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 for an audience of real entrepreneurs. Believe it or not, you listen to these interviews, these stories will be embedded in your head and I promise at the time when you need them, they will just come out. They are programmed to be that way. You don’t have to take notes, you just have to trust that a story well told will be memorable enough that when you need the point of it, it will be there for you.
Joining me today is an entrepreneur I’m especially excited to talk about for a few different reasons. Number one, he’s a listener. He’s somebody who’s listened just like you and has had these stories embedded in his head. Number two, he is outside the United States. I have long said, yes, I live in San Francisco. I’m not living here for my sake. My wife loves living here. I’m here for her. I definitely see the advantage of living here. But I also am seeing the advantage of living outside of here. And today’s guest is an entrepreneur who is way far outside of here. He is in India where I’m seeing more and more entrepreneurs are doing killer stuff.
I’d love to go to India and spent a month there to do a series of interviews because I’m seeing such good things happen there. And so I want to interview him about what it’s like to build a company outside of the U.S. and outside of San Francisco and the Silicon Valley mindset. And the other final thing that excites me is that he is in chatbots. And as soon as I see chatbots, I think some people are rolling their eyes. If not physically, then in their heads. Let me explain to you why this is so important.
Imagine you’re doing a Google search for something that you’re interested in like health insurance, or life insurance, or God knows what. Everything is a search that starts off on Google and eventually leads you to a landing page. Now if you go to a landing page, the first thing you’re asked for is your email address. That’s totally fine. But a lot of sites need more information to qualify you to see if you’re really a good fit to get on a call with a salesperson or a good fit for their product, and so what they do they have forms.
The problem is people don’t like forms. People like people. And so you’re going to get a lot of drop off, drop off with people who don’t want to fill in your form and give you their email address, drop off with people who don’t want to give you more information about themselves, drop off, drop off, drop off, which means you are losing people that you paid money for or you worked hard to create a site to cater to.
Well, today’s guest is a guy who’s found a solution. His name is Ish Jindal. He is the founder of Tars. What they do is, I was going to say replace that form, but it doesn’t have to be an either-or. What they’ll do is allow you to keep that form as you like it, whether it’s good or not, but in that bottom right of your screen on your web page, they will have a little chat bubble with a little text that anyone who wants to can hit that text and start interacting. And by interacting I mean things like maybe the form says, “Hey, do you have insurance or do you need it?” A person can pop that up and start responding and through that conversational experience give their email address, answer questions and the thing just keeps changing, moving and feels more modern. That’s what he does. Ish I’m looking at your face to see if there’s like Andrew is nailing it or not. You have got the [poker 00:02:55] biggest face. Am I nailing it or not?
Ish: Yeah, you are. I mean, that’s actually a pretty good explanation of what we do. I can actually use this in our video.
Andrew: Yeah. I should say this interview is sponsored by two phenomenal companies. The first, if you don’t have any of this type of experience in your software and you want to add it on, go check out Toptal. They could build that or just about any . . . not just that, anything that’s possible their developers can build for you. Go to toptal.com/mixergy. And the second if you need a website hosted, go to the site that Ish and I have both used is called HostGator. Check them out at hostgator.com. But I’ll tell everyone about those later first. First, Ish, good to have you here.
Ish: Yeah. Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.
Andrew: What part of India are you from? Sorry, I interrupted. You just were about to say you were listening. Sorry. I’m kind of like a jerk that way. What part of India are you from?
Ish: So, the company is based out of Bangalore which is in the southern part of India. But yeah, I am originally from the north somewhere close to Delhi, which is the capital. But, yeah. I mean, last five years, like, last five, six years I’ve been in Bangalore which is where you would find most of the software companies.
Andrew: I want to ask you about the difference in experiences in both those cities, but let’s first answer a question that I think people are wondering which is, how well are you doing with this business specifically? What’s your annual revenue now?
Ish: So, right now we are doing close to 0.5 million in ARR which is the recurring revenue because it’s a pure play SaaS for us. So, that’s what we’re doing right now?
Andrew: Yeah. And it’s all bootstrap, right?
Ish: It’s all bootstrap. Yeah. We’ve never raised the money.
Andrew: What is the difference? Where you grew up in the northern part of India what was that like?
Ish: So, I would say the biggest difference is in terms of the language you speak, the language people around you speak and possibly the food. I think the food is the biggest one because you get really . . . I mean, it depends on your taste buds, but I think you get really spicy one. Spicy food not . . . not just spicy, but it’s totally different. In the south, that would be totally different. But I guess it’s not been difficult for me because the last 12 years . . . No, 12 years of my life I’ve been in the southern part of India. So 12 years probably right now.
Andrew: Not as much spicy. What about like the people’s personalities also spicy. Are we looking at when we’re . . . you’re in Bangalore right now you said, right?
Andrew: Bangalore, I feel like people are like hustling to create companies more. Am I right?
Ish: Yep. So, I would say that is the main difference between say, Delhi or Gurgaon versus Bangalore. I mean, people say, in both of these cities are pretty much hustling, right?
