Conversational marketing via chat

Today’s guest has a track record that she could have lived off of for the rest of her like, including a $360M exit.

She didn’t do that though. She kept building; she kept pulling together teams and addressing problems.

I want to find out how she does it and about her newest company. Anu Shukla is the co-founder of, a conversational marketing platform.

Anu Shukla

Anu Shukla

Anu Shukla is the co-founder of, a conversational marketing platform enabling meaningful and intelligent conversations between businesses and their customers.


Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. Joining me as an entrepreneur that I’m so excited to catch up with. I remember the first time that I interviewed you on who I was in Argentina. I think I just recently gotten to Argentina.

I was living there. And then I did an interview with you. And the thing that was amazing about you was you’d work for multiple companies that had done well, that it exited. And so you, you had a great track record that way you could have just lived off of that for the rest of your life. You decided you were going to start your own company and the company was.

It was aware of how social media was starting to take off. And your clients were telling you do something in social media and you are looking for what to do. And you found an interesting spot. I see you’re smiling. Um, it was such an interesting spot. I mean, they we’ve been telling you, go look at my space back then you were looking at Facebook and you discovered there are a lot of these platforms.

A lot of these platforms that allow games and other activities to happen on them. People who are playing these games or interacting or getting points, what if those points could be converted into prizes and the prizes were sponsored by companies, and then you make money for your, from the companies which some of it you pass on to, to the game makers.

Um, I want to find out about that, how it ended up, uh, that company was called offer pal media. I want to find out about Rubrik, the other company that you founded. I want to hear about this new business that you’ve launched a bot co. I tried to beat it up your, your chat bot. Um, and I didn’t, why don’t I do a proper intro and then we’ll get into how you’ve, how you’ve done, uh, with this new company.

And then we’ll catch up a little bit on the previous companies. I should say. I’ve been so excited to talk to you. I forgot to introduce you properly on him. Shuka is the founder of bot code. They do conversational marketing, via this chat and we can find out all about how she did this.

Thanks to two phenomenal sponsors. The first will host your website, right? It’s called HostGator. And the second has helped ANU and me and so many other people hire it’s called top towel. But I’ll talk about those later on. Good to have you here.

Anu: Good to be here and you’re good to see you. And I envy people who can work from anywhere in the world. So when you told me you were in, I was like, wow. That’s awesome. And now we’re living in that world. Andrew, everybody can be anywhere because we can’t really be in offices with people. So now we understand that whole, the freedom of that lifestyle.

Andrew: And I remember when I first found out about it, I was skeptical. I didn’t think it could happen. And then Tim Ferriss was doing this and a friend of mine saw I’m there and I still didn’t think it could happen. Maybe there’s something suspicious about it. And then other friends moved all around the world and worked and I realized let’s give it a shot.

And it was great.

Anu: Um, you mentioned that you mentioned off balance dab

you mentioned off balance dab joy. And one of the things we did was we worked with the very early, the developers who built, uh, games on the Facebook platform. And those games became very big. Like you remember mob Wars and you know, all those kinds of godfather, those kinds of games.

That was what just young, independent developers, usually teams of one or two or three people. And they were literally, we were monetizing and they were monetizing them for like a hundred thousand dollars a day

Andrew: A hundred thousand dollars a day.

Anu: Yeah. and you know, they they’ve got most of it. We kept, you know, whatever our revenue share was, and these folks decided to take their teams and they said, Oh, we’re going to go now build the next.

We’re taking all 12 people to Thailand and we’re going to work from Thailand for the next three months, developing our next title. And, and then some would say, we’re going now. Our next destination is Tel Aviv. So we kind of knew people, you know, that did that. And I always envied them. That’s why I brought that up.

They were definitely our,

Andrew: I do remember these companies doing that. I didn’t realize that they’d made a hundred thousand dollars a day with those games. All right. We should say this was offer pal. That was the company where I interviewed you before. And that’s the one that I described earlier.

Anu: Yeah, I also, pal is, sorry to keep interrupting. awful pile is actually now called tap joy. Cause we bought a two person company called tap joy that was doing, um, uh, I think ad mediation or something where we basically ask them to do what offer validate, which is basically give a rewarded offer a incentivized offer.

And so they did that on mobile and we ended up acquiring them and taking their name because we were in the process. Uh, of moving off the Facebook platform and getting onto only mobile platforms. So it made sense to have a name that was recognized in that field, and that was tapped joy. And so Daptor has done very well and, um, uh, I’ve been long gone, but, um, it continues to thrive and survive using the exact same business model.

Andrew: I understood when you acquired them, they were helping apps monetize by giving them payment. Every time, one of their users downloaded and installed an app.

Anu: That was one of the,

Andrew: It was just one

Anu: one of the offers.

Andrew: it. All right. Did you, did you sell the company? How did you exit it?

Anu: so I had the opportunity. I was serving on the board, um, and I had the opportunity their company was doing around refinancing and actually this benefited me, the company and the new investor. I had the option along with my co-founder. To, um, exit the company and let the new investor come in and get a bigger share of the company that they, that was a requirement for them.

And so I was able to sell a divest at that point. And so was my co-founder and that was almost 10 years ago, around 10 years ago, maybe nine years ago.

Andrew: How much did you exit for?

Anu: Um, so that is actually confidential to the company. And so that is why I can’t

Andrew: Can you give me a ballpark? Are we talking tens of millions more than a hundred? What did you end up with?

Anu: We’re talking about millions.

Andrew: Millions of dollars, tens of millions.

Anu: I really would get too much into the information that I have actually signed the confidentiality on.

Andrew: Fair enough. The reason I’m asking is I remember you shocked me when I asked you at the time about Rubrik wasn’t Rubik Rubrik was your marketing automation company. Didn’t it sell for $366 million.

Anu: Yes,

Andrew: And you told me about that. So matter of fact, the last time I thought maybe now I could get you to tell me about that.


