Andrew: Hey, they’re freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses for an audience of entrepreneurs who are building companies right now and aspiring to greatness.
Now. There’s a problem that today’s guests solved that I, I want it. I want to see if I could relate to it. Michelle, tell me if I’m right on this 20, 21. I’m thinking through my year, I say maybe I don’t want to do three interviews a week. Maybe I go to two. I don’t know. And, uh, immediately before I can let myself think whether it’s right for my audience, whether it’s right for my life to, to the first thought that comes to my mind is did I promise HostGator that I would give them three interviews a week?
What did I promise to SEM rush? I sold them a whole year worth of ads before the year even started. Did I say that it has to be three now for me, there are two ways to go about it. One is I can go and figure out what folder I put their agreements on my Google drive, which is kind of a pain. Cause I usually put it in the same folder, but sometimes not.
And then I have to go in and read the contracts and then I have to make sure that I didn’t miss anything. And it’s, it’s a hassle, or since it’s a smaller set of conversations, I could just contact them and reach out to them and say, Hey, is it okay if I go to two? Here’s how I think it will benefit you.
But no problem. If you prefer three. Bigger companies they’ll have this problem times a thousand times, multiple thousands. Right? What did we agree? Are we allowed to move our stuff off of Amazon cloud? Because we just got a deal from Google or because Microsoft just went better. Did we commit that it’s gotta be Amazon?
Where do we put the agreements that all the salespeople put it in the same place? Or do we have an old process? Where is it? So Michelle tsunami had this problem in a previous company and he said, There’s gotta be a solution. And when there wasn’t, he said, I’m going to create a solution. He created this company called link squares.
It is a place for the legal team of a company. Believe it or not the finance team, but believe it or not beyond those teams, their contracts. Like, I didn’t realize that in many companies that see, is it the CFO or the CTO who handles contracts, Michelle?
Vishal: Uh, well, yeah, both. And, and, uh, if you’re not a CTO that came up from contracts, which I don’t think there are any, uh, huge headache. Yeah. Huge headache.
Andrew: he goes, do you know what I think software can do this even better. He didn’t understand the space. He learned it by talking to people who are potential customers. And then he created this thing that works with artificial intelligence. My right can actually use artificial intelligence or are we just pretending that there’s AI. Figure this stuff out. All right. I invited him here to talk about how he built up link squares. It’s a great business idea. I want to hear how the business is doing, and I want to find out a little bit about his background and we can do it. Thanks to two phenomenal sponsors. The first is HostGator. The company that, uh, was linked squares built on HostGator in the beginning.
Vishal: Our first marketing website. So thank you to HostGator.
Andrew: Um, and the second sponsor just said, you know what? Don’t even tell people that Unbounce is a great way to build landing pages. Andrew, we want you to give the techniques that you write a book or write a guide or something. I said, how about one, about how I interview people? They said, that’s exactly what we’re hoping for.
Tell us the different techniques that you use to open up conversations. So I did, if you want them, you can go to unbounce.com/mixergy. They won’t even ask for your email address. They’ll give you that guide. They just wanted me to write, and I appreciate them for doing that. Um, can we talk about revenue?
You open about roughly where the revenue is right now at link squares.
Vishal: Yeah. I mean, I mean, right around 10 million AR.
Andrew: Wow. The whole thing happened because Backupify was being sold. Backupify was this company that said, you know what? People need to back up their data. When in the old computer days, they would back it up on another computer or hard drive in the internet. We want to be able to back things up in the cloud.
You guys built this company, you sold it. And then what was the problem that led you to discover link squares?
Vishal: Yeah. So the acquire company came in and they said, uh, Our, our goal and our mission is to save costs and not pay your AWS bill. And if you can imagine we’re backing up like three petabytes of data, three times a day, or like hundreds of billions of static files, super expensive, and a great service that Amazon offers, but really expensive.
And they say, we add, we have our own cloud. We have plenty of space for your data. Ellen switched customer’s data. We can move without their permission. We’ll start there. And it was one of these like total little shocker moments. Like we have never thought about not using AWS ever. Like what’s in our contracts.
I don’t know. Where are they all? I don’t know.
Andrew: Yeah, because you want to make sure that your, that your clients who are paying you to store their data and keep it safe are okay with you moving away from Amazon web services, or maybe they signed up only because of Amazon web services.
Vishal: Yeah. So let’s break it down. Like in a base, like our base, on-track like a subscription agreement. It would give us the right to change where we store your data at rest. But if you’re a smart company and you’re looking at different things, you’re negotiating it. If you’re paying big money, you’re definitely negotiating it.
If you’re paying really big money, you’re a big company and Backupify is a small company. So they’re actually forcing you into their kind of standard subscription services agreement that big companies like to torture little companies with. And so we have done all those things, right? I wouldn’t say, I mean, I think we had like 6,000 companies who were backing up, I think maybe like a third, a third to half had actually red line their contract.
So what does that mean? Like they’re all a little bit different. But it could be the same in this, but we didn’t know. Right. And so that’s a problem that gets created. You inherited their party paper, you inherit modifications to your subscription agreement. Did you get deals done? And over time you build up this debt, this knowledge debt keeps on getting accumulated deal after deal after deal.
And if you have no way of actually tracking what you’ve agreed to, there could be a moment in time where. Someone asks you a question like this, and you’re completely unprepared to answer. And the path to getting that answer is hundreds of hours, thousands of hours, tons of costs. And it’s like a point in time, way of understanding it.
And so we thought that this was a big pain. When we were a series B venture backed company growing super fast, it feels like every other venture back company is selling B2B growing really fast. And we went out with this mission to, to understand it. And that’s exactly what we figured out.
Andrew: what did you do at Backupify before you figured out the solution, when you had this company buying you out, asking you to move over to their cloud, what did you do with the contracts?
Vishal: Yeah. So they were, they were stored in a variety of places everywhere from printed out in a filing cabinet in our controllers office, a Google drive, a box Dropbox attached to Salesforce opportunities, kind of haphazardly uploaded there. Uh, inside of Gmail account too, we were, uh, Gmail G suite backing up service.
So in old sales reps accounts that no longer works here or signed agreements, I mean, In a great way. We were growing super fast in a terrible way. We were growing super fast and kind of keeping up with that. There was no like single source of truth. Right. And so part of that exercise was like, okay, I’m an engineer.
