Neha Kanodia is a Mompreneur and Co-founder of ‘GoGaga’ – an online dating app to meet friends of friends. Neha is an IT Engineer with 14+ years of corporate work experience. She along with her brother Meet, conceptualised ‘GoGaga’ out of their experience on looking for a potential bride for Meet on a matrimonial portal. From being a techie who worked with various organisations, Today She is an award winning digital entrepreneur recognised by Google. Neha shares more about her entrepreneurial story with WOI- Womenpreneursofindia
Take that plunge, go for it! What you gain is more than what you might lose.
I have always had a strong interest in algorithms and coding since I was in school. I used to skip chemistry class and sit in the computer room, practicing coding. Seeing my interest, my teachers were keen that I should choose IT as my engineering subject from SGSITS, Indore. I started getting recognized as a star performer early in my career and began to lead global teams for multinational companies, until I found I am longing for an accomplishment of building something from scratch. My quest led me to start Go Gaga. I have 14+ years of experience as tech-lead with major corporations including Oracle, SoftwareAG and Goldman Sachs with expertise in Cloud/SaaS Applications. I chase codes and bugs during the day and my daughter in the evening.
And now, I am currently a developer and co-founder of “friends of friends” relationships app, called “Go Gaga”, for people looking for serious and meaningful partners. At Go Gaga, we are trying to bring trust in dating, with human referrals and AI. My co-founder, Meet (also my brother), is an IIT-D alumnus and ex-investment banker from London.
Before even I started this Go Gaga app, I was a happy and successful corporate employee for more than a decade. And also, I was leading technical teams at global MNCs, but the quest to take up new challenges made me step into entrepreneurship.
My co-founder, Meet, and I are siblings and both hail from Indore. GoGaga concept started when we were looking for a potential bride for Meet on one of the matrimonial portals. We noticed that the current channels for finding a partner in India were at the extreme ends: (a) Matrimony apps are being parents managed and community focussed, while (b) Dating apps being self-picked but distance based, showing mostly strangers.
Meet was covering Gaming and Dating industries in London as part of his investment banking career and realized the gap in Indian market where there was a strong need for a culturally compatible and trustworthy solution. After an intensive research, we realized the common reference is how trust has been established in India. Traditionally, there was always an intermediary in arranged marriage settings or friends making introductions in the offline world.
This is when we started GoGaga, a digital referral-based matchmaking app where users are shown friends of friends with the mutual friend making an introduction. The Key troubles that appear on matrimony and casual dating/hook-up apps are prevalence of fake profiles, bots, married men, expectation mismatch, un trustworthy profile information, among others. But in GoGaga we have mitigated these troubles just the way of concept itself where the existence of common connection provides information authenticity and adds trust to the process.
The best part is that GoGaga gives a fun-twist to dating, where committed ones can also download and match two of their single friends. The method is also very relatable to real-life and eliminates fake profiles/bots, a problem not solved by any dating app yet. GoGaga is incubated by Facebook & IIM-Bangalore incubation arm, NSRCEL. And moreover, it’s not easy to leave a well-established and well-paying job to start something challenging.
We planned to launch our relationship app around Valentine’s day, because we felt that was the best time to launch the perfect relationship app. And around the same time IIM-Bangalore hosted its cultural-fest called Unmaad. So, we released a beta version of our app for IIM-Bangalore’s Unmaad and got our first few hundred customers at the event. And I still remember the first 5 customers very well. They were very supportive and motivated us quite a lot. They came up with instant suggestions which gave us first-hand feedback which helped us carve the next version for our first 1000 users. Most youngsters there resonated with the need of a trustworthy relationship solution and loved our concept.
Being a startup in stealth mode, we did not hire employees and I coded the entire app on my own. It is quite a lot of work to learn a new technology and code an entire app single-handedly. Hence, I would advise other startups to take help when required. We are actually a bootstrapped company that works mostly with part-time interns. While our focus is on training youngsters for tomorrow, it is challenging to deal with attrition, exams and part-time interns. Hence, it’s suggested to plan your finances appropriately before starting up.
And off course running a business itself is full of challenges. Every day brings a new set of problems that we need to deal with. Always ask for help or advice from family and friends whenever you feel you cannot handle it by yourself. And please do not strive to be a super-woman, learn to accept the fact that you require help. You can be tired and it is ok to ask family to help you in chores. As I already mentioned, starting up a new journey is full of challenges, but there is lots of learning involved, take up each challenge as a reason to learn and you will be able to find an apt solution.
However, this journey has bought me quite a few unforgettable moments or you can call it as a milestone,
- On the business front, we were elated on getting selected by YCombinator for their final round and went on to meet them in San Francisco.
- On the personal front, receiving the “Digital Women” award by Google and Colors TV was one of my proud moments in October 2019.
- I have also been rewarded as one of the 15 ambassadors in India for Facebook’s SheLeadsTech program which aims to help women entrepreneurs. It gives me immense pleasure to be able to give back to the community and help other women in rising and shining.
I have been blessed with a very supportive family. The 3 men in my life, my dad, my husband and my brother are the ones who have been very encouraging at all times. Their motivation is what made me take the plunge from a corporate world and still keeps me motivated in thick and thin. GoGaga is my second child and I did not need much motivation to do anything for GoGaga. 🙂 Yet there are many low times and to keep myself strong during those times, I always think about the good amount of learning that I am getting as an entrepreneur, and that keeps me going!
Another reason which definitely keeps me motivated is the love from our users for the product, especially when they say that there is a definite need for a product like GoGaga. At some events when I introduced myself, some women have come and told me that they found their partner on GoGaga, it is a proud moment to become an indirect matchmaker through starting GoGaga.
And after starting go-gaga-app.com, Key lessons that I have learned are,
- Perseverance is the key to solve any problem. This is the important lesson that I learnt after starting this GoGaga.
- Specific to startups, I now strongly believe that the product should be something which customers love. Customer really bhagwan hai!
- There is no limit or end to learning. The more people you meet, the more you learn. If not anything, you learn another perspective. Starting up is the best way to learn, since you have no choice but to learn. 🙂
As an Entrepreneur I feel that struggles are a part of the entrepreneurial journey. But just that they are different at different stages,
Initially it was about building the product, then it was to get customers. Running a bootstrapped business involves lots of learning in each area like marketing, product development, UI/UX, business development etc. Since we cannot afford to hire experts in each area, we land up learning and doing most of the stuff ourselves, which is not easy. Irrespective of whether on or off work, business keeps lurking in mind all the time.
In general, as a mother, it is very difficult to strike a right balance between work and time with my daughter. On the Technology front as well, I have to constantly stay updated. Being a techie co-founder, I have to be on top of everything that happens in Android, iOS and web.
And finally, I would like to say to all the women out there and who really have great ideas and do not feel confident about taking the leap to start (up) Remember: “Women are determined and hardworking individuals in general, if they take a step, they continue moving forward until there are further steps ahead. So, take that step please!”
Thankyou Neha. GoGaga seems to be a trustworthy platform and a better solution for people to find their partners! And, you are definitly an inspiration to a lot of women and mothers to take up their careers and goals despite their constraints. We are very glad to feature your business story on WOI. We wish you all the best for future endeavours. Keep Inspiring!