Anu: No, because it was probably announced there was a press release that said here’s the price that we resolved for. We sold to a publicly traded company. So everything was out in the open. This is a private sale, private transaction for a private company. And as an officer, I signed an NDA, but it was very beneficial to me. I’m, I’m glad I exited and, uh, to my co-founder and also it was very beneficial to the company because they brought a new investor in which they needed at that point. But again, it was all a private transaction. That’s why I really can’t

Andrew: you another personal question and then I want to get into the founding of . Did you do anything fun for yourself? Did you buy yourself a house? You go on vacation. I feel like as I look at you over the years, it’s just one company after another, after another, with not a single fricking break in your LinkedIn profile, did you do anything fun?

Anu: I do fun things all the time. I mean, I’ve been this whole thing. Well, I like working. That’s fun for me. So I just stopped pretending I actually don’t have any great big desires for, you know, very big homes. A lot of diamonds, a lot of shopping. What I really like to do is I like to build companies and now I invest in companies.

I like to build companies. I like to invest in companies. I like to help entrepreneurs. Realize their dreams. I like to work with smart people and create something. I love to work with customers. Um, and so this is one for

Andrew: but no hobbies, no personal interests. I’m not going to see all new on a beach somewhere.

Anu: I do go to beaches. I have kids, I have kids that I take them to the most exotic vacation you can think of. And I’m on the go in reasonable luxury. And we do as many of these vacations as we can in the year as the school schedule allows. I do like to have a nice car, not over the top, but it’s okay. And, um, And of course I’m very comfortable in them, but I put the activity that I like to do is not really hang out at the beach.

It’s like boring, Afro. What’s more fun is to work with other entrepreneurs and other smart people and create something. So that’s what I like too. And now I find myself.

Andrew: I am sensing that this is your pleasure. And you know, when I started doing these interviews, I really for. So badly wanted the entrepreneurs to tell me. And I sold my company and bought this amazing thing that would get my imagination going and get my audience’s imagination going. Nobody was buying any fun things.

Nobody was as a result, going to doing anything outrageous. Occasionally they would tell me in private Andrew, what I get to do is. But it’s never the most amazing thing. It’s like, maybe they went and they paid $20,000 at a, at a club somewhere, but who cares? It’s just, it’s always like what you say, it’s I like starting another thing.

And then here’s another one. A lot of times it’s I buy a better computer. I buy everything that Apple sells. Like this is all right. I get it. It’s this it’s the building. That’s

Anu: I’m very good. Yeah, I’m very blessed because I think I can get anything I want. I just don’t want a lot. I don’t, you know, I do desire like this expensive bottle of wine. Like, you know, if I don’t have a wine collection, I’ll die. Uh, I don’t desire, you know, every single handbag in on earth that’s made by a designer.

And one or two are fine, you know? So I just don’t have those pleasures. I do love traveling and I love to travel my children and I take them to very exotic locations in a good style. And that’s what I do.

Andrew: You noticed that your dentist was texting you and you had a thought, what if, what. How did, how did your dent, here’s what I understand. I told our producer, look, I saw everyone was on their mobile device. Even my dentist was texting me to get my attention instead of emailing me. And so I thought, you know what, what if we do this too?

If this is being done for business to consumer segment, I’m a business to business person. Maybe I can make it work for business, a business. And then what happened? Take me from there and how that led you to launching bot co.

Anu: Yes. Um, so definitely I, you know, I was a adopter, this mobile device, and I was finding that, I was texting with my family, mostly with my children, because they are totally on the mobile device. And then I started getting, um, a lot of messages from my dentist and other suppliers and people that I, uh, you know, I was doing business with, uh, on a personal basis, reminding me about my dental appointment, or you need to do this.

Um, And reminding me that I had to go and have a doctor’s appointment and things like that. So I said, I wonder what’s happening in a B2B context. So I went to a very large companies, Facebook page, they large, you know, fortune 500 company. And I went to the Facebook page and I wrote down. I’m interested in buying this product, but somebody please call me and I messaged them and nobody ever replied to me.

So then I went back again and I said, um, you know, I want to buy $10 million of this product. I have the bucket. Could somebody please respond to my. Text message on messenger on Facebook. And these people have spent so much money building a profile on Facebook, and hopefully there’s somebody maintaining.

This is a hundred billion dollar company or whatever. And here I am just trying to get their attention like, Oh, could you tell me if there’s an SMB group I should go to, because they only want to buy $10 million. Right. Nothing ever happened. So I said, This is crazy. Why are companies setting themselves up with a messaging channel when they have no way of responding to it?

There’s obviously nobody reading this and there’s nobody authorized to respond to it. So they’re just ignoring it. That’s not a nice reputation for a company that does a hundred billion dollars in revenue. So I said, that’s a B2B concept. Right. Um, and so. I said, I think that there might be an opportunity here to give the enterprises the kind of platform or tools that they need to be able to use messaging, to engage with their customers.

At the same time, my co-founder who actually had started was a co-founder of Rubrik. My first marketing automation company. Chris MITRE. He was actually traveling a lot to Hong Kong on business, and he was still very much, had always stayed in marketing automation and doing various products and services there.

And so he said, you know, I was at Hong Kong working for this big bank. And, um, they said we don’t want your email products. Cause nobody here uses email. Everybody uses. We chat. And so, you know, if you have any products or we chat, like we were doing was a bank, they said we’re even doing mortgage applications over chat.

And so he’s like, you know, this is like, it’s amazing. He goes, we chat is. It’s being really used for business. So here’s my experience. That’s his experience. And then I met my third co-founder Rebecca Clyde, who’s our CEO and a good friend. And, uh, I met her in Arizona. I was there for a conference and, um, She told me, she said she had accomplished yet ran one of the most successful digital marketing companies, agencies in Arizona, in Scottsdale, and had a lot of business customers.

