$9M ARR solving enterprise-y BizTalk problems

Joining me as an entrepreneur who spent 10 years as a consultant, helping enterprises solve boring problems. But here’s the thing: He discovered a few problems that the clients all had in common. And so he bootstrapped software that solved those issues and turned his clients into customers.

I want to find out how he did it.

Saravana Kumar is the founder of Kovai, enterprise software and B2B SaaS products.

 

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Saravana Kumar

Saravana Kumar

Kovai

Saravana Kumar is the founder of Kovai, enterprise software and B2B SaaS products.

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey there, 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 who sold software, actually, he didn’t even sell software. You helped enterprise with their software, right? The stuff that they bought from Microsoft.

Am I right about that?

Saravana: That’s right. Yeah.

Andrew: And the software that you’re selling is just so enterprisey that I wasn’t even thinking of having you on. Let me introduce my guests before I keep an insulting him. Sarah Vaughan, Sarah Yvonna. Am I pronouncing your name? Right?

Saravana: Yeah.

Andrew: Carvana Kumar. He is the founder of . They create lots of software. The first thing that they did was create something called BizTalk three 60.

It helps people who use BizTalk. And as soon as you said, BizTalk, I just felt like I’m not, I’m never going to get it, but we had a conversation before this interview started. I think I understand what BizTalk is. Right? Big companies have their data. In lots of different places, lots of different big software.

They need a way to access all of it in lots of different places. Right? So for example, they might have their data in a big database somewhere, but decide that they need to have a mobile app. They want to get access to that data on the mobile app. BizTalk talk is the connector that speaks between the two platforms.

Am I right about that?

Saravana: Yeah. In simple words, you can, you can think of like a postman. So all the systems they don’t want to, you don’t want to create a spaghetti between them like system. You’re talking to system ABC. So the best start. In the middle. So everybody talks to one, the one system and then the BizTalk takes a job of connecting all these two things together.

So if you want something to be replaced in the future, you can just replace one system. So you don’t need to unplug all those mess if you created a spaghetti. So that’s a not shared yet.

Andrew: It’s not exactly analogous To Zapier, but essentially like that connecting software, what Zapier does for SAS? This does for big enterprise companies. So this is what you were doing for how many years of your life were you helping companies set that up?

Saravana: I spent about 10 years as I working as a consultant, building a software on top of this, Sarah, because yeah, it requires some level of coding. It’s not as simple as click and drag and drop like Zapier. It requires quite a bit of mapping and coding and things like that. So I worked as a consultant for 10 years, building solutions for large customers between 2000 and 2010.

Andrew: I got to ask you what you enjoy about that, because frankly, that just seems so enterprising really boring, to be honest with you, but here’s the thing. He discovered a few problems that the clients that he was working with shared in common, he said, you know, I think I could solve it. And what he ended up doing was creating software that solved those problems.

And we’re going to get into what it is that software became BizTalk three 60. That’s the heart of your business. Isn’t it.

Saravana: that’s true. That’s a, that’s a core business and

Andrew: He then ended up creating multiple other products. The latest of which is the one that I feel is just the easiest for me to understand it’s document three sixty.io and what that does it well, what does that do?

Saravana: It’s a online self service knowledge base. So any product, if you have, if you are a sauce for SaaS company, you need a product knowledge base. So we wanted to specialize and do, just as a self service knowledge base alone. So at the moment, you know, the companies will use the self service part of the help desk products like Zen desk, fresh desk Entercom, et cetera.

The challenge with that is there. They are all putting on the self service part is very limited because these companies, they don’t want to load their product with that too much on the of study spot. And we experienced the pain ourselves, like as a STR explaining like this drug three 60 or so our first product, and we have to dealing with enterprise customers.

We need to have like a. Top-notch as a knowledge base for those products. And we are hitting the roadblocks in terms of managing it and having multiple writers and version control or workflow, all those kinds of things. That’s when we spot that there is a gap in the market to have like a sophisticated self service knowledge base back in 2017, and then we kicked off the project and then that turned out into via one of the successful products in the company.

Now.

Andrew: A good knowledge base. Sounds like it doesn’t, I don’t even love the name, knowledge base. It doesn’t communicate how amazing it is when it works right. The other day, I love my iPad. I was writing notes with the pen. I needed a way to export it through an HTML into this other app. And I said, I’ve got an hour deal with customer support on this freaking app and wait for them to be around in the morning.

Well, I hit the help button. They had a knowledge base. I said, these things don’t usually work, but I don’t want to waste time. I, when I found my answer like that and the way that they wrote it, the way that they presented it, the way that each section linked to them, other was just a work of beauty. And it’s all my problem, literally under three minutes and made me happier to use that product.

And that’s the beauty of a knowledge base. I always thought knowledge base needs to come with the software that we all use to answer customer support, email, and customer support tickets to come in and other ways. You said no, actually that’s the way it’s usually presented. That’s not the right way to do it.

We’re going to, we’re going to create a better, I’m going to find out how document three 60 came to be. I want to talk about biz talk three sixty.com. Also, we’re going to talk about so much and how you built up the business. Why you bootstrapped, how big it is. It’s way bigger than I would have expected.

Thanks to two phenomenal sponsors. You people have all heard me talk about them now. Forever. If you need a website hosted, just go to hostgator.com/mixergy. They’ll get you a good price. Good hosting package. It’s just fricking work and you can move on with your business and grow it. And if you need to hire a developer, gonna tell you later why you should be going to top tower.com/mixergy and get great developers.

All right, can you tell me revenue? What’s the number? How are you doing?

Saravana: As a company, we had a vote to close to 9 million.

Andrew: 9 million in annual recurring revenue. Look now I see a smile of pride in your face, frankly, as I did the ads, I saw your face, I was like, what is Andrew doing right now with this? I see the smile of pride profitable.

