Seeding your network

Two-sided platforms have been some of the most successful startups of the day. Examples include eBay, Uber, AirBnB, oDesk, and Yelp. And while they are highly valuable, building such a company offers a unique challenge – you have to get both sides on the platform.

One such startup is Pratilipi.com – a platform for readers and writers in Indian languages. They faced the same chicken and egg problem of every 2-sided platform – how to make sure that one side finds the other. In Pratilipi’s case,

  • why would a writer write on the platform, if no one is reading?
  • and why would readers come to the platform, if there is no content?

The CEO Ranjeet Pratap Singh, in this video, shares how he solved this problem. Have a look at this short video:

Few points stand out in particular:

Talk to users before anything else. Ranjeet talked to more than 400 users to understand their problem, and this was before he even had a team, much less the product. This would help in building a clear mental model of what the users wanted.

Start with focus on the supply side. Pratilipi focused on the writer’s side of the platform. If you can provide the supply, it is easier to get the demand side moving. For Uber, it is more important to get the drivers on the road. Uber can grow the passengers later, with more ease, but the drivers are crucial.

Make it seamless. The Pratilipi team grew the number of writers by making the process seamless – rather invisible – for them. As a writer, you only needed to give permission, and the Pratilipi team would do the rest – creating the accounts to posting the content.

Be the product, if you have not made it yet. For the demand, Ranjeet personally mailed the people who registered as readers on Pratilipi and even acted as a human recommendation engine – suggesting them stories and books they might like, based on their preferences. This helped in building a strong human connection with the users.

Pratilipi is growing and has a long way to go, but these developments signify the importance of human connection in growing a technology startup.

(Disclaimer: I am an investor in Pratilipi)

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