Building in public series - Viraj Chhajed (BaschML)

Posted 2021/09 by Databell

We launch our “Building in Public” with Viraj Chhajed, the founder and CEO of BaschML. Viraj is an extraordinarily young founder, he’s 17 at the time of our interview, yet with a business maturity not common to his age.

We thought of inviting someone “older” and building a larger business, but Viraj’s energy is captivating. I think it’s a beautiful testimony to what this emerging community of builders in public is up to, so we feel honored to start with Viraj’s this series.

During this series of interviews with founders building in public, we’ll touch:

  • What is building in public and what to report building in public
  • Benefits of building in public for founders and for the startup community in general
  • The impact of the building in public phenomenon in the technology financing industry if organized at scale

Databell: Let’s start by defining our terms… What do you understand by building in public?

Viraj Chhajed: For me, building in public is keeping my journey very transparent and share it along the other community members. This help us create a very supportive community, since they have seen me go through everything.

Building in public has been tremendously beneficial so far, as it has allowed us get access to new distribution channels and hence reaching out much more people than if building in private.

BaschML has 640 followers at the time of writing this piece and the account was created in March 2021.

Databell: Alright, we’ll talk more about the benefits, but I want to understand what are you sharing with the community so that you get these engagement?

VC: I am mostly inspired by Paul Yacoubian who I think started and now leads the trend on Twitter about building in public.

So yes, I share monthly updates of the evolution of my operating metrics. I also find very relevant to share with the audience feature updates: what we just shipped but also what we’ll be working on.

Not only that, I would also share what I call “behind the scenes”. Suppose I jump into a call with a prospective customer and there’s a learning from this customer’s feedback that I think can be useful for the community.

Insight: Share data, learnings or opinions that you believe can be beneficial for the community to build better.

Databell: One question that many founders starting out will have is… How big was your audience when you started building in public?

VC: Of course, you may think “Oh, if my audience is not very large, then it makes no sense to build in public since none will listen”. The truth is that my audience was really small when I started.

Of course, my public in building has helped me partially grow my audience. But people need to understand, just the building in public piece won’t bring you the attention. There’s tips and tricks you need to know to maximize engagement for your content.

Databell: Turning into the platform that you use in order to keep your community updated. Have you always used Twitter?

VC: Yes, we’ve used Twitter as our go-to platform to publicize our progress, since this is where the build in public trend is most active.

Any solution oriented to make this process easier would be of course super useful, but so far Twitter is where most of our interactions take place.

Databell: We hear frequently pushback to the build in public trend that people only report the good news. Have you ever shared an update?

VC: We are yet getting started, but I don’t think I would hesitate to share with my community metrics or updates that tell that things are not going so well anymore.

The community has seen and supported me start and grow until this point, so my belief is that they will step in and propose ways in which I can take my company to the growth trajectory again.

Databell: Many founders might be scared about weakening your competitive position because of sharing in public. What do you think?

VC: Execution matters, and ideas does not. I share the metrics, but not the moat or the secrets, so I don’t think this is hurting my company. There’s no reason to support that. There’s founders of $1m MRR companies that build in public, and I don’t think they are concerned either.

Also, I am an indie hacker. The help that I get from the community completely outweighs the possibility that others look at my business and decide to copy. It’s part of how I understand building a company.

Databell: It’s a common belief in the venture capital industry that so called “good entrepreneurs” don’t share data. What do you think about that?

VC: I don’t know about that. We’ll see if I’m a good or bad entrepreneur. What I can tell you is that building in public helps me develop a connection with the community. In a way, my work and my performance transcends the outcome of the company I am right now building.

On a separate note. I think that Mark Cuban runs a blog, Bill Gates also runs a blog. They may not be sharing operating data about their companies, but they are sharing data, insights, progress,…

Databell: One of the benefits that we are most interest of the building in public phenomenon, is the ability to provide faster, fairer and broadly availbale financing for entrepreneurs. Have you experienced fundraising as a “builder in public”?

VC: Right now, we don’t need venture money as we are bootstrapping in this development stage. Of course, venture capital firms still approach me. I tell them that the best way to stay in touch is to follow me on Twitter and read our monthly updates. We’ll reach out when we are ready in a couple months and they’ll have all that context.

I don’t run a newsletter, I would send an email linking to our publications, so I think building in public has this benefit of keeping this VCs that reach out up-to-date.

Databell: Last question, what has been the biggest surprise for you as a result of joining the building in public movement?

VC: The awareness. I was not expecting to receive so much interest from venture capitalists.

But in general I must say this is being a great experience, I’ve met a lot of good people!

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