Alumnus Omnibus: Abhinav Asthana

Abhinav Asthana, a BITS Goa alumnus (2006 batch), is the Co-founder and CEO of Postman, an API development platform. The company has grown tremendously in the past few years and has millions of users, including companies like Microsoft, Cisco and Imgur. To know more about his journey so far, read his interview with DoJMA below.

DoJMA: What was your time in BITS Goa like? How did it shape your career?

BITS Goa was fundamental in shaping my career. I was excited the moment I got a confirmation that I’d be going to Goa. I joined the Electronics and Instrumentation branch in 2006. The flexible course structure that BITS provides helped me pursue computer science courses as part of my degree while leaving time for projects and experimentation outside of coursework. I wasn’t excited about EnI as much but I learnt a lot of fundamentals still. I made lots of friends and had a lot of fun. The practice school programs gave me valuable experience at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre and a 6-month internship at Yahoo, where ultimately I learnt about APIs and met my co-founder, Ankit.

DoJMA: How was your experience with your previous start-ups?

I have been tinkering with computers since I was in school, thanks to my dad. I started a web design consultancy in school which ultimately helped me learn about programming and design. I launched this project called BITS360 which was a virtual tour and a community of all the BITS campuses. It became extremely popular and almost all BITS aspirants at that time were a part of BITS360. This project ultimately became my first start-up, TeliportMe. TeliportMe was a great experience and I learnt a lot about starting-up and building products.

DoJMA: What made you decide to create an API Development Environment? What feature/service of Postman do you think helped it stand out against competition?

Postman started off as a side-project of mine in 2012. It was meant to solve a very simple set of pain points that I had as a developer working on APIs. As the project gained popularity, I learnt that APIs are a critical building block of software but the tooling meant for building them wasn’t well-designed. I met Ankit and Abhijit as the project was kicking off and we decided to work together to solve this problem. Over time, we have learnt a lot about how APIs work, how they are built, and we believe Postman is solving a critical pain point for the software industry. If I have to pick one feature, I’d say the collaborative capabilities of Postman that help teams and organizations work together are a big differentiator.

DoJMA: When was it that you knew that you had hit upon something big? How did things change as Postman gained traction?

Postman started organically appearing at the top of must-have tools for every developer and company. We got featured on the Chrome Web Store. We had massive traction on online communities and pure love from developers. It gradually dawned on us that we are solving a big set of problems. During this time, we also formed a company and raised a Series A round of funding that put more fuel in our ambitions. We have a very iterative philosophy towards product and company building. We believe in iterating fast and that has helped us address successively bigger opportunities over time.

DoJMA: Did you face any obstacles when you started your company?

Starting a company is a pretty crazy adventure. There are hundreds of small and big issues that one encounters. Hiring the first set of people, building our business model, setting up our US headquarters: all these are things that we had to learn from an initial set of failures. We have been lucky in a lot of ways and we have also had moments of doubts.

DoJMA: What plans do you have for Postman in the future?

We believe everything in the world is going to be an API and our vision is to make Postman the platform for choice for every developer and company. We are scaling rapidly on every dimension. Our user and customer base is scaling rapidly. We are now more than 150 employees across more than 8 countries and 4 continents. We aim to be a category-creator company in the field of API development. We have new products on the horizon and hundreds of ideas that we are working on executing.

DoJMA: We see many Indian start-ups setting up their headquarters abroad, especially in the US. Do you think that the Indian startup ecosystem lacks something? What sort of changes do you think should be introduced at the national level to promote start-ups?

The Indian start-up ecosystem has grown phenomenally over the last few years and there are only good things to do. Markets like the US are more mature with help, advice, funding, and beyond, for every stage of a company. I believe that innovation and idea generation should be left to entrepreneurs. They should be supported by great infrastructure, clarity of policies and a supportive environment.

DoJMA: What advice would you like to give to people, especially college students, who wish to set up their own start-ups?  

Before you jump into launching a start-up, feel a pain point and try to solve it in the smallest way possible by yourself with whatever skill-set you have. I have seen founders jump into the mechanics of company building (fund-raising, hiring, buying office space) much before they have a pain point identified and a working hypothesis to solve that pain point. This causes a lot of issues down the road. No amount of funding or a star team can help solve this later down the road.