And what she did for them mostly was implement marketing automation, products like Eloqua, which was really a generation after rubric. It was exactly the same product. And she said, you know

Andrew: software basically largely email automation, right?

Anu: It’s email, it’s like campaign management. Like you create a database of your customers, you tag them, segment them in some way, and then you start email campaigns for them, which are, you know, industrial strapped. Like this is exactly what Eloqua does Marketo does part or does all of the media acquired for billions of dollars with probably Oracle, Adobe experience cloud, et cetera.

Andrew: And she

Anu: what we start with.

Andrew: as it. That was her digital agency. Right. Okay.

Anu: And she was working with large enterprise clients and they were using Eloqua Pardot or anything. And she said, you know, we just aren’t getting the results that we used to get. So used to have a certain response rates, a certain conversion rates, a certain deliverability of emails with things that are so crowded.

So this is just between us girls, this stuff isn’t working as well as it used to. So I told her about, um, we chat. And what my other co-founder said, had said about how we chat was being used in a business to business class. And I told her about my experience with large fortune 500 company on Facebook who had like a, a whole presence there, but really wasn’t set up to respond to it.

And so we thought that would be a good idea. And, um, Good generations shift in marketing automation to create a platform that could let lead and large enterprises, whether it’s B2C or B2B to create chat-based campaigns or. Basically compliment the existing marketing automation stack with a new channel that was more immediate, more instant, more on demand.

And then we started to make a list of things that they will need. And we said, well, certainly these are very big companies. They are not going to accept some dumb chat thing. You know, they’re going to want some intelligence. So that led us to NLP and recruiting our advisor. Uh, dr. Deborah McGinnis to talk to us about how NLP could be used, uh, and that’s how.

Andrew: did you know that they would need that, that they would want more intelligence? Or did you start off with the assumption that they would just want everything that’s being done by via email, but made smaller and more, more direct via chat?

Anu: You know, everything in chat changes, you can’t really talk about, um, you know, nurturing campaigns or drip marketing and say, it’s going to be the same in chat as it is in email. It’s actually fundamentally different

Andrew: How did you know that? Because I think a lot of people assume, look, I have a message to send out thinking about the dentist example that you gave your dentist. Doesn’t say let’s have back and forth here. Your dentist just says. You have an appointment coming up tomorrow. Here’s the text message reminding you.

Right. And that’s it. If they, if they get a little more clever, they might let you hit a link to reschedule or cancel, but that’s about it. How did you know that when it comes to enterprise, they wouldn’t want to just push out messages one way, but they would need more of the interaction that feels like texting your friend or texting your, your, your coworker.

Anu: Yes. So what enterprises need to do is this, whatever they open up their campaign, you have to understand from their perspective, what are their campaigns about what are they trying to do? So, what everybody’s trying to do is when somebody comes to the website, the Facebook page, let’s say they’re more of a consumer play.

What they want to do is they want to understand, are you coming here for support or are you coming here because you want some information about my products? And it wasn’t that hard for us to figure this out. Um, and, and, um, if you’re here for support, let me direct you to the right support place where you can get support in call a number, even send an email, you can send a text to support, but if you’re a person who might.

Needs some information because you’re considering a purchase then not only do I want to give you exactly the information you want. I also want to know as much as I can about you. So how do you do that over chat? Right? You

Andrew: You were saying, you, you just understood it because in this business for so long, your co-founder has been, both of them have been in this business one way or another for so long, you just knew this is going to have to be more interaction. It’s not push the way it is an email. It’s. Conversation. Okay. I see that.

That’s what you understood. At what point did you start talking to customers to have your understanding get clarified? Or did you get, at what point did you get a customer?

Anu: You know, we’ve got a customer right away because we went to a bunch of customers about 30 or 40 of them first, just to talk about the idea.

Andrew: Right from the start. You had an idea, you went to customers, you said, what do you think of this? I’m assuming that you went to Rebecca Clyde, your co founders, customers. She was already dealing with enterprise businesses that wanted marketing automation. It wasn’t such a big leap to say, would you want to do chat-based automation in addition to email?

That’s what it was. Okay.

Anu: Yes. We went to her customers. We also went to our old customers. Um, I see, we went to our customers from Rubrik to, um, that had bought rubric like 15 years ago, wherever. And then we went to them and see, how is their experience with marketing automation and what was missing? So, first thing we did, because we said, okay, if we have an assumption, we have assumption that marketing B2B marketing is ready for this.

And let’s go find out if they are. So we talked to people that were using those products, whether it was Eloqua, Pardot daughter or any other product mean. Try to find out what is your problem, you know, and how can this improve it? That helps us design a product deck, really? And then we immediately got a customer who is willing to try it, try it out.

And so we put something together and implemented that customer. And then we got a second customer, uh, that we actually, um, implemented as well. And while we were implementing, we were able to really. Find out their needs and tailor a lot of solution to them. And then that helped us get, uh, on a path to our MVP.

And then we got the MVP and then now we’re,

Andrew: You created your MVP after you got your first customers.

Anu: plus a couple of customers. Yeah.

Andrew: couple of customers. All right. I’m going to find out what that first version looked like and who, or what industries the two customers were in. But first, let me talk about my first sponsor. It’s a company called top talent, hiring developers.

You’ve hired from them. Why do you hire from them?

Anu: Well, they have a methodology. First of all, we hired them them because, um, they have an excellent, uh, we’ve had excellent experience with the people we get from them. And I think one of the reasons is that they have a screening process. Uh, and they actually rank the, who are the best developers. So you are assured one of the things when you, when all of us are doing remote work and trying to enhance a team with remote engineering resources, for example, Is said you really don’t want to waste like two to three months just finding out if the person was good enough or not.

And you know, they could be producing features, but we don’t know the quality of the code behind, unless you do extensive code reviews. So it gives you the sense of assurance when you go to a site like top-down who has these screening procedures? So our experience plus their methodology, I think it’s, uh, it takes a lot of risk out of the equation.