Saravana: Yeah, it’s a bootstrap company. We haven’t taken any investors and you probably know bootstrap companies that one of the survival mode is you need to be profitable.

Andrew: Do you take any money and put it in the bank? Invest in real estate. I’m like that.

Saravana: We reinvest quite significantly into the backend of the company, on the personal side, you know, like I have taken some parts of it,   just to keep it simple. It’s all majority, we keep it in the, in the

Andrew: Over a million in your own personal bank account at this point. Can we say that? Yeah.

Saravana: difficult to say here.

Andrew: Okay. All right. Let’s go back then to what you were doing before. Tell me about a typical client, maybe like fidelity, you’re working with them. What’d you do for fun modality back when you were a consultant

Saravana: okay. Let’s do, as, as I mentioned, like, I am a specialized in this consultancy, these companies, when they come, you know, like, typically, this large enterprise as will have a lot of systems. And there are also legacy systems as well. In case of fidelity, what happened was they had like a year’s worth of financial systems running at the backend.

And they were also at the same time, modernizing it with a web and mobile and those kinds of things. And they wanted to bring something in the middle. And that’s when they decided to go with this disrupt server as a middleware product. And they brought me in as a consultant. I spent about five years with them between 2000.

Seven two, two, 2010, something like that, 2006 onwards. So better than a lot of these systems using district server. so just to give an example, if you go to their website and you fill a mortgage form or a, or investment for something like that message gets generated, and that gets into BizTalk, and we start with out that message to irrelevant legacy systems at the backend to coordinate the whole thing.

So that’s the simplest form, but you can imagine at a scale, like when you’re dealing with millions of messages and the unit to deal with the scale and reliability and those kinds of things. So that’s what I built for them

Andrew: So I’m on your website from 2007. You were, you were blogging a lot back then.

Saravana: Yeah.

Andrew: Why were you blogging about, about BizTalk? Why were you blogging about the conference you went to? Why were you blogging in general?

Saravana: , I’m still a hardcore technical guy, even though, you know, I’m a founder and I still.

Get involved in the technical side of things and blogging became a platform for me to express my thoughts and I didn’t take no, I didn’t think too much like how we are thinking today, like a content marketing and arguing, and those kinds of things. The blogs that are return of the early days were purely based out of passion.

And you really, you know, you identified a problem and you thought nobody else, and then not all know about this particular thing. And it’s good to write it. And some of the blogs that are written very early days, it’s still performing extremely well once in a while, like go to Google analytics and check out some stats as simple thing, as you know, I wrote article about, about, licensing, how big trucks or what is licensed because the very complicated enterprise licensing model, I wrote an article and I’m sure if you search today at this stock licensing, I’m pretty sure that will be the number one article.

 

Andrew: Yeah, look at this. The first response for that search term, BizTalk licensing comes from Microsoft. And the second is your site. In a post you first put up, I guess, March 21st, 2013. Alright. So we’ll see later how this impacted your business, but at the time you were just doing it for passion. I imagine you were also getting some clients from it.

You had your, your resume up on the site, right? Okay. And then what’s the problem that you started identifying that was, that was shared by a few of your customers.

Saravana: one of the key problems identified was, you know, like, okay, the clients, they implement the systems using BizTalk server and it sits right at the heart of the company because a lot of systems connected to it and they cannot afford to. Afford to the system to go down. So they wanted to monitor it and nine in some way.

And there was no monitoring solution available to monitor the health of the district environment.

Andrew: this is a key part of a business, right? If, if BizTalk is down critical parts of the business critical piece of software, don’t talk to each other and there’s nothing, or was nothing within BizTalk that would send a message to someone that says, Hey, we’re down. Fix it.

Saravana: If you can implement it. Okay. It’s like any other system you can implement it. There is no outside of the box solution to, you know, I wanted to monitor the general health of my environment, whether my servers are running. Whether it’s talking to all those connected systems together, those kinds of things.

Microsoft got another product called system centers, operation manager that is product, which monitors all this Microsoft technologies like SQL server windows and those kinds of things. And they had a very little footage. Brent, when it comes to BizTalk server. So it’s not a full blown monitoring solution.

And that is also on a similar product from HP called HP operations manager. And they also got very little footprint. And in fact, like fidelity brought an external consultant because fidelity was using HP as a, as a monitoring solution across the board. And they were external consultant to do it. And that’s when I realized.

There’s so much pain to, you know, like a configure, a simple monitoring for a key system like that. And you’re talking about enterprise customers here and all, all of them are enterprise because of the nature of the product you’re talking. One large enterprise is using this type of server. And that’s when I thought, okay, there is an opportunity to build something and they started building.

In fact, I didn’t start building initially. I was pulling a bunch of friends and we were trying to build it as an open source thing. We thought, you know, that is a no idea about business or anything. You know, you’re a tech guys, typical tech guy, and you’re trying to solve the problem. and you know, we as to what.

But has open source thing. Everybody said yes, but nobody turned up. So I ended up writing the code for about a year and that’s when, you know, like, I was, I was throwing it back to the team and.

Andrew: A year later, you showed it back to them.

Saravana: Yeah, they did show straight to Microsoft guys as well, like a Stripe for the product group and the community.

And they all liked it. And that’s said, they said exactly, that’s what they want because they can configure monitor. Yeah. Within like a few hours, few hours rather than, you know, days and weeks or building anything custom. And that’s how we start. Three 60 got started. Yeah.

Andrew: I’m looking at the first version of your site and right away, I’m wondering is BizTalk, is Microsoft going to be upset that he’s using the BizTalk? I scroll to the bottom and it says BizTalk three 60 is not capital letters out product for Microsoft it’s developed and maintained by Covad limited based in London.

How do you not have a trademark issue with them when you’re using their name in your name?

