The birth of PerfectMyEnglish

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This post is written by Sahil Sethi, Co-Founder at PerfectMyEnglish. Sahil was a participant at Startup Weekend Delhi Edu.

Most of us came to StartupWeekend with some ideas in our heads, ideas which were rosy, looked good during our individual pitches. StartupWeekend we felt, is the best place to see if any of those ideas could ‘work’, ‘click’, however you put it. You get to meet the real world challenges up front as you get a taster of the work needed to get an idea into a live product or business. And that is why StartupWeekends are a great event to validate your idea, even if you don’t win first prize!

Since the theme last April was Education, we heard some creative pitches to solve well explained problems by a few visiting experts in that space.

We noticed a lot of speakers who came up to pitch struggled to get their ideas across to the audience, and a sizable number due to lack of confidence or English skills.

With so many enthusiastic people it wasn’t difficult to form up a team around an idea we liked, the pitch to make an app which addressed common mistakes we make as Indians in English grammar, things such as, ‘I am having a red pen’, or ‘Kindly revert to the same’. We thought it would be fun to come up with a solution to address this in an easy way, such as a mobile application, called ‘TeachMeEnglish’!

As we moved forward with the fairly standard steps a conventional business model canvas offers, we started expanding our knowledge about all the various ingredients that go into shaping up a Minimum Viable Product(MVP). From segmenting our market to deciding which technical platforms to target first, we brainstormed and ‘shook’ our idea from all angles.

StartupWeekend folks provide a regular supply of ‘mentors’, experts from the industry who come offer advice, support and sometimes tear your idea up to pieces and make you really think about things like ‘What makes us different?’, ‘Will people pay for this product?’, ‘How can we sustain this idea beyond a prototype?’.

We were kept well informed about time sensitivity, i.e. “Have something ready to show by the end of the weekend”, so we made some informed decisions by the halfway mark.

We felt it really helped not rushing into preparing our prototype and our business presentation, resist the pressure!

We took some time to proactively address all our concerns about our idea, learn about our target market (surveys, interviews, research), think about style of content, design (mocks, diagrams), and so forth. This helped us rush through the second half of the event in a very focused way. We split into various mini teams and kept each other updated on progress every passing hour.

With all this going well we felt a real sense of community around the whole event venue, there was this great positive buzz around the place and people offered us help whenever we needed it. It is important to have your own space to work during this kind of event but at the same time don’t take the competition too seriously, interacting with others was really fun and a light mood really helps!

As typical with all such events we rushed to finish things till the last minute and put up as much information out on our slides and prototype for the judges and people to see, while trying our best not to put everyone to sleep!

Our panel of judges asked good questions, making sure we had spent some time actually learning what we were talking about, and might have been reasonably impressed, because our team won!

This gave us a new impetus to decide whether to take ‘TeachMeEnglish’, now called ‘PerfectMyEnglish‘ (never decide the name till the last minute!), as the sponsors of StartupWeekend heaped up good deals to help us take this business idea out from the venue to the real world!

We decided to take PerfectMyEnglish forward and have been working on launching ourselves in the real world ever since. Thanks to a loyal group of people who signed up to our beta launch, we completed a successful launch of our web platform in December 2012, and mobile application following up very soon!

We hope to reach out to a large number of users who can use our website, mobile app, and our services, to improve their English communication skills to help them with their career progression, entrance examinations, and general confidence in corporate communication, which is a very large skill gap in India. We have been getting good feedback from users who are from a variety of backgrounds, from government teachers to MBA CAT exam candidates, who have been using our platform regularly.

In the near future we aim to add new exciting features providing personalized services to our users, scale up our operations and achieve full sustainability.

We have all the folks at StartupWeekend to thank for their support and providing a great platform to start!