Starting small on a BIG vision

Today’s guest is someone who has this big vision of changing the world. But he realized something. If you want to change the world, if you want to really have big impact, you have to start small.

Ashray Malhotra is the founder of Rephrase.ai, which uses Generative AI to address millions of customers personally, through videos.

We’ll find out about his big vision in this interview.

 

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Ashray Malhotra

Ashray Malhotra

Rephrase.ai

Ashray Malhotra is the founder of Rephrase.ai, which uses Generative AI to address millions of customers personally, through videos.

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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, the entrepreneurs who I interview, just like today’s guests have this big vision of changing the world. But today’s guests realize, you know what, if you want to change the world, if you want to really have big impact, he’s smiling.

As I say, this, the name, the recognition in your face, dude, your vision is so big. Your ability is so big. I understand why you’re so busting out to do big things. ASHRAE had this big vision, a couple of them, one of them. I remember reading years ago, he said it’s kind of a pain to listen to music at different shows.

And I think you even tell me if I’m wrong. Didn’t you find that there was. A riot at some concert because people couldn’t hear properly, but they were supposed to listen.

Ashray: mother in the middle of her concert, a lot of people, the, on the phones. Um, because I mean, just the concert wasn’t as engaging. And if you go back and think about sound tech more fundamentally, uh, in home data systems, it sounded, they had evolved from mono speakers on a television, 15 years back video to 5.1 and you know, like fancy.

11.2 and Patsy theater setups that people have, but in a concert you still were just two sound sources, pumping sound. So the idea was what if you just connect everybody’s cell phone since everybody has them and, uh, it should be a better, better, better experience for everyone. So that, that, that was just a small spark that started when I was attending a concert.

Yes.

Andrew: Bottom line. You ended up with this idea that everyone on the wrist would have a speaker so that they were all contributing to the music, the experience, which is big. We’ll talk about what happened there. Am I right? Am right. Okay. Didn’t work out. Learned a lot. Comes out with this new idea. He says, you know what?

I think we could do Hollywood without the actors, essentially. Right? Where. But anyway, he had this big vision of how he could change the way that video is created. And this time he said, you know, I’m going to start smaller. So do you know how salespeople are willing to spend money? Because they could make money?

You know, how they’re willing to experiment, you know, how we can actually offer them something that separates them from all the other salespeople. So I’m gonna start with salespeople and what he created is a company called rephrase. Rephrase AI, excuse me, with rephrase AI. If you’re trying to reach your customers via email and you don’t just want to and text, you could send them an individualized customized video created by this artificial actor where you write the text and wherever you want the person’s name to be.

You just say insert name. You could, you could even do more than that. And every single recipient will, will get a video that’s addressed to them with an actor speaking. Your material, what you’ve written with their name in it. And it separates sales people from all the other messages that are going out in the world.

And as a result, you can show them real sales increases. He can actually charge because he’s helping them make money. And by doing that, he can get closer to his vision of. Well, we’ll talk about what the bigger vision is, but the big idea here is big vision. Practical first steps I invited ASHRAE hotter.

Am I pronouncing your last name, right? can you say it? How do you say your last name? talk about how he did this. Uh, what happened with the first company, why he closed up, how we felt after closing up and how we discover this, we can do it. Thanks to two phenomenal sponsors. The first, if you’re hosting a website, go to hostgator.com/mixergy. They’ll give you a great price to take good care of you.

And the second one, you’re ready to hire developers, especially if you’re, if you’re. Getting attracted to some of the ideas here and you want to build them into your own software, go to host, uh, go to top towel.com/mixergy. ASHRAE take me back to the day that you knew that sound Rex was not going to work out.

This previous company that we talked about with, uh, music on everyone’s wrist.

Ashray: It was a slow transition. Um, we found this initially a hardware company didn’t work out. We pivoted to doing, to trying to license out a specific software stack that we’d built for high-fidelity wireless networks. we tried that for some time found great successes that are the largest, uh, pro audio manufacturers.

But. I realized that that was just one single company and we couldn’t get market traction beyond that. So realize we couldn’t build a large company with just one customer. I mean, that, that just didn’t make sense. And, and the priority of market is very, uh, there’s two large companies in that market, primarily, which have a major, uh, tax in there.

So. It was a slow realization. Also, it takes you time to realize what you’re not good at. Um, in our case, we realized that hardware just wasn’t playing to our strengths. Um, it was more of  and more of software, which we were really good at. And hence over time, that realization stuck and we decided to, well, if the defense.

Andrew: I remember I closed down the first version of mixer G, which was event invitations. And there was a part of me that felt like a failure. And there was a part of me that couldn’t let it go. Even though I knew it needed to close, because I didn’t want to get to that place where I eventually felt like a failure.

Did you feel any of that ashtray?

Ashray: Fortunately for us, there was a small, there was a pretty smooth transition to replace. So while by closing down soundtracks, you’re pretty excited about the early phase. And, you know, we had learned tons and tons of lessons of things that we’d done wrong in sound race. And we were very excited to do things right this time since starting with market research, talking to customers and not starting product first.

it was of course hard to let it go because, you know, I think till date, I meet a lot of people who are, who are very excited about soundtracks are disappointed in why it did not work. that definitely includes us because it late, I believe in the vision, I am sure that someone’s will do it.

If not today, five years down the line, 10 years down the line. So it’ll happen. It’s a pretty obvious thing.

Andrew: The obvious thing is you said people go to shows. They’re not listening to the music. They’re looking at their phones, they’re not paying attention. And so you saw that and your first idea was what let’s go back and understand this, this previous business before we get to what you’re doing today.