Saravana: No. I think a lot of people ask this question and I will say probably we were a bit lucky as well. You know, like as a, you know, I didn’t have any idea, like this could become like a challenge later, but luckily, like if we were not building anything competing, we have more of a complementing product purely to BizTalk server.

you know, like maybe they

Andrew: But it feeds off of all the brand equity that they put in. You know, the trust that people have with BizTalk, the familiarity you get to feed off of it. It seems like Microsoft just didn’t care because they wanted to support the, not the community they want. They, they see this whole ecosystem, right. I forget who it was, who went to Microsoft, who went to bill Gates and said, bill, I created a platform just like you did.

It’s just the same way. And bill Gates, the response to him was you didn’t really create a platform until the people who are on your platform make more money from it than you make from the platform. And it, it seems like this might be part of their philosophy. Am I right? They haven’t talked to you

about the trademark.

Saravana: you are spot on. Basically, if you look at the earlier versions of, of the Microsoft as a company, before they moved into this whole cloud ecosystem, they’re actually partner driven company. They, they are the, I think that the biggest trend for them is their, the partner ecosystem worldwide.

They have about 600,000 partners and their philosophy is every dollar Microsoft makes the partner ecosystem makes $15. We got 15. Yes. So  the licensing cost is say a hundred thousand dollars for the enterprise license. And if you engage with the consulting company as a partner to implement the solution, their partners building will be $1.5 million.

So that, that is a ecosystem, basically.

Andrew: did it because they knew that software for enterprise was never going to be self-served pay for it, install it and forget it. Right. And if that’s the case and they’re not going to get into the services part, they want to give you an incentive to service their software and promote their software and talk it up and tell people don’t use the other thing, use this.

Saravana: Correct. So they, yeah, exactly, because that is the, and in fact that was one of the core strength when you compare it with IBM and Amazon and Google, because they didn’t have this powerful partner ecosystem to go with. You know, that’s one thing. They, they, they did extremely well, in the past.

Andrew: So you built it it’s up and running. I’m looking at the first version here. How did you get any customers to pay you for it?

Saravana: Okay. what happened was, you know, the blogging I was doing from 2004, and, I I’ve, I’ve set up the company in 2011. I said, what are seven, eight years a builder? Massive audience. This is actually, it’s a kind of, if a niche market, if you look at it, there are mikes of themselves. They got only about 12,000 customers worldwide to start server.

And I kind of became one of the influencers within the community because of the blogs. I was right. Exactly. Yeah, because this is so many deep technical articles there. You know, I just get one example, but if you go to some of the real technical terms, you will find my articles all over the place. So when I actually launched the product in June, 2011, I already had a follower of over 10,000 people.

That’s a significant number for a, for a niche market enterprise market like that, like to have that kind of followers. And I was able to, you know, like without any marketing spend, I was able to convey that, the launch of the product with a single blog post, Hey, this is what I did. This is the pain point I spent last one year building this product.

And what do you think about it? And within I put up just a few, the webpage, I had a few free trial sign up and then I started getting sign up straight away. that that’s how the company was launched. In fact, we never had any, you know, paid, spend for a very long time. You know, it’s all organic.

I just, mainly through the blogs, we get some, you know, like, signups and then we’re posting. Yeah.

Andrew: You know, I used to think that that worked before, but maybe it doesn’t work anymore. Maybe now it has to all be on Instagram or other platforms. And this guy who I interviewed just a few weeks ago, not Eliason, he’s the founder of growth machine. It’s an SEO company, freaking guy just. Right. Obsessive only, almost on his blog.

It’s very straightforward. Very simple. If you read the book, so he remembers the book, he writes, he writes the notes on it as a blog post it’s on there. If he’s experiencing or thinking something, he puts it up on a site. It’s not, it’s not, yeah. Vapid. It’s not empty. It’s not every little thought that comes into his head.

But when he has a clear thought that he wants to Oregon properly, he knows he blogs about it. He puts it on his site. Anyway, he did this blog post just. The other day, where is it where you said that the month before he made $60,000 from his blog, that he still gets both customers credibility. And in addition to it, he gets revenue from it.

It’s just shocking how blogging could be so powerful.

Saravana: it is power, but now I am I’m feeling it’s getting really overcrowded because everybody wants to write about it. Tons and tons of information. But when, when, when I did about, Seven eight years ago, you know, like there’s not that much, noise in the ecosystem even today. Now I know, I know a lot of companies are doing extremely well on the content side of things.

Maybe worked out very well in our case.

Andrew: It’s not the amazing thing that it was before, but I’m surprised that it still works. And so customers who found you on there, your first customer, the first person who use your software and paid, just found you on your blog.

Saravana: Yeah, definitely because the first customer is a, is a company from Hong Kong. So I have no connection with them. So, so they came all the way from, you know, I got to see what I call the email through the contact form or something like that. Hey, we looked at your blog, you know, this is exactly what we want, you know, like, can we talk and then that’s how it, it don’t stop it yet.

Andrew: Did you have any imposter syndrome or any feeling of wow, really me. I’m not ready yet. You guys seem important

Saravana: No. Yeah. I think that’s right. You know, like I didn’t do enough. It’s a, it’s a classic thing. I didn’t even have a pricing. Okay. How much do, should I charge them? Okay. Let, I just simply said, okay. $5,000 is there is a flat place for the, for the product yet.

Andrew: Is that what I was looking at an early price sheet of yours, and it was something like 12% of the list. Price of Microsoft is talk server as it’s publicly advertised. That was one of the pricing schemes you came up

Saravana: That is the

list. Price is about $44,000 is the  license for per server. So if a customer has four or five licenses, you’re talking at a thousand dollars, 12% of it. So that’s one model. We tried it.

Andrew: Okay. how did it work out for the first client?