Andrew: You know what their, their methodology is so important to them, that I had one of their guys like into my office, ready to do what we call a masterclass about how to hire. And the company said, actually, Andrew, we don’t want to talk about it openly. This is our process. I think they were a little worried that I wouldn’t do it justice, but there’s so obsessive about this process that they protect it.

The way that I protect my kid, except I let my kid go out into the world. Even at four years old. They’re very protective of it. And I understand why the results like you’ve had, like I’ve had like other people I’ve had speak for themselves. If anyone out there is listening and they’re hiring, the first thing I recommend you do is go to top, and you’ll have a conversation you ha you and I both have right with someone at their company.

Who will help you understand what they could do, and then they match you if it’s a good fit with, uh, with developers. And here’s something that you probably didn’t get don’t know, but you should next time use this URL because they will give you 80 hours of free developer credit when you pay for your first 80

Anu: need, we need this. Yes.

Andrew: In addition to a no risk trial period, which you don’t need. Cause you know, they’re going to do it for you. All right. So anyone out there who hasn’t tried them yet should go to top that’s top isn’t top of your head, talent and talent. T O P T a C R G Y. Top

All right. The first two customers were in what business?

Anu: So the first one, the first customer was in hospitality. What are the first customers was in hospitality. It was best Western hotels. And, um, we basically, um, designed a product, a bot around their loyalty program. So best Western has, uh, one of the best. Most rewarding loyalty programs. And they are a group of hotels that are, you know, 4,500 different locations.

Some of them, many of them are franchisees, some franchise own, you know, tens, tens, or dozens or hundreds of hotels, but they are franchises and they’re all over the world. And so what they wanted to do was create a consistent experience around their loyalty program. And so they wanted. Uh, and, and off of Facebook, they wanted, um, people to download messenger, uh, and connect their loyalty account to their messenger account, using our bot, and then be able to query it for things like, um, how many points do I have?

How many points do I need for a hotel room? Um, you know, uh, do my points expire,

Andrew: Book messenger, not WhatsApp, not text messenger.

Anu: Messenger. Cause it was, you know, they started off with the U S focus they wanted to do on messenger and their website. They started with messenger.

Andrew: Did they believe that were there people who were already trying to do this with them on Facebook messenger or were they hoping to start something new or so I made a couple of investments in businesses in this space. One of them was assist that was working with hotels like Hyatt, and then they eventually sold the Conversocial, the others many chat.

It’s more of an SMB business. What I’ve discovered is that. There’s some businesses that we’ll just experiment for the sake of experimenting. They don’t know that there’s something there. They just want to try assist was in that space. Huge companies just have an extra, a little bit of a budget to experiment with new ideas, but they didn’t believe yet that there were, that there were customers who were going to Facebook messenger, who were ready to book a room.

They just said, let’s throw some money at this company and see what happens with our best Western was just let’s experiment. Or did they have customers.

Anu: No, I think best Western had a very, had a lot of activity on their Facebook page and they wanted applies on it. So they wanted to make sure that any, you know, uh, other than support questions, which could be routed to, um, a support package and to the staff, which they’re very good at. They also wanted to have questions about the loyalty program and about ideas.

Give me an idea. Where should I book? Do you have anything in Paris? Is it about, is there a parking lot at that location? Do you have free breakfast?

Andrew: And they already had people who are going to Facebook messenger and asking these questions. They did.

Anu: Yes, we were going to Facebook answering, you know, that we’re getting routed to support and support, not really designed to tell them about the parking lot and the breakfast in Paris. Right? So they wanted the block with the whole loyalty moniker to be able to answer those questions as really, as it relates to the loyalty program.

And as it relates to increased bookings and increase in booking. So it was really. It was really a marketing bot. That’s what it was. And, uh,

Andrew: it’s much more than marketing. I would’ve, I would’ve thought a marketing thought was more like sign up and then every month we’ll tell you about a 10% off this 20% off that and loyalty I’m here. No, this is you. I see your face. People can’t who are listening to the podcast. Can’t see. You just gave me this face.

Like no, Andrew that’s horrible. No. When you think marketing, you’re thinking more of like a sales person reproduced via chat the back and forth. And let me be a consultant type of.

Anu: We are explained to us. Some of our prospective customers is think of your best, the person who knows your product the best, right. And your best sales person. And they’re available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to answer precisely the question any customer could have, and they can scale to millions of inquiries.

Or they can do one and it’s no extra cost to you. And so that is what we designed our system to be able to support. It’s truly marketing because it’s doing an outreach is giving information. It’s, it’s an enterprise level. Cause it’s connected to your enterprise systems. It’s connected to your loyalty system.

In this case, it’s reading out, you know, here are your points. You can book this hotel, you can go park there. We do have bread. We are pet friendly. That’s all sort of stuff.

Andrew: That is, but one of the reasons why I would stay at the head best Western. If I, I remember I was driving around with my dog. If I needed a place that I knew my dog could come in, they were always number one for that. All right. I get what you’re I get what you did with them. Who’s the other customer.

Anu: Um, our next customer was still a very good customer. Um, uh, currently we just did a webinar with them actually is massage envy.

Andrew: I saw them on your site. They wait, does massage envy come to my house to give me a massage.

Anu: No massage and visa, very unique and wonderful model. There is subscription model. And if you subscribe to massage envy and you pay them a subscription fee every month, membership fee, you become a member. Then you can have a certain number of massage visits to any of their locations. And they have 2300.

and here again, we had the same issue. Corporate wanted to make sure people have the right information, a service that the corporate headquarters provided to all their franchises, trying to make a consistent experience about where is it located? Is there parking there? Can I book a massage and you have couples massage and in the process, what we were doing was seeing if we could increase the basket size.