Ashray: so the concept is very simple. Overtime, as I mentioned in consumer audio, um, in your homes, you have started to have more and more speakers and speakers in your home theater setups. And there’s a very simple reason for that. If you can properly align your speakers, the experience is extremely immersive.

Uh, and whenever you think about what’s your best musical experience, it is very often concerts. But concerts as of today, do not provide you from a very technical perspective, the best sound experience. And the reason for that is if just one or two sounds just because of the front, it is pumping sound at you.

And the idea was. Uh, you’ll you sometimes have that Eureka moment in a concert. When the, the artist on stage asked you to sing this, ask the audience, to sing the song. And it’s a very different experience than the speakers that the sound is coming from the speakers. What does the entire concert could be?

Something like that where, you know, it’s sound coming from all around you and you’re feeling like you’re in the middle of. A very immersive social sound experience. And that’s something that we could only experience at a concert and no notice, because you will not have to tell people somewhere else. So that’s that, that, that was a good idea.

That was a core fundamental layer things on top of that. Verdino because you would have controller so many sound points you could now create new. Kind of sound effects, especially in things like EDM, et cetera, which is just impossible earlier. For example, imagine moving like one soundtrack and circles around people and the other one just goes left and right in a, in a, in a wave.

So, uh, that will open a new canvas of creativity for artists to create art experiences. So that assumptions.

Andrew: What point did you raise money for it?

Ashray: Um, we actually did a very innovative we of funding it. Um, we. Uh, just to give some context. I did it. And finally of my college, uh, we got some initial grants from, uh, our college to just run a beta experiment and, you know, it didn’t, it never started off as a, as a startup and just started off as a cool project that I wanted to do before I sort of college got some really interesting, you know, some really awesome friends made it work.

So some center for entrepreneurship in our Polish founder initially, then we had East summit, which was like this large internship festival inside of a college, which gave us some vans. Then we won a competition since then. So, you know,

Andrew: all equity free. They just gave you money.

Ashray: correct. It feels all

Andrew: How much money did you get?

Ashray: Gardened, I think somewhere between highest Southern $250,000 equity three, um  so then I ended up from the Korean government. We got a bunch of money, so he kept funding parts and parts of it to just build it to the next step. After with, uh, we got selected an accelerator in the U S called us Alchemist.

Andrew: Okay. The first version you built before you got into the accelerator Alchemist,

Ashray: Yes. At that point, we had some speakers ready?

Andrew: Did you get customers for it? What did you design that you designed the speakers that would go on people’s wrists at that point we’re using about 150,000. You did? Okay. So, wow. That’s impressive. All right. Um, and it wouldn’t, it wouldn’t work on Bluetooth. What did Bluetooth can barely operate properly in a person’s house?

Ashray: So the next part, you know, by, we ended up doing a software license, uh, and this was a problem that we didn’t even predict would take us so long to solve was the entire networking piece. How do you buy, literally communicate high-fidelity audio was ended up being a big part of it. So we do not use, do not use wifi.

We just used 2.4 gigahertz and tried to build our own algorithms to work on top of that. So it was, if it’s complicated,

Andrew: I bet you got that working with $150,000 in grants, roughly before you got into the accelerator.

Ashray: Uh, yes. Uh,

Andrew: All right. At what point did you get a customer?

Ashray: Uh, so back in, you know, when it was even a project, we started doing some early tests with people in the college itself. So I was the first customer of, of the whole concept was the flagship music festival of, uh, of the coastal Bardin in, in, in our campus. And so that was the first customer. Um, but in terms of.

Actual ongoing deployments. We didn’t do any major large-scale deployment at soundtracks. And, you know, you’ll get to that level of reliability is some, is the part where we believe the Finn enhancer decided to not start to do hardware again.

Andrew: When you did it at that small scale, um, at university, how, how was that experience? Was it fun to watch people listening to music the way that you imagined they would? Or was it a disaster?

Ashray: We had both. We had a disaster, of course. And we had a really fun woman. Someone came to us after the, after the event and said that, you know, it was one of the best musical experiences at the time. Um, just the sheer feeling of being surrounded by so many speakers is a feeling that just felt, and it can’t be described in words.

Andrew: Okay. You had that. It was exciting. You got into the accelerator. Tell me more about when, when you switched into software, what was the software going to look like and who is it going to be for?

Ashray: So, um, uh, the event to a pro audio manufacturer, uh, and we went to them saying, You know, uh, we want to get speakers meal. Um, so we were assembling the whole restaurant speaker, but we, we still purchase the, uh, audio driver from some companies. So we went to them saying, you have some speakers, you want to buy them.

If you a speaker of the size, you know, we’d love to use. And they had a counter offer that if you have been able to nail that list, talk submissions, why don’t you just give us your lotta service? Because one of them, one of the middle cost of Florida is because you have to move to a venue and then wire up the entire venue, uh, which takes time and money.

And more often than not, you actually have to rent the venue for a day longer and twist them to just rent the venue for the longer it’s really expensive. So it was that conversation that led us to transition to software from how it was just that one company saying, instead of me giving you speakers, why don’t you give me a, you have a look.

Andrew: So they could then put it into their speakers and sell speakers that were wireless for a concert. Got it. I’m imagining it wasn’t a lucrative deal, right? Because he couldn’t live off of it long enough to find it. The customer.