Saravana: Yeah, I think he did close, immediately, you know, like, they, they, the product was very, not like a basic, but it’s all the problem of, you know, you can have a monitoring up and running very quickly. I, it, the close within, you know, few weeks. And now if I look at it, you know, it’s all like  for somebody now to close that kind of thing.

Enterprise deals in a one or two weeks, you know, like, okay, I’ll get the pricing, you know, Is it, I think a five K is not big, but still it’s enterprise central price. Right. You need to go through the whole loop of red tapes and, you know, they’re able to convince and get it. I started another launch trip in June, 2011, and I finished that year with five customers.

All strangers, complete strangers.

Andrew: How long before the revenue made up for the consulting revenue that you had before.

Saravana: So what happened was actually fit the fidelity, like a, you know, when you’re working on a, on a, on a system like that for four or five years under, you’re doing something cool or you become very important because you want a lot of things. And then I went to my manager and I said, I have this idea. I build it for last one year bits and pieces.

It looks like it’s going to work. I wanted to give it a try. What should we do? No, they were kind enough. They said, okay, we’ll go part time basically. So they said, okay, you do two days a week and then take three days off and build the product. And I worked like, about eight months like that. So eventually we put it in a, I know it’s always money.

The bank you are already, you never go. Negative, any point in time, because that’s a cultural thing it’s embedded into my thing right from the beginning. So you even today, so we grow based on how much, cushion we have, like do we, can we sustain for next two years is always the point how the company was scared of one person.

I didn’t hire anybody up to 30 customers. So the only after getting 30 enterprise customers, I had a admin girl to help me with all this, licensing and FEO and those kinds of things. And then we survived like that for up to 65 customers. Then I fall, I cannot turn my living room into a small office and we went to five people, two engineers and then one support.

And then

Andrew: In your living room,

Saravana: In my living room.

Andrew: was it awkward to have them at your living room for job interviews? Was that awkward?

Saravana: Yeah, it was awkward. It’s not awkward, you know, like, okay. If I was able to convince, okay, you gone convince the top guys. but you know, you know, like the people whom we think you can train them and coach them, you know, I brought them on board and then, you know, like I converter, okay. I took that living room, stripped off everything, all the sofa and everything.

And we set up like a proper office, like desks and a wardrobe and the boards and things like that. So converter that, and we, I think we survived six 65 people, something like that. Then in 2013, that’s when we opened the India office, we thought, okay, it’s clearly that it’s a growth scale. And, you know, as a product company, you know, it’s a longterm thing.

We wanted to do it in a cost effective way. And we started the India operations in end of 2013.

Andrew: Alright. I want to come back and find out a little bit about your childhood, just to get a sense of who you are. And then we’ll fast forward to document three 60 and why you decided to create something when there’s so many competitors already doing it. But first. Anyone out there who decides that they want to create a blog or any website at all, you can build it.

If you have a HostGator hosting account, do you have any tips for somebody? If they decide they want to blog someone who’s blogged yourself. Do you have any tips for them? If they say, you know what? I think this is the year I’m going to start to blog. I think this is the year that I’m gonna start to put something out there.

What tips do you have?

Saravana: I think you just need to get started basically, you know, that the procrastination, you know, like that’s the biggest, problem and you know, like you use talk, blogging and you guy, you know, you like, you keep it simple, you know, try to keep it to one or two good blog. Don’t even, you know, like just to try to keep it okay.

And get started. Getting started is the, is the difficult part. And once does that also also pick up a topic, you know, you like to talk about, you know, don’t just do it just because you know, somebody else, interests, you know, don’t think too much, it just get started and then go with your passion and whatever you want it to like.

Andrew: You know what I’m going to confess something. My wife and I were on a call with parents for an upcoming school, reopening,

Saravana: Okay.

Andrew: confessing her thing. But we are both on our phones. Just Googling the people who are, who are on the call. Now, obviously we’re going through the LinkedIn and whatever we see. But when we see it page, that is that’s their own personal site.

We’re so much more likely to click on that, to get a sense of who they are. And what they’ve done with that is they’ve. They got their shot to tell me who they are on their terms, not on LinkedIn terms, not on my terms where I go in search on page three of Google search results. It’s them. And the reason I’m bringing this up is we’re all being Googled by everybody.

You’re going to hire somebody, you know, you’re going to Google them. You want to see what’s out there. They’re about to be hired by you. You know, they’re Googling you and everyone in the Mo in the room. Obviously they’re going to see the LinkedIn profile. They’re going to get it, but we’ve all seen that the LinkedIn profile, the Twitter, the Instagram, we all know that’s the person putting their face in some kind of platform that’s designed to make them look good.

When we see a personal site. It makes us feel like we’ve got insight into them. It’s almost like we’re walking into their living room and yes, it’s presented it did for people to look, but it’s much more personal than a LinkedIn and Instagram, et cetera. So the reason I’m bringing that up is I suggest that anyone who’s not created a blog who hasn’t created a website, who’s thinking, Hey, you know what?

I got a little bit of time. I want to be creative, or I want to actually. Put my, put my own thoughts into the brain. And now is this process of the person who I’m going to talk to. That’s the best way to do it. Go to hostgator.com/mixergy, create a website right now. And trust me, people will be Googling linked to it from whatever social profiles you have, but people will be Googling.

You they’ll be hitting that page. It’s going to get more, attention in those search results than it deserves, frankly, but it’s your chance to say. Here’s who I am to all those people who think they’re spying on you, but in reality are going to get your message directly to them. hostgator.com/mixergy will get you the lowest price from an already low provider.

And it just fricking works. hostgator.com/m I N E R G Y. For that super low price from them.

Saravana: I allowed fully supported ways today. It’s very important. You build your personal brand. So it’s a few years ago. If your name, your domain is available, you take it and you can easily configure any blog and start blogging with your own branding over time. It will pick up

Andrew: What do you have? You have, you have a, sorry ivano.info, right?

