A dream start
With a client base of 10,000 in 80 countries within the first year of its launch, PageVamp—an American startup with a Nepali cofounder, is starting with gusto.
When Atulya Pandey and his friends were studying at University of Pennsylvania in the US, they used to constantly talk about different business ideas.
In early 2012, Atulya and his friends Fred and Vincent started an agency, PMB Creatives, to create websites for individuals, clubs and groups at UPenn. “We were just trying to earn some money so we could travel,” says Atulya, a junior-year student then.
They did make ‘some money’, and travel they did. But while in San Francisco, Fred saw a problem; he wasn’t convinced that the websites they built catered to all the needs of their clients. “We weren’t actually solving a problem here. We were making websites, but how many people can update their sites themselves?” says Fred.
It was in this City That Knows How that the trio started thinking how to solve the problem. The group came up with the idea of SnapSite, which was later renamed PageVamp.
The idea was to create an online service that can make websites from Facebook pages, and even allow users to update their sites through Facebook.
PageVamp came second in the contest participated by 500 teams. It also won the Facebook and Lore Prizes. But this wasn’t the first time that Fred and Vincent won accolades at the competition. The previous year, they had won the contest with a hyperlocal app.
“Results from the hackathon, gave us the courage to go all in, to close all doors and fully focus on building this company,” says Atulya. The event not only provided useful feedback, it also provided much needed money. The team received a purse of $3,000, and also the university’s Dorm Room Fund of $20,000.
Less than a year later, PageVamp group has over 10,000 clients in more than 80 countries. In Nepal, they have clients such as Kathmandu Kora and Pushpa Basnet’s Early Childhood Development Center.
In January of 2013, while they were still in their last year of college, the three had started developing business models and strategies to put the idea into action. They first introduced the site to a few close friends and groups to test the site, and they launched the beta version in March. “It was pretty slow at first. Things started to take off only around June, after we personally reached out to people. We then realized the importance of connecting to our clients,” says Atulya.
“Now, we think of our company as a P2P – people to people business. We want our clients to feel that they are dealing with a friend and not a business,” says Atulya, sharing the company’s core belief.
“With PageVamp, we are trying to provide an easier way for small and medium businesses to communicate. Most people behind these businesses might not have the required skills to build websites, nor the time to regularly update them. So, we try to make it simpler for them,” says Fred, who is now the chief technology officer (CTO) of the company.
Although the basic idea has remained the same – to bring together the simplicity of Facebook pages with the singularity of websites, PageVamp now offers users templates and add-ons such as reservation and scheduling platforms.
The company is trying to narrow its focus by targeting specific sectors in the wide pool of SMEs. It is currently working on templates for professional photographers. It has also lowered its price to $5 per month to make the product more accessible to businesses in developing countries.
The company is now based in a co-working office space called WeWork, in the financial district of Manhattan, New York. Also a new member Julian Loutre, an engineer, has joined the team. It is expecting a new batch of interns this summer.
However, the team is not looking to limit itself within its office and the team members. They are developing PageVamp as a platform where programmers and designers can submit their templates and add-ons— similar to the WordPress platform. It already has two team members in Nepal, Sujan and Pradeep Shrestha, who work on add-ons for PageVamp. Currently, they are testing a Partners’ Program with a few partners, before they scale the concept.
“But we are still learning. When we conducted our first interview to hire interns, we had no idea what we were supposed to ask. Being part of a startup means you are always trying to improve—be it on the train, going through articles that might be of help, or just thinking. You just have to keep learning,” says Fred.
“It’s like a rollercoaster ride. There are always new challenges to overcome, and we have to find ways to solve these problems, push ourselves and build our skills,” says Atulya.
“We are always working on different aspects of the company such as building customer acquisition strategies, refining our value proposition, re-thinking our product development, developing revenue strategies and getting funds to make all this possible.”
PageVamp is a part of an ever-growing community of young tech innovators and entrepreneurs—a global community of people who are finding new ways to blend technology into daily life. In an effort to promote this community, the team has been involved in events such as Startup Weekends Bosnia, where it was one of the sponsors. It also offered free websites for winners of Startup Weekend Kathmandu. So what can other startup entrepreneurs learn from PageVamp? Fred echoes a famous quote: “Overnight successes take a very long time.”