Fresh out of Stanford, Govinda Dasu's focus for his career was not about finding a job in a large company in Silicon Valley. Instead, he chose to bootstrap for a startup he is building with a Stanford classmate and an ex-Infosys employee. Using his skills in Computer Science and all their experiences combined, they improved on one of his college projects -- Learning Dollars -- an educational app that aims to teach English in developing countries.
Although similar to online language-learning software Rosetta Stone, the app will be free and more relatable, especially for users in developing countries such as in India, China, and Brazil -- where Govi and his colleagues tested. "The $300 fee of Rosetta is too steep and it also uses pictures of random people that may not be effective to hook people in the developing world," he said.
Learning Dollars will use pictures of celebrities from all over the world. For instance, the app would teach "basketball" with a picture of Yao Ming playing the game, the phrase "they are dancing" with a picture of Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone dancing, and "an interview" with an image of David Letterman interviewing Aishwarya Rai.
Govi and his co-owners decided to focus on the app development, leaving the task of collecting thousands of photos and matching them to phrases to a freelancer. Strapped for budget, the group couldn't afford someone in California. They had to outsource the job. "Freelancer.com, as the leader in its industry, was the very first site I tried out. It wasn't enough to hire just one person, so I hired three freelancers," Govi said.
The task was difficult for a fixed priced job to work on so Govi turned the project into an hourly job. He used a time tracker app to ensure that his freelancers were working productively. "I maintained the regimen of checking the time tracker's random screenshots of my workers' screens before paying them. It worked perfectly," he said.
He paid each freelancer $15 per hour. Govi said that if he had sourced the job locally and expected to get the same quality of work, it would have cost him anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000 -- a huge amount compared to what he paid on Freelancer.com.
He hired Jony Mariño from Argentina, Juzer Hakimuddin Fakhri from Kenya, and Vikas Roy from Africa. Govi loved the international experience, more so because the freelancers brought their regional expertise into the project when it came to finding world celebrities.
Learning Dollars is still in its early stages and that they haven't taken any funding yet. "We are still bootstrapping, and the reason we were able to bootstrap for so long on our own money is because of low-cost, efficient services at Freelancer.com. Hopefully, we will be able to build something of quality before approaching investors and increase our startup's valuation," he said.
Once Learning Dollars is launched, Govi hopes that his education app would empower people in the developing world to learn English, get a great education, and gain earning power. "Essentially, I hope to train the future freelancers of the world. People in developing countries are great workers and deserve to be part of the global economy. I believe that by training the next generation of freelancers, Learning Dollars could be a significant player in fighting global poverty."