I like breaking down problems. That’s what I do. Okay. Can we find all the contracts? Where are they all? Obviously like our ERP has the one to endless of every single customer. Like, what can we learn about where these matching contracts are? Okay. If we can collate them, how do we get access to this information?
Well, you start clicking on these PDs. They’re all scanned PDFs. I mean, DocuSign is like a thing and electronic signature is like a thing. It’s still not every company in the world. And surely you’re looking back into a company that started in Oh six. Oh, seven Oh five. I mean, electronic signature is like a very common thing now, but, but 15 years ago, 10 years ago, wasn’t really.
Andrew: would go through all the contracts to see who you can switch, who you couldn’t and do it manually. A human being had to do that.
Vishal: well, well, we looked at the challenge ahead of us and the timeline that, that the company that was going to buy us was asking for it. It’s like, can’t be done. I mean, it can be done with like hundreds of people. Maybe like you offshore it very expensively or pay a law firm. I mean, we didn’t see a real great path.
I mean, Andrew personally, between the two of us, we decided to email everyone, Hey, we’re going to maybe move you off. Email us, send us an email. Or do you think this is about idea? I mean the absolute only answer we had. Well, it was email the customer base and tell them, and God knows what, what email address those went to, whether they bounced or not.
So it was, uh, you know, listen to the sale of the company went through and they worked through it. Right. But, uh, it was a real light bulb moment. Okay.
Andrew: with it because of that. And that’s what led you now to create the solution. Let me just ask you for a moment about backup. If I I’m still a customer Backupify I remember discovering it and saying. I’ve got my files in Google drive. What happens if for some reason we lose access?
What happens if I can get the files themselves? What happens if somebody deletes it some way? And I signed up, it’s not very expensive. They still back up my data. I needed it a little, a few months ago. I went in, I found it and from Backupify and then a few hours later, they put it back in my Google drive.
It seemed like a killer idea, but it’s not, it doesn’t seem like it’s embedded enough companies. Why not?
Vishal: Yeah. So, uh, if I, if I thought the trajectory of a company, they were in like a category creation space. And when you’re a category creator, this the space like cloud to cloud backup, that was kind of indented in branded around Backupify and what they were doing. Um, it just, it takes, people may not realize it takes a long time for new markets to be.
And I think that they actually started in a consumer type of backup, like backing up your Twitter and backing up that then it was like backing up your personal Gmail. And then all of a sudden they started seeing people sign up with things that weren’t at gmail.com, because that was the same time that Gmail was being offered to businesses as an email client that they could use in the cloud.
And so that kind of started to carry their way. So there was a lot of like, Waiting around and waiting for some of these innovations to occur smartly. They saw the opportunity when people were signing up for backup. If I would firstname.lastname@example.org and they were signing up with, you know, uh, you know, what, our link scores.com as a domain, and then starting to sing like, Oh my God, you know, you check the MX record, the mail it’s shades records.
And it’s being sent by Google. That means that Google is actually the email client was Zynga. They’re running on Google suite. We can build a massive company here, but I mean, those things take time. I think, I think people can undervalue like forging your own market, being a category creator, which I’m sure you’ve talked about with a lot of other people.
Like it’s so hard to be a category.
Andrew: why. It it, because it doesn’t feel like you’re not in, you’re not inventing anything brand new with Backupify. You’re just taking something from the old world and bringing it to the new world in the old world. Your email would be on your computer. If your computer got busted up, for some reason, you’d want to have a backup of it.
You have everything that you need in the new world. It’s all in the cloud. If something happens to the cloud, you want it, but why didn’t that translate?
Vishal: Probably number one thing in the early days was people thought Google would back it up.
Andrew: Which they did.
Vishal: And they’d created like an archiving solution to like the vault product, but people were kind of unaware to the problem that they could face. Right? Like, so if Google is your provider and providing your backup, there’s a chance that Google can lose it all because it’s all within the same product suite or product offering or company.
Our whole message was like, why don’t we create a secure second copy in another cloud? So even if like Google is having, you know, uptime percentage issues and you can’t get the take, get the data, or you have a holistic data set that it’s yours. Regardless of what Google chooses to do policy wise. That just took a while.
I mean, ultimately it has to become like the CIO on the CIO is radar. They have to know that this is a problem that it has to get budgeted. It has to. And then all of a sudden, like, you know, I’m there like 2013, 2014, like, you know, things started happening. Like we started coming up, we start being a budget item, like, Oh my boss, I’m the it manager.
My boss told me that I have to explore, explore Google apps, backup. Like then the strategy was we own the organic page, one ranked on Google apps backup, and maybe we still do Backupify and then it was just like inbound leads, just flying in, flying in inbound leads. Cause cause like people started to understand that maybe creating a secure second copy was a good idea.
So I mean, great, great journey. Tons of fun. Some of the most fun that I’ve ever done.
Andrew: I see. So what I’m learning from you is it’s. It still takes a while for people to understand the problem when it’s a brand new problem. And frankly, when it comes to backups, they might need to have a problem of losing their data, really painful issue, or maybe read about it in the news before it becomes enough of, uh, before they have enough awareness to go and sign up and then.
Once you get to the point where they are aware customers come in, orders come in, it becomes easier, but then there’s another issue in your space or in Backupify space, which was Google was starting to do a lot of this. They were becoming more dependable. They were starting to take on a lot of that work.
Vishal: And another way to think about it is if you had a hundred conversations with CIO is like when the company got started. Maybe one out of every hundred would think that this is a problem. And then another year passes and maybe it’s 10 out of a hundred. And then another couple years passes, then it’s like 50 out of a hundred.
And then ultimately what it actually became is like, you know, maybe like 80% of people were like, I understand it. I know it. I’m looking for something. I know we have to solve this. It’s now a priority for me. So, I mean, that just takes time. It’s just an evolution. It takes time. What’s more people are willing to spend the dollars and know that they have this problem.
Right. It’s activation of the market
Andrew: I still, by the way, love Backupify. And one of the reasons why I love it is I just needed to move off of one domain to another domain and from Gmail folders to, to, uh, to, uh, I guess they’re, they’re not calling it, um, G suite anymore. What are they calling it now?
Vishal: w works workspace, I think.
Andrew: I guess, but I needed to just move it around and Google wasn’t making it easy.
