99Presents Ties A Pretty Ribbon Around Social Shopping Suggestions
Am I the only one that’s flustered by the entire process of gift giving? I don’t like asking for anything, so I dread–DREAD–being asked what I want for Christmas or my birthday by family members each year. And maybe my brother-in-law’s 10 siblings (insisting I join a party every week it seems) have exhausted my cache of gift inspiration. It’s tough to come up with new ideas for everyone occasion after occasion.
99Presents might be the ideal solution for the gift-challenged but generous-minded souls like myself. This social shopping platform lets you collect and share information from many eCommerce sites in one place. Without asking directly, friends and family can create wishlists of potential gifts. No racking the brain for yet another original present. No shaking down family for suggestions. No visiting endless sites to make different purchases.
Founder Jwalant Patel worked as a Software Developer at Amex, Actuate, and Authentidate Holding Group before launching 99Presents. Here he tells KillerStartups more about building his own company from scratch.
How’d you come up with the name for your company?
After we began work on the product, we thought up a few names and 99Presents intuitively sounded right to us. The name implies that what we offer is like a present, special and full of warmth.
What’s the very first thing you do at work everyday?
I check the 99Presents site and respond to emails.
How many people did you start the company with and how many people work for you now?
We began with two people. We are still two people, but continue to look for others to work with us.
Maybe you can share one anecdote that describes your struggle during the early days of starting up?
When we first started out, we wanted to build a social e-commerce site. But it was tough to find a unique niche that wasn’t already covered in the congested market. We went through a phase where we became stumped and were unable to move forward. At a point when we felt that there was not much else that we could do, we finally got inspiration. Eventually, through a lot of brainstorming and screening, we evolved into the current 99Presents, a social shopping suggestions engine.
When was the last time you dealt with frustration, and how do you deal with it? Medication? Fistfights?
We handle frustration by taking a break on whatever problem we are facing and working on something else. Oftentimes, we find that we will come up with a solution when we step back and calm down. Hence, we learned that sometimes to take a leap forward, one must take a step back. When you work in a startup, frustration becomes the norm of daily life. Working in a startup means facing frequent obstacles throughout the learning process, and sometimes it takes longer than expected to get over them.
What’s your office environment like? Is it more like church or a rock concert?
We don’t have a formal office space yet. We work from home with a myriad of noises and yes, music, playing in the background. I find it relaxing to work in a noisy environment oftentimes.
How do you picture your company in 5 years?
I imagine it as a fair sized, global company with many employees and a communicative culture.
Who or what inspires YOU?
My inspiration may sound odd, but here it is: I get inspired by internet web products. The internet is one of the best technologies out there, and I like to see how people use it. Whenever I read about a new online startup, I get energized and I attack my work with enthusiasm.
How’d you fund this venture?
We bootstrapped from the beginning, and then recently a close friend (one of the early employees at LinkedIn) invested money in the company.
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
If you are bootstrapping your business, it makes sense to be frugal. So focus on the critical tasks first and put the rest on a waiting list that you can tackle as funds permit. Designating critical tasks will of course depend on the startup, but generally speaking, gear up to become self sufficient first. Build a solid foundation (a good team and minimum viable product) before getting other esthetics (design) or additional functions (extra features) done.
What would you be doing if you had one year off and $500,000 to spend (and you couldn’t spend it on your current startup / projects)?
That’s a hard one to answer because I live and breathe my startup. I don’t even think about vacations or other pursuits. My focus is currently entirely on my startup. Perhaps, I would mentor other startups or people who are interested in starting up.
Do you consider yourself a successful entrepreneur right now? If not, what’s it gonna take to make you feel successful?
I think success is defined by the level of work that I put out, so if others are even minimally satisfied with my startup’s offerings, then, yes, I’d consider myself a successful entrepreneur. Though, personally, I hold high standards and am still not satisfied with my startup’s level. I feel that it can evolve more since I still see scope for expansion.
Website you couldn’t live without and why?
Facebook, because it is a powerhouse of social information. “Social” after all, is currently proving to be a major player of the movers and shakers club, especially in the internet world.
Mobile App you’re in love with and why?
I like Angry Birds, because it is fun and relaxing.
iOS or Android?
Number 1 country you’ve always wanted to visit but haven’t yet?
What’s the greatest thing about your company/website/idea?
Users can know what kind of products friends and acquaintances may like without asking them. Our company helps solve the question: I can buy anything, but what should I buy?
Where can our readers get a hold of you? Facebook? Twitter? Google+? Personal blog?