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Building in the Open – February 2021 - Dimagi

While I was building my last startup, KleverKid, in Delhi around 2014, I would often write publicly and with brutal honesty about my trials and tribulations building the company. It hit a nerve, and soon after I shut down my company, HarperCollins offered me a book deal to write in greater depth about failure and how it impacts the innovation lifecycle. 

Now, as I bring those learnings to Dimagi, I find that I am failing just as often as I did before, but not quite as publicly. So, as part of our writing efforts, I want to try to “build in the open” in 2021. I’ll be writing monthly updates on how we’re doing in New Business—specifically around our mobile device management platform, Focus.

My hope is that these pieces will not only give you an insight into the innovation lifecycle we’re employing at Dimagi, but also where, how, and why we are succeeding and failing.

Developing Focus

I started building Focus back in 2018. I had an initial product build out that we created with internal engineers’ free time, which we eventually scrapped and then took a different approach.

While Dimagi has amazing engineers, it turned out to be way more efficient for me to bring on an engineering team that worked with me alone rather than competing for their time against other projects at Dimagi. One benefit of this is that I know exactly how much I’ve spent on external engineers building out Focus so far. I’m going to track my metrics at the start of version 2. 

For v2, over the course of the past two years, I’ve spent $130K on web development, $37K on mobile development, $3K on marketing and sales. So in total, I’ve spent about $170K building FocusMDM and brought in about $60K in revenue, which means I am still operating at a fairly high loss month-on-month. Fortunately, we are seeing those numbers begin to even out.

Below, I’ll show our growth over the last two years. With New Business rapidly shifting gears to supporting new areas for our COVID-19 response, I’m pleased with the growth in 2020, as I was putting minimal sales effort into Focus but still seeing a lot of traction from new users. In 2021, I’ve hired our first Sales team member, so I am excited to see what we can do!

Goals for 2021

MRR:  As we head into 2021, my goals are to increase our monthly recurring revenue from an average of about $7K MRR to over $20K MRR, which is a fairly steep increase. With a new full time sales hire, however, I believe we can capture a much larger number of customers.

All-time P&L:  I’m starting the year roughly $110K down and my monthly burn rate is $12-15K, but my hope is that we can grow revenue fast enough to be positive on the all-time P&L by the end of this year.

Some of the questions on my mind for this year are:

  • Would FocusMDM benefit from online marketing spend? Does our market make buying decisions based on Facebook and LinkedIn ads?
  • Would it be smarter to invest in more features to compete with other MDM providers or to retain our keep-it-simple policy to support as many types of users as possible?
  • How can we support more projects that are already using digital health platforms to deploy MDM in cost-effective and simple ways?
  • Does it make more sense to piggyback on Dimagi’s existing CommCare client base or to approach the market as a siloed solution?
  • Will “building in the open” through this channel, committing publicly to our targets, force us to make harder decisions about this product?

In the next piece, Shabnam shares a competitive audit and discusses what it tells us about what’s next for Focus.



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