From mKhoj to InMobi

Posted on August 17, 2009
By Naveen Tewari

Like any other start up venture, mKhoj has had its share of ups and downs. We started business by diving into the first business model of solving the local information problem using SMS based search and worked on SMS based monetization as a revenue model which would eventually morph into an SMS Ad Network. At the time, it had seemed like a great problem to solve since the proliferation of PCs was rather weak. But after a few months into the market, the model did not fare as had been envisaged earlier. The team had failed to clearly understand the cultural aspect of India, where every individual on the road is a source of high quality (& mostly user friendly) information. Thus the demand for the service was not very high and the money was running low. A few months into the venture the team faced its toughest decision, a decision which would prove to be the turning point in mKhoj's life. The decision was to abandon the existing business of SMS and focus on the mobile web ecosystem, which had lately started to show signs of a strong future. It was an emotionally charged period for the team as it wasn't easy to see all the hard work of the past months go to waste and start fresh from ground up. The next several months were very tough as everyone worked on developing the new product and taking it to the market. Everybody tried to hold a brave face but it was really difficult as a thousand questions were brewing in everybody's minds about the future of this new venture. The company was running low on money and on morale and the product had still not hit the market so had no paying customers. It was also pretty evident that no investor would invest in the business at that stage. The team decided to work without pay and also pitched in with their credit cards. The cards were used to run the company till the product was out in the market and started to gain some traction such that the venture capitalists would agree to make the required capital infusion. Team members refrained from making personal purchases using their credit cards because credit limits were getting breached rather quickly. It was these tough periods that really brought the team close and showed great commitment. As they say, even the worst of times come to an end and things started to look for the team when Kleiner Perkins and Ram Shriram (Sherpalo Ventures) decided to put money into the company. Finally, the hard work of the team, their sacrifice and the risk that each one of them (& their families) had undertaken paid off and helped get mKhoj to a new platform from where it could scale. Post venture funding, we suddenly faced a new set of challenges. Now the focus shifted to putting together a great team. Initially, there had been 8 people in the company in 2008. Now, exceptional focus was being given on hiring so that only the best people in the industry joined the little but soon-to-be-big start up to take it to the next level.

[caption id="attachment_64" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="InMobi, previously mKhoj"]InMobi, previously mKhoj[/caption]

By the end of the year over 50 people in 4 offices across the globe had joined the company. By the middle of 2009, growth surpassed all expectations and we grew beyond 75 people across 4 offices in the world. We are now one of the fastest growing mobile advertising networks in the world. Here we are today, ambitious to make it big on the world scale. With that intention, we chose a new name, InMobi, that we think conveys our value proposition greatly. The story sure seems like a long one but one would like to believe this is still the beginning of an exciting journey of the dream called InMobi! - Naveen



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