So. It’s like, you know, you sure you don’t want the eyebrow wax as well or introducing new products? Um, in times of COVID when, when massage palace was shutting down, I think the bot was quickly configured to answer questions, to allow people to freeze their membership rather than cancel so huge revenue impact.

Again, connected to their systems, track AB tested. You know, what if we put. And we have a subscription drive and we put a bot there to answer questions about the system ascription versus we don’t what’s the increase in conversion. And so those tested and then the board was widely deployed. And so it’s a wonderful application.

Again, very enterprise level, very much part of the marketing fabric of the company. Always inconsideration when there’s a new campaign. Uh, that requires a landing page. And at the landing page, you want to be able to convert more people, uh, providing a service, uh, at the, you know, local level information, which we grab automatically from the X updates to be able to answer things like whether they have couples massage or not, and then drive them straight to the booking portal.

So, yeah, very important. This is how you weave conversations and chat and artificial intelligence at NLP. And the whole thing is that we don’t really need data scientists and PhDs to come work with your data for hundreds of, you know, hours and like

Andrew: You’re basically pulling in the data that they already have online and using some intelligence come matching up what you have online with what you think the person asks, but also being really upfront that this is just an automated system. Don’t expect too much. Not pretending. Hi, this is Samantha.

You’re a massage concierge. No, again, you give me the face. It’s more like here’s three buttons with what you want, but if you happen to type in some things, we’ll direct you to what we think you want. I get it. You kept it super simple.

Anu: yeah,

Andrew: It was also.

Anu: these do become smarter over time because we know we have all the typical NLP tracks about eight, 10 classic data classification, sentiment analysis.

Andrew: That means that there’s a real human being who looks at all the, all the questions that were asked that didn’t get a proper answer and starts to tag them up so that when they get asked again, They, they are handled properly. I saw this again with assist where it was beautiful, ugly, actually, but ugly in design, uh, compared to the rest of their stuff.

But it was beautiful in its simplicity of here’s. All the questions were being asked that no one has that. The software doesn’t answer. We’re just going to keep making it smart, smarter by giving the human answer each time there’s a failure. Okay. So that’s what you did because you’re working with enterprise.

From what I understand, they also essentially funded your business. They were paying you. To build this for them, with the understanding that you could then go and create something that’s more universally useful, right.

Anu: Yes. I mean, they basically, um, basically paid us an application that they wanted, but it made us actually aware of what are the things that people will need. So they really contributed to making the product design useful for other enterprises, including their own. And the good news was that they got something sadly fit for them without having to bake custom development charges.

Andrew: Are we talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars in development costs to create the first version or tens of thousands,

Anu: Hundreds of thousands. Of course.

Andrew: That’s the beauty of working with enterprise that the,

Anu: Yes.

Andrew: the, the, the contract size are huge. Again. I don’t know much more about ASIS because they sold the Conversocial and I’ve lost contact with it.

But, well, I was looking at some of the contracts that they had were looking at big contracts for companies that would say, we know you don’t have this figured out. We know that w in fact, in some cases they didn’t even want stats in the beginning, because if they had stats, then they had to start to live up to them internally.

What they wanted was experiment. And don’t make us look like fools. And if this works, we’re going to look like geniuses.

Anu: Yes exactly. And that’s what we wanted to do is make our customers look like geniuses. And we do, we do, we do have, uh, you know, coming from the marketing automation enterprise software stack background, we certainly have all of the bells and whistles that we know from my experience that we need. We didn’t need a customer to tell us, which is, you know, it has to be high security as we highly secure enterprise level security, uh, your integrations have to work and they have to be supported.

Um, you have to have analytics. One of the things that’s very interesting is that many of our customers just. Benefits so much from the analytics and just watching conversational analytics on conversation transcripts that tell them, you know, people are having a lot of problems understanding this product.

And they’re having a lot of questions about this particular campaign or this movement or something that we did. That customers are really confused about. We need to clarify our message. That is a huge value to them. And that’s what happens when you have a conversation with customers, when you have hundreds and thousands of conversations with customers, and you’re able to filter them down and understand, you know, these are the big issues that are facing my customers that I’m missing the point on.

Um, one of the things I think one of our customers actually invented or came up with a new product because of all of the questions that came up. On a certain type of, uh, I think waxing or something like that, that has a lot of questions about that. Okay. We should add that. And so, you know, things like that have happened that make it useful to the customer.

Andrew: All right. Let me take a moment to talk about my second sponsor. And then I want to get a little bit further ahead with this story and understand what happened when so far, are you telling me about businesses that would suffer under COVID? What happened after COVID for you? And then I’d like to go back and find out a little bit about your past before all this entrepreneurship.

But my first sponsor is my second sponsor is HostGator. Imagine this I’m taking a look at your co-founder, um, And how that experience that Rebecca Clyde had might help someone who’s listening to start a business. What she did was she said, look, there’s this marketing automation software. It’s such a pain that big businesses don’t want to manage it themselves, but they want all the results out of it themselves. And it seems like a big part of what she did was say, I will be the person who manages it for you. I could imagine that with just about any enterprise level software or if we’re talking, be a SMB software, more like the M part, the medium sized businesses there’s in all of those areas. There’s software, that’s you really useful, incredibly complex.

And companies would be willing to hire an expert to just run it for them. Can you imagine, as an entrepreneur yourself, how many companies have you started? You’re number five. And then you also have the three before, right? That, that exited was a three before that you were employee of that exited.

Anu: Yes.

Andrew: So, all right.

With all your experience, do you think if someone’s listening and they pick enterprise software, that’s maybe relatively new and say I’m going to be the implementer. Do you think that’s a good way for them to start a business? Because there’s a lot of money in enterprise, a lot of complexity, a lot of value.

And then you could think about creating software in the future or just stains in services. What do you think of that as an idea?

Anu: um, about somebody buying enterprise software, should they be planning to implement it themselves?

