How to Build Products in Public as a first-time Founder - AMA with Rahul

Alright! Continuing with our series of blogs where we cover the AMAs we hold over on our Slack channel. In case you missed it we regularly host Product Managers and talk about everything #product.

We are excited to have hosted Rahul Mathur, Founder & CEO, BimaPe as our guest.  He shared his Learnings from Building in Public, How to build great products for India, Mistakes to avoid as a first-time founder, InsureTech, His journey with BhimPe and His entrepreneurial life. He loves sharing his journey as he progresses as a first time founder on his Twitter and LinkedIn account.

Here are some key takeaways:

How to do you see InsureTech industry in India in next coming years?

I think you'll see a lot more work being done on the underwriting side of the business

Navi, Acko and Digit are good examples. Navi is also buying a life insurance license.

A key problem (including what BimaPe wants to address) is that the policies are really complicated - to curtail the price of the product.

Companies like Acko and Navi are very heavy on technology which saves them on operating cost - they can pass on that saving by creating simpler products (wider coverage means higher cost to them which is offset by their better margins).

How InsureTech in India is different from the West?

Focus in India is on Awareness, whereas Focus in West is on "better" products (wearable linked health insurance & telematics based motor insurance)

What is your day like after being an entrepreneur?

Oh man - I start work at 7:30 AM - take a break at 1:00 PM; back on at 3:00 PM until ~9ish PM

If you could list top 3 challenges being an entrepreneur?

The Top 3 challenges are:

  • Context switching - micro & macro focus in a given day
  • Continuing to monitor the market for opportunities to exploit (user acquisition, product development etc.) while focusing on the internal roadmap
  • Decision making: it happens everyday and you're the final authority

How do you work as a solo founder. What are your ways to take decisions, discussing ideas with team, knowing what is right?

I do treat the founding team as Co-Founders; so make them part of my problems - not just the solutions

Fairly transparent with the ~5 folks who were there pre-company; I farm for dissent amongst them by sharing ideas & responses to investor questions on Notion - they have full visibility over  the process!

How big has BimaPe grown and in what time like Team size, customers, no. of claims made by the app etc.?

Currently at ~5,400 members in 105 days (0 CAC - product led growth); team of ~11 and # of claims still very low < 100 since we've only just started.

Do Indians readily share their credit card details and how do you make them trust you?

Yup - the bounce rate for sign-up is very low - we don't ask for their card number :)

How's credit card adoption in TIER 2 and 3 cities as compared to TIER 1, I mean your customers percentage Tier1/Tier2?

Very low in T2 and T3 - mostly it is migrant workers working in T1 who account for the T2 and T3 CC population (due to Aadhaar registrations)

Any timelines you are targeting to move up from Beta in Know your card?

I think of what Gmail did with "beta". The tag was on for quite a while - we'll likely remain in beta for the next ~3 to 5 months because a lot of our backend infrastructure is not geared towards high volume web traffic.

What were your biggest challenges going 0-1?

Biggest 0 to 1 challenge is running run micro-experiments especially when we are pre-product.

Pivots: Are you building exactly what you started with? Any learnings that have helped you shift (if any)?

Pivots - we've as yet remained obstinate with the vision but flexible with the details!

If you compare the Product Vision in Figma to the actual product - the latter is far more fleshed out with details.

Will let you know if we pivot - so far, the product vision does see market pull

Are you looking to raise funding anytime soon? When should a early stage startup raise any funds?

We have done 2 rounds - closing a 3rd one soon - I don't like to discuss funding since it attracts the wrong attention in the early days!

Regarding fundraising -

  • Insurance is a business of trust - a fortress balance sheet creates trust (this is the "LIC premium" or "HDFC premium")
  • Effectively, we had to raise pre-product & pre-company to build trust amongst early adopters
  • SaaS co.'s often don't need to raise until they want to scale - don't raise if you don't need the money :) investor management is a big task!

I have seen you are very big on feedbacks and experience of users of BimaPe. Any major pain point that you have observed among people who buy Insurance?

The Biggest insurance pain points are:

  1. Lack of transparency around what is being sold
  2. Not sure why the price varies between products?
  3. Don't know where and how to start with insurance

So this question is based one of your posts regarding the checklist for hiring people for remote work on LinkedIn. Based on your experience, what process do you think people should follow while hiring for very early team building stage?

I like to use the PHD criterion for an early stage company -

  • P - Passion for their craft (design, engineering or growth)
  • H - Hunger to learn
  • D - Desire to improve

We use a 3 step process -

  1. Filtering via a culture fit assessment in writing (called Future @ BimaPe)
  2. Video interview with ~ 4 members of our team (across Engineering & non-Engineering)
  3. "Assignment" which is time bound

With regards to your Hiring process right now - What's working/not working?

  • What's working - the process seems to be working well for us thus far!
  • What's not working - definitely making sure the hire close - we've had some people flake at the last minute :(

How do you filter the signal to noise when it comes to hiring young folks, any tactical approaches there?

Very good point regarding Signal : Noise ratio

We do look for past or personal project work -

  • For Engineers, GitHub contributions or personal website
  • For Designers, Behance or other portfolio
  • For PMs, still figuring this out, hence, I'm here!

How do you ensure they get to speed quickly once they join?

We have an emphasis on documentation

  1. On-boarding check-list shows them a sample of PRDs and TRDs
  2. We have a recorded walkthrough of our frontend code documentation (Storybook), Product <> Design handover (Figma) and Design <> Engineering handover (Figma <> Notion)

Have seen some really hardworking folks joining BimaPe journey. How do you convince them on the mission of the company, gaining trust in you as a first time founder & leaving their previous jobs?

You might need to ask the guys themselves

  • My gut feel is - Product Zeitgeist Fit (read about this from a16z's D'Arcy Coolican) - insurance is a hot topic right now - team members want to build an insurance product that offers a better UX and different GTM (no spam, only value)
  • Most of them were following me on LinkedIn or Twitter so they got to see my thoughts evolve over time)

What's your decision making framework while categorizing product features as “must-have” and “nice-to-have”?

We use Stack Ranking practice:

  1. Start with a Product Vision - go crazy on Figma - map out flows & features using a whiteboard session with the team - what do you want the product to do?
  2. Show it to ~15 to 20 users (usability testing)
  3. Identify 5-7 delight features
  4. Stack rank these with users - if we could build only 2-3 - what & why?
  5. Then use product instinct & subject matter expertise (insurance is an expert problem) to arrive at a roadmap

What are some of the best practices to get into alignment with so many stakeholders that we have today while managing our products ?

I use the cross functional team (shared by Marty Cagan in his book "Inspired") approach together with written memos

  • Engineering, Product & Design are a part of the building process right from wireframes to post production
  • Farm for dissent - encourage everyone to respond to a PRD or TRD with their feedback in Notion; without seeing what others have written (harnessing collective intelligence)

The latter will require you, to chase people sometimes (as the PM) but it is worth the effort.

As I regularly follow you on LinkedIn,  you had initiated the principle of Build in Public where everyday you share about your internal company achievement and process. Don't you think it takes lots of your time and energy. How do you manage it? (One thing I know it bring you good PR and eyeball of Investors and makes your network strong.)

BIP (Building in Public) doesn't take as long as you would think - each LinkedIn post doesn't take more than ~ 10 minutes to write!

Effectively, if you are reflecting on your progress building a company - you have enough ideas/topics to populate a "content calendar" (I don't maintain one!)

I use Nir Eyal's timeboxing technique (from his book "Indistractable")


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