BCL Interviews… Harsh Snehanshu, founder YourQuote

Welcome to another edition of BCL Interviews! We are joined today by Mr. Harsh Snehanshu who is the CEO and founder of YourQuote. YourQuote is a platform where content creators can share their work and gain a following by doing so. People can share their thoughts and opinions via text and can do so in the language of their choice. YourQuote also gives people the opportunity to publish their work and sell it on their platform. I’d just like to thank Harsh for taking the time out of his day to talk to us today, thank you Harsh, we appreciate it.

Where did the inspiration for YourQuote come from? I heard that you and your team spent some time in the foothills of the Himalayas to build YourQuote, and in fact, you are there right now. How does being in a place like that help with your work?

So the inspiration to start working came from my background, I’ve been a writer for the past 15 years now. And I have a published book, a short story collection. And also, I was a journalist, freelance and contributed my blogs to Caravan, etc. So as a writer, one of the biggest problems that I faced was, was the smartphone struggle. In all these existing blogging platforms that the blogger was transmitting, they were not very creative. And it was too tedious to create a long-form article on a blog as a blogger. And then oh, by the way, was also not very conducive to creation. That’s when many opportunities as a writer if there could be a platform, which is very easy to use on mobile and allows you to broadcast your thoughts or feelings.

We realised that mobile is a visual medium, it is also short-form media. Mobile is not really conducive to reading long-form articles. That gave us the idea that we will turn short writers into picture posts and that’s how YourQuote came into being, you write something within 1200 characters, which was the one thing, and then similar to Instagram, it goes to the feed other where people are following you and also the ‘explore’ feed where there are other people who are not following. And you can be gain a following and off late you can also monetise your writing.

So you can create a post and monetise it for between Rs. 1 and Rs. 20 and people can buy it. I think when we were starting YourQuote, it was our fourth product together. Ashish, my co-founder and I had built three earlier products before that, and none of them worked. And during that time, we were in Delhi. And when you start a company, especially if you’re from IIT-Delhi, and all the investors start to approach you to invite you to their offices for meetings. And during those three products, we wasted a lot of money and time while going to all the offices in Delhi. And we realized that it was not making sense because we did not have a product-market fit.

And we would spend so much time trying to sell the idea, so with YourQuote we decided to run away from them and come to a village in Himachal and that’s where we operate out. It was an impulsive move, but it worked out in our favour. So when we came here we rented a guest house for three months, and we based the product out of here. So when we started in 2016, very few people were working in the mountains.

A lot of attention came our way when you’re starting out a company, People don’t want to feature what you are doing in terms of actual numbers. But they might be interested in what you are building. That got us a lot of coverage, Times of India, YourStory, all these guys covered us. They referred to us as digital nomads and these articles went viral. So we had people coming from Bangalore and Mumbai respectively, with the backend development and website development and they came and we just sponsored their stay and travel and they came without asking for any remuneration because they wanted to work from the mountains.

It was basically a very bootstrap way of building a company. These people were working in big organizations and we couldn’t have afforded them, but because of the location, we got them. So that’s one of the things which we realized much later after coming to this place is that it is a great pull for a lot of people who are exasperated in their city lives. For the last two years, we have all been working remotely out of our homes. It has been good for me as well since as a bachelor in Bangalore I was addicted to Swiggy, and at least here I am able to be fit and go for treks and hikes.

Given that one of the goals of the app is to encourage people to express themselves and to have writing as a respected profession, I wanted to ask you about whether YourQuote allows its users to monetise their work? If so, how does this happen?

So we started helping users monetize. And it’s a very straightforward process. So when you’re posting you can choose to post anything as a paid story, choose the paid option and then set a price between Rs. 1 and Rs. 20. You can also subscribe to a writer’s posts for the month. So that’s between Rs. 20 and Rs. 100. We have helped monetized around 15,000 users on the platform, and the highest royalty anyone has ever made on YourQuote is 70,000 rupees so far.

So clearly, somebody is able to make a living out of this, even though the number is quite low right now. It was a lot of promise for us as for the ecosystem, that fast forward, two years down the line, there will be 1000 or 10,000 people making 30,000-40,000 per month from our platform. That gives us a lot of hope that tomorrow people won’t have to find a job and put writing on the side.

Having gone through the interview you gave to Business Insider, I noticed that you are quite disillusioned with Indian investors in particular. What recommendations do you have for the startup ecosystem to encourage budding entrepreneurs such as yourself?

So the only thing I’ll say, but most of the Indian investors are actually looking for a corollary in the west or in China, they have a reason because there was no corollary to YourQuote, most of our platform was in the US or in China, it was very difficult for investors to gauge and this is a problem that we face even now, so while seed round was easy to raise, because these are growing fast, and investors wanted to see how it panned out.

But now series A level we are finding it difficult because there is no comparison. But the interesting thing that happened during the course of the last few years is Y Combinator has taken a bet on us and Y Combinator is known for betting on ideas that are contrary to what exists, but rather revolutionary. So that has given us some credibility, or what we’re doing is not only interesting, but it is a potential billion-dollar idea. And that’s where we now have some renewed investor interest, but personally, as a company and as a founder, we are very, very focused on the revenue right now. We believe that that’s the best way to build because three years ago when we were facing a funding crisis, none of these investors came forward to help us because our users who supported us were the ones who helped us survive.

We have worked with BCL very closely, I can drop the numbers and Pavan will know the reality as well. It was a really difficult thing for us two years ago and now we are In a financially stable situation, and even now we are just off to a great run for a while because unlike most of the other blogging platforms that cater to professionals YourQuote has been catering to amateurs, people who have never really written before. And for them, this platform means a lot because it helps them discover what I mentioned. And that has been the reason why a lot of people are upgrading, supporting us. So that’s how we want to approach funding. If funding comes our way, good, but irrespective of funding we will continue to thrive and survive.

What is the roadmap for YourQuote over the next 6 months to a year? How do you plan to keep growing and what is your vision for the future?

So the vision is quite simple. It’s very similar to how Instagram has become the default camera app, for that whatever you want to share with you open Instagram and create it there itself rather than using a camera, We want to become the default, journaling and blogging app for people. So whichever form you open, there has to be blogging, and it has to be YourQuote. And I think we are the largest, at least in India, we are the largest microblogging platform, which is catering to original writing.

Unlike Twitter where you can also post other people’s posts. It’s like a public diary and that’s how we see as the next six months, we are working on a lot more product level innovations. Introducing long-form posts in the app, which allows people to write longer stories and the platform was not able to do so far. And also in terms of monetization of the product. We have a bunch of ideas where people will be able to publish ebooks on the platform and your readers will be able to buy. So those are the two things which we are looking at for the next six months

You can write to Harsh Snehanshu on harsh@yourquote.in