, partner in crime and CTO. WebEngage now powers customer engagement on over 6700+ websites worldwide including the likes of Avaya, HomeShop18, Snapdeal, Art.com, Cleartrip, Indiatimes, MakeMyTrip etc. Raring to go …
- Santosh Navlani — Joined the Burrp party in 2007. Was stuck in an all engineers team at burrp and had a tough time making all of us understand that selling is important too. Was the default guy we used to play all sort of engineering pranks on. Moved on to have a stint at InMobi. Later co-founded Moneysights with his friend Mukesh. Raised money from Blume Ventures in 2011. Everyone, including my wife, tells me that it is an awesome product and will go a long way in simplifying investments for consumers. [Update: 28th Feb, 2013] Because of several regulatory issues, Moneysights has shut down. Santosh and Mukesh are now contributing to InMobi’s growth.
- Sunit Singh — Bow down people. He enjoys the status of GOD in design circles. Burrp was a for_the_engineer_and_by_the_engineer product until it met his golden touch. His design sense is unmatched. He is my last resort for any help on UI/UX even today. Sunit moved on in 2009 to join Yahoo. He now leads the UI/UX department at Cleartrip. The Cleartrip Mobile site which quickly caught on with its users has his footprints all over the application. He continues to build a great user experience for the company that lives by the same mantra.
- Sunny Nagpal — I thought selling was about using shitty jargons; until I met him. He brought in the first significant revenues at Burrp. Moved on in early 2010 to pursue his experiments in the advertising space. He is now the country head and MD of Httpool. Bootstrapped his way and got profitable in less than 6 months time!
- Nischal Shetty — There’s no better guy than him when it comes to creating mashups. While at Burrp, his small weekend hack called JustUnfollow, a nifty app to unfollow your Twitter followers in bulk, got Techcrunched. Justunfollow in now a massive application. He quit Burrp this year to join a residential incubation program in Chile to pursue his dream run with Buffr — an online application to manage multiple Twitter and Facebook accounts from a single place.
- Others — A close friend and confidant at Burrp, Aakash Dharmadhikari chose to move on in early 2010 — reason, he fell in love with Ruby overnight! Aakash is now in-charge of training at C42 — a boutique Ruby offshore company in Bangalore. His product Rubymonk rose to glory on Hacker News and they are slated to become THE destination for online courses in Ruby. Jay Thaker, who was in charge of selling and business development for burrp! TV, moved on to co-found Sutra HR. Their startup focused hiring product Sutra Lite is his brainchild.
Wow! So many awesome products, so many awesome men — all from a small internet company called Burrp. Ain’t that amazing? Well, yes. For any company, its DNA is important — and at Burrp, hiring across the board was focused on quality. Me and Anand were the only engineers for the first 18 months, not because we did not have the money to hire, but because we couldn’t find a fit to hire. And when we did get a few awesome men on-board, not only did they make huge contributions at Burrp but also created great products and companies later. I am sure, this story will continue to find more such men moving forward. Amen!
I stand by all these men and their ambitions. In some way or the other, they have contributed towards shaping me to what I am today. I wish them luck and will be an evangelist for life for all these people. At WebEngage, we continue to live with the same passion, DNA and commitment. Our hiring requirements speaks volumes about the kind of gang we are.
Thanks for reading. Coming soon with another boring post.
Disclaimer: The facts stated in this article are to the best of my knowledge. In all likelihood, I might have missed a few others who deserved a mention here. Do lemme know if you are aware of any such case, I’ll update this post.