Saravana: that info. That’s right there. I don’t really know right too much there, but once in a while, there are a few

Andrew: Intuitively, it doesn’t even matter. You got Alyssa quotes, you got an about page and you got out and the about page is also the homepage where you tell me about yourself and you give me an opportunity to go and click on whatever you want me to pay attention to. It’s not higher ranking than your LinkedIn profile, which is number one, but it’s on the first page.

And now you have an opportunity for what, what does that info cost like five bucks a month, five bucks a year, right?

Got an

Saravana: I have a domain. So, you know, I don’t know.

Andrew: Yeah, I think we all do. alright, going back to a little bit of who you are, you’re a person who is, it seems like really interested in computers growing up.

Huh?

Saravana: Yeah, that’s still like an iPhone. The young age, like computers is one thing fascinated me. in India where I grew up, I grew up in India. We didn’t talk about it. Like I grew up in India, I came to UK, when I was 22, that is in 2000. so until the point, all my childhood schooling university, everything was in India.

So luckily, you know, like, had a chance to work with computers at a very young age. And somehow I got hooked up to it. And until today, you know, that’s my number one, passion, passion, like, you know, like, I

Andrew: What did you like about computers when you were growing up? For me, it was more about the imagination of what I could do than what was really possible back then.

Saravana: No, that’s right. I think it’s something, you know, like, It responds to your thought process is fascinating for you, right? Like, okay, you can build something and you, you can tell the computer to, you know, like a, we want to build, you can build it for example, you know, if you’re doing it to mechanical or civil engineering or something like that, it’s not possible because you don’t have those infrastructure missionaries and all those things.

But the computers are you and your computer. And, you know, you can, if you have the knowledge to, you know, write a programming and anything you pick up and you can actually build a, quite a lot of things, that’s what fascinated me at the engage yet.

Andrew: what’s that bookkeeping system you created for trainers.

Saravana: Yeah. Like, I just did notice that a couple of training centers, they don’t teach you for. Sorry. I just noticed they’re like struggling with the real proper, you know, like, some manuals and scribbling notes kind of thing. So that’s what I thought. Okay. Like, yeah, there’s an opportunity to build a system.

And at that age, you know, you’re really looking for, for some problem to solve. And when I saw that one, okay. I thought, okay, maybe that is a, that. Could be computerized. And that’s when all this a GUI based systems where popup like PowerBuilder and DB two VB three, those cadets 95, 96, a that kind of our timeframe.

then I thought, okay, you know, I just. Understood what they’re trying to build. And then, you know, like, build a system for them. I went back to them. I never bought any copy, any money for that, but it just constantly, you know, getting feedback and then dancing the system and giving it back to them. And it just helped me to learn quite a bit, by doing that.

Andrew: You, let’s come back into why you decided that you had to get into the knowledge base system. I told you before we got started, every email help software that we have seems to come with knowledge base. Their whole idea is. Your customer service, people are going to be answering questions a million times, take those questions and turn them into a page on your knowledge base.

So the next time somebody has a question, they could find it for themselves instead of searching, instead of contacting your customer support people. Why didn’t you say, you know what? They’re just already offering it’s Endesa got it helped us help scout every single one of them. Why did you have to get into it?

Saravana: so in our case, like, you know, like we did use a Freshdesk as a, as a help desk system, we still use fresh desk desk is our complete backend customer support tool. And we were using the self service knowledge base that came along with, with the first test. But at one point, you know, we reached a stage where, you know, like we had like a full time technical writers, writing content and the technical engineering team was writing content.

And even marketing team has content in writing content to the knowledge base. And we get a got into all this problem of. Western control. Like, you know, like you, you, you wrote an article that articles are never going to be stale. Like, you know, two months, three months down the line, somebody needs to update that document.

But most of the systems out there didn’t have any version control system at all. You will simply walk over right there. In some cases, you know, the previous version of the article was much better than the one somebody has written this time. This is one example. Another example is workflow. So you want to have some level of control before you take a article to a, to a public domain.

So you want a draft writer to write the first version, and then you need a Yeti teacher to review it and upload it. So that kind of workflow systems are not there. So you can imagine, you know, okay. All those habits because providers, you are fine. Like, you know, when you’re starting up, when you have one, like 20, 30 pages on your product knowledge base, that’s fine.

When it’s a start, when you start growing and you have 200, 300 enterprise customers, a lot of queries coming, you really wanted to block them, at the knowledge based level, not hitting your support agents, you know, that is quite expensive, right? Because you don’t want, so the more. A polished your knowledge basis.

The customers will find the answers quickly. And that’s when we identified a gap in the market. And then we decided like, okay, we’re going to go, go pitch the product. Yeah.

Andrew: you got. Early on, you started building this for yourself because you needed it and you couldn’t make it work with other knowledge base software. Right? What’s an example of something that really bothered you so much that you said we have to build our own.

Saravana: okay. This is a one, two getting point for us is a, is a backup and restore like accidentally. What happened was one of our technical writers accidentally deleted an entire category of articles on the

Andrew: Yeah.

Saravana: base. And we couldn’t recover it back. It’s always a SaaS based system, right. Gone, because we don’t take a personal backup of all those relying on a SAS platform.

And we have to go through their support system and they couldn’t recover the articles as well because they have only had, you know, like, it’s, it’s a complex process and they couldn’t recover the article. And that is also became as one of the triggering point now, because today. in fact that is, even though it’s a, it’s a backend functionality.

That is one thing. Yeah. We build on the V one of the product when we launched it today, we take backup and the customers can actually, even if you accidentally delete something, you can go to settings and it’s like a time machine you can say, okay, I want to restart it back to yesterday. Or in some cases, somebody messed up your system completely like, you know, the change, the settings and the change, the configuration, this and that.