So I just said, I’ll just go to back up a file. I’ll get it all down from there and I’ll move it where I want it to go. Um, you then said, okay, I see the problem because we worked on it at Backupify it’s time for me to solve it. You didn’t know the space enough. And so one of the first things you did was you brought in a co-founder and then the next thing was.
To start talking to general councils. Why’d you bring in a co-founder and what were you looking for in Chris?
Vishal: Yeah, Chris and I were both at Backupify and Chris had actually had the entrepreneurial spirit even before he joined back of a fine. And so he was always kind of thinking about, you know, maybe there’s another company, you know, I can start and we just kind of hit it off and became friends and, and I really appreciated his, his kind of entrepreneurial hustle.
I mean, the early days of starting a company or just. It’s so slow and iterative and tons of nos. And Chris are so well suited to be the frontline person in the company who wanted to devote the time to do the customer discovery. And, and we paid nicely, like given that like, I love building software and he loved the sales part of it.
And that discovery part of it. I mean, it was kind of like a natural fit. Two, two teams of two that started companies can down to each other out. And we did that for a while. We did it for like two and a half years, even before we had like our first employee and, uh,
Andrew: the product for that period. What was it? Tuesdays and Sundays, I think you told our producer
Vishal: when Wednesday nights and Sundays.
Andrew: Wednesdays and Sundays. What was special
Vishal: Uh, we, well, we were working full-time uh, so, so Wednesday night it was kind of like middle of the week, like. Yeah. Getting through, get through kind of the early part of the week. We used to meet over near MIT at a little at a coffee shop that no longer exist, but MIT’s guest wifi was the fastest around.
Cause like when you, when you don’t have an office, you realize you really fast. So thank you to the good folks at MIT and their wifi structure. Um, Sundays were a good day. Uh, you know, Sundays were a good day for us to. You know, convince our now wives, both of us that, uh, uh, we’re going to go do some work together and work on this idea.
And so that’s what we chose Wednesday nights and Sundays.
Andrew: just hang out and you would build, he would do what? He’s a technical person too, right?
Vishal: I know he was actually more on the sales and the account management side. So, um, when it was the decision, whether we were going to continue to pursue it, Chris actually jumped first to go full time. Because you couldn’t have the conversations with people outside of the work work at work week and the work day, right.
To talk to a general council and show them maybe like a clickable demo or a slide deck, you need to get into their Workday. And I could build a product at nights and weekends, and that was fine. And so that’s how kind of the two of us got, got it off the ground. It was an incredible, incredible journey.
Andrew: did you get into being an engineer because of Apollo 13, the movie.
Vishal: Yeah, my, my dad is a electrical engineering professor. And so I grew up with that. Uh, I always liked tinkering and building things and Legos and just assembling remotes and figuring out what’s inside them. Yeah. I watched Apollo 13, I think when I was 12. And when the scene where they’re like in space and the, and there’s an extra person and the CEO is being, uh, produced by the, by the astronauts and it’s going to eventually kill them.
And they build that filtration system with the air, with all the kinds of parts. I was like, man, that’s awesome. I want to do stuff like that. And it was like a natural fit. I mean, in that sense, I was lucky that I had a lot of exposure to it with my dad and. And, uh, I kind of had a natural inclination to be doing that.
Um, so it was a natural fit and then studied engineering, right?
Andrew: Is engineering like that now does it? I know there are a lot of people who went into law because they would watch some law movie and then they go into the law and they say, this is nothing like in the movies, I’m just sitting, doing paperwork.
Vishal: Yeah. I mean, I mean, every profession is sensationalized by TVs and movies. Um, surely. I don’t work in NASA or JPL or something like that to be in the frontline of building air. And I don’t work in air filtration. So, I mean, I think, I think engineering provided a great foundation for just like general problem solving.
Right? No, one’s no, one’s an expert when they get out of undergrad. Right. Um, it really, it really made me appreciate kind of that muscle of like solving problems, breaking down problems, kind of design thinking. Uh, and then, and then. Put me on a path where I went through a great undergrad. I went to Northeastern some of that.
So much of it is like practical learning through co-ops and kind of six month placements where. I worked at a defense contractor. We were in the middle of Arizona testing weapons in the desert, like dropping bombs and stuff. Like it was the wildest thing. I was like 20 years old. I was in Arizona doing field testing.
I mean, some of that kind of, it’s all about the practical and the academic. Right. And I think there’s, there’s a lot of cases to be made people who didn’t even go to undergrad and have built amazing careers. But the practical. Right. And I think it’s just the foundation for understanding, like problem solving and, and kind of solving problems.
Andrew: I should say this interview is sponsored by HostGator. If you need a web hosting company, I urge you to go to hostgator.com/mixergy. You’ll get an inexpensive price, dependable service. Why did you guys use HostGator? Do you remember?
Vishal: Yeah. And it was easy, easy to use. Um, easy to use, easy to set up for a hack like me that puts an HTML files up there. And instead of the DNS to point it to Linde squares.com. And, uh, I think someone that I knew kind of that was a web developer was like, Hey man, you should just use HostGator. He’s like, it’s 20 bucks a month.
Like it’s easy. I’m like, all right, let’s go.
Andrew: It’s even cheaper than that guys. Look, it doesn’t have to be brain surgery. This is not the best and most important decision that you’ve got to make in your business. But get it started by going to hostgator.com/mixergy they’ll slash that price, the lowest that they’ve got available. And they’ll give you hosting that works.
If you want to know how well it works, go to mixergy.com. Right now I host on host Gator and so many others do host gator.com/mixergy to get that low price. So what I was amazed by was you didn’t know the space well enough to go and start creating and solving the problems you started having customer conversations.
How’d you even get those customers? How did you even find people to talk to.
Vishal: We had no idea how, like, who manages contracts inside of a business. Like, we knew that in Backupify we had our CFO and a controller and it seems like they were the ones, but what we didn’t have was a general council. Like we didn’t have a general counsel in-house so like I missed that whole part of the learning.
Oh, like what a general council does conversations happen with some CFOs people we knew, they kind of pushed us to like more mature companies, like bigger companies. They have an in-house dedicated lawyer whose job is to manage the legal function of an entire company. And it was like, it’s the general counsel, but Oh no, we don’t know any of them.
