INSIGHTS #30 — Ritesh Arora on thinking global and scaling up

May 24, 2019 46 MIN

We continue with the #InsightsPodcast series, and on this edition, we have Ritesh Arora, Co-Founder and CEO of Browser Stack, a mobile and web testing platform. In this podcast you will hear about Ritesh’s journey as a young engineer how he pivoted through a few startup ideas before landing on the BrowserStack idea. And how he bootstrapped the startup to more than $20M in revenue – a humongous achievement for any founder.

Ritesh comes from a family background in business, and always had an eye for venturing
on the entrepreneurial journey. Teaming up with his roommate from IIT Bombay, Ritesh started his first startup in final year of college: building a product for sentiment analysis in 2005, which involved him picking up machine learning and natural language processing way before AI/ML became fashionable. “I read probably about every research paper published on the topic at that time, about 76 of them. Went through them multiple times and came up with our own algorithm.”

Unable to come up with a go-to-market for the product, Ritesh and Nakul decided to take up jobs, but the desire to build something consumer-facing got them started soon on their second venture, in the space of information aggregation on the internet. This time around they were even able to gain traction, but monetization and identifying the right business model proved to be a challenge.

Ritesh and Nakul spent a year brainstorming before stumbling on the problem that BrowserStack solves today, while consulting with companies that were seeking their help in building machine learning solutions. ‘Testing website on internet browsers’ was a challenge for thousands of developers globally and something that Ritesh and Nakul experienced first hand as developers .

Ritesh and Nakul, set out to simplify the journey of developers by helping them test and debug their website on different browsers (mainly Internet Explorer at that time). The traction they got this time around was explosive, starting with 10K beta users in three weeks (thanks to John Resig’s tweet), moving to a paid offering soon that grew to $20K monthly revenues in about 4-5 months and $1M annual recurring revenue at the end of year one- all this when they were just a team of two, working out of a coffee shop in Mumbai!

The focus on global market from day one helped them scale to $20M annual recurring revenue in a span of four years with just a 50 member team. They realised the need to scale up the organization to be able to sustain the growth and decided to get advisors on board who can help mentor the team in the right direction. The fund-raise for BrowserStack was more about finding the right partner than about raising money. Ritesh speaks about the value that a good investor brings on board especially in the scaling phase, because the founder is always doing it for the first time while the VCs have helped many such companies scale.

Apart from talking about the journey of choosing the right investor, Ritesh shares learnings for younger entrepreneurs, from the early days and emphasizes on focussing towards solving large problems, getting feedback from customers, not solving for monetizing in early days and building a great product that makes the customer’s journey frictionless. “When your customers use your product, they should feel that it has changed their life” he says.

Tune in to the podcast to hear Ritesh’s phenomenal journey which has become an epitome of bootstrapping your way to success.