You can actually roll back. And we gave them that, that is one example. There are, you know, like four or five core points, like version control, workflow, this backup restore, and things like, you know, like a good editor category management. even search, you know, like having a really good search is important.

The problem is like, you know, everybody will say we have search. It’s like a Google and Bing and others, right? Like they, they say, yeah, we have search. But one day when you’re using, what is the difference between Leah and somebody’s claiming they have a search. So today, if you go to any of our knowledge base and you can say, you’ll see instant answers because we spend.

We use Algolia at the backend, but we had to do lot of work on top of Algolia to make it really like a super fast and usable. So we, so we understood the problem space very well. And that’s what the transformed into documentaries.

Andrew: I see what you mean. And I see the Angola. Is that the name? I was mispronounced. Her name, that search company. It’s a Y Combinator company, right?

Saravana: a

French. Yeah. So yeah, they’ve been pretty good. Yeah.

Andrew: it’s a vegetable.

Saravana: I don’t know.

Andrew: Algolia let me see. I found them first on a hacker news, and I feel like anything that hacker news uses, I’ve got to go investigate and see why they’re using it.

And then I saw how great their search was. you know what it occurred to me. I never asked you how you got the rest of your customers. So you told me that once you got to about 30, I think you ended up hiring this woman who came in and helped you organize. But how did, how did you get the 30? It wasn’t just people picking up on your blog.

And then we’re going to come back to document three 60, but I’m always interested in how customer, how companies get more customers.

Saravana: It’s a, B only in our case, it’s a hundred percent organic, as I said, you know, we never spend a voice, especially for BizTalk. We, even today we don’t spend too much on the paid campaign. I’d say it’s a completely organic through all the blogs and people come, that, that’s how it

Andrew: You’re saying it’s still blogging and content marketing. That’s working for you.

Saravana: Yeah, I’d say it’s, it’s all the content we are written.

We have about, you know, close to 1000 article, in that, in that space for Vista this talk, I’m talking about this doc. So as I said, you know, you need to tell them you such related to BizTalk, we will be there and also. We build that entire community as well. So we became like a known brand within the community and we run our annual conference.

Once a year, we run a global conference in London. It’s called integrate a by about find that people from all over the world, all the flight to London that’s become like one of our big, a kind of a lead sources, a source, and as well as a branding as well. That is another, maybe we get some customers.

Yeah.

Andrew: And to see if I can find anything in similar web and nothing’s turning up for what’s especially powerful for you. Did you eventually, I’m guessing you eventually started hiring people to write before, but why didn’t you hire people to when to hire salespeople?

Saravana: So we do have salespeople, but the salespeople are more inside. It’s mainly predominantly inbound via. So we did try outbound. We didn’t, of course we, you know, with the stand of revenue and the growth, we did try experiment with it. With bond, but it didn’t work out well for us. So like, the, the, you know, like in terms of a percentage, I would say like, you know, 90, 95% came from inbound and 5% is outbound.

Yeah.

Andrew: How did you decide that you were going to add more software instead of just focusing on this one thing?

Saravana: the thing is be stuck is kind of a legacy technology and the Microsoft is moving more towards the cloud and they are not focusing. They’re not. They stopped focusing on all the on premise products. So, and also the market size is also pretty limited. You know what our effort that is as a principal market is it’s only like, as I said, probably a thousand customers is what Microsoft themselves got for, for BizTalk.

It is really good for a bootstrap company because you know, it’s all, it’s a. Identifying your ideal customer profile is pretty easy. Age is a very well defined market and you can easily, you know, dominate the entire market, but it’s not really a scalable business. If you want to create a 30, 40, $50 million business.

It’s it’s not there. That’s when we started diversifying into other products. Yeah.

Andrew: How’d you know, the first one to get into.

Saravana: We actually moved to a similar product called service three 60 it’s it’s a, it’s a, it’s a Microsoft Azure cloud focused product. And then we came to documentary 16. So, so that’s how, we created these three products.

Andrew: And there’s also Adams, a atomic scope.

Saravana: Atomic scope is like as a small, like add on kind of a product. So it just sits either with the BizTalk three 63 60. But in terms of main products, these are the three main products we focus.

Andrew: Got it. All right. And so when it’s time to get new customers for document three 60, how’d you get them?

Saravana: So documentaries is, is, is a typical SAS, acquisition models. Or there is a portion of, it comes from our regular organic SEO. We invested in SEO quite heavily, right from. I mean, we are building the product. We spent a lot of money on Google and also B he’s put a lot of energy into all the review sites, like, Jeetu and capture.

Okay. There are only limited channels available, right? Like, okay. No, it’s not, it’s not magic. Okay. You need to work out, this four or five channels available for you. And that’s a typical acquisition model for

Andrew: No, the thing that would drive me crazy is that it’s such a big investment for somebody to move to a new, to new knowledge base software. You know, once they’re already on something, they have to really suffer the pain of it and then be willing to suffer even more short term pain to get past it to the other side where there is what’s the better life.

Right. That’s a really tough customer to go after. Isn’t it.

Saravana: Yeah, that’s that’s true. But at the same time, every day, there are so many. People actually looking to switch to different knowledge base. So the way you’re not typically the way we look at it is, you know, okay. Internally the company was, what we were looking at is okay. If you pick up a product, can we take it into $10 million revenue in.

You know, five, six years, something like that is what our goal for touching any product. So if you look at the documentary 60, the AR or the average revenue per customer is about a hundred, $250 per month. So if we can get 10,000 customers. That is good enough for us to be like, you know, model, as a, as a product and which is achievable.

Like, you know, we felt looking at six, seven years time and you are only targeting 10,000 customers and that’s the model we are going after.

