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"We Got Rejected By Apple Eight Times"

"We Got Rejected By Apple Eight Times"
Image credit: Bulbul Apps
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You're reading Entrepreneur India, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

They say, like father like son. The statement is very apt for this entrepreneur whose father was a magician. Following his footsteps, now it’s the son who has took over the job, but where his father did that literally, this startup founder is doing it metaphorically.

There’s one thing that hasn’t changed though – they both are loved by kids.

This entrepreneur is the founder of Bulbuapps, Prakash Dantuluri. A film maker, artist and a serial entrepreneur, with Bulbulapps Prakash is hitting two birds with one stone. First, building the largest library for preschoolers; second, bringing together story tellers, artists, animators and illustrators from around the world to create local content that has strong connect with parents and their young children.

But this success did not come easy for Prakash. A lot of hard work and creativity went into it and the motivation to continue even after being rejected eight times by Apple. Eventually, overcoming all odds, their app was finally approved to go live on their app store, and once it did, they ended up being India’s number one kids app and in a month, they became the number one kids app in more than half a dozen countries.

Let’s map Prakash journey in his own words.

Please share your ‘I want to become an entrepreneur’ moment.

I am an Electronics engineer graduated from Bangalore University. I always had the cultural context for being an entrepreneur. I come from small town called Bhimavaram in Andhra Pradesh where all my cousins and uncles are entrepreneurs by definition. So, risk taking and failure was a part of the culture and for many of the people I knew.

But during my college years I never really thought about being an entrepreneur. The exact moment I wanted to become was quite dramatic and I still remember it quite vividly.

We finished the last exam of our engineering and were on our way back home on a long train journey. I was chatting up with my buddy about the future and suddenly both of us realized that we didn’t want to stick to the normal path of job and fixed salary. We didn’t sleep that night. We spoke till the dawn. I started my first venture with that friend in 1996. That was even before I got my first job.

What is the need of Bulbul apps in the market?

Increasingly kids are spending more and more time on connected devices. They are consuming exponential amount of content both in the form of videos and apps. But majority of this content, especially in the apps, is still in English. Local content is either non-existent or of bad quality.

The world today has 1.2 Billion non English speaking kids. They need good quality content too.

That’s the gap we are trying to fill. We chose kids as our segment as they are one of the most active content consumers on these devices.

But why 'Bulbul'?

I was at Good Earth showroom going through their ceramic wear. There was a ‘mangrove’ series and one of the plates had the name Bulbul on the back of it. I really liked that word. I kept repeating it to myself. I wondered why no one picked it up. Its such a lovely word and such a wonderful bird. 

I knew, I would use it.

Then after a couple of years, when we wanted to do covert this idea of making apps for kids to reality, the first name that came out of my mouth was Bulbul Apps.

You’re creating magic like your father. What was it like growing up and what was has been your biggest learning?

A magic trick requires a lot of preparation. What many people don’t know is that a lot of times magic tricks don’t succeed. But the magician always prepares for the failure as well. My father experienced this but he handled that failures and eased the audience into something else.

A lot of people think that my demos and presentations always awesome. Many a times my demos and presentations fail. It’s just that people don’t notice because I am always prepared for it.

Growing up was exciting. My dad raised us without any religion and as rationalists. It allowed me as a child to be open to the world and to form opinions based on my experiences. It allowed me to develop the courage to question an existing belief system.

How has entrepreneurship changed you?

I can tell you about two good things that happened to me because of this start up. As a part of my research I started reading children’s books. I discovered a wealth of literature that is equally fantastic as adult literature. This also led me to reading to my daughter every night (because I bought so many books as a part of my research).

I cherish all the times I read the story ‘The Gruffalo’ to my daughter.

Another thing is about this mindfulness which we practice as a value. This made me introspect a lot into the way I work and the way I make decisions. As an entrepreneur and as a CEO you live up to some stereotypes. Coffee is one of those. The first thing I do in the morning is drink black coffee. The first thing I do at work is drink black coffee.

During one my mindfulness introspection, I realized that my brain was quite agitated with thoughts. But it took me couple of weeks to figure out that connection. Coffee was making me restless and agitated. It was creating a false sense of urgency. I never thought I could cut down on it. But I did. It changed the way I work and the number of hours I sleep. I sleep more now. I am more productive now.

Being rejected by Apple eight times could be a lot to take in. How did you keep yourself motivated?

I am a creative person with strong technical background and I have tremendous ability to look into the future and connect the dots. This had been a blessing and cursing.

I have tons of ideas in my head. This makes me restless. This wakes me up in the middle of the night. This makes me wake up in the morning. Every morning. I am not afraid of failure. I think life is too short to worry about failures.

I like the process of shaping an idea into a product and building an organization that carries it forward.

Two habits that helped me so far are writing my tasks on a paper every day in the morning and ‘doing’ instead of intellectualizing.

How do you look back on this journey?

When we started the company it was just an idea. No one knew if it would work. Creating a production model that would work on a technology platform that was never tested and deploying it into a library app that would compete with the best kid’s apps in the world was downright a crazy idea. It was also a tremendous challenge. To bring creative people together to create a story in a distributed model. We made it happen. Looking back, we made it happen because we thought it would happen and we were silly enough to think that we can’t fail.
Edition: December 2016

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