Honestly, running Skolafund has its share of stress and dilemma. It has always been one challenge after another since the first day. But, I guess, it is part and parcel of any startup isn’t it?
There have been a number of times when our team had to make headache-inducing decisions for Skolafund. Previously, we kept these dilemmas to ourselves because we thought you would not be interested in them. Haha. In addition, we felt that our users should not be burdened by our worries. However, I think it was a wrong move. By not communicating our concerns and thought-processes, we leave you clueless as to where we are at right now (i.e. Skolafund’s level of development, our capabilities and so on) and the reason behind certain decisions that we made. I think this has led to few unfriendly “comments”, “demands” and “questions” via twitter, e-mail and the chat-box on our website.
Based on this experience, I feel that it would be healthy for us to update – and perhaps include – you in the key decisions that the SkolaFund team make. We can do this through this blog. This way, you’ll know what’s up and can give feedback and suggestions based on the right context.
Having said that, here are three kind-of big decisions that we’ve recently made that I would like to share.
We need to stop the website
Temporarily! The website that we used for the first three months was just an Alpha (What’s an Alpha? You can read about it here). In addition, there were too many bugs and errors on this website which were difficult to solve. When we try to fix one error, another problem appeared somewhere else. The developers we engaged didn’t do a proper job, I guess. We’ve had enough with these errors, and we’ve decided to re-build the whole website from scratch. Fortunately, now, we have tech-guys in the team, Faruq and Wildan, and they are leading this re-building process. The new website is expected to launch sometime within the first half of September, inshaAllah!
We’re taking a break from university
We are a team of six – four still in university and two just graduated the previous semester. Having been working on Skolafund for the past 4 months, we realised that for SkolaFund to grow and impact more students it needs focus, especially since it involves dealing with people’s (your) money. The previous months (May-July), we have been having our semester holiday. Believe it or not, the whole of our holiday had been spent on nothing else but developing SkolaFund. We participated in Startupbootcamp accelerator programme, Maybank Fintech and a few others to learn from experts on ways to make SkolaFund work and grow (the bigger SkolaFund grow, the more students can be impacted). We want to keep the momentum going and keep on developing SkolaFund. So as a team, we’ve decided to take a break for a minimum of one semester.
It is really not easy to do SkolaFund properly on the side – we receive near hundred applications to start a campaign, and we need to verify every single one of them before launching. At the same time, we need to pull in generous people to sponsor these students. On top of all that, maintain and keep on building the technology. This leave of absence that we’re taking this semester, will be dedicated to refine these processes through technology and partnerships. This way, we can build more features on Skolafund to be offered to more students.
We need to be self-sustainable and scalable.
I believe I’ve shared in one of my earlier blogpost that we faced difficulty raising funds to built Skolafund when I first had the idea last year. My co-founder, Syakir and I spent many months looking for funds to build SkolaFund, but for whatever reason, those people that we spoke to most likely did not believe that Skolafund can work and denied us access to the funds. None previously wanted to give us their money to help build Skolafund.com. Despite the negative feedback, we still wanted to make it happen and prove that it can work, so we put in whatever little savings (both of us are still students so we don’t have much) that we have to build Skolafund.com (Alpha). Through this very basic website, with your support, we funded not one, but six students! We spent no money to do marketing etc. and everything was organic through twitter and word of mouth (Thank you!). Even after proving that SkolaFund can work, we still have difficulties raising funds!
Why do we need funds so bad? Well, to build the website we need money. For every single problem on the website that we need to fix, we need money. For all the new feature request that we get from you, we need money. To pay for the other tech-essentials, we need money. To reach out to more people to be sponsors on SkolaFund either online or offline, we need money. To make sure we are compliant to the regulations, we need money. There needs to be a dedicated team to make SkolaFund work and to get a focused and dedicated team, we need to pay salaries with money. Really guys, trust us, we are absorbing so much cost right now just because we believe in what we do. But this is not sustainable, agree? All of this right now, are being paid by two students and the small grant that we received from the accelerator that we took part in – which is running out very soon if it doesn’t grow.
We need your support to make us sustainable and not shut down. I hope you guys are convinced that the problem we are solving is real and that Skolafund is offering value to our community.
To make Skolafund sustainable, with the capacity to grow (add new features etc.), we’ll need to generate revenue/cashflow. We will most likely need to emulate other crowdfunding sites where they take a small percentage from successful campaigns. Meaning, we’ll only “earn” when a student successfully gets their scholarship. When we implement charges on Skolafund, it’ll be transparent. In my future post, I will share more details on this. One thing for sure, working with limited funds is scary and this small revenue will really make a big difference.
We’re passionate about Skolafund because we believe the problem that we are solving is real. We hope you will continue to be a part of this. Thanks, guys.