We don’t know, a single general counsel. Um, we, we had an assumption that companies that looked and felt like backup. If I select tech companies, venture backed, it’d be great fits. Uh, we bought some, some leads, uh, email leads, and we wrote a Ford email drip sequence and, uh, and used a tout app, which was acquired by Marketo tout app.
Vishal: And just started emailing general councils with like, Hey, I’m Michelle. Uh, I worked at a tech company. We didn’t know what was in our contracts. Is this sound like you, do you want to talk? And I remember the first week we hit send on, like, I don’t know, maybe 200, like this is outbound prospecting. Right.
That’s the official thing. But, um, when we hit then on the first drip we got like, And, or 15 replies to the first email. I don’t remember like high five in Chris. I’m like, we made it bro. You know? And then how long of a journey it’s been hundreds of millions of emails I think sent after that. But, um, that’s how we got started.
Andrew: you were trying to do is say, can I talk to you? I’m not even selling.
Vishal: we don’t really have anything to sell them. We’re just trying to like, Hey, do you have this problem? And then people get on the phone and be like, Hey, what’s going on? And we’re like, Listen, we’re we’re, we’re working on this company. Like we wanted to ask you some questions, are you down for it? And they were like, yeah, absolutely.
Andrew: Hm. So it was, what’s the problem that got them to respond to your email.
Vishal: It was some of the emails that we wrote around, like you just raised the money. So like, did you have to do like the party of financing, read all your contracts and you have to do that. That’s called a disclosure schedule. You disclose this. When you’re raising cash at investors, you have to essentially show like, No top 200 contracts, the ones that are materially different.
And some of them are like, Oh my God, we just came off our series C fundraisers. That’s already $80 million. And it was such a headache because we didn’t know what was inside any of these. And it was like, okay, yeah, this is starting to build momentum. And then we built a clickable prototype. So we can be like, you know, here’s a, let me show you a demo.
The product like this kind of completely fake, it was just a clickable prototype and like, Push the quick on the spot. And I’m like, ah, no, you don’t want to see that. There’s nothing there it’s the next demo. But we were able to get a lot of like iterative feedback.
Andrew: It’s like a
Vishal: I’m like, where.
Andrew: what did they, so what did they tell? What, what did they tell you in the first calls before you build things up that you didn’t know?
Vishal: Well, we were trying to understand like, like, do you have this pain? How do you describe it? How do you solve it today? What is the headache around solving it? And a lot of people were like, It’s really painful manual review. Like we’ve got to drop 500 files down and I click and open them all individually.
And it was like, Whoa, my, my confirmation is true. And, and you can’t stop at just one. Like we targeted, like, can we have a hundred conversations with companies that we are essentially willing to burn? Like, like some of great companies that we talked to, like unicorn startups. That responded to the first email.
I add like joke with Chris now about it and my head of sales. Like what would I do to have this unicorn, you know, back on the phone now with all the great stuff that we have to offer them, but you have to be willing to make those bets. You have to be willing to say, I’m going to burn a hundred companies just to learn,
Vishal: because if you believe
Andrew: what do you mean by burn
Vishal: like, like it’s not going to convert to any money, you’re doing it for a specific reason to learn it.
Andrew: you can come back to them later on as easily is what you mean.
Vishal: I mean, you can, but you have to be prepared to like use them for the purpose of knowledge and not use them for the purpose of revenue. Right. And, and like, if, if our like market sweet spot is like call it 700,000 companies in the United States that fit the profile of being a lens course, customer a hundred at a 700,000 is like, fine.
But you’re not going to be able to get the rest of the 699 and the odd thousand until you know, what the software is that needs to do and what pain point and how to message it and how to talk about it. So that’s what we did. We were going to be really
Andrew: everything up that you’re learning the language that they use to describe it. And then you create that first mock-up, that’s almost like that first version of the iPhone where Steve jobs had a clear path that he was allowed to tap on the screen. Right. Because if he touched anything else, the whole thing would break.
What, what did yours do? What was it that the first set of features that you showed off did.
Vishal: A really basic kind of repository of some reporting capability. This was like pre AI. So like full text searching and just messaging around, like, why don’t we give you a single source of truth? Why don’t we digitize scan PDFs to make them searchable and give you the ability to run like text queries.
Like two word payors sentences phrases. Um, that was kind of like the minimum product experience that we started with all around the,
Andrew: Sorry, go ahead.
Vishal: I was gonna say is all around the pain of manual review. Like how can I give you a tool Google, like for your, for your contracts, like a Google engine search for your contracts.
That’s how we got started.
Andrew: That’s what I got from your conversation with Ari, our producer, that. It wasn’t brain surgery yet. Now it’s just, when I go to your site and I see what you’re offering, it’s just worlds apart from the beginning. But it’s interesting how much the beginning does make sense on its own. You’re saying a single place where all the contracts go then.
A way to even take the non digital contracts, that paper ones, right. You’re basically creating a scanner and OCR on it, which you’re not inventing that’s existed and putting them again into that repository. And now an easy way to go through them, including find, uh, um, with, uh, different search, uh, abilities in there, right? Like put quotes around phrases that really matter to make sure that all the words are put together in the search results. That’s what we’re talking about. That’s that’s it.
Vishal: that was it. And then what happened was people were like, I like the full text search, but why can’t you just tell me what the effective date is? Why can’t you just tell me if this contract has automatic renewal, why can’t you just pull out the limitation of liability paragraph and just show it to me rather than me having to search for it.
And then it was like, you know, light bulb went off. That was like, this is an AI journey. This is like an algorithm that can read a contract. And this is language processing, natural language processing. That’s the sub category of AI that we work in. And then we had to go and do this whole AI journey from scratch, which is like me reading about like, how do you build NLP systems?
Like, Oh, okay, well, you know, you gotta have the algorithm framework and you have the data processing pipeline, you got labeled data and it’s like, that’s the entrepreneurial journey we’ve been on. It’s just like, Discovery work discovery work, fix problems, solve things overcome.
Andrew: In the beginning, I said, is it real artificial intelligence or not is because at some point AI became a magical, like keyword for companies to use. Even if their clients don’t know what AI is, they’ll call themselves something data and do have artificial intelligence. I think don’t, don’t you even have it to the point where you help them write contracts.
Am I right about that?
Vishal: Yeah. So our artificial intelligence and our analyze product, which is our post-secondary product, um, it can read a contract and extract 60 over 60 pieces of metadata in five minutes.
