Chet Jain started his entrepreneurial journey at 19 as a teen entrepreneur with his own startup based right in the heart of India, in his hometown Nagpur. Though his initial startup distracted him from focussing on his engineering bachelors, it evolved over the next six years to help Chet build a business employing over 100 people via different ventures. With early success came early challenges which Chet was not prepared to deal with, so he decided to hit the reset button in his entrepreneurial journey and continue his engineering studies.
After graduating as an electrical engineering, Chet started experimenting with different work culture, from selling real estate to working in the technology sector. Eventually he felt his wings were restrained in Hyderabad, so Chet moved to United States with entrepreneurial dreams. However, reality kicked in when he was faced with visa restrictions in the US which prevented Chet from immediately starting a business, so Chet began working for several American fortune 500 corporations. He eventually quit and to become entrepreneur again. Currently, Chet is focused on making world a better place by helping nonprofits and individuals raise money free via his startup: Crowdera. He also oversees SmartWe, a technology services company he founded in 2011.
In your own words what do you do?
Currently, I am focussed on making world a better place by helping nonprofits and individuals raise money via my current startup called Crowdera. Crowdera is a global free fundraising platform that believes that ‘Abundance Begins with Giving’. Since our alpha-launch in Nov 2014 during SXSW’s Plus Good event at Austin, Texas; we have been incredibly busy building a ‘Giving Economy’. Our purpose is to meet the fundraising need of individuals and organisations, which in itself is a fundamental need. We launched our services for Indian fundraisers in late 2015. The great thing is everyone associated with Crowdera sees the same vision. In our public beta launches in US and India, we have helped over 100 campaign raise over $675,000 with donors from 35+ countries that is something I am very proud of. Most of our fundraisers have been associated with nonprofits and charities.
What led you to your current business?
The vision of helping others succeed in their own goals has always made me happy. I had stints with a few such startups where I tried to carry forward my vision to do something that can make a difference. FEDU was my first step getting closer to my vision, however I still felt restricted when I had to say no to someone in need for anything other than education. After we acquired Umojawa to merge education purpose, I decided it was time for a complete reset. We exited from FEDU to start Crowdera, an all new fundraising platform for anything that matters and this time it was 100% aligned with my my vision and belief. I believe that ‘Abundance starts with Giving’, so Crowdera started as a completely free platform where we don’t dip in donor dollars and pass on every dollar to the beneficiary in need. By building Crowdera we intend to help all those third sector fundraisers spending over 30% of funds raised as fundraising costs.
Could you walk us through your process of developing your business?
Business are built with a purpose and everyone has to see the same vision. During FEDU times, Rich and Chai formed a great team with me. With Rich’s product management expertise and Chai’s technology pedigree aligning with my vision, it was not difficult to launch our alpha in Nov 2014. With initial product support from Rich, Chai and I were able to build a small team of folks aligned similarly. Now the major task to was to build something that our customers need, we spent next one and half years talking to several customers to understand their challenges and built a fundraising platform that supports virality. And truly now the entire team believes that ‘Abundance starts with giving’ and ‘Doing good should not be penalized’!
Did you encounter any particular difficulties in the beginning?
It felt like a crowded market. Very soon I realized the purpose is more important than the competition, so now I am thankful to all other players in the industry in that we all together are trying to elevate financial situation of people and organizations for them to make a difference. Though we ensured we don’t dip in donor dollars.
Another major challenge was hiring right folks, and yes it took a long time to build the Crowdera family and we still ensure that people join for a purpose and not just as another job. Financing is always a challenge with a bootstrapped company, however since we started with a purpose, I had decided no matter what, Crowdera should not starve or distract from vision for lack of external funding, so most of the operations so far had been funded by me, plus I had some initial support from some good friends and mentors. We intend to raise series A soon.
What is your long term plan?
My goal is to ensure I take Crowdera to every non-profit in the world to help them fill their funding gap. We are currently going live with currency support for four countries and soon to rollout more currency support. Our focus during beta had been nonprofits and now we will also extend our support to independent filmmakers, individuals and social entrepreneurs. In our next few releases, we will be launching a platform for corporate and individual giving, a lot of patent pending ideas coming with our giving platform.
One a personal front, once Crowdera grows up, I would explore opportunities for filmmaker in me. And before departing from this world another wish it to figure out how interdimensional travel works, to see if parallel universes exist.
Could you share with us some industry insights?
We are a mashup between two industries which are still very young:- online Crowdfunding and mature Charity Fundraising. We are focused on only solving problem and gaps existing in the current industry and making it free. The industry will continue to grow despite any shift in global economy. There are so many driving factors including CSR mandate by India to increased Giving Trend in western world and Millennials belief in doing more good. We will see more of crowdfunding companies to come focussed on niches and run by domain experts. I believe this industry will reach $1 Trillion in no time.
What are some important lessons you’ve learnt about entrepreneurship?
Silicon Valley was not built by accidental entrepreneurs, it was build with lot of sweat and risk by consistent entrepreneurs who knew when to take risk and how to balance life. Also understand that by being an entrepreneur you are not entitled to ignore your human responsibilities. If you are able to tie your interests, responsibilities or passion with your business idea, you will never have to look back. And here are few more one liners.
It’s not bad to copy a business model but ensure you business has a purpose that you connect with. Build companies with purpose and understand difference between strategy and true human ideals such as our mantra: ‘abundance starts with giving’.
Any tips for achieving success?
Stay focussed, be aware, stay current with the world. Don’t solve a problem addressed 100 years ago. Don’t call your company a startup, treat it like your baby. Never fall in love with your business model or idea, fall in love with your vision. You can’t reach new heights if you cling on to past or things that are not relevant. You need a complete reset.