Building Zepo for You

THE INSIDE STORY: Our experience with The Morpheus & how they helped us co-create Zepo

This story is about the journey of a b-com guy – a non-programmer entrepreneur who enjoys building web products but had no programming skills. Of how he attempted & failed at his 1st & 2nd web product & how he tried again – and how The Morpheus team helped him co-create Zepo – a start-up that has paid customers & investors, even before it has been launched!

» August, 2010 – “Hello Sameer? I have a nice bijness idea…”

The story begins in August, 2010, when just out of curiosity, I went to meet Sameer at the Mumbai Domestic Airport. He always keeps tweeting about his whereabouts & invites all entrepreneurs to catch-up with him over a cup of coffee. At that time, I used to make Marathi slogan t-shirts and was also working on a ‘bijness’ idea since college days. I wanted someone to tell me whether my idea made any sense or not.

Though at that time, we were not a part of The Morpheus batch, Sameer kept helping me refine my idea & increase my chances of success.

» March, 2011 – Bijness is launched – But it failed

It took me 6 months.. And a change over 2 web-development firms to finally launch my 2nd web app – But it flopped. Why? Not because we didn’t build it well.. But because the customers never wanted the solution we had built! Apart from PHP, there were lot many important things that I learnt during days. I’ll reserve that for another post some other day.

» May 2011 – I applied for The Morpheus with a ‘flop’ idea… and I get in.

By this time, I had sold my stake in previous T-shirts business and decided to completely focus on what I enjoy – building web-products. We also signed-up with The Morpheus with our ‘flop’ bijness idea. And surprisingly, they took me in 🙂 That is what I think is the best part of their selection process – They give least importance to the idea and most importance to the entrepreneur.

During the ‘live-in’ period with The Morpheus, Sameer met me again at a CCD outlet @ Dadar. That is when the ‘pivot’ happened over a cup of coffee! The idea of ‘Zepo’ came into being; just out of a casual chat. Looking back now, I realize the power of the ‘sub-conscious flow’ The Morpheus team talks about day-and-night.

» June 2011 – Introducing the Morpheus & its gangsters

We were now officially a part of The Morpheus batch 6. We were in progress of building the web-app. Though the official 4 months engagement period was yet to begin, it never mattered. I could reach them whenever I required any help. But there was an imp problem @ Zepo – though we had the right idea in place, but the ‘out-sourced’ tech team was not so good.

After the change in direction, the 2nd best thing to happen to us was Anant – the in-house design expert at The Morpheus. His creativity is what gave a unique identity to Zepo. His UI/UX expertise helped us build awesome modules.

The 3rd best thing we came across was The Gang. (A big hello to all the fellow gangsters reading this 🙂 Whoever has said that “The entrepreneurial journey is a bit too lonely” has probably never been to a TM gang meet-up.. and is certainly not subscribed the Gang Mailing list.. 🙂

‘The Morpheus Gang’ as we all refer it, is the group of all the founders of TM portfolio companies, the limited partners of TM & some well-known valley veterans.  There is so much to learn from such a high energy group of so many entrepreneurs with diverse products and services. And then there is Gang mailing list – where all the founders share their problems & solutions & other awesome stuff. You can just bounce off your ideas & get help. Everyday we see some awesome interactions that keep happening in the gang mail list.

Toward the end of July, came the Gurukul @ Goa. The Gurukul is a kind of welcome event for every new batch… It gives them a chance to meet other gangsters & know each other. It was a lot of fun meeting likeminded friends.

» 24th July, 2011 – “This code sucks! Scrap it.”

Since I was from a commerce background, I had ‘out-sourced’ the development & coding work. The earlier avatar of Zepo was built by a web development firm in Dadar. They prepared the MVP – but it just wasn’t good enough.

It was a fun-filled evening at Goa Gurukul, when me & Nandini were discussing the problems at product development end & she suggested to ‘scrap’ the whole code. This code was hard work of 2 months… And it was a tough decision to just scrap it.

But today, when I look back, I’m happy they helped me take the tough decision. They helped me take another tough decision; the decision to let go off my previous tech team. It proved to be a game-changing decision for us.

Anyone can point out a mistake in you – That’s easy. The difficult part is to help you rectify it. That is one good thing I always feel that the TM team has – They just don’t tell you what’s wrong, they help you rectify it.

At Gurukul, we met Sarvjeet who is technology partner/mentor with Morpheus. Apart from being the tech guru at The Morpheus, he runs his own start-up & has a full-fledged team who helps non-tech entrepreneurs like me to build world-class tech products. He agreed to help us out.

» Aug, Sep, Oct – 2011

And now, we start from scratch again. They worked very actively with us & spent quite some time in:

  • Helping me build the product right
  • Connecting me to potential customers
  • Getting the right product-market fit
  • Getting the strategy correct

Sarvjeet & Nirnay took over the technology leadership @ Zepo and took the responsibility to build it again from scratch. I have many more praises for Sarv & his team, but I’ll reserve that for later some day. But the bottom line was that, They took the whole task of complete development & architecture of the software and let me focus on the business, product & sales part.

All the experience @ the earlier t-shirts business was coming handy while building Zepo, keeping in mind the perspective of a small business owners. The experience at helped me understand the pain points involved in running an online retail business. Looking back from here, I can actually connect all the dots

If I had to summarize my experience with TM, in THREE sentences:

  •  TM was with me in all my business decisions. And initially, most of them weren’t right. They helped me rectify the wrong decisions I took.
  •  The only way forward is to be open to change. The art of ‘Letting it go’ is as important as ‘sticking to it’
  •  Don’t over-analyse. Don’t think much. Take the decisions from your sub-conscious mind. And whatever you do – don’t forget to have fun

» 4th November, 2011 – The Demo Day

The Morpheus demo day is a private event attended by many well known Venture Capital firms & Angel Investors of India along with a few start-up media folks. We launched our private beta version @ the demo day successful. It all went smoothly & we got many people interested in Zepo.

» December – Post-Launch

Now, we are officially graduates of TM Batch 6. The stage is set. Zepo will be live by 10th of December. Even though the official phase is over, we know that TM is always there whenever we need any help. Even now, since we are hiring & looking for the right people to join in the team, they are actively helping us find the right people. It’s good to know that they are around. It’s our life long relationship with Morpheus.

Did they help us raise funding? You bet.. Thanks to their efforts, I met quite a few known industry veterans & angel investors – from the CEO of a job portal, to that of a travel site, and more – They were all helpful in their own ways… some gave us fundas while others gave us the funds 🙂

When I look back from here, I realize that the best thing about TM was not just the money, or the hands-on assistance. But it was the attitude, the values & the practices that they inculcate in every start-up they work with. That is what matters & stays with you forever…

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Tanya Rao

Tanya Rao

Curious Growth Hacker @ Zepo. Traveller. Foodie. Cider Lover. Social Media Enthusiast. Audiophile at the Cellular Level. Start-up Kid. Sarcasm is First Language. Madness Personified. Love Mondays.