Andrew: about, um, someone in our audience who maybe doesn’t have a business who says I’m going to be the implementer of enterprise software. I’ll look for new software categories that are out there that are still complex. And I will be the person who goes to businesses and say, if you’re using it, let me manage it.

Or if you’re not using it, let me implement it. What do you think? Okay.

Anu: That is a well understood concept. And many, many big companies have come out of it. You know, there’s a company that does just as support. Is when public Rimini, I think that does all support for a lot of companies, enterprise software, that’s all they do. They support other people’s software. there, there are companies that are implementing, they have a whole business, a big business, they built around implementing Salesforce or implementing SAP. So that’s a very well understood and an important activity. And that’s. The people that we look to partner with, we want people like this.

We want people like this that want to build a business and enjoy the services revenue by being an expert on our products and helping our customers be successful. So we look for those kinds of partners.

Andrew: So you could imagine that maybe somebody would be listening to you going and experimenting with bod co and then they become the reseller of Barco and the implementer and the strategist of the copy. And so on.

Anu: Yes. Um, we don’t allow reselling of our product right now, but we definitely encourage partnerships that take it, take the product. And, uh, you know, we’re actually able to even offer those aspiring partners, you know, jobs within our customers projects within our best tumors,

Andrew: Oh, that you will then refer projects to them.

Anu: report projects, do them thing.

Here’s somebody who’s interested in Barco. They want to implement spot code, go help England. We’ll give them leads. Yes. We definitely have enough of a momentum where we have many of those. Not right now that we can pass on.

Andrew: You have that idea or any others bring it to host Gator to host your website. You can host within minutes, you’ll have a business that feels. Reputable to your customers because they can go to the site, they can see it, they can trust it, and then you can work with them, um, with this idea or anything else.

If you go to, they will give you the lowest price have available. They’ll make it super easy for you to get started. I know I just tested them a few weeks ago, actually a few months ago at this point. And it was just super fast. One-click install of WordPress. Quick to design. The hardest part was for me to pick which design I’d liked, but frankly, Even that was fairly easy.

All you have to do is go to And, um, I’m so proud that they’re sponsoring. I host Mixergy on HostGator. All right.

Anu: Yeah.

Andrew: Um, what happened in COVID when these companies that were in hospitality and services could no longer offer their services?

Anu: Well, I mean, Sweden’s from two companies from this. And what happened was that companies, uh, in hospitality, Airlines. And you’re dealing with airline airline loyalty programs, et cetera, not bad girl, but go ahead. One hospital decline. But all the hospitality companies started to feel the pinch very fast, which is.

You can’t travel. So we know we can stay in hotels. So they’re not really care about loyalty programs or booking rooms anymore. Right. And you have to take extraordinary measures to make sure you can get through tough times. Um, at the same time we noticed a very interesting thing started to happen, which is a lot of people in say healthcare, um, or quasi healthcare related.

Activities, um, started to call us, it was literally inbound closing deals or zoom within a week or 10 days. And they were dealing with immunization or urgent care or other, other types of digital health initiatives. And, um, those, those started to become a very dominant piece of what we are w you know, of the inbound interest that we were seeing.

And so. Although we had a slump, a temporary slump. I like to call it, uh, in a COVID COVID in hospitality. We started to see an equally, even more rapid and urgent need in healthcare, many different consumer centric models of healthcare delivery that involve digital and virtual versus in-person.

Andrew: Okay, can you give me an example? Like what, what’s the type of business without, if you can’t mention their name, maybe you can just tell me a little bit about them. Who’s signing up.

Anu: Yeah. I mean, basically it’s, um, it could be, um, uh, companies that offer let’s say addiction help, right. Or mental health or behavioral health. Right. So, or people that provide cause you know, companies that provide immunization records. So. You know, uh, having an immunization record, having access to that immunization record, having consumers be able to access their own immunization that could provide them to the school or whoever needs it.

Those kinds of companies really needed to expand and scale their consumer-facing operations. So, and behavioral health, they wanted to. Uh, address people coming in that needed to know, you know, asking for a friend, asking for a family member, you know, we need, you know, intervention as their drug that we, that can be used, which centers should I go to?

Can I make an appointment? And again, Huge scale was suddenly required and in urgent care, they want to know. Okay. Which is the urgent care, really close to me. I’m having, I think a snake bite. And, um, should I go to the one on seventh street, which is near me? And the answer might be no. If you’re having a snake bite, you might want to go to the one on fifth street.

It’s a little bit further,

Andrew: I know what you mean. I, I needed urgent care. I forget what it was. Oh, I know what it was. I had a cracked heel two years ago. I’m a runner and I was wearing these thin shoes anyway. And I needed urgent care because I hurt myself and I thought I could just go to any one of their locations. But when I finally called up and reached somebody, they told me you can go to any location, but here’s the one that has an x-ray machine or that can do the, they can get you the results right away and where the doctor can follow up with you immediately.

And so I went to the one right on a run on mission street because of that. So I get

Anu: Yeah. You really, you know, this, this idea about calling somebody, right? Like whether it’s, um, the healthcare urgent care example that I gave you or whether it’s a bank, right. I I’ll tell you the experience that I had that also drove me towards this instant chat conversation interface. To be used by enterprise for enterprise marketing was also because I got from it, my bank, I was at a store.

That’s the store that I normally go to. Let’s just say, it’s a new store. And, um, all of a sudden my card was declined and, um, and they basically sent me a message, a text message saying, look, or an email that says, uh, we declined your card was, it looks like suspicious activity. And if it is, you call us back at this number.

I called back at the number, cause I really wanted to complete my purchase. Right. Uh, it was a Halloween costume Halloween store that I hadn’t been to somebody to remember this distinctly. And it basically said that your hold and we were going to answer your call in 48 minutes.

Andrew: Yeah.

Anu: I’m in history or you want me to be, or in minutes, you know what it’s called?