Andrew: And what do you mean by metadata? What do you look? I saw this on your site, but help me understand it better.
Vishal: Yeah. So a piece of metadata is like the effective date, who are the parties? Um, what is the assignment clause? If you’re in a change of control situation, um, how many days do people have payment terms and the way that it’s listed, right? Then we create structured data. So we post-process the extraction into like a structured data.
So then you can write a rapport, you can run a rapport on a structured data. It’s like, show me all contracts where automatic renewal equals true boom here’s PayPal. Right? And so that’s the AI. A joke about Bai with people. And I say these millions and millions of dollars and years of our lives that we’ve dedicated to this and all the PhDs and data scientists that we have working with us.
Ultimately it translates down into a 30 by 30 pixel. That’s a green light bulb that says we’re high confidence in this value. And here’s the answer, that’s it. It’s a 35 30 pixel.
Andrew: you, how did you get to that point in the beginning? Let me see. When you guys, you guys launched when it was 2015, about five years ago. Artificial intelligence has come a long way, right? In the beginning. How did you, how were you doing this? Were you using someone else’s software, someone else’s services to do this?
Vishal: Now we we’ve, we’ve always prided ourselves on creating our own solution and breathing our own data processing pipeline, the actually process. And then the process in which the algorithms are built and trained. Right. And so, uh, we actually started with two outcomes, uh, the effective date and automatic renewal equals.
Yes. And then starting with like, labeling, like going on a very long and this. None of this stuff is fast. None of this stuff is fast or fun, but like I used to spend my nights like labeling the effective date in contracts so that we could train a machine. No, that was the first two that we built. And then we prototype some infrastructure how to process it.
And we learned a lot about the processing infrastructure. Like. If we were going to do a hundred terms, like I would the cost scale. And luckily I was, I was really fortunate to bring on like a really great CTO who is like a cloud infrastructure expert. And, and we ultimately figured out like the most cost effective way to do it.
Um, and, and that it didn’t, that really didn’t happen until we were raising our seed round. Yeah, 2018. When we raised our first kind of institutional capital and we could get more data scientists and more infrastructure engineers in the company to really kind of productionize it to what it is today. But it started off as like prototypes validation that it could work.
Andrew: I was looking at your seed round. Why was mass mutual in your seed round?
Vishal: Yeah. Mass mutual, uh, really kind of. Older, maybe one of the first insurance companies in the world, they have a great VC arm. That’s that’s into FinTech and into, into a reg attack. And, and, uh, I had, uh, had a chance to meeting with them here locally in Boston and, and. The joint hyperplane, which is like an AI fund.
They were like, kind of like a perfect addition. And so they kind of, they co-lead our seed round. Uh, but yeah, I mean, we, we loved the big priority for me with our seed round was like raising this money at home, like, does this community is really everything, right? Yeah. Like raising it at home, having that support of our community, having supportive like great angel investors who, you know, multiple times founders and exits that that was really.
Andrew: Um, so I was looking on Crunchbase. They don’t show your angel investors. I probably should have gone to angel list, but who are they?
Vishal: Uh, Rob may founder of Backupify, uh, Dave, Balter kind of multiple serial entrepreneurial here in the Boston area. Uh, Jerry Doyle worked at, uh, SIG Sigma prime. He was there for a while. Uh, Phil Beauregard, uh, another kind of serial entrepreneur here. I mean, those are some of the.
Andrew: for getting, for getting, uh, for raising money? This was your first time, but you’ve seen the process a little bit, right? Didn’t you. With Backupify.
Vishal: Yeah, a little bit. I mean, supporting some of the fundraising stuff. I mean, I think it’s a sales job. You got to appreciate that. You got to treat it like a sales job. Like you’ve got people in different stages. You got to get top of funnel, move in. You got to get people who, I mean, taking, for example, taking money from someone like.
Gay Baltar and getting them excited about the business ultimately led to like, you know, more checks coming in, people like, Oh, Dave’s in on this. Okay, great. Yeah. I mean, too. So it’s a sales gig. I mean, you got to run a process, it’s a sales gig. Uh, you actually use HubSpot CRM every time I fundraise. Cause it’s like a very much like a deal flow.
Like certain people are in certain stages and trying to move them through and top of funnel.
Andrew: with different columns for each part of the process,
Vishal: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I think about it that way, but yeah, I mean being a first timer, nothing’s easy about it. Nothing’s easy.
Andrew: why didn’t you go to LA firms? Law firms have lots of clients. This issue would be a problem across the board for them.
Vishal: Oh, believe me. We’ve tried. Uh, we we’ve tried and I think there’s still, um, innovation to be, uh, Gained inside of law firms as to how they think of software, how they think of efficiency and how they think of kind of the satisfaction of their customers either. I think some of the way they make money.
Right. But some of the revenue model. On an hourly kind of costs and an hourly basis is kind of working against my story of being more efficient. But I mean, we’ve had some great, like referrals come from law firms who are kind of more tech enabled and they kind of see the future of like where in-house teams are moving to and the kind of pains that they have.
And we’re trying to be like a value added provider. So we’ve had some great relationships in law firms that are like, I don’t want to cut a deal. I don’t want a referral fee. I just want to make my customers happy. I’m happy to have you kind of chat with them. Here’s a couple that we thought, you know, could you use your product?
And we, we seek a better future where we can continue to, to help them have great relationships with our customers.
Andrew: all right. What about this? You’re starting out. The thing has got some bugs in it for some. Some software, we could deal with bugs. You’re talking about HubSpot early days of HubSpot. Didn’t have to be perfect. We’re talking about marketing inbound marketing was brand new marketing in general is more forgiving of mistakes, but when it comes to the law, right?
If we’re talking about making sure that we understand our contracts with our, with our clients, there’s very little room for error. How do you deal with that? I imagine you limited scope. You tell me.
Vishal: Yeah. Yeah. It’s like a lot of people who are way smarter than me, especially like the PhD level to actually understand that. I mean, this is the probability, right? It’s not an absolute, it’s a probability that this is the effective date of that contract and we can find it. And so. We, we focus a lot on the intersection between AI and how we can provide transparency and build trust.
Right. That was one of the things that we talked about even back 2016, 2017, when we started the AI journey, which was really. Around the intersection between when does a human know that a machine made a determination, do they agree with the determination? Do they understand why that determination was made?