Ashray: It was, it was a very lucrative deal for them, which is what, and it was absolutely playing to our strengths, uh, which was software now. So it’s pretty lucrative. The one lesson that we learned from that is to never underestimate corporate bureaucracy. And how long can things take in some of these really large companies?

Andrew: And so how long did it take to get that going?

Ashray: You would have, I think around four to six months with that company.

Andrew: so we’re looking at one lesson is. You’re not built for long sales cycles. If you don’t have a lot of money. And I’m also understanding ashtray, you tell me if I’m wrong, that you personally don’t like that long sales cycle, you don’t want to deal with corporate bureaucracy to validate your, your, your idea.

You want to be able to iterate faster. Am I right? Or you tell me.

Ashray: Absolutely. Uh, you know, there are multiple things that you wait for. Sometimes you wait for the technology to get ready. Sometimes you wait for the product to get ready, where at some point and things are ready. You want to give it off to people and get real world deployment feedback as quickly as possible.

So with rephrase now, and I understand we’ll come to that, uh, slightly later, but something that’s really exciting is that course we sell to the large companies. Uh, but we also can sell to the smallest of companies there. Of course we don’t make as much money, but it’s really exciting to be able to just at least get it out there and start to get some real world feedback.

Andrew: Give me one more lesson that you took away from this experience. What else did you say? Um, I’m not going to do again after soundtracks.

Ashray: One of the lessons. One of the things that I think we did wrong in soundtracks is that we were trying to push a novel concept of some stuff didn’t exist. Uh, in an industry with this typically post of a innovation and doing it and doing it with the hardware all, all the more, which made it even more difficult.

So we were pushing against a lot of barriers, uh, in, so, you know, Panadeine lessons, for example, market by itself is really important. Maybe like a similar product in a more open market for the book, maybe. Theme that has been managing concerts for the last 20 years could have made this work, right? Like a ton of different things, different scenarios that could have worked, but we were just, the odds are all against us.

Andrew: Yeah, that’s a good point. I say all the time that salespeople are willing to experiment, especially online salespeople, they’ll try new software. They’ll sign up because they’re just in a business that, um, that makes money from wins. And because there’s so many other people they’re competing with it, they have to find something to be separately.

To separate themselves, but you’re right. There’s some industries that are the exact opposite. If I, if I think about concerts, there hasn’t been much innovation there in years. The only thing I can think of that has been innovative at all is the ticketing process. And even there, there, there’s not that much innovation, right.

Ashray: Absolutely. So ticketing’s become a big deal, you know? Like in some sense, pretty minor innovation for us. But now that I have the details of that you visited a concert, I can try to remarket you some t-shirts or some hacks from that concert like that, but no, you’re right. I don’t think there’s going to major innovation in the concept space.

Andrew: They still talk about that old wall of sound that happened decades ago and how it changed music to have all these speakers in the front. All right. Let me talk about my first sponsor. Then I going to come back in and understand, um, I want to get up to know you a little bit better from your childhood, and then go back and see what you ended up doing differently this time with rephrase AI.

So my first sponsor is a company called top towel. You’re about to listen to an entrepreneur. Talk about how artificial intelligence is changing his business. It’s really cool ashtray. How we’re going to hear with rephrase is that people can see a person who’s not a real PR. Is that a real person that you’re modeling the models after.

Ashray: Yes.

Andrew: Oh, it is okay. So you take a real person, but then you make their lips move in sync with the texts that some sales person has written. And it all happens in real time. So for every person who receives this video, their name is said, diff it said properly. And then the lips of the speaker move along with the words as they’re being said.

It’s anyway, the whole thing is really smart. And if you listen and you say, you know what, we could use a little bit of this at our business. How do we even get somebody to do it? Or you could go out and hunt and you can ask your friends, you can ask a friend, a friend, or what you could do is just go to top talent, say, look, there’s a feature.

There’s a thing. There’s a new technology that I need to put into our company. Do you have someone who can do this for us? And with top tail, what they will say is not only do we have someone who could do this for you, we have people who’ve done this already. Tell us more about how you plan to integrate artificial intelligence.

Tell us more about how you plan to great this new technology into your business. And then we’ll go back and find somebody who’s done something like that, so that they’re not experimenting with you, but they’re bringing their past experience into your business. So that’s what Toptal does. They have a network of people who are ready to go.

People who’ve done the work that you need at an exceptional level. We’re not talking about cheap people. We’re talking about exceptional people. And all you have to do is go to top towel.com/mixergy to hit that button and schedule a phone call with them, tell them what you’re looking for and challenge them to find the right person.

Or in some cases, people have hired whole teams from them. And if you’re happy, you can get started often right away within days. If not, nothing ventured, nothing lost. It’s just a single simple phone call now. Um, there are these students who are studying my ad reads because I’m so apparently the way that I do it, where I bring the guests into the conversation, it’s so innovative that, um, As professor Damien wanted to bring my interviews in to, to show his students and have them analyze it.

The one big lesson that I got from them was I speak way too fast with my sponsor name. So I’m going to say it slowly. It’s top towel. Top is top of your head tells and talent. T O P T a l.com/m I N E R G Y. If you throw that, uh, slash mix ERG, why into the end of the URL, you’ll get 80 hours of developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours, in addition to a no risk trial period, there’s only one place to get that.

And that is it. Top tout.com/. Mixergy go get that offer. And let me know what you think of your experience with top Cal. I’m always looking for feedback on every one of my sponsors. You could reach me. I stand behind them. You can reach me@andrewatmixergy.com. Actually where’d you grow up?

