Like a lot of twenty-somethings, I’ve lived in plenty of semi-communal housing situations since I left my parent’s place at age 17. Sometimes my roommates and I would share every bit of food we bought, sometimes it was just the occasional “Hey, can you loan me five bucks?” but no matter what, there was always some exchange of either goods or money.
Keeping track of all of that can be a serious pain, so I’m not just hyping when I say that this is a site I’m definitely going to utilize in my own life. Billsup was conceived when co-founder Anup Matthew was dealing with a college house full of kids and no one had the time or energy to keep track of who was owing who what. Just launched this month, Billsup lets you keep track of all that crap in one easy online location.
Anup and co-founder Caleb Ho took some time to fill us in on what brought them to where they are today, less than a month after launching their site.
How long have you been involved with the internet? What were your first steps? What was your first computer? How old were you when you first got one the world wide web?
Anup: My first computer was running on a Intel Pentium processor with 16 MB of memory and 500 MB of HDD. I didn’t start using the Internet until fifteen years old when I created a yahoo email account. Since then, I have grown so used to the Internet that I would be totally freaked without 24-hour access to the Internet.
Caleb: I started building websites since I was twelve, mostly based on my personal interests such as Garfield, or the Simpsons. The first one that got popular was a gaming website called “Maximum Gaming,” which provided gaming information and demo downloads. It was built entirely on static html with Notepad, and was first hosted on geocities (for those who can remember it), even before Yahoo acquired them.
I remember manually submitting the site to search engines like Lycos, HotBot, Altavista and exchanging links with similar websites. At one point the website grew to entertain 10,000 unique visitors daily.
As a kid, I had no idea how I even got there in the first place, nor did I know how to retain that success. After a while, hosting and space became an issue, and I had to jump around between various different hosting companies until I got too busy with school and other commitments as a teenager, and altogether I stopped running that website.
The Internet has evolved so much since then, and really it’s about adapting to changes – now there’s SEO, social media, and mobile apps – it’s a whole different game.
What time do you usually start work each day? Do you have an office or work at home?
Caleb: The thing about a startup is its flexibility – you can work at home, meet in a coffee shop, be on a conference call on the go, and even when on vacation so stuff gets done. The mentality is different, the passion is different – because we’re actually passionate about the product.
Anup: I usually start work around 9:30 in the morning, but could be a lot later depending on what I was up to the previous night. I’m a little bit of cleanliness freak so my desk is always clean with only a notebook, sticky pad and a pen. After work I would be on tech blogs, watching movies and checking my stats on Lord of Ultima (MMO game).
When do your best ideas come to you? In bed in the morning? During dinner? After working for 16 hours? While out jogging? On your third beer?
Caleb: I found that best ideas come with observation. It’s really seeing what people need, and how technology can help to make their lives more simple. That’s what Anup and I share in terms of belief when we started Billsup – a tool that could help people with something people are already doing, but instead of using pen and paper and excel sheets, why not use modern tools to make it easier?
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs struggling to get their business off the ground?
Caleb: Not everyone are entrepreneurs, nor does everyone want to be one. It’s not easy, but if there’s passion and the opportunity, then go for it. Don’t be afraid of failure. Strive for success, but when you do fail, learn from your mistakes.
A lot of people have big ideas. What gave you the confidence to actually put your life on hold and realize yours?
Anup: My motivation is my belief in the idea: I genuinely believe what we’re building is something that people need, and that a good answer hasn’t been found. I want to create something that ordinary people can actually use – something that I would find useful myself. I like to stay organized – we organize our online social network with tools like Facebook; our photographs with tools like Flickr; our time with various Calendar tools – then why not organize our debts and bills with friends using a tool like Billsup?
Caleb: I know this section may not be suitable for your needs, but I just wanted to be honest here and I know you don’t have to use everything:
As for what keeps me going, I’d have to say the Lord Jesus. My faith is a big (if not only) motivator for me, not only in this startup, but in my life. My favorite book is the Bible, and what I do outside of work is really revolves around things that I cherish the most: God/church, family, and friends.