I have another card. Okay. So on the, on the one hand, I really appreciate how vigilant they are and if it was a real fraud or would have been stopped in its tracks because somebody else was using my card. But if it’s me, I can’t really be expected to hold for 48 minutes on myself in the store. And so I.

Isn’t that a brilliant way to have a secure enterprise level, constant conversational bot that says, okay, thank you for calling. Tell me your balance, the asset. Typical questions. What is your last, are you at this store? What was your last balance? Like authenticate me, confirm it’s my transaction. And let me go.

And, and your job.

Andrew: I’ve had similar situations with chase about just anything about the PPP loan. Basically every day, every one of their answers is we don’t know anything yet, but why do I have to wait 30 minutes to talk to a specialist about PPP? Who tells me that? Um, the thing is that every one of us who’s into chat automation has tons of experiences like this, where it’s a no brainer to have chat automation and still chase doesn’t have it.

Right. You don’t see major organizations yet implement chat automation. What’s the holdup as somebody who is selling to them on a regular basis, you could talk about the wins, but let’s talk about the real obstacles. Why aren’t they implementing it as fast as we all imagined they would.

Anu: I mean, they will. And let me talk to you about why not. So first of all, using us as the bellwether, we’re small, right? So we obviously haven’t reached all these people we want to, but we haven’t. There are other people that are doing it. Uh, one of the reasons why we see our velocity increasing in say the healthcare segment that we’ve targeted because of COVID, uh, you know, is because we’re HIPAA compliant.

So we took the trouble to go get the compliance on Phi on health data. Without that a lot of large medical organizations have gone there’s are not going to deal with you. So that was table stakes, and that’s a lot of work. Um, so we, we got that. So we were really pushing that. And then, um, moving forward to enterprises, you, you’re going to have to have other levels of compliance.

Uh, you have to support CCPA, GDPR being an enterprise level product requires you to, I think, have all of these security and control measures in place.

Andrew: Then even if you take it down to SMB as an SMB, small, medium sized business, they will take risks all over the place. They won’t care about GRD anything. Right. They just implement, get results and innovate faster. We still don’t see chat in those places. We still don’t see Shopify stores implementing chat.

As often as I thought that, that they would buy. Now, we still don’t see online. Marketers were the first to jump on everything, right? Gary Vaynerchuk says, marketers ruin everything, but they also innovate everything online. We still don’t see them. What’s the holdup. Why isn’t this spreading more?

Anu: Well, I, I do see it. Yeah. I see that little box showing up at a lot of websites. I know, uh, in, in, in BDCs, especially.

Andrew: And, and for the most part, it’s, it’s an Intercom box that says somebody will be here soon, give us your email address. And then I get my email responded to, but

Anu: Yeah.

Andrew: you might as well, give me a,

Anu: poorly implemented. It’s poorly implemented. Um, I see a very big market if this is useful for people because we can’t have humans, uh, available seven by 24. If you have one visitor or 1001 human being is

Andrew: And frankly, even if you could, a lot of these questions could be answered so much faster by software. And a lot of times you don’t want a human being. You just want software, so it feels a little less personal,

Anu: Yeah, again, medium medium-size and, uh, as the larger organizations and we’re selling to them and we’re having all these interesting, you know, uh, implementations and we definitely see a velocity of interest and closures in our business. And I do believe there are many chat solutions out there that are very, still do it yourselfers without the enterprise level security, without the capabilities, without a focus on any pick they’re like, okay, what do you want to build for you?

So we’re trying to stick to our marketing roots and create these outreach marketing. Closing session or drip nurture over time kind of bots right on our platform. And I think that, um, I’d see a big market for that. And as far as just general chat, acceptance, I mean, my dentist now doesn’t even have a phone. It’s all that. It’s all

Andrew: I feel like it’s going to happen. It’s inevitable that dentists are not going to want to be distracted. We’ve seen that barber shops, reluctantly answer phones. The one here in San Francisco took them for fricking, ever to deal with, even with even a, um, websites. They don’t want to, they, they want to.

Well, actually the fact that they took so long to even let me book on the web is, is an indication of how slow these companies are. Why is this technology? That’s always about the common. It seems like what you’re saying is Andrew is coming. You you’re, it seems like what you’re saying, Andrew, you, you want it to happen faster than the world is ready for.

And I am Bay. You’re saying about yourself at Bako. I am willing to bank on this and wait. And if it takes five years instead of five months, I think it’s going to get there. And that’s the bet that you’re placing. Am I right?

Anu: I don’t think I have to wait five years. Cause I already see the momentum. I’m small though. And I can’t handle everybody and I’m not going to go after Shopify shops and. IBM in the same goal. So I basically set my targets on a different segment and I’m going there because I have capabilities. I have capabilities.

I have compliance. I have, uh, I, I demand a higher price and for the capabilities. And so that’s where I’m going, but I see a lot of options to move downstream and upstream and sideways, and I believe many other players are there and we’ll, we’ll we’ll we’ll. Well, we’ll start specializing in like support or, you know, a particular vertical and you’ll see these solutions, but bottom line, the pointing and clicking and reading the FN manual stuff is going to go away because people aren’t ready to read your manual.

They want the answer.

Andrew: all right. Why did you join alchemists? It’s a, what an incubator would you say? No, an accelerator, right? They don’t give you that much money. You had experience. They could open doors for you, but later you can open doors on your own. Right? Why are you guys part of Alchemist?

Anu: We are love Alchemist, and it was primarily I’ve benefited a lot from alchemists, but it was primarily for a CEO. So our CEO, um, is the primary participant in alchemists, Rebecca. And although she has built a successful digital marketing company before building a B2B software company was something new for her.

So she met lots of people. Um, we didn’t really need any money, but we really

Andrew: they give you very little, I it’s like 10 tens of thousands of low, tens of thousands of dollars.