Ashray: I grew up in small town in India called as a Nadella. It’s in, it’s in the Northern part of the country. Yeah,

Andrew: What was it like to grow up there?

Ashray: it was pretty interesting. Uh, so both my parents are, uh, nuclear engineers. So we’ve always been in isolated parts of the country because of course you don’t build nuclear power plants in the middle of a city. Uh, and I moved to a city, uh, when I was in ninth grade. So the contrast between, you know, someone who’s been, who’s been raised in a very productive, protective childhood, going to this.

Place barriers out there is what was the really interesting thing for me.

Andrew: What did you notice that was different?

Ashray: I noticed how much of a difference, uh, just being raised in a different, uh, environment could make like people in cities where. They had very different lifestyles. They had very different expectations of things they had, you know, they would behave with each other differently.

Andrew: something specific, I’ll tell you what I remember. I remember going to private school in Queens, one of the outer boroughs in New York, and then moving to public high school, which I always wanted to go to because I kept seeing public high schools on television. And the one thing that stood out for me was even at a really good public high school, Brooklyn tech people did not want to look like they cared about academics.

They would not. They would not want to get great grades necessarily, but even if they did, they’d want to hide it from everyone else. So no one would know that they want to do it in private school. It was the opposite. If you didn’t seem to want it enough, there was something weird about you. I mean, literally weird about you.

It’s almost like you had a bugger on your nose, the tip of your nose. Nobody would want to be associated with you if you just didn’t care about grades and that, that stood out for me. What would it, what about you? Was there anything like that that was that dramatic and that specific.

Ashray: I, I, you know, actually equals the feelings that you have. I had a pretty similar experience as well, where, uh, because we have been in the village, you know, everybody seems to have this mentality of, you know, especially in India that, or, you know, you, you, it wasn’t a village because it was a pretty good town, but, uh, You, you don’t you’ll study, you’ll get educated and then you’ll go into, to go out and do something better than you realize.

So you, you have that growth mentality built them. Um, But as soon as say we move to the city church getting as a thing, but in a lot more important was which, you know, who are you hanging out with? What group of friends? Like, uh, where are you going to have dinner tonight? You know? And like, are you going to the fanciest club around?

Did that happen? They didn’t call it. So yeah, a lot of the changes I did absolutely notice as well.

Andrew: I rejected all that. My, my. Response to that was to look to a different world. I didn’t care about what they were, what they were into, if it was the skateboarders, if it was a weed people, if it was the artists, I wasn’t connected with any of them. And so I just escaped to books and this dream of what’s out there after high school.

What was, what was it for you? And for me, by the way, the books were all business related. I discovered, um, direct marketing books, which is like the lamest thing for a high school kid to have. So I always, I would always hide it, but I would bring direct marketing in books in with me because the dream of anonymity of being able to sell without anyone, knowing that you’re doing it without anyone’s permission, without anyone knowing that you’re a teenager was just so exciting that I w I wanted to read about it, and I wanted to try it.

Did you do anything like that?

Ashray: So I am by nature, at least since, since childhood upbringing, introverted person. So. Yeah, I, I would say it just went more into my shell and I didn’t care. Uh, uh, so I got pretty good at it, I would say. And I think that’s a skill that helps regulate what I did spend a lot of my time on is, especially in those three years, uh, there’s a competition in there called is IOTG, uh, which is pretty competitive.

So you should spend really long hours studying for that. Uh, and I think that’s where I started to Johnny. Most of my energy.

Andrew: To beating the test to doing well on the test.

Ashray: Okay.

Andrew: That’s it because what did you imagine you and the rest of your life would be.

Ashray: So, I mean, both my parents and engineers and hence, you know, they want me to do really good engineering as a result of it. And some of the best engineering colleges in India are IETS and it was a simple goal that you, if you do well in life, the benchmark of Vail is for you to get into that college. So.

Yeah. So my goal was, I honestly go to it and then the, the typical Indian path is, you know, you go to it and then I am in the new, you get a job, you know, in, in American language, something like that, you go to Stanford and do engineering, and then you will go to say Harvard with an MBA. And then you, you, you had a job.

So that’s, that’s what, that’s what the ideal parts in siloed had been. And that is the parts that I had envisioned for myself when I entered college.

Andrew: To go to it. Got it. And then it wasn’t until you were in school that you started connecting with, um, your eventual co-founder and had ideas that you were sucked into entrepreneurship because of the technological capabilities that you were opening, that you had your eyes open to. Am I right?

Ashray: So their first three years of college, you know, optimizing for the managerial side of it, you know, so doing extracurriculars and all the stuff that comes with it. Um, I interned with a, in a bank with a major investment bank and I didn’t like it at all. Uh, I was like, you know, let’s do something better with my life.

Uh, and at that point I decided to start to do a little bit more of tech. And I did a summer project with MIT media labs as a part of the, uh, X cohort. And at that point, it really, we used to get fascinated with tech. For me, it was sort of this breakthrough moment. Then I realized that a small team of dedicated people.

Can actually ship really amazing products because before that, they used to have this, imagine this vision that, you know, you need a team of hundred people sitting like everybody doing the small, small things to actually get a real world product out there. So that was a big breakthrough moment for me.

And I realized even a smaller inventor people can do it.

Andrew: And then the first version was you getting money and we talked about it. You closed up the company. But he gradually, because you realize, you know, what sound Rex is not the thing rephrase is. And one of the things you told our producer was, you said, I left with this understanding that I need to have a moonshot, but I also need to have my foot, my feet planted on the ground in the beginning.