Andrew: And so you’re saying, yeah, it’s a big, it’s a big commitment for someone to move, but we’re not trying to get somebody. We’re not trying to convince someone to switch. We just recognize that there are a bunch of people who are looking to switch. Here are the places where they’re going to make their decision.

It’s the review sites. It’s Google. It’s a couple of others where we’ll be there. And if they look at us and give us a shot, then we’ll have an opportunity to get them to switch. Alright, I’m going to talk about my second sponsor. It’s a company called top towel. I asked you if you knew top towel and what did you say?

What do you know about top towel?

Saravana: Yeah, my mom I’ve had of them, like, you know, in the very early days of bestowed three 60 days, I used to use a ward desk. It’s now it’s called a. Walk. So the, I used to some headphones, you know, the building, the Messiah, the packaging and the website and those kinds of things. So when I saw Toptal advertise ads in two places, I think they are there.

They’re all over the place, like Cora on LinkedIn and everywhere. So I’m kind of know what they’re doing. So I believe it’s a similar kind of thing. You can go and hire either a freelancer or a group of people. If you, if you have a shortfall of the sources you want to fill up your engineering sources, you can hire from them.

Yeah.

Andrew: Here’s where they’re different. I recently needed a researcher. I just wanted to get some facts on something, you know, I like, I like to be as prepared as possible. Yeah. I’d put up my ads on these freelance sites. I got a bunch of requests from people. I then start asking them questions, and then I’m going back and forth.

Now I’m in the business of evaluating. Yeah. They’re cheating me through text messaging or not because, well, let me just don’t know what they’re talking about and I want to be nice to everybody, but I also have to move on and. It’s a lot of freaking work. I even hired a recruiter who’s supposed to recruit from those places and it’s still too much work or I’m not finding the right people.

Think about top talent is number one. They focus on doing that research ahead of time. Nobody’s in their network, unless they are to say the best of the best is not significant enough. They’re really good. And then when you need some, but you don’t go to a site, put up an offer and say, does anyone have the skills that I’m looking for?

You talk to a human being. And then that human being says, here are the people who’ve done the job that you need. They’ve done it. They’re excellent at it. And I’m going to get you on a call with them so you can talk to them. Within a few days often I did that. There was one or two days where I sat down and I just went through call after call after call with top top people.

Cause I did want, for that one project, I wanted five people before I decided I talked to all five. I picked someone who was phenomenal. That’s the way it works. People who are selected before a matter, who makes sure that they’re not wasting your time. And then you just, who you want to work with and you can work with them on a project basis, full time basis, whatever you need.

You can even hire a full team of people who just work well together. Alright, anyone out there who’s listening to me and is persuaded by this and wants to get started. You can go to  dot com. You can click on any number of ads that they have, or you can use this special URL where they’re going to give you 80 hours of developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours, in addition to a no risk trial period, you know that URL by now, and you probably have heard me whip through this too fast in the past.

I’m going to go slower. It’s top towel.com/mixergy. Top is on top of your head talent and talent.com/mixergy. Let me do it one more time. Top T a l.com/m I N E R G Y. Alright. I’m grateful to them for sponsoring. I’m kind of curious, like, about you and your personal life. Are you doing anything fun?

Are you doing anything beyond working? What’s your thing?

Saravana: yeah, just a family. I got two, two young boys, a 13 and 10. They occupy most of my time. I spent a lot of time with my elder one he’s in, he’s also to computing and he likes programming. We do a lot of fun projects. So is that right now is building an iOS app. And I think it says coming, coming, where do you want me to say it’s for dryness?

yeah, exactly. Like, you know,

like.

We got a personal trainer for the whole family and I just gave him Swan project. Okay. You need, we need to build a system for Nigeria. Nigeria is our personal trainer because I know he’s only making notes in his head, not bad. And you know, like we should actually be keeping it as a secret.

We are building it for the last four or five months now and it’s coming along very well. So I spend some time with them.

Andrew: And you want your son to think about one person when he’s creating it? Why.

Saravana: We, we picked up three personas basically, and I related all three personas to, to whom he is familiar with one, he says the personal trainer and then the second person is, is a, is a tutor. I am an English and mathematics tutor. And the third is a group coaching, the badminton coaching. So all three will come under the same app.

It’s basically an OSHA dueling. And then, you know, like invoicing and then cancellations and

Andrew: because anyone who’s working individually with people for personal one-on-one services, they have a set of needs. And whether it’s tutoring or training, it includes payment. It includes scheduling. What else is included imagining notes or feedback on

Saravana: Yeah, exactly. The notes that they book a session and unit take notes. We did read indirectly. We ask him questions. Okay. How do you do this one? Okay. We’ll ask him. Okay. What do you do? And he says before coming to the session, I, I, I look at all my previous notes so that I know what session to give this time.

So he’s building, so. Yeah. And that is applicable for cuter Roswell. I’m sure he needs to go and check all the previous notes and say, okay, okay, today I’m going to repeat these things. So I think I’m sorry, teaching him. Okay. You need to go based on a customer persona. So you know exactly these are, you need to go and find thousand Nigerians to be successful.

Okay. Let’s build it for my jail and then let’s try to scale it.

Andrew: And that makes sense. If you can charge a certain number per month, you get a thousand Nigel’s. Then let’s say if it’s $5 a month, that’s $5,000 a month from just that one category. That’s what you’re thinking of. Wow. That’s your fun thing to build a business with your son?

Saravana: Yeah. He’s too young, you know, I’m not very, you know, it’s nothing money moderator, but I think,

Andrew: The development

Saravana: you know, is it getting really interested and, you know, I can see him, you know, like, getting deeper into. He also got that natural interest as well. I’m not forcing him, like he wants to do programming and he’s good at math.

