At Digipub World, Sattvik Mishra, co-founder, ScoopWhoop, narrated the story of how the site was created.
The year was 2009. Sattvik had earned a degree in advertising from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, after which he joined Dentsu Webchutney as a 'copywriter intern'.
"Rishi (Pratim Mukherjee, co-founder, ScoopWhoop Media), my friend and batch-mate from IIMC, was also at Webchutney as a 'servicing intern'. We spent about four years in advertising, by the end of which I was creative director there and Rishi was client servicing director. You know how advertising is... after four years you get really bored of it because you're working on really bad client briefs that don't give you creative freedom..." said Sattvik.
This was also the time websites like BuzzFeed and UpWorthy were gaining popularity in the US. "We were drinking one night - I know, it's clichéd! - but that's when Rishi and I thought, 'How difficult can it be to write a listicle?' It seemed very, very simple..." he said.
On August 14, 2013, they created the site and wrote their first article. It was a piece on - 'If Game of Thrones is made in India, who would play what?' "It was a fun article," said Sattvik, and added, quite simply, "We went to sleep, woke up in the morning... the article had half a million views! And all we had done was post it on our Facebook pages. We had zero following, no one knew ScoopWhoop... our friends started sharing it without knowing that we were the guys behind it..."
Sattvik still had his day job at Webchutney then; for the next three months, he worked on articles for ScoopWhoop by night, while writing copy at the agency by day. "We were unapologetically trying to clone the content - writing and distribution - of BuzzFeed, back then. We hit about four million users in three months - something unprecedented at that point in time. Our friends and colleagues still didn't know we were behind ScoopWhoop. We thought, 'Okay, we've had a lot of fun with this, but it's now time to shut it down, else we'll lose our jobs..." he said.
Then, three things happened:
First: They got a tweet from Ben Smith, the editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed. "We got on a call with him. He said, 'Look guys, there are a lot of BuzzFeed clones around the world, but ScoopWhoop is the best copy of BuzzFeed I've seen... a lot of the Indian-American writers in my New York office are fans of ScoopWhoop's content...' If that call hadn't taken place, we'd have shut the place down the next day," Sattvik said.
Second: Sattvik walked into office one day to find about 50 colleagues, the entire floor pretty much, tweeting ScoopWhoop content. He said, "As I sat at my desk thinking how I was going to get fired, my boss comes up to me and tells me about this 'really cool site called ScoopWhoop' and tells me I 'must check it out'. I was excited and scared."
Third: We got two acquisition offers from two of the largest media companies in India. "We were doing what we were doing to have fun. We weren't doing this to be entrepreneurs. We had no intension of turning this into a business. But when we got these offers, we felt we were doing something right. For here were these big media houses telling us six co-founders (Sattvik Mishra, Rishi Pratim Mukherjee, Saransh Singh, Suparn Pandey, Sriparna Tikekar and Debarshi Banerjee) who were at Rs.30,000-40,000 salaries, 'Here, we'll give you a crore...' We almost signed it," he said.
But the next day, the CEO of Webchutney found out that Sattvik and team were behind ScoopWhoop, and subsequently encouraged them to quit their jobs and pursue it full time. By January 2014, the company was incorporated.
Today, the team comprises 200 people across Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. ScoopWhoop reaches about 30 million users month-on-month and drives around 400 million engagements.
Sattvik ended his talk with: "A lot of entrepreneurs I meet say starting was the most difficult part. But for me, there was no struggle while starting out. The challenge is now - how do we create a media empire and not just a media business?"