Postman.com - The Importance of Solving a Problem for Your Users
Postman.com is a young, India-based startup, launched by a couple of friends motivated to solve challenges in API testing. It all began as a side hustle for improving their own work and grew to become a worldwide collaboration platform.
If there’s one thing that the entrepreneurs behind Postman.com have done right, it’s their approach to the business - solve problems and don’t overcomplicate! This attitude brought an unplanned startup into unicorn status - here’s how!
Starting as a Side Hustle
Around 10 years ago, Abhinav Asthana and Ankit Sobti were young, inexperienced engineers working at Yahoo in Bengaluru. At the time, they were both front-end app coders and that’s when they first came in touch with API - a then-boring element of work that would soon become their future.
API stands for Application Interface Programming and it enables softwares to talk to each other. Every time you use an app to stream a video, for example, you initiate several API: one is for video search, another renders the possibility for on-screen playing, while a third one curates a playlist depending on the videos you previously watched - and so on, you get it.
Back in 2010, API testing was a real pain in the neck, with countless communication issues that would make a coder’s job miserable. The main issue they were facing was update tracking in APIs - it was just too complicated.
But testing API was an unavoidable step in app building, so something had to be done.
Abhinav was thinking about simplifying the problem, but both he and Ankit were first-time engineers and they didn’t know where to start.
Building a Product for Chrome Webstore
The first step to solving the problem was to ease the pain of API on themselves.
In 2010, Abhinav co-founded a startup named TeliportMe, together with Vineet Devaiah. While he was building this application for exploring places through photos, he encountered API issues again.
Ankit was switching jobs at the time, and ended up working in Mumbai, while Abhinav spent all of his spare time at TeliportMe, creating the prototype for what would later become the Postman app.
It took him a couple of months before the app began working flawlessly. What developers often do is build a hacker tool when they encounter a certain problem themselves. Then, they share that tool with a community (very often for free), which then starts using it, if they find it useful. That’s exactly what happened with Postman. Abhinav put it on the Google Webstore in 2011, and voila! By 2012 it had around 2000 downloads, and people were asking for improvements!
However, the other co-founder of TeliportMe wanted to take the app in a different direction, so Abhinav promptly quit that job and devoted himself to Postman.
The free Postman app started gathering an increasingly-devoted following from developers who used it, which attracted the attention of investors’. However, after TeliportMe, Abhinav wasn’t very keen to try a startup again. He learned with his previous startup that there was a possibility of insurmountable differences between co-founders to occur, regarding the vision for the company. He didn’t want something like that to happen and was very cautious with choosing his co-founder.
When he and Ankit finally made a deal to become co-founders, Abhinav spent the first couple of months traveling between Bengaluru and Mumbai. At the same time, he reconnected with a former intern at TeliportMe - Abhijit Kane, who was then working at Walmart Labs. Abhijit realized that people at Walmart were also using Postman, and that’s when the trio realized they were on to something huge.
In 2014, Postman became an official company, as they had to somehow maintain the free version of the app. Today, they have more than 1.6M active users per month, but getting there was a long road.
A long time has passed since their first 2000 users on the Google Webstore, so let’s go over their investments that brought them to those millions of monthly users.
Investments and Product Development
Between 2014 and 2016, the guys wanted to make Postman into something bigger. They began building features for the SaaS product and launched Postman Pro in 2016. By 2018, they had Postman Enterprise too.
Postman’s team grew from 3 young and enthusiastic engineers to a 70-member crew. They now have offices on two different continents - one in Bangalore and the other one in San Francisco.
In the first couple of years, the only sponsorship Postman received was $200 per month. The guys didn’t want to apply for any more serious investments, as they wanted to bootstrap the company in order to be independent.
But, one day, fortune turned, and they received a call from some Google Chrome developers who were also using the Postman app while creating a packaged app platform. As a result, the new version of Postman was soon out as a featured app in the Chrome Webstore.
The organic growth of their product simply kept increasing, so they built up their website too. When they hit 500,000 users, they created jetpacks, in-app purchases, monthly subscriptions, and their team began working on a new model - a top-notch collaboration platform for developers.
The biggest challenges at that moment were dealing with an enormous user database and an overwhelming amount of information they had to juggle through, every hour of every day.
In 2018, they decided to apply for VC funding. The seeding round brought $1m from Nexus Venture Partners, who gave them another $7m in series A funding. The executives from the Nexus Venture Partners saw the size of the Postman’s impact - it was global. So, they wanted to make Postman a core component of any web development and were only too glad to invest.
2019 and 2020 brought Postman more seeding rounds, and the last one was in 2020 - a series C round where they received $150m, clocking a net worth of $2billion. Their annual revenue today crosses $40m, making them a unicorn-status startup.
The road wasn’t easy, going from free side hustle to a unicorn status startup in only 6 years. But they did it, making them the fourth Indian SaaS startup to become a unicorn-club member.
Besides reaching the unicorn status, Postman.com can proudly say that today more than 10m developers and more than 500,000 companies use their product. They employ exactly 136 people in their team.
Although they didn’t intend to become entrepreneurs, today that’s something they’d recommend to anyone. From their viewpoint, people owe it to themselves to try - even if it doesn’t work out!
One of the main tips they have for young entrepreneurs is: take pauses. Write down your thoughts. Look back from time to time and analyze what you did, rather than getting caught up in problems without reflecting on them.
After all - in the beginning, Postman was all about solving communication problems between developers.
That just goes to show that not even proper coding is possible without clear communication and self-reflection!