So I think it’s a really fun thing to do. And outside, you know, I like cos and then

Andrew: What type of car is what do you have?

Saravana: Um, I got a Lambo.

Andrew: Wow. How’s it feel? Is it everything you thought it would be as a kid?

Saravana: Yeah, I think, in my personal blog, I think you got, you got that. And  the blog I wrote for the post. And once you reach a Lambo and I thought, okay, you go quite right. You don’t want to.

Andrew: You don’t want to write a

blog post about that?

Saravana: things. So yeah, I took a delivery beginning of the year. Yeah. Yeah. I think I’ve, you know, I always like, cause, and we have, I know personally I have those different levels, like, okay.

Like the first is a BMWs and Audis and then the Porsche and then you go to Lambeau Ferarri and then you go to . So we’ll see how far I can

Andrew: I see what a zone does. That’s zoned us.

Saravana: that’s a, yeah, that’s a next, next level to  and finally you will get into Bugatti Sheeran’s yeah.

Andrew: I shouldn’t be looking at this. This is going to make me want it, want these cars. I’m not even a car person. I don’t like cars, but this looks amazing.

Saravana: Yeah.

Andrew: Zonda Bugatti, apparently I’m into that, but got Bogani

Saravana: Zoned up the next level. And then the final is about Bugatti. We’ll see.

Andrew: and then do you keep, you have like a number that you need to hit before you get one of these cars? It’s in your head.

Saravana: I know. Yeah,

yeah,

Andrew: I’m guessing that 10 million is one of the next big milestones

Saravana: no, 10, 10, no, probably 15. Maybe.

Andrew: Got it. You know, as you were telling me about your son and how you were thinking through, what does, what, what is your trainer need and asking him how he does certain things. I look at the list of features. I went through the demo on, on document three 60. I was wondering how you ended up with all these features.

What did you do to understand what needed to go into your software?

Saravana: Okay. The first initial set of core features, it came from straight from our own pain points because it’s a pretty straightforward, because we are not building anything drastically new. so we know exactly for building an enterprise or any, any good product knowledge base. You need to have this XYZ things on place.

And that’s exactly what we did. We, in fact, like we took only six months before we took the product to the market. So we launched, we got the first line of code. We did pretty hackathon in December, 2017. And then we decided we are going to build a product. January, 2018. We assembled the team, June, 2018.

We went live and we got our faster customer that month. So only six months to go to the market and we know exactly. Okay. We don’t have all the sophisticated, you know, private documentation and security and those kinds of things. But the very first set of features are good for a segment. No, for customers, we were able to target those customers at the early stage.

And then we brought my documentation and then we brought some advanced features, like, a workflow. And, now we are building things like enterprise single sign on and the localization and those kinds of things. So stage by stage. Now we are moving more up and really sophisticated. And like, for example, you know, Monday night call me so customer now.

So, you know, like, so we’re getting into that kind of brackets.

Andrew: And what did you do to know what next features to build? Is it talking to your existing customers or going after your ideal and asking them what they needed

Saravana: No, we both actually like, you know, like, we do talk to, as part of the customer success, we speak to a lot of customers and we have been number. Now. We are doing a demo continuously. You hear a feedback from me, not they want this. They will, we capture everything. And then every week we have like a show and tell meeting, we call it the entire team joins and then all the sales people, customer success team.

And then everybody comes in and then we summarize everything. What are the key key features? We, we, we from the different people and then we have a pipeline, like, you know, We have at least for next to nine to 12 months solid pipeline, the things, what we wanted to build. Once you reach a reach, a point, you know, like then, then, you know, getting new features, it’s not a problem.

You just need to filter it out and then, you know, make sure your, your app is not getting too bloated and you need to continuously make sure, you know, like it still looks sleek and the ad features in a, in a controlled way.

Andrew: What’s your criteria for deciding to add something?

Saravana: It must be a, a, it should solve a pain point for a lot of people. Like if we need to see, like, whether it’s something is usable for a large volume of people, the core features are the ones we try to address.

Andrew: All I can see them. Why log in is a big one. I know how important it is, especially now when people are working from home, right. Companies are locking it down. All right. For anyone who wants to go check you out, it seems like the best of all these products for them to go and check out is document three 60.

And the website for that is document three sixty.io. Right?

Saravana: Yep.

Andrew: Alright,

Saravana: So we got dotcom as well. So we purchased the domain,

Andrew: then. Why aren’t you, why are you giving me that IO? I feel like.com would be

Saravana: I don’t know. I think it’s, we haven’t configured it. We, we, yeah, we bought it

Andrew: You have to buy it after you build out the business.

How tough was that? How tough was that to get it after you had a whole business set up on it on.io?

Saravana: I think be I’ll fill in the eight, seven, eight months we bought it. We paid about 10,000, $10,000 or pounds. We

Andrew: No, either way, not bad. I mean, it’s high for what it is, but it’s, it’s worth the price considering

Saravana: bad. It’s not bad. Yeah, definitely. Because when I, when I hear like, I did a quick search and I, I didn’t deal with hotels.com. They paid 11 million

2,011 million. Yeah. Hotels,

Andrew: Wait say the dope

hotel. Oh yeah. Yeah. That’s kind of a painful right now. Yeah, no, this is not in the same league. Wow. Alright. So there it is. Now people can go to just document three sixty.com. I see it automatically read Rex. And while I’m here talking about URLs, I might as well tell people the two URLs that belonged to my sponsors.

The first, if you’re hosting a website and you need a lower price, or you want to get started hosting a website, take control of your own personal identity. Their own personal reputation, have the other parents at the parent group, Google you and see the pages you want. Whatever you need. If you need a hosting package, go to hostgator.com/mixergy and say again, when you’re ready to hire developer, go to top tao.com/mixergy.

Thanks so much for doing this. Thanks everyone.

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