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We wanted to build a world-class product, not a billion dollar business: Little Eye Labs' Kumar Rangarajan

Bangalore-based Little Eye Labs Pvt Ltd, the one-and-half-year old startup which was snapped by Facebook early this month in a deal worth around $15-million, offers a performance analysis tool to developers that enables them to measure, analyse and optimise Android apps. The team will soon join Facebook's mobile team. In the first six months, it will continue to serve its existing customer base, while at the same time helping improve the quality of Facebook app. Little Eye Labs' co-founder and 'chief ion' Kumar Rangarajan talks to Techcircle.in about the deal, the firm's future plans and the Indian startup ecosystem.

You are a very young company that started operations in the mid of 2012. Why did you decide to sell the startup so soon?

From the very outset, our intent was very clear that we will build a world-class product from India, which can be used by people across the globe. We never focused on building a billion-dollar company from the country. We have now successfully built a product, an app performance tool, which is used by thousands of people globally. We feel that we got the Facebook offer at the right time. When this opportunity knocked, we grabbed it. This acquisition is also a validation for our product and now we can reach out to more people.

When did the Facebook deal come in? Can you share the transaction details? Also, how many offers did you decline before signing the deal with Facebook?

We met the Facebook team at a Google event in May last year, and we have since been in talks with them. Since we have signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with Facebook, we need the company's approval before sharing more details on the deal with the press. Also, I cannot comment on our previous buyout offers.

What happens post the deal? Would Little Eye Labs shut its independent identity and become an in-house team of Facebook?

The entire team (seven people including the founders) will be moving to Facebook's headquarters in California. Indeed, there is not much clarity on what will we be doing at Facebook now. However, we will continue to support our existing customers in the first six months and also work towards improving the quality of its app. We will figure out the future action later.

Is it, as most people believe, an acqui-hire? Do you have plans to set up another venture?

(Laughing). Our first goal is to make this acquisition successful, and we are striving for that. As of now, I have no plans to start another venture.

You are one of the very few Indian startups that have been acquired by global giants. What advice will you give to your Indian peers as to when to exit, etc?

In my opinion, exit should not be the target for entrepreneurs. Their first goal should always be to build a global product so that they are eligible for an exit. If you are doing that job well, exits will come your way.

I believe that a company is the combination of a good team and the product. These two things complement each other. The team will speak for the product and the product will speak for you.

There's no way that in the beginning of the journey, you will feel like your startup will be a hit. Even Mani Ratnam (a renowned Tamil and Bollywood movie director) never expects his movie to be a box office success when he starts working on it.

What is your take on the Indian startup ecosystem?

My understanding is that the ecosystem has grown fast over the past two years. I started interacting with the ecosystem just two years ago. During these two years, we have seen it maturing. We now have a good support system. You will not feel lonely here and there are many companies and people going through the same challenges. Also, people have now started believing in themselves. They believe that they can build a world-class product from India.

Others will say a lot of positive and negative things about you. But it is up to you what to take and what not to. However, you need to listen to people to leverage their experience. Otherwise it will take long to evolve the product.

How hard was your startup journey at Little Eye?

Surprisingly, for us it was not that hard because the support system has been amazing. It was not the case when redBus (which was acquired by South African media giant Naspers Group last year) started. There were not many people whom they could seek advice and mentorship. So it was harder for them. Now, it has changed. Many things are structured here. We have benefited from the ecosystem.

What is the most defining moment in your startup journey?

One of the best moments in our startup life was when our co-founder Giridhar Murthy came up with the name 'Little Eye Labs'. In fact, we had multiple names in our mind, but this particular name set the tone. The name came from Occhiolino, the first compound microscope which means 'little eye' in Greek. Our tool is very similar to it, using which you can look into your app.

(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)

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