Anu: Yeah, and these are. Yeah, if you want the mind, we didn’t go there for the money. We actually went there for the class itself because it was very beneficial, uh, to Rebecca and to other executives in our company. And also to, um, go through the discipline of how to build a SAS company. What to watch out for B2B and all the connections and networks, and it has been fabulous for us.

We really loved it. I was a little skeptical and I have to admit that I wasn’t that involved in all of the coaching and all that stuff. Cause you, it might be a little bit redundant for somebody with a lot of expense, but there was some things that were a huge refresher to me as well. And, uh, I really enjoy joining a peer circle that they created, where we’re talking to other entrepreneurs and I’m learning from them.

Um, and also of course I became as a venture partner in a VC firm, some always looking for deal flow,

Andrew: Uh, and so you get to know the other people who are part of it. What’s the VC firm. I didn’t know that. Who you with?


Andrew: Oh, wow. Okay.

Anu: So we, um, our charters to fund, um, Uh, do fund, uh, black Latinex and, uh, women founders.

Andrew: Yeah. Why do I know?

Anu: kind of what we like. Yeah.

Andrew: elevate capital. Okay.


Andrew: Yeah, I thought there I’m their website. It says elevate Capitol that’s I was just

Anu: But that’s the website.

Andrew: All right. Um, let me just close it off with, um, A little bit about your, your past. Were you always entrepreneurial? Were you the kid who was always starting businesses?

Anu: No, I always wanted to be independent. Um, and I guess I was starting ventures, but they were not always all for profits. So I do remember I was seven, eight years old and I started a school. Um, I started at school and everything. I would learn that day in school. I would try to teach the socially more repressed class.

Uh, you know, the domestic servants, I would get their children and I would teach them,

Andrew: This was a real school. This wasn’t you just playing with a few of your friends and pretending at school? No. You would bring their kids in and teach them. Right.

Anu: uh, English, moral science, mathematics

Andrew: Moral science.

Anu: Yes. Morals. Um, moral science was, I went to a Catholic convent and so we had moral science school and we learned about God and spirits and being good. And I thought they should learn that too. And so I was seven or eight years old and, um, they were, you know, four or five years old and I can guest lectures. And it was under a tree. It was under a tree or in my agenda. And so this later on, my mother told me, I think your students are coming because you give them snacks. Yeah. I served them snacks, but I just enjoyed it. So I would put up a board and with the chalk and I would write, and I would teach them moral science.

There’s only one true God, because I learned that at school and there were these, the math and I would invite my sister. Who is three years older than me. So she was 11 years old to come and give them a class. And we went on and on with this stuff. Right. And it was under the tree. We, you know, we put a little boundary of stones around it and then lemonade or milk and biscuits would be served at lunchtime.

And. I loved it. I, so I always wanted to be useful. And as a service, I think because I could have played games or watch TV or read an interesting book, but I prefer to have classes. So I always enjoyed giving, learning.

Andrew: It seems like they were proud that you were the person who would do this. And then this was a, this was in India. When you moved to the U S you moved to the Bay area right away,

Anu: No, I was in Ohio.

Andrew: Ohio. Okay. Did they encourage this type of thing in Ohio?

Anu: in Ohio. I was there for my masters degree and, uh, and so I was, um, You know, not teaching classes, but I was a graduate assistant. I did teach the undergraduate, uh, undergraduate classes, the intro to business class.

Andrew: So, are you now teaching too? Or are you just investing? Are you someone who goes in as a guest lecture? Do you go in and advise entrepreneurs? I feel like you’d be good at it. Yeah.

Anu: Yeah, thank you. Uh, it’s something that I do enjoy. So I do open up a lot of office hours for mentorship. Um, very, very free with my, uh, email address and my time to really counsel, uh, entrepreneurs. Obviously I work with the ones that I invest in a lot more. Um, and I also like to. You know, screen deals and, and, and take them to my partnership.

If I feel it’s suitable for them and meets our criteria and, you know, Stanford, Berkeley, uh, San Jose state, San Francisco state, uh, university of Chicago booth, I’ve gone and Harvard I’ve gone there for two to three day conferences on entrepreneurship and actually given a lecture or. Participated in a panel for the MBA students there, and I’ve really enjoyed it.

And of course, I’ve gone back to my Alma mater many times, and then working with the business incubators in Youngstown, Ohio, and other places. And I really, really enjoy it.

Andrew: All right. The website is bot Congratulations. I feel like what we’re seeing here. Let me look at your, your trajectory. It seems like your five to 10 year person. You’re now three years into Bonko another two to five, two to seven years. And then maybe you’ll you’ll come on here and you’ll tell me that you can’t reveal the amount that you sold the business for, but we’ll

Anu: it’s not as good. If not after me to sell it. I have our CEO, our CEO has to lead us. I lead

Andrew: did see that you’re not the CEO, you’re the chairman chairwoman. Right. And the person who does things like get HIPAA compliance when nobody else wants to deal with the, with the whacked out processes that are out there for HIPAA or anything like that. Right. You say, I’ll take it on. Okay.

Anu: Yes, I get all this stuff that nobody wants to do.

Andrew: All right. Exact. Oh, there it is. Executive chairman. That’s the official title. Thank you so much for being on

Anu: It means to actually get to do the work. You, you just can’t have a title, fancy title. You have to do work. That’s what

Andrew: Chairman means you actually are III level. That means you actually have to do work. Usually the chairman person can just say I’m taking step back. Alright. Thank you so much for being here. Anyone wants to go check out your website? It’s bot And I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen.

The first is someone that we’re both clients of. We both use developers from top talent, so many people who I’ve interviewed, if you haven’t yet go to top isn’t top of your head tell and talent that’s T O T I X E R G Y. And then if you need a website hosted, or if you have a hosting company and you want to get a lower price challenge, host Gator to do you right.

It’s to sign up and get a great price on great service. Thanks so much for doing this.

Anu: Thank you.

Andrew: Congratulations. Bye bye


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