Univind, officially named Tunas Univindo Mandiri, was my very first startup. I started it on my freshman year (around 2006) back in college (Universtas Indonesia) along with 5 of my college friends. We're all from the same major back then, computer science. We positioned ourselves as a web design firm although back then, none of us had a clear idea of how to build a website. But we did it anyway, we went straightforward by promoting our new so-called business. We utilized any promotion channel that we had but after 6 month of aggressive promotion, we still hadn't got any project.
Only on the edge of our desperation, the moment when we start thinking of giving up, we finally got a project. We pursue a client 800 km away from our home base in Depok. The client was located in Surabaya. All project negotiations were done remotely until we really close the deal. This first project really boosted back our spirit after 6 month of nothing.
After that first project, our business life which inter-mingled with our college life, had been one hell of a roller coaster ride. We kept promoting aggressively, pursuing any slightest chance of project while dealing with our own course assignment. Sometimes we got a big project (for a college student standard), some other time we got zero.
Knowing the fact that we couldn't rely on projects to survive, we started thinking about building a product. We began to do a lot of brainstorming to determine what kinds of product that we want to builld. We wanted to build something useful, sustainable and profitable in the long term. We came up with one idea: AnakUI.com. It is a campus online community, pretty much just like Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook as a campus online community for Harvard ;). We developed it, nurtured it until the community grows.
When we were still in college, we run this business alongside with our college activity, we didn't have office of our own. Our college campus was our office. The college computer labs was our desk. We did the business while dealing with our own course. One couldn't really says that we are a professional company, we're just a bunch of college kid trying to make money. But despite that, I myself consider this phase of Univind as a training ground for a better future version of Univind. This is a phase where we learned to run the next phase of Univind.
The next phase of Univind
After we're all graduate from the college on 2009, we had a meeting to determine the future of Univind. Whether we want to continue this venture or not. Univind surely still unable to pay the roll for the whole 6 fresh graduate crews. 3 of us decided to quit to work on some "real" company. 1 still want to be Univind part time. The rest is just me and my best friend who strong-heartedly still really want to continue and even expand to a more serious, more professional business.
Long story short, we decided to continue. We rented a small home near campus as our office. At this time, we started the next journey of Univind. We re-positioned ourselves to be more of an online marketing consultant instead of just web design firm. We realized that many of our old client couldn't really handle very well the website that we built for them. Most of their investment with us gone useless because they don't know how to utilize their newly created website to optimize the promotion of their business.
Soon after we rented an office space, we merged with our friend's business, NeoHoster. You can see more detail about it here: http://kamalabs.com/2015/01/neohoster/
After two years running Univind with our own office, we felt stuck. The projects got monotonous, the product was unable to take off, NeoHoster stopped growing. I myself, to be honest, got bored. I need more challenges. But it seems like the team composition that we had couldn't really handle more challenges. We're all too similar, we're not complementing each other. And at that time, each owner have their own path for Univind. It's getting harder and harder to unite the mission. This is one of the reason why I finally decided to liquidate Univind. I thought it's best for each of us to start our own journey. So, we started the liquidation process. It turned out to be not that easy, especially with NeoHoster. At that time, Neohoster already had about 1500 clients. We couldn't just stop the service for those 1500 clients. We decided to sell Neohoster, it's really not that easy to find a buyer for this company. We offered NeoHoster to many people until we got one person interested. He was also owner of a webhosting company, he interested to acquire NeoHoster. From there, we started the acquisition process. This also took quite a long time considering all the negotiation, the legal aspect, the technical migration aspect etc.
To me personally, I never really see Univind as a failure. It's just another step that I took towards success. I got a huge amount of lesson learned from my experience with Univind. Here are some of it:
- Don't start a startup with too many people. Apparently, 6 similar people is too much.
- Try to diverge the skill set of each team member. In an IT startup, we need people who understand marketing, accounting etc as well as people who code stuff on the computer.
- Define a clear mission from the very beginning and incorporate this mission as much as possible to the whole crews.