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Why We Had To Shutdown Our Startup, PocketScience

Why We Had To Shutdown Our Startup, PocketScience

Some time back I wrote about my startup journey with PocketScience. We were a team of four people when I joined as a co-founder. Founder of PocketScience was education specialist and he was the man behind the game based science learning concept. There were two android developers and I joined to give a boost to digital marketing.

We struggled with multiple challenges in our current startup. Most of the times we came out of the troubling area but sometimes it’s hard to find a solution for the toughest problem. At one point of time, we have to take the difficult decision of scrapping the work and start from scratch.

Both of our developers left startup within a month, leaving only co-founders to run the startup. But we managed to keep our mobile app running as we both had the technical background.

We had a little cash in our accounts. We decided not to take salaries until we figure out a business model or raise external funds. We spent one month on ideation and brain-storming so that we can come up with a better product. We pitched to VCs, but things did not work out in our favor.

We decided to put PocketScience on hold and started experimenting with other education apps focused on exams like CTET, SSC and Bank IBO.

Cost of Development

Development is a costly affair. We decided not to spend money until we have a clear business model. Our science-learning app for class-X students had 2000+ questions in the form of word-games, which were sufficient to cover all chapters of C.B.S.E science syllabus. We were planning to introduce similar apps for Maths and English. We studied syllabus of international schools so that we can target the US & UK education market.

But nothing really was coming out with a business model where we could deliver value to education system while making some money to sustain ourselves. The objective was not to just make money, but sticking with our core values.

Learning experience for students

The core value of our startup is to provide a learning experience for students. It differs us from many other companies who focus on creating value by claiming better marks or ranks. There is nothing wrong with more marks, but that was not our primary objective.

We love to create products where students can pause and think, where students raise questions and discuss solutions, where learning is not age bound or syllabus bound.

We thought that maybe the PocketScience is not a perfect product or mobile app is not the right delivery platform. The fact is that the mobile app is for masses and our product is the niche for scientific mind students. The current mobile app was the fraction of what we wanted to create.

PocketScience app was loved by students but..

but no one wants to pay for unlocking chapters. There were free chapter and locked chapters in pocket science. Paying money or redeeming points can unlock chapters. Students earn points when solve questions in free chapters. We have the high engagement rate but average retention rate. We have awesome 4.2-star rating for our mobile app on google play store.

No business model

We observed that two business models could arise out of our product. Selling something within the app or growing install base in millions which could be monetized by displaying ads.

We tried selling mock tests, which we believed a quick way of earning but not so good way of providing learning. We already tested that people do not pay for unlocking chapters otherwise we could have sold virtual goods within the app to unlock games & experiences. Moreover, our end users are students who do not have money to spend on apps. Parents do not perceive value in such apps and Indian consumer is still not spending money on digital goods.

We were not confident of claiming million installs by next year or two. We were number one science learning app on Google Play Store for CBSE class-X.

About 15,00,000 students appeared for CBSE class-X exam last year. There are 10 times more students studying in class-X in State Boards which make our target market in the order of lacks. But the question remains how many of them have access to mobile phones. Mobiles penetrated well in urban cities, but rural students still have to wait for the couple of years to get acquaint with digital mobile learning.

Assuming that mobile penetration growth is exponential in the Indian market, and the even sixth class student will have access to the mobile gadget in coming years. We have to have something strong to retain students within the app. Most of the students expect exam preparation in education apps.

You know that very few students attend school because of their love with learning. Our education system is marks centric so are the students. In both the cases, we have to adapt to the fact that only marks centric apps may be successful in making money in future.

Difficult Decision & Future

We decided to stop working on mobile app but our startup is inside us. We are still working on creating value to Indian education. My co-founder joined integral education school (Coveda) in Chandigarh while I started personal finance blog, CashOverflow to educate young people about money management.

Our education system focuses on creating jobs so that people can earn money, but no one tells how to manage money and grow it with time. A single bad financial decision ruins the future of a person (like taking personal loan to invest in stocks). I hope I will a be able to help youth to take better financial decision in early life.

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