And so your moonshot with this new idea, uh, re that became rephrase AI was what.

Ashray: Moonshot is. Can you create a Hollywood movie without ever shooting anything? Can you just write a script, give a really smart AI, the script that you have and it’ll create an entire Hollywood movie without, uh, shooting anything. Um, so initially it was, my co-founder had had this idea. He, you know, he told us he brought this up over a casual labs that we were having our doing soundtracks and it resonated a lot with me as well, because.

I used to be, I used to make shortens in college. Uh, and if you’ve made high quality production level films, you then realize how difficult it is to make a professional video. Like, there’ll be like a sound of someone, you know, coughing then the background and that distance is five, the recording and says, there are tons of things that can go wrong in a, in a professional reader food.

How can we make it? As simple as adding index. And the reason that that transition was important for us, even from a business perspective. Yeah. People today consume a lot more videos than they used to do five years back. Um, so from a consumption perspective, it is a preferred, but from a creation perspective, text comes first because, you know, if, for example, like you had to express an idea to, they would most likely this was write a doc or something like that.

So how do you bridge that gap between, I mean, text and videos, we thought that AI could play a very important role.

Andrew: Without even being able to create the technology, you just had the vision first and then. I said, we’ll figure it out the technology after is that right?

Ashray: Uh, I think V back then, how did really smart demon even build they’d have a really, really smart team to have that level of confidence. So,

Andrew: It was just, we’d like to see it, then we know we can make it happen. Is that right?

Ashray: yeah, I think we’re both really smart people. So feverish, if we could make it happen.

Andrew: What about this? When I used to have that fantasy too, every time I would watch a late night interview with some celebrity who was complaining about being a fricking celebrity, I go, you know what? Somebody should just put these people out of their misery. Just create some software that really does everything that they do and be done with it.

But as I’m doing these interviews, I noticed how much I’m looking at your face. The reason I say is that right? Because sometimes you, you, you make an expression that I still haven’t learned yet, and I’m trying to understand why you’re doing it. What am I, what am I saying that you’re reacting that way.

But there are a million little reactions to every phrase that I utter coming from you, an AI would have to do all of that. Right. And, and you still feel confident that even in that, that you could do that.

Ashray: So on day one weekend, the goal is in a couple of years, we will be able to capture even those micro emotions. And that’s one thing that we have right now, but as of today, we are able to pull off extremely photo, realistic lip movements and facial reactions and all of that. But we do tend to, as rightly mentioned, miss some of these really tiny emotions that are another person’s face.

Andrew: Okay. And you just believe it. You’re saying a couple of years. It, my assumption is you mean more than just two years, but you believe in time you can get more of the micro gestures that people make into your AI and then go beyond the face to body language, et cetera.

Ashray: absolutely. Uh, so for example, we are actively working on head movements and how do you make head movements, more realistic, uh, body movements follow for us. So, yes, we, we do actively believe that we will be able to automate. And entire human speaking, and then just go beyond a human and have automated backgrounds and, you know, on a pathway to automate the entire movie.

Andrew: You got into Techstars Bangalore. What did you have? What, how much of your software was done when you got in.

Ashray: So we had a very early version of our facial reanimation technology ready, uh, when we entered Texas Bangalore and. Uh, you know, the interesting thing was, uh, uh, Ray, who was the managing director at Techstars, uh, really understood it because he had worked in the media space long enough to understand the power of video.

So at the time, and a lot of people were very dismissing of the whole. Phenomenon. He was one of the few people who got it and, you know, it was his support in those areas, which got us through, uh, when we entered our Techstars, we were actually planning as a first version of product to be, to help dubbing convert, you know, that movies from language eight language and

Andrew: was the original idea.

Ashray: yes.

Andrew: Ah, that that makes sense, saying, look there, they’re great movies all over the world. Nobody wants to read subtitles. If they could hear it, we can just automate this whole thing. And so if there’s a great movie in India and Andrew wants to see it and he doesn’t speak anything other than English, boom, we just give him that.

Ashray: We actually should have a smaller part of it. Just to clarify the, if the movie lesson let’s take mission impossible.  it’s going to make their, roughly 30% of its money, typically from China, but the Chinese audiences will watch Mandarin on top of Tom cruise. And it will not look realistic at all because of course the lipomas don’t match.

So what we used to do was take Tom cruise and match his lips in a new language so that it would feel as if a tumbler actually. Shot the movie 20 different times in three different languages. Uh, do all of that with the software.

Andrew: Okay. So you got into Techstars with that. They got it enough to bank on it, but once you got in, it seems like they changed your idea.

Ashray: Yeah. So, uh, actually has this, uh, couple of weeks there where they call it mentor madness, where you talk to a hundred different people in a span of two weeks, all of them are smart and super diverse across different industries and sectors and designations. So we talked to a bunch of folks and a few things got validated.

First of all, that video is big and that everybody was thinking about it. Uh, But the second problem was that people said, well, we don’t have the base content in the first place. So sure. You know, I would love to get the technology to convert language from a to B, but I don’t even have AI now. And my problem is how do I get eight?

So, uh, it was then that a lot of it was sort of, the question is if you can, the animal, the human face. Why do you just want to dub content? Using the advisories is create new content fundamentally with just text as input, uh, so that I can create all of my content using engine.

Andrew: It feels to me like that’s because of the type of people that Techstars brings in, you know, if they had more access to people in Hollywood, they might be willing to work with you. It’s just that Techstars has access to people who think that way. Right.