And if they don’t, can they provide us input that would ultimately change the way that the machine works. Right. And so it’s, it’s one of these, it’s one of these topics where we’re always trying to build trust. We’re always trying to build. Uh, confidence that people can depend on us. And, uh, really when, when you build, when you develop it, it’s different than when it’s in the wild, like in production, because it’s really hard to validate data.
Like that’s being processed in generated every single minute of every single day. And so how do we create confidence there? Um, and it’s been a big topic for us.
Andrew: So, what you’re saying is he said, we’re not going to give you. It’s not about a hundred percent accuracy. It’s about probability. We’re going to do our best. We’re going to give you better than what you have right now. Right now you have chaos or lack of structure. We’re going to give you structure right now.
Your search is limited. We’re going to give you more powerful search. We’ll start there and then we’ll add, am I right?
Vishal: Yeah. I mean, it’s the same discussion about whether. Whether AI and robots, quote unquote, are going to take away jobs. Right? Our job is to supplement the humans, make them more efficient, get them access to information. That’s hard to gather, um, with the best degree of accuracy that we can.
Andrew: What about this a year before you launched? I interviewed what’s his name? Bryce. I’m the founder of TaskUs, Bryce Maddock. And I was joking because a lot of what was considered artificial intelligence back there back then was just his company with real people processing. So you’d pretend, or companies would pretend that their software could digest the contents of a receipt, but it was really his people in the background CA uh, typing it into a form.
Why didn’t you do that? Why didn’t you have real people? We’re talking about contracts that are worth a lot of money. Why’d you decide not to go to that.
Vishal: The SAS company and you begin to figure out kind of the second order, third order metrics of a company that’s not just recurring revenue. You start getting into things like gross margin. Um, you started getting into like Pasa good soul and actually becomes really hard to scale. And so when, when we were starting this journey, I mean, we, we needed it to be technology and we were willing to wait because it’s really like a frontier product.
Right. We’re not a rip and replace when we show up at a company and talk to them on the phone, where are you storing your contracts? A lot of the time. It’s like we’re showing it on the on-prem shared network drive. Yes. Stride the T drive, right? It’s a mounted network drive. Right. And so we knew that we are not in competition with anyone, but ourselves.
And so let’s go slower. Let’s get it right. So that we don’t have a big gross margin problem. And we don’t have a big pasta, good souls in place. Um, when, when you start to do that, some of those things get really hard to unwind. It gets really hard to unwind, like when you’re growing like hundreds of customers a year, right.
Or like 50 customers a month, some of those kinds of processes get very hard to scale when it’s like, it’s the other type of AI. It’s like actually individuals instead of artificial intelligence and, and it you’ll pay the price for it. You know, you’ll pay the price for it. And you have, the other type of AI is much more scalable.
Right? You use it. You know, background workers in CPU’s and in cloud infrastructure where you can just spin up more of it. The actual individual’s approach to AI eventually gets so complicated to unbundle and scale.
Andrew: But you did have what you were talking about earlier that you did yourself, which was you tagging data at the beginning to
Vishal: Well, that’s a, that’s like, um, labeling, like labeling data. Yeah. Data labeling that’s different than saying I’m extracting the effective date and calling it AI.
Andrew: Right, right. Okay. First customer came from where it was a CEO that you knew.
Vishal: Yeah, C space in Boston. Um, Diane Hessan who who’s the CEO there. I had interaction with her when I did this kind of developmental school that used to be called the Boston startup school. And it was actually hosted in the community space offices. And I remember when we got the company started, uh, I remember walking through the communal space lobby and just seeing every name, brand company in the world was a customer.
And so I remember emailing Diane who had actually started as the CEO of that startup school. And so I was like, Danielle, Hey, sorry, Diana. Hey, I’m an alum. And. I’m interested in talking with C space because my new company, I think they could be a great fit for it. She said, great. Introducing the CFO, we walked in there and the CFO was like, how did you read my brain?
We just went through a massive exercise where we had to read all of our contracts because it’s some something.
Andrew: Oh, there we go. It’s back. He said, how did we just went through a what? That, that, that led to that problem.
Vishal: No, we just went through a big contract review. So, so we had to do a big contract review. There was some sort of triggering moment inside the company. Uh, and I looked at Chris and I was like, Oh my God, everything is like true. And ultimately he was like, so how much does this thing costs? We were like it’s a thousand dollars a month.
That was the answer. It was a thousand dollars a month. I remember that.
Andrew: Just made it up.
Vishal: it up literally on the spot. What are all the conferences in the world? It’s a thousand dollars a month, $12,000 to get started. We got a little onboarding fee. We can, we can wipe that for you didn’t even have an order for nothing.
Andrew: And it’s because you were already part of the school part of the community. And that’s what I’m noticing about Boston. That Boston used to be the hub of startups. Am I right? I think Y Combinator started there and then it felt like Y Combinator needed to move to San Francisco or the Bay area I should say.
Right. And others did, I’m looking at your faces. I’m saying this, I don’t mean to be putting down. I know that that Boston never lost it. Right. But. It felt almost like it had a chip on its shoulder. And with people like Dharmesh Shaw, the Wistia team and others, they created their own little, almost community from scratch.
Am I right? And there was this let’s help each other out atmosphere.
Vishal: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, growing this company and building it in the Boston area has been one of the most rewarding and kind of joyful things I have as CEO. And we’re really proud that we’re a Boston company because of that great community outreach and community support and great angel investors who have done the journey and great mentors that you can find.
And by the way, in downtown Boston, you can throw. But it stone and hit like 500 awesome tech companies like Datadog and Wayfair and carbon black and session and data zoo. And there’s just so much great community here. Um, I lens everything with like the B2B side, which I’ve always found to be like incredibly amazing.
Then it’s pillared by like company like Wayfair. How many like HubSpot and all the people who have gone through there learned from the masters, then spread out into all their companies. And it’s just an incredible network effects, right? It’s the incredible network effect that gets created. And with the academia, right?
Hundreds of the greatest universities are here. Right? All kind of concentrated in a five square mile radius. The talent pool is unreal.
Andrew: Yeah. Sometimes it feels like a distraction to get together with other people in a tech community. Sometimes it feels like it’s more partying or more talking and less work, but with the right people, it pays off. I see it in my interviews. I see it in my own life. Don’t you? I mean, you’re, you’re obviously an example of it.
