I’m not a handyman around the house, which means that a lot of work needs to be done because I’m unwilling to lose a day making phone calls and arrangements. Ever heard of painters calling you for a job? 15 servicemen calling you before you hunt down someone available this month? I expect that with the launch of Seva Call, you’ll be hearing a lot more such stories.
SevaCall.com is somewhat of a search engine in a gifted class. By itself. Whether you need an accountant for your taxes or a plumber to repair the kitchen sink, Seva Call offers an ingenious way to find the professional assistance you need. Instead of searching endlessly and giving your spiel over and over, you enter a few details about your project (what you need done, when you’d like it done, etc.) and Seva Call spreads the news through its network of trusted people, and they call you through Seva Call. Simply brilliant. President and COO Manpreet Singh tells us more about his clever startup:
What first drew you to entrepreneurship?
You mean who forced me into indentured servitude running a social networking startup as a minor? That was my big brother Gurpreet. It went bust when we let our domain name expire and get bought before we even realized (rookie mistake). But, I’d already gotten the bug. I went on to become employee #1 at a DC financial management company and now this – addicted to the thrills and spills of entrepreneurial life, I guess.
Describe the moment when you realized you had to do this, (quit your day job / pursue your entrepreneurial dreams / start your company / etc.):
My brother’s business had only been in operation for a few months when he realized that this service was needed. I was barely out of college and still pursuing my CFA. And for Aman, starting his own business was barely a twinkle in his eye. But, when we tested the product out during Snowmageddon (we bought “Snow Removal” in adwords and started filling requests) and got a booming response; then, pitched 30 plumbers and signed up 90%, and finally discovered such enthusiasm from investors – we knew we were onto something big. So we just had to make the leap.
What inspired your current startup / business and what makes it so killer? What sets your company apart from your competition?
Gurpreet got the idea while taking service requests at a Maryland-based IT firm he’d previously founded. He would frequently get calls from people that – unfortunately – he couldn’t help. He would be either booked, too far, or didn’t offer the service. Their frustrations and his efforts to help inspired the idea for Seva Call: a way to help customers connect to the right businesses the first time.
How has work on your current startup / project been different from other projects you’ve been involved with?
This is definitely my biggest endeavor. We’re going nationwide. We’re getting an app. We’re thinking about T.V. commercials. This is a whole other animal. Luckily, I’ve been preparing for this throughout my career.
What’s your greatest satisfaction in business life?
This makes me either a compassionate person or an ego-maniac… probably a mix of both. But, my greatest satisfaction is hearing the relief in customers’ voices and the positive responses when things go way more smoothly than they’ve come to expect.
What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you in your entrepreneurial / startup life?
My interviewees’ are shocked enough when I routinely step out with a CV in hand and no shoes on my feet; but, there was the time I told a prospective intern that she could stop by after her late shift waiting tables; but forgot to tell the team. One guy on my team worked so late that he decided to crash as they sometimes do. I guess he forgot to do something because in the middle of the interview, he comes back down in his skivvies. The young woman just jumps clear out of her chair and races past him and out the door.
No more late hour interviews since then. Many of our prospects find us on Craigslist; so, it’s hard enough to convince them that we’re not all ax murderers.
What’s the best startup / entrepreneurial advice you’ve ever received?
The angel is in the details. Small changes can make a big difference when it comes to taking your business to the next level.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who are just starting out? What’s your “golden rule” of entrepreneurship?
Be just as passionate about the details as you are about the big picture.
Who or what inspires YOU?
My co-founders and staff constantly challenge and inspire me; the steady flow of interns keep things fresh with new ideas and unique contributions. The minute I fall into anything vaguely resembling routine, they are always their to shake things up. If these bright-eyed, enthusiastic interns weren’t in their twenties, I’d pinch their cheeks for all the excitement they bring to every detail of building this business.
I’d pinch my partners’ and staffs’ cheeks, too, but they get dangerously fired up, so I’m pretty sure I’d lose a hand in the process.
Aside from that:
Gummy bears are my anti-drug. I keep them at my desk and when it’s time to dig deep, I dig deep into that sweet chewy stash.
Also, every now and then when I worry about missing the mark: I played basketball in college (in the playgrounds), so when its really tough I practice my jump shot until the all-net swoosh perfection restores my peace of mind and confidence. It helps me remember that the slightest adjustment can make all the difference. And, there’s no shame in a little backboard help if needed. Two-pointers are two-points, after all.
What’s the greatest / most challenging thing about being an entrepreneur?
When you’re an entrepreneur, you’re kind of pulling things out of your head and heart and exposing them to the elements. What happens to the business feels like it’s happening to you, which can be at times thrilling and at other times downright heartbreaking.
How do you cope with the unique pressures and challenges of being an entrepreneur? How do you relieve stress?
I work out regularly to relieve stress, celebrate every victory, and treat every set-back as a learning experience.
What websites, apps, and other tools can you not live without as an entrepreneur?
We are GoogleDocs gurus. It makes sharing updates so much easier.
What lessons have you learned from entrepreneurship that have enriched other aspects of your life?
Selling my vision to strangers and colleagues every day has made me a much more compelling communicator. I mean, I still mumble… but, these days I get people to squint their eyes, lean in, and ask me to repeat myself. And that makes all the difference.
Where are you based and what’s the local startup scene like there?
We’re based in Potomac, MD. The DC Metro region is drowning in talent pouring in from the government sector. So, the tech DC start-up scene is vibrant and serious about business.
A lot of the entrepreneurs we talk with have dreams of traveling. Is travel something that interests you? Why do you think that travel is such a popular desire amongst entrepreneurs? Where would you like to travel to?
Freedom is one of the main lures of entrepreneurship and travel is a huge expression of that freedom. We don’t check in, we don’t check out, and many of us can take our work with us. The question is: where wouldn’t I go?
Where can our readers get a hold of you?