Ashray: Sure. Um, we actually realized a pretty unique problem with dubbing as well. Uh, which, uh, which, because of it, we decided to at least put it on the back burner and the reason was. Uh, there’s a content production like studio then producer, uh, then a TV channel we’ll buy it. He will sometimes give it to say an OTT platform and maybe for an international audience is a different, are distributed, distributed in that country.

And in this chain, the people who would value from better lip-sync. On vetted, don’t have the right to it. I read the video at all. And the people who do have the rights to edit don’t care about the money that we make. So it was a very, very long value chain. And we would have everybody in this value chain to make sure that, you know, this would happen typically the way dubbing happened, at least in India today is it’s sort of an afterthought.

Yeah. Now my primary movie’s done. I’m happy with it. Somebody go out there and somebody does it. It’s not a priority, so sure. It would add a lot to consumer expense experiences, but you know, the VA in soundtracks, you have to convince so many people to make every single change. We didn’t want to do that.

The same thing in doubling again.

Andrew: Got it. So the fact that you’d suffered before made you realize we’re not going to go down the same path, let’s find something else that works today. And all these people seem to be asking us for something that we can. They do. It seems almost too easy. Let’s start with that and then build our moonshot.

All right. Let me take a moment to talk about my second sponsor. It’s a company called HostGator. One of the things that I really benefited from was just starting out with Mixergy Mixergy, by the way, Ashley was not supposed to be a podcast. It was supposed to be an invitation site, but even after it was an invitation site, I just said, let’s just block.

Let’s just experiment. And one day I said, Well, if I’ve got this thing to experiment, I’d like to try podcast, or I just like to try interviewing people and let me just do it. I’ve got this platform where I can just go and post their stuff. So I did an interview with someone. It was this guy who did SEO.

And he was killer at SEO. He just happened to be a chiropractor in LA, but he was killer in the search engine, optimization community in Los Angeles. And so I interviewed him and then I interviewed another and another and I was home. And before long, this thing, this, these interviews took over. Um, and they introduced me through interviews.

I was introduced to people all over the world to some of the best entrepreneurs on the planet. And it’s just because I had that platform to experiment with this thing that was almost like this throwaway side idea that wasn’t going to go anywhere. The reason I bring that up is if you’re listening to me right now, one of the things that I urge you to do today in preparation for 2021 is go to hostgator.com/mixergy, open up an account.

It’s incredibly inexpensive. And allow yourself to have the platform to create you don’t know where you’ll end up. Maybe what you’ll do is you’ll hear one of my interviews and you’ll say, I think I could do that. Or maybe what you’ll do is you’ll come up with an idea that none of us had thought of, but you’ll have a, at least a canvas to paint it on a place to go and implement it.

If you go to hostgator.com/mixergy, you’ll get started with. A low price. That’s even lower than they already have on their site. They’ve always been known for low prices and a good service, but if you go to hostgator.com/mixergy, you’ll get the lowest price they have available. You’ll get started right now and they’ll get you going in a way that allow you to grow.

And if you’re not happy with them at any time, first of all, you can cancel, but you can also just. Take your site and move it to somewhere else. That’s one of the beauties of working with the platforms that they make available to you at HostGator. It’s totally portable, but I’ve been with them. I’m happy with them.

And I think you will be too. All you have to do is go to host gator.com/mixergy to get started and yeah, send me what you’ve got. I’m looking forward to hearing about your experience at, uh, here’s my email address, Andrew mixergy.com. Actually I should, you know, I haven’t been giving out my email address even more.

I think it’s been a while since I’ve been bombarded with spam. And so I’m now willing to put my email back out on the internet. I hope that it doesn’t make me regret it. All right. Let’s move on. You had this idea that you can reach out to other audiences that they wanted something to be created. You told our producer that your first customer kind of came to you and was willing to work with you before you had, before you had a fully do it yourself, service bill.

Let’s have you on mute yourself and jump in and tell me, what did you do? Who was the customer? What did you, what did they need? What’d you do for them?

Ashray: So it was a company in the U S which they were building an innovative concept, uh, something like a higher view, but a video first higher view. And what that would mean is can I automate video interviews at scale, uh, where the

Andrew: interviews?

Ashray: correct for job

Andrew: Uh huh.

Ashray: and the person who’s actually conducting the interview?

Uh, would be a virtual human eyes, um, right now in, in software, like higher view, it’s a text that comes up on screen and you have to record your video. They want to make the process more interactive. So they want an, a virtual human right on the other side. So that at least feels better than just having texts.

Andrew: Okay. And that’s kind of strange what they were looking and not strange some expected they wanted to have follow-up interviews. Couldn’t they just record a set of interview questions with a real human being and post that up.

Ashray: They wanted to have a very easy onboarding process of the company. Um, so that if say I am, I wanted to hire software engineers. They didn’t want me to put in the effort to actually record video content, which then they could share. They want to be, they wanted to make it very easy for the company. So I could just type in the questions.

And my candidate would see a video and that platform would take care of the intermediate process.

Andrew: So then the candidate would create a video in response. Got it. You know what? It seems like it’s easy to just record your questions. Why not just have them do it, but I get it as someone who’s been doing video now for 10, 15 years. People keep saying to me, Andrew, can you create this video for our conference?

Can you create this pain in the butt? Because I want it to be good. I want it to look right to sound right. I don’t want someone to know the conference to have to see me with my cell phone and not be able to hear me or hear a lot of wind. And so I do hesitate and I never ended up getting it done or I just say no right from the start.