Vishal: Yeah. Yeah.
Andrew: that’s how you got your first customer, the next batch of customers. From what I understand from your conversation with our producer, you just started cold calling, cold emailing and unlike other departments in a, in a company, the legal department doesn’t get a lot of cold emails.
Doesn’t get no.
Vishal: No. Yeah. I, before I started, before I went full time, I had a, I had a stint in operations at a company inside square and the.
Andrew: Weren’t you?
Vishal: I was in sales ops, right? So is there an operation
Andrew: What does that mean? By the way?
Vishal: well, it’s, it’s just assisting the revenue team to be more efficient and use technology data tracking. You basically become like the right hand of the VP of sales.
And so it was really interesting. I used to sit next to the VP of sales, Steve and Steve would show me his inbox. He’s like, this is my inbox today. Pull the emails, this widget, that widget, this tool, this gadget. And I, and I was like, wow, it’s incredibly hard to get your attention. He’s like, yeah, all of these get deleted.
Like, I don’t care. Like all of these get deleted. And so when we were like, wow, maybe an outbound strategy could work because I mean, who’s emailing the general counsel, maybe law firms trying to be their outside counsel. And obviously they’re getting emails. All the terrible ones are like issues in the company, but it works.
It worked and we just stayed at it, you know, went from one without we get one, all we could get two, we got two. And by the end of the year one, we had like five.
Andrew: what some of the tools that you use as somebody who is actually in sales ops, what, what software did you use to help you close more sales in that middle stage of your development?
Vishal: Uh, you know, I mean, a lot of salesforce.com knowledge kind of when the company is bigger and you have the reporting and, and, uh, you know, InsightSquared is definitely really helpful. It helps us track things like pipeline and the flow in and out. And I still do a lot of work. You know, in Google sheets.
And I have just like having the Excel skill SQL, like things like that. I mean, we, we, we were, we were well versed to kind of do this approach. Cause I had worked in like two companies where like, this is a big part of it. And so I had a good kind of acumen to it, which is a good skillset to have in a founder.
Andrew: You mean, uh, enterprise sales. That’s what you were doing before.
Vishal: Yeah. Just like not sitting back and expecting people to like come to your website and think this is the greatest thing ever, but saying to yourself, like, no, one’s going to give us anything. We’ve got to go generate our own demand. You know, email is a cheap method to go out and find pipeline and generate and build pipeline.
Andrew: So then that was, that was the, I call it the middle stage. I don’t know if it’s exactly perfectly in the metal, but that was your next stage. After that you started getting more inbound. What did you do to get anyone to even think, to think of you, to think of the problem, to look for you?
Vishal: Yeah, investing in content marketing, which is something that pays off like years and years, and years and years in the future. It’s something you have to invest into. Uh, and then kind of seeing referrals come in, like, you know, they weren’t, some person was a general counsel at one company, then they left and then someone on their team went to another company and they were like, Oh, I really enjoy using Lynn’s quarters.
And that kind of creates a network effect. Even people who are all time record now, his third job as general counsel bottling scores, three times, like totally while like totally like beyond our imagination, what could exist. And it’s funny, every company.
Andrew: for me. I looked it up. There are competitors. Now I put a screenshot of some of the competitors that I’ve got. Um, How are, what are you doing to have that? Not say it’s a fresh start new company. Let’s look for brand new software. Let’s go with someone else. What do you do to stay in touch with your customers after they leave?
What do you do to stay on top of what they need as you keep developing the way that you did in the beginning?
Vishal: Yeah, the simple stuff. I mean, three really temple. Uh, people want to work with folks. They know like, and trust. It’s pretty easy. Um, they know you on a personal level, they know you on a business level. They like you, you know, you do what you say. You say what you do, you you’ve provided them the, the product that you sold.
Uh, and then ultimately they trust you. But they trust you with their contracts. They trust that when they show up at a new company, they have a new CEO to impress a new CFO, to get budget from the, that we won’t let them down. I mean, that, that is the key to it, right? I mean, we’re talking, the customer is everything.
The customer is everything for us truly.
Andrew: What do you, what do you do? Do you still get on calls with them to see what the next problem is? Do you have a more automated way of knowing it?
Vishal: Oh, yeah. So luckily now we’re at the size where I have a brilliant success team and brilliant success leadership. Um, we actually do do kind of two things. We do a quantitative and qualitative. So on the quantitative side, it’s like, Understanding, you said you like, you know, have you logged in, have you added files?
Have you gone and checked out this feature? Have you gotten benefit of this? Are you opening up kind of automated emails that come out of the app? Like we know how you’re using it, and then it’s kind of a qualitative, like QBR has check-ins quarterly reviews, exec meetings, kind of talking to you, new products and features, engage with them on webinars.
But yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s kind of care and feeding of the customer base and all things they need.
Andrew: I feel like we learned in school. Um, marketing was one of the classes in the, uh, one of the business classes that I got to take as an undergrad at NYU. I wish that they would have talked a little bit about sales and not just marketing. And an enterprise sales specifically because the beauty of enterprise sales is that you do get to build a relationship with your customer.
They do pay high, so that it’s worth the investment in time. And that most people who are building software, I don’t feel like they have that skill. We’re still thinking of how do I put a website between me and my customer, let them buy from the site. Who’s a good person to learn that from, is it Aaron Ross?
Vishal: Yeah, I think, I think Jason Lumpkin has so much great, great topic on this. The founder has sat there and he’s actually on clubhouse. Like every day, just drop in SAS knowledge. Like I’ve been, I’ve been stalking him around clubhouse, just listening to him, like talk to people and provide tidbits and insights.
It’s like my view, a new addiction is getting on clubhouse and burning an hour, listening to Jason. But, um, you know, some of the criminal thoughts around like, you know, when does it make sense to have a human involved in the sales process? Right? I mean, that. $10 a month of a product. You probably don’t need a human right Spotify.
You don’t need a human, you just sign up self service, sign up, start using it. You got access to every album in the world forever. Um, but like at a thousand dollars a month at $2,000 a month at $10,000 a month, certainly at twenty-five thousand dollars a month, there’s a kind of an interaction with a human, right.
And so there’s a, there’s probably like a line I would say. Yeah. You know, above, above $6,000, you’re spending, it’s hard to do it. Self-service, you know, it’s are,
Andrew: a month per user? I think I saw it was on Capterra.
