Founder Insight gives you feedback from the startup trenches.
Failure sucks. But fortunately, this dark ominous cloud often has a silver lining. Its what we call learning from our failures - picking ourselves up out of the ashes, reflecting on what went wrong, and finally moving on.
In this post, Brajeshwar Oinam explains why Levoma, a new take on Online Dating, went under after two years in operation.
Levoma is a Mobile Video Dating Site and App powered by Facebook Credentials. Levoma started in January 2011 and it was finally put to rest in December, 2012. In its 2 years tenure, we worked on the technology, ventured into the business opportunity of Mobile dating but somehow came short on various fronts.
Levoma was part of Founder Institute in 2010–2011 Winter Silicon Valley Chapter and we were among the final 12 graduating companies out of its initial cohort of 50+ startups.
We decided to shut down Levoma after thorough discussion with Mentors, Friends, Family and Partners, and we were acquired by Kamelot Kapital Pte Ltd.
Here are 3 main reasons why Levoma was put to rest;
1. Domain Expertise
I’m good with User Interface & Experience Design and can work with a tech-team to make things happen. That is my strong point. I have read a lot and kept my eyes and ears on Online Dating for quite a while but was neither a power user (I’m happily married!) nor have I worked with anything related to the sector.
Further, I did not do sufficient market research and had a male-centric view for what might work. It turns out the real problem to solve was (obvious in hindsight) - build a site women want to use first, and men will come anyway.
Unfortunately, my co-founder’s experiences with online dating were similar to mine. He is good with Business Development but had no ‘hands-on’ experience with our market.
We believed there was an opportunity in Online Dating. By combining mobile and real-time video experience, we aimed to solve the waiting and matching problem faced by many sites. We proposed users sign up with their interests and social graph. Then when they login, we would quickly match them with available singles for a quick ‘video’ speed-date, making interaction instantaneous, fun, and on-the-go.
While we could not launch on a large scale, our pilots showed that people are not as keen to simultaneously go live on a video date as they are with asynchronous old-school online dating.
We have high speed 3G, 4G everywhere these days but it is still not enough for video of reliable quality for real-time communication. All the related technologies have to work and play together across device standards and networks to work flawlessly. Most of the solutions we build were hacks upon hacks of the available platforms and protocols. As of today, this is a hard problem to solve. Efforts by giants such as FaceTime (Apple), Skype (Microsoft) are underway.
What would I do differently next time?
While focussing on a bigger goal, I would test and experiment small modules quickly. I will not go out building a mammoth product before trying to figure out who my customers are.
Here are few suggestions for founders, especially those just starting off;
- Create a bulleted list (at-least 5 items) to define and pin-point who your customer is, and focus on it. Keep refining it.
- Numbers are great, but focus on what you are good at and what you love to do. Don't always go after big numbers.
- Validate and test your ideas early. Talk to people, mentors and advisors. Be honest."