And so I understand it’s easier to just type it out, have the video get made and it just. Be done with it. That’s what you were, that’s what they were going for. And you said we could do it. And you created the whole thing for them from scratch. There are people would send you texts and then you would manually put it into your software and you would manually get them video down.

Okay.

Ashray: Absolutely. I mean, at that time we were really, really early. We didn’t have any resemblance of a frontend, which anybody could use. In fact, even on the backend, they were individual components, which. We knew that this sort of all together, but there wasn’t like an automated tool chain, which could do something from end to end.

So, and we tried to tell them that we aren’t ready right now, but they just said that they would be happy to work with us at an early stage. And, you know, even if there are bugs, we’ll have is to work through their process. So, uh, it, it, you know, I wish we had more responsive back then to people. Uh, but.

Since he had nothing at that time, we’ve learned very responsive to inbound lead. So, you know, it happened all by LinkedIn initially. And so it.

Andrew: Because they reached out to you via LinkedIn. This was the company that I heard reached out to you via LinkedIn, to other people on your team, via LinkedIn, to people on social, to sorry to people on your team via social media, just to try to get to use your software. That’s how hungry they were for it. And how did they even find out about you to do that?

Ashray: Uh, supposed to Techstars demo day, uh, we got featured in M and M publication and they call it your study. Uh, and that’s where they found out about us.

Andrew: Got it. And so they saw you there, they hunted you down. You said, all right, these, these people are really eager. Let’s go with them. And it seems like the ideal first customer eager, willing to work with you has a clear business need. You built that out. When did you shift to what I see today on your website?

You guys call it MailChimp for video. Right because it’s, I actually don’t like that tab. I don’t like that tagline at all. For you, it implies that you guys send out email in implies some, so many other things. It’s what you really do is you empower MailChimp with video, you customize videos.

Ashray: Yeah, open to other ideas. He really has any way tighter than happy to hear. Uh, we we’ve gone back and forth on a few and, and, you know, happy to iterate. The reason we said militant for video is because, uh, the help you use mud stags. And the kind of personalization that people are used to sending in texts, emails, like the kind that seller mail 10% will not have Salesforce, any automated software, but we now do that for videos.

So you can, you can write texts the way you would write, you know, you would use much stacks typically and then upload a CSV sheet. And the way your existing sales engines actually personalize these texts, emails go out at scale, we help you create personalized video emails at scale. And that was, that was our reasoning behind getting to this point, but I can understand why the part where, you know, we send out emails can be confusing.

Andrew: What he was your first customer was asking for was pre was, was it job interview questions. How did you take the leap from that to sales via email using customized video.

Ashray: So you’ve actually got tons and tons of inbound leads onto our platform. And that’s really helped us nail down and prioritize the market on what we want to focus on. So they extend that because in some sense, what we do is we automate video creation and we automate human video creation. And this by itself is so generic.

That can be useful. Corporate L and D to automate chatbot food boards, to, you know, just helping her put out Facebook videos. And you know, of course, personalized videos and marketing and sales done up. Some things, what we did first was we say narrow down from 10 ideas to four, and then just put it on the four on a, on the Techstars demo day pitch.

We said, you know, Hey, this is the technology. You can do this and this and this, right. Uh, if the sound interesting, which are to us, And then people reached out to us and told us, or what they want to do with this. Uh, so we got hundreds of responses back and that’s what helped us Florida is on, you know, overboard, we thing we should double down on.

Andrew: Just by opening it up. What are the four things that you were, that you said you could do?

Ashray: So for us, there were two really large markets. First was a personalized sales and marketing piece. Uh, ad tech for us was, is, was, and this country continues to be a really big, uh, alternate market that be even till today.

Andrew: education,

Ashray: Yes.

Andrew: how would education use you?

Ashray: Um, so. A lot of education companies, uh, video, video educational company, it’s a company like by Jews or Sariah acetate, uh, have a lot of content that is ready and just waiting for the video team to become free so that it can make, you can create videos with that. What we do with them is, or what we, you know, eventually want to do with them is just take the text content and create professional quality videos.

At scale by just action. So again, it, uh, we, we talked to one of these major tech companies and we realized that from the ideation stage to actually the video going live, it can take them around nine months. Oh, just for this whole process to just close with a video creation type plan and the largest largest taking part of this is just the content waiting by the Texas.

Ready, just waiting for the video team’s bandwidth, so become available. And that’s where we would come in and create the content.

Andrew: Yeah. Okay. I get it

Ashray: The interesting part is that we can do this across languages. So we had this, uh, ad tech company based in Russia, reach out to us and say, Hey, I think that the cotton would do really good in English, but I have no access to people, you know, and then studios, we were in English. So if I can use a platform and just experimentally content, maybe one or two chapters of my content across.

French and Spanish and English and a few other languages just to YP to the waters and see if it actually works. Then I got, then I can double down on, you know, creating the entire curriculum. So to create the same attack content in multiple languages at an insanely high speed, I think is insanely valuable.

Andrew: When you say ed tech is, has it been like online education info, product makers? Is that who’s signing up?

What are they teaching this Russian person, for example, what’s he looking to teach?

Ashray: I think he was looking to teach something in culture. I don’t remember exactly. It was a course about some social, uh, cultural stuff.

Andrew: Okay. And then there’s certain things that you weren’t willing to do. I think people came to you with political requests and you said, this is just not the world we want to play in, right.

Ashray: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that’s the first thing that comes to people’s mind, like, you know, voted on by the school board and top 10 election, but that is something that you just don’t do.

Andrew: The election.

