Roll Your Internet Experience Into One Window With Rolio
If you’re like me, you can’t walk out your front door in the morning without going back inside at least five times–once for the keys, to feed the cats, maybe that slip for the cleaners, lunch in the fridge. And just when we think that we’ve managed to pull ourselves together… No wallet? Argh!
For us scatterbrains, forgetful, or overtaxed multi-taskers, the Internet poses a similar challenge. How does one keep track of so much enjoyable content, all those social media accounts? Rolio is one possible answer. Rolio is a free web application that aggregates favorite websites, including Facebook and Twitter, RSS, into a single, customized real-time feed. Close the browsers, close the windows and tabs, step through the Internet door with everything neatly assembled in one place? Sweet!
Myuran Balendran and Rozbeh Nassab are the co-founders of Rolio. They have a long history together. When they do manage a break from working on their startup, they even play tennis across the net from one another–and not just to work out antagonism, but for fun! They both sat down to share a bit more of the teamwork behind Rolio with KillerStartups.
Tell us about your first tango with the Internet. What were your first steps? What was your first computer? How old were you when you first danced on the world wide web?…
Myuran Balendran: As school friends, we were both drawn to towards the internet. At the age of 15, we started learning basic HTML and CSS using online tutorials, and we created a number of small websites. Rather embarrassing websites when we look back now, but that was the start! We started advertising and affiliate marketing on these small websites, and soon began receiving income, which was a fantastic feeling for two school kids.
This led to bigger things. While still at school, we created an online business called CheapEuroCars, which acted as a middle-man between official car dealers in Europe and UK buyers who wanted to import brand new cars and save 20-40%. Although our market soon disintegrated when the UK brought their retail prices in line with the EU, it gave us a great understanding of what it took to create and manage a business.
I also developed a strong interest in computer programming and electronics. I developed a software and hardware product that was a finalist in the Young Engineers for Britain competition. Unsurprisingly, we both went on to study computing at university, myself at Imperial College London, and Rozbeh at the University of Nottingham.
How did Rolio come into being?
Rozbeh Nassab: I am what may be termed a web junkie. I browse lots of websites, and always found it time consuming to keep track of them all. While I did try many RSS readers, I always found them to be very rigid and the experience to be a little dull. Having spoken with Myuran, who shared my views, we decided to try and create something a bit more flexible, and a bit cooler, and Rolio was conceived in November 2011.
We knew we had to integrate content from social media. And we wanted to create a really intuitive, visual, and friendly interface with a focus on speed. Rolio had to be super fast and super simple, and had to let users instantly get to the content they really wanted to see. We launched the website into Private Beta in March 2012, and went live a couple of weeks ago!
When do your best ideas come to you? In bed in the morning? After working for 16 hours? While out jogging?
Balendran: My best ideas come to me in bed at night. The challenge is remembering these ideas in the morning! I guess the good ones stick!
Nassab: My best ideas seem to pop up at all times of the day, usually when I encounter real-life situations or problems myself and I try to apply a solution based around a website or a mobile application. The butterfly sensation I get between thinking of an idea and checking whether it is unique is a huge buzz for me.
We want to know about where you spend your day! What’s on your desk right now?
Nassab: On my desk right now is a laptop with a Skype video panel open, connected to Myuran. Although I work from home in Nottingham, and Myuran works from home in London, it’s like we are working on desks opposite each other!
Who or what inspires YOU? Role models? Quotes? Fictional Characters? Snack food?
Balendran: Being a huge Nottingham Forest fan, my personal role model is Brian Clough–a football manager who took a small club from nothing, and turned them into the champions of Europe, twice! It mirrors what we are trying to achieve with Rolio–build a product from scratch with zero funding, and make it into a brand that is known worldwide.
What have been some of the biggest challenges your startup has dealt with so far?
Nassab: Marketing. Having developed a product that we think is fantastic, getting ourselves noticed amongst the plethora of other tech start-ups has been challenging, especially with no marketing budget behind us. Having gone live though, we can now tangibly see word of mouth spreading through social media regarding the quality of our product. Along with the help of some very kind websites promoting the product, we hope that the marketing of Rolio will ultimately be spread by the people that know it best, its users.
How do you handle frustration? When/how was the last time you dealt with frustration?
Balendran: As co-founders, there have been many occasions when our viewpoints have not matched. This can sometimes be frustrating, but we usually end up at a good compromise. There is a definite Yin and Yang about our partnership, which has certainly aided our creativity and innovation as a team.
We are both enthusiastic tennis players. We enjoy playing against each other regularly to take our minds off work.
Can you share what your latest “WOW” moment was?
Nassab: Within hours of the site going live (and after the endless months we had put into building it), the “WOW” moment was looking at the users connected to Rolio, and seeing that already we had users from the UK, Canada, Bolivia, Spain, France, Indonesia, Singapore and Australia all online at the same time!
What do you find most rewarding about Rolio work?
Balendran: Seeing and hearing people who understand our vision for Rolio and who benefit from it. When we see users returning to the site and staying online for hours, or when we read a complimentary review of our application, it re-enforces that vision and is very rewarding.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs struggling to get their business off the ground?
Nassab: Our advice would be to not give up, and just to keep pushing. If there is a particular area in which you are struggling, make an extra effort to learn as much as possible about that area. There are so many free courses you can attend, and there is so much information in general on the internet that you can leverage.
Do you consider yourself a successful entrepreneur right now? If not, what’s it gonna take to make you feel successful?
Nassab: While we are very proud of the product we have developed and have taken great personal satisfaction from the progress made, it’s still the very early days. We would only consider ourselves truly successful once our user base has grown significantly….. Either that, or seeing the term “rolio” trending on Twitter, or overhearing somebody talk about Rolio in a bar or on the train!
Web App or site you couldn’t live without and why:
Balendran: A shameless plug, but I’ve got to say Rolio! Besides Rolio, it would probably be Betfair. I’m definitely a risk taker!
How do you picture your company in 5 years?
Nassab: We hope Rolio becomes the homepage for millions of users worldwide, making it quicker and simpler for them to surf the internet in a world where time is very precious. We feel there is so much potential for Rolio, especially with the exciting ideas that we have in the pipeline!
Where can our readers reach you? Facebook? Twitter? Google+? Personal blog?
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook : http://www.facebook.com/roliodotcom
Anything else we should know about that makes you and your company so special?
We are two school friends who have completely designed and implemented the product ourselves. All development has been done in-house, and we have neither sought nor received any funding.