Rahul was selected as a Pioneer in October 2020 for Modfy, an in-browser video compression tool. He's since gone through Pioneer Camp, presented to Natalie Sandman during our February Demo Livestream, and recently was selected for the Build India Fellowship.
Where did the idea for your project begin?
Modfy started as a fun side project I was working on last summer. It was something to keep me engaged because I didn’t want to go back to remote school. It was initially just an open-source project with no real ambitions of becoming a company. All that changed when it launched at the top of Hacker News. Then I got into Pioneer, which made me rethink the scope of what this could become.
What are some major milestones you’ve hit since becoming a Pioneer?
It has been a few months since we got into Pioneer. In that time, we've experimented with many different versions of our product and hit many milestones. The biggest was getting into the Build India Fellowship in February; we were one of four teams selected from 3000+ applicants. The fellowship gave us $10,000 in an equity-free grant with the only objective to build. We also hit smaller milestones, like processing over 4000 videos or 150GB of video, and recently turned down our first acquisition offer.
Our primary goal for the fellowship, a six-month program from March, has been to build out our full video editor MVP, and I’d say we are on track to do that. This MVP would be a multiplayer video editor, which nails the basics - trim, move, cut, text and simple transitions with all the processing handled locally.
Assess Modfy as it exists today. Where are you successful and where are you unsuccessful?
Most importantly, I believe we have the correct approach to tackle the problem. Other companies in our space take a cloud-based approach. As a result, they're extremely overpriced. I’ve seen $60/month with 15 min limits or $100/month. As someone who has made short films and spent countless hours editing, I have a good sense of what makes a good editor and what doesn’t. This gives us the added advantage of an existing network of editor and filmmaker friends.
The areas we are most unsuccessful are, I think, common first-time founder mistakes. We aren’t the best at managing our team, any legal stuff, fundraising, etc. The biggest challenge is momentum. Something or other keeps putting the brakes on our progress. Most recently, it has been the second wave of Covid ravaging India.
Describe a specific upcoming feature you’re really excited to build.
One interesting feature we have been playing with is LUTs and some basic colour grading. We already have a super early prototype. This is super exciting for me for two reasons. First I didn't expect to have any colour grading features in the MVP. Second, LUTs and colour science more broadly are super fascinating and interesting problems.
What are you doing today that doesn’t scale?
The main thing we're doing is reaching out to YouTubers and talking to them. Either via intros through our network or cold email. Essentially what we do is every time someone on the team watches a youtube video, we add the creator to a notion, and then we figure out who in our network can introduce us to them or we cold email them.
When did you last talk to a user? How’d it go? What’d you talk about?
I was talking to a potential user on Tuesday - he is an editor for a relatively big YouTuber. It went alright, could’ve been better. We were talking about file management and the friendlessness of our interface.
How feasible is Figma for video? How close are you? What are your current technical hurdles?
It's a hard problem. Video is complex. That said, I think the real complexity comes in the edge cases, getting 70-80% of the way there is relatively easy. We are still in the early stages, but very close to an MVP.
There are many technical challenges, but the most complex has to be working with such a complex C codebase in FFmpeg and optimizing it for wasm. We try to leave it alone, but recently we had to try and to do some optimization which would 10x performance. It was a pain.
What companies do you look at as inspiration?
Without any doubt, we are drawing a lot from the early days of Figma, but beyond them, there are a few companies I find inspirational. Two that stand out are Replit and justin.tv (early Twitch). I think there are a lot of interesting ideas from Replit we could copy even though they are in a different space, definitely one of the most prolific startups I follow.
What's something weird or unusual about you?
One of the weirder things about me is my sleep schedule. Without school, I've essentially gone full nocturnal. I go to bed in the mornings anywhere from 9 am-12 pm and wake up at night around 8-9 pm. Our entire team is like this, and we all work at night. My co-founder even made a joke site about it: https://iszacksleeping.com/.
How has Pioneer been most useful to you?
Pioneer has been invaluable to me in so many ways. I would not even be doing this without Pioneer. Beyond that, the community is awesome. I'm still in touch with many pioneers and essentially developed my entire network through Pioneer. It is amazing to have someone like Daniel you can go to for advice whenever you need it.
Tips for other players in the Tournament?
My top three tips for anyone in the tournament are: be consistent, attend the community calls, and reach out to other founders.
First, be consistent. Everyone has bad weeks, but don't be scared to be honest or vulnerable about them. The most important thing is to be consistent, not how much progress you've made. Second, attend the community calls. This was definitely one of the most valuable aspects for me when I started, and I met many of my pioneer friends on these calls far before we became Pioneers. Finally, reach out to other founders during the tournament. Something I did that really helped me was reaching out and scheduling calls with other founders. It seems intimidating to do, but a lot of this happened through simply dropping my email or reaching out through the tournament.
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