Ashray: And this create the fake videos of opposing political

Andrew: Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah. I think, uh, this doesn’t seem like enough of a, even if you were willing to do that, it doesn’t make sense as a business. How many, uh, how many customers are going to ask for that? And frankly, there’s software to do that deep fake stuff really well, if you customize it, right. Okay. And then.

Ashray: I think more important than all of the app for us was vital. We started the company. And we didn’t like, we didn’t start the company or like my co-founders didn’t leave the job that Google and Facebook, just to make the world a worse off place making you will lose plus then videos completely.

And all of that, we, we do what we do because it believes that. If we democratize video creation, the ability for everybody to create videos becomes really simple. People will be able to communicate their ideas and the tarts in the form of videos. And that becomes powerful. So that’s the end goal, not to, you know, take a political party side on any side of the aisle.

Andrew: And so now you’re focused on marketing, right? People who are looking to do sales online. And did I, did I nail the reason because they’re willing to spend money because they’re willing to experiment because it’s, it’s a shorter decision-making process.

Ashray: Yeah for us, uh, you know, an even larger, uh, reason was that people already do this today. We talked to tons and tons of people who know that videos using, you know, softwares, as you mentioned, like loom where they are with your soapbox or any other software out there. They work using those, sending out personalized videos to consumers actually works.

But the problem is that if you start doing that over and over and over again, it is extremely repetitive. Uh, you know, it’s, it’s like you lose all of the progress that you’ve made in the last 15 years on your sales prospecting type plans. We have, you had this automation, engineers can send out these emails and now you’re back to that era where, you know, you’re literally turning on your computer.

Standing under the webcam recording a message. Hey, been working, let’s leave, start  something went wrong or, Hey, this notification popped the control. This, you know, let’s say, divide this again. Like, and you’re doing after the sending out 20, 30 messages a day where we wanted people to do the sales, that obstruction to the smart work of finding that 11 information about people customizing the messages, evidencing the messages, and we will do the more boring.

And the more automateable part of. Just creating those video messages in the first place.

Andrew: So I can change. You will automatically put the person’s name in what else can I add to the video that I send someone?

Ashray: So you can personalize whatever you want it

Andrew: The whole message.

Ashray: you can personalize the whole message as well.

Andrew: I could say it’s someone, could you use this for an, for my site and say he, Andrew, I saw Mixergy. I really like how you’ve got all the videos up on your site, but I think what you could do is get rid of the bottom section with all those links, because it’s a distraction, right? That specific thing. Put it in a CSV file, send it to you.

And then when the email goes out, that will be said by the spider speaker

Ashray: Absolutely. Um, for EdTech companies, we did hours and hours of content so far to create a 32nd or a two minute, uh, email messages is absolutely something that we can nail.

Andrew: all they do is they give you all the messages that they want to send out to each customer. They pick the person or the look of the model. They pick the voice that they want. They hit submit. You give them a little bit of code. They put that into their outgoing email, and then that automatically will customize the messages that go out for each person who gets it.

Ashray: Absolutely. Uh, the, it is just that simple and, you know, Again, we want to double down on the creativity of people and that’s what we help enable. So if you, like, if you were lazy sales rep, you just want to personalize the name. You know, you can just keep adding to the message the same. Uh, we’ve seen a lot of financial institutions want to do something a lot more crazier, very like, and you congrats your bank account, just cross a certain amount.

And that makes you a little bit for a loan off this customer amount and this customer interest rate, you know, like, so you can be crazy with a lot of variables that you want. Uh, you can have an entire line that you want a sentence that you want to personalize in there, or you can just personalize a single field.

Uh, you can also personalize the background, but make sure, like, for example, if I wanted to have, if I was sending out an email to you, maybe I should put your website as a background. So you feel as a faculty to go to it on your, on your

Andrew: how would I customize the background? I would give you a URL to the image.

Ashray: you will. Yeah. You will give us the URL to the image,

Andrew: Okay. So I take a screenshot of the website and then give you the URL of where the screenshot is. Got it. Okay. All right. I’m with you on this. I feel like, um, I feel like you’ve made a right decision going after sales and also not limiting yourself to sales. The problem with sales is that salespeople are willing to jump on anything fast, but they also will burn out any idea.

So if you’re just in the sales space, A year from now, it could just be a gimmicky thing that people pass up, but you’re already thinking beyond them to EdTech and to other platforms for anyone who wants to go check out this, uh, this software. If you’re, if you go to rephrase.ai, there’s a video that just shows you the demo right there on their site.

And then your prices are pretty freaking low. What is it? $248 gets me what? $248 a month.

Ashray: So, uh, V typically price, depending on the personalization that you do in emails, um, each video email will cost you between 20 to 50 cents. Um, depending on the amount of personalization and the scale of outreach that you’re doing.

Andrew: Okay. I see. Oh, you know what? I got the pricing wrong. So what’s, what’s it cost? Yeah.

Ashray: So if say you’re sending out a thousand emails a month, uh, it would cost you roughly say around 250 bucks.

Andrew: Got it. All right. The website is rephrase.ai. Thanks so much for being in here and I’m grateful to the two sponsors who made this interview happen. The first, if you’re hosting a website, Maybe you didn’t think you wanted to host a website, go get started, give yourself a place to go and create by going to hostgator.com/mixergy and the second one ready to hire developers, whether it’s because you want to add, uh, artificial intelligence or any of the other things that have come to your mind and you have not had capacity to do it.

Go to top towel.com. Challenge them to find the right developer who can get the job done for you. Thanks everyone. Bye.

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