Best Success Story:
Everyone likes the story of how we got into 500 Startups, which is one of the best accelerators in America. Usually to get into 500 Startups, you have to get recommended by someone who has been a part of 500 Startups in some way.
For us, the opportunity came when one of the partners of 500 Startups (Paul Singh) came to India last year. He tweeted from the airport that he would be in India for awhile, if anyone wanted to meet him. I followed him on Twitter, and he said he was going to hit a couple of cities in the next couple of days while passing through.
So I emailed him, and then called, to introduce myself. I introduced my team and told him about my product, Walletkit and let him know that I would love to meet him in one of the cities he was traveling to, which happened to be right next to mine. Luckily, he replied and I replied back to him and asked if we could meet; but there was no reply.
Over the next couple of days, while viewing his Twitter stream, I saw him meeting a lot of Indian entrepreneurs. So I thought if I were to meet him and impress him, I had to do something awesome for him to go back to the U.S. and let us know that they would like to fund us. I emailed him again for the next couple of days to ask if I could meet him and there was no reply.
So on the 27th of August he reached the city — located in close proximity to mine. The next morning, around 7:30 am, he tweeted a picture of a high rise building in India. I figured that the high rise was a local hotel building, so we figured out the location of the tweet and that there were only a couple of good hotels in the area. There was one hotel where he could be staying, potentially. He never told us to come and meet him, but our team really wanted to meet him–no matter what–before he left India.
We figured out the location of his hotel and made a a slide deck to introduce him to WalletKit — including everything from the team, the product, market opportunities, etc. We also figured out the Facebook and Twitter profiles of all of the 500 Startup partners and got a friend to draw a cartoon of them and display it on the front page of the book. We made cartoon posters of them, as well.
On the 29th of August we got all of these things done and at 9 p.m. we emailed the partner again and asked if we could meet him–and got nothing back. He tweeted that he was in the city and was going to be there for the next 10 hours.
The fastest way to get to that city was on the bus since we didn’t book plane tickets. So, we got on the bus and arrived at the hotel around 11 a.m. and hung around there after tweeting him again to meet him. We expected to get a reply back; we waited for about a half an hour and nothing happened. We gave him a call on his cell phone (that was in his email signature) and still, nothing. We figured he had already left.
As we were about to leave, he comes out of the lift with his bags, and he was about to check out. I took a couple of steps back, and while he was signing his books I popped up to him and said, “Hi, I’m Kevin.” I gave him a hand with his bags and told him I was happy to meet him and gave him my pitch deck.
He was a bit freaked out because the front page of the pitch deck had his cartoon on it — so he threw it back at me. He looked really upset. I thought I blew it, but I tried to stay calm and keep the conversation going. He finally looked at it and he liked the idea. He said he had to go somewhere else but he would be back at 2 p.m. and he would love to talk to us. He had a flight to catch at 5:30 p.m., so we waited from 12-2 p.m. for him and he didn’t come out until around 3:40 p.m.
He comes back and says he has to rush to the airport because he had a flight to catch and he would give us a call when he got back to the U.S. We didn’t want to miss the opportunity of pitching him our company, so we asked if we could pitch the idea of our company to him in the cab on the way to the airport, and he agreed.
Three weeks later, he sent us an email saying that he wanted us to come to the U.S. and become a part of the accelerator. So that’s how we got started. Most people consider this as our best success; they do fund from abroad, but getting into 500 Startups is kind of hard because they don’t have an application process or many connections in India. We are the first guys to make it this way.
Biggest Startup Challenge:
Moving and settling in the U.S. was the biggest challenge.
#1 Tip for Entrepreneurs:
I think most people think entrepreneurship is going to make you extensively successful. But there are a lot of entrepreneurs who have failed, but become successful eventually. My advice is to just never give up if you fail.
Stay connected with Kevin on Twitter.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Editors Note: WalletKit is now a team of five and after graduating 500 Startups the team has opted to move to California (from Chennai, India) to be closer to prospective clients.
Photo Credit: Kevin William David
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