Vishal: uh, yeah. CA Tara may not have it all. Uh, yeah. I mean, you could, you could take a bite of when squares and all different ranges all the way up to, you know, $500,000 and all the way down to the tens of thousands of dollars. So.
Andrew: All right. And so the future is for you. Oh, by the way, you have great ratings on Capterra. I want to take a look. Um, the future is for link squares. I imagine actually you tell me what’s. If we look out into the, into the future that you’re building, what do you see? What can you do for your customers?
Vishal: Yeah. So we do, we do 60 terms out of the box today, algorithmically 60 pieces of data. You know, that’ll be in the hundreds before long, you know, probably what, well over a hundred this year, continue to add that value. Um, we have a pretty signature product finalized now. And so finalize is like flying off the shelf.
Uh, kind of a lightweight, pre signature option for like contract assembly, drafting and versioning and approvals. And we’re seeing a lot of lift
Andrew: want to start create pre signature, meaning I need to start, uh, I need to create a new contract instead of going to a template that we always use. How about we have something that’s a little bit more built for us based on what we, what we need.
Vishal: Yeah. Some of that. And then yeah, some of the basic functions, it’s just like, you know, rinse and repeat mutual NDA. You’re using the same NDA over and over again. Where do you go and find that kind of approved template. Right. And. You know, we’re stretching links. Scores is like far more into like the sales teams and, um, there’s some big kind of announcements coming this quarter about kind of our, our commitment to that.
So I’m really excited about that. Uh, you know, adding in, adding in will be added in of this quarter, which is like really advanced dashboarding that, that really provides that kind of holistic view of your contract data. And so, uh, I mean the future is bright. I mean, luckily. Okay. With a cloud based product, we’re getting a lot of, uh, proportion tailwind from people who are like now they have to be a cloud user, you know, before you could maybe hold out if on-prem was still an option, not an option anymore.
So I mean,
Andrew: seeing is something like this. Tell me if I’m right on this. When I’m at math, when I’m, when I took a look at link squares, here’s what I see. I imagine right at the very beginning. Salesperson closes a sale needs a contract can go and get a contract. And almost you take over the brain dead.
Part of the, of the, of the lawyers work, right? The part where they’re just reassembling, where they’re not, where they’re not thinking creatively to solve a problem. You guys take that over contract sign. It goes in the same place. Then there’s a dashboard. That allows management to know how many contracts did we signed basic stuff, but more like, um, how many of them are recurring?
I guess you do that right now. If there’s ever an issue with like, maybe there’s a problem with North Carolina law for something, and the client needs to know how many of our agreements relate to North Carolina law, where there’s this issue. Right. You know, that.
Vishal: Yep. Absolutely. And then, um, I tell people that we’re like, You know, probably halfway through a data journey. Well, the first step was like build a really amazing extraction capability to get the data in a raw form. Then it’s like, how can you dashboard it and provide summaries and insights? What comes next is like, Benchmarks like the thing that really kind of piqued my interest about all this data, this hundreds of millions of points of data we’re sitting on is like, we actually know what language is in Vogue and who is signing, what in their agreements.
Right? Like if I could tell you that. Um, you are way below your peers on a certain provision, like, um, termination for convenience. Like, why are you signing up for this? When actually the benchmarks of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of customers anonymously, the benchmark is like X and you are way below way above that.
Right? That, that sort of insight, no one has any lawyers often talk about like, what is market. But this is market and that is a market. And I think you should accept this term. I think you should give me a termination for convenience because that’s market and Ashley, because we generate hundreds of millions of points of data.
I actually know that’s not market. And that tool is so that’s what gets me excited about all this data we’re sitting on in the journey. We’re going to say, I can give you the ultimate paralegal that actually knows everything that is market in the world. That’s going into legal language to make you smarter, to help you make better decisions.
Andrew: Right. So your clients then have the knowledge of all these agreements that have been signed by companies like theirs and what is, what is acceptable, what they could push, where they stand. That’s fricking exciting, man. I love that you called it link squares. I find that sometimes when people have big visions for their companies, it doesn’t, it doesn’t translate to the name.
The name is too narrow. This gives you. It’s almost like the Lego blocks. I picture you as a kid where you got excited about Lego. We’re going to build this. We’re going to build that. You’ve got the data now in blocks. What you could build now just is wide open.
Vishal: Yeah, it’s legal tech is so hot right now. And I think it’s the last department inside of a company. That is awaiting their revolution to technology. I think finance was the last one that did it with all the great subscription management companies. And ERP is this is it. This is the last frontier left.
Right. And it’s our job to elevate the status in the C suite of the legal of the general counsel of the chief legal officer, so that they can be parody with their, their peers and marketing and sales and engineering, where they have all these dashboards and insights and this widget and that report and that gadget like we’re our job is to make them, you know, James Bond, where the queue,
Andrew: All right. The website is it’s just link squares.com. Right.
Vishal: you got
Andrew: Straight up simple. And I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen. The first go hosts your website with HostGator. They’ll do WordPress. They’ll do it. Any number of different platforms, go to hostgator.com/mixergy. They’ll give you a great price.
And again, if you like the way that I lead conversations, if you want to get a sense, is that how I do it? The people over to Unbounced basically paid me to write out some ideas and I’d love your feedback on it. Go to unbounce.com/mixergy to get that. Sean. Thanks so much. And man, this is so fricking impressive.
Aren’t you excited by this? How many people come up with great ideas, but they’re just great to them. This makes sense for clients. This is, this is truly exciting. Don’t you think
Vishal: Uh, I definitely do. And, and, you know, thank you for your time today and taking the time with me and yeah, every, every single company in the world can use this product. That’s what fires me up and,
Andrew: well, you’re thinking that at some point in the future, I won’t have to go into my Google drive or can I now is this, is this. I’ll tell you how many contracts I’m signing a year. We’re doing, I’d say maybe 20 contracts a year. I feel like it might be overkill for us. What do you think?
Vishal: I think you and I should talk.
Andrew: So you think even for a company, my size.
Vishal: absolutely. I mean, I mean, we, we have customers that are like sub 500 contracts under management. And they’re investing in the future where they’re going to have a lot more. So yeah, we should definitely talk.
Andrew: All right. Thank you so much.