Andrew: They are, okay.
Ish: The difference lies pretty much . . . I mean, the core difference that I see, right? People are pretty . . . People would smile when they see you in Bangalore, right?
Ish: And Delhi people feel a little bit furious, like, you would find more humble people in Bangalore compared to Delhi. That’s how I would put it. But, yes. And even in terms of the skillset, you would find more business-minded people or like the business guys would be in Delhi and the tech guys would be in Bangalore. Like, that’s how I would put it because Bangalore is pre-primarily tech. Delhi is where the smaller, the old businesses evolved, and that’s why you have a lot of small businesses in Delhi. Right? But, yeah. I think every city is very different. Mumbai would be very different, Bangalore is different, Chennai is very different. Chennai is the SaaS capital right now with most of the bigger companies in there. But yeah. I mean, that’s how I would put it.
Andrew: You were working at a travel startup. What kind of travel were you guys doing? Where did this idea came from at the startup? What kind of travel were you guys booking?
Ish: Right, right, right. So, I was one of the founders in the last startup I was working on which is called Padhaaro in the travel space. And what we were doing is very similar to what Airbnb trips or experiences does at this point. So basically, we . . . Like, say, you wanted to come to India, right? You come to India, but you don’t really want to go to Taj Mahal and . . . You want to go to Taj Mahal, sure, take pictures, but then you would want to . . . Right? And that’s not there. I mean, a lot of people do want to go to Taj Mahal, but then you’d want to talk to a lot of people like me.
Ish: Economic people who . . . And you would want to know what’s the real difference between a Bangalore and a Delhi, right? You’d want to know how my life looks like. Like, what is my usual day like? Right? So, that’s what we’re doing. So if Andrew was coming to India, and we come to Bangalore, we connect you with one of our greeters. We used to call them greeters. You would meet them up and they’ll take you around. So, it could be depending on what your interests lie. Like, if you are more into businesses, startups and stuff like that, you would probably match with someone who will start doing something similar. If you’re into music, connect with someone who’s into music. It was about the [off-play 00:07:58] travel marketplace. These guys would get paid and you pay them for the experience and we would take a cut on it. Right?
Andrew: Perfect. And you were doing customer service and you were starting to see repetitive questions. What were the repetitive questions?
Ish: Right. So, the thing was whenever someone is coming to India, [inaudible 00:08:16] at the airport, right? Now, we used to have these WhatsApp groups where you would ask questions like, “Hey, Ish, should I take a cab? Should I take an auto? How much would the . . . ?” Because the single biggest worry that any inbound traveler has while they’re coming to India is someone is going to cheat me or something like that. Right? That’s the usual . . .
Andrew: I have to say, that happens to me whenever I get into any new city. You just land and you don’t know. Is this a city where you could trust the taxi drivers or not? Right? And it’s not just outside the U.S. thing? If you get to Vegas, do not trust the cab drivers. They will absolutely take you for a ride, right? But if you come to New York, you could trust the cab drivers. They’ve been incredibly watched by the city. You don’t know. You land, right. So, it’s one of the questions into . . . You guys would do tech support or help support on WhatsApp groups?
Ish: Yes. So, basically, if you are coming and if you’ve taken one of the experiences, what we would do is they’ll be this WhatsApp group and you would be in touch with all the different greeters that you will be meeting while in India. So, you can [inaudible 00:09:17]
Andrew: You’re going to put me in touch with several greeters. It wouldn’t be an experience where it’s one greeter who manages my whole experience. Is that right?
Ish: Yeah, because you would work with Delhi and then you would come to Bangalore, and then you would go to Chennai. Right? So, there’ll be a different greeter in different cities.
Andrew: And then you also, Ish, would be in the chat with them too.
Ish: I would be in every WhatsApp group, yeah
Andrew: Wow-wee. Okay. That’s interesting, actually, that WhatsApp is being used that way. I had no idea. And so what are some of the questions that you would see come over and over to you?
Ish: So, these questions would be very simple. The first question people would say is, “How do I get a SIM card?” Right? When you enter into Mumbai, you would be like, “How do I get a local number?” Right? And there are a lot of people you trust and you would tell them that. And then the questions around the transport, the food, all of the very small, small questions, right?
And what I figured was, these guys, the greeters, were doing it all of this for free, but they’re going to become [dormant 00:10:09] or not going to reply because they’re not making any money out of it. The answering the question part, right? And I was like, these questions . . . . Anyways, the answers to these questions exist on TripAdvisor or somewhere on the web. Why can’t we just automate this stuff? And so yeah, I think that’s where the idea was. And I was also reading a lot of people writing about conversational interfaces in the Valley. One was one of the a16z members. I don’t remember his name. But Samuel Shah was writing about it. I was reading his stuff. I think this was like, three, four years back. But yeah. So I was reading all of these stuff and I was having these problems, I’m like, “Can we really solve it or not?” So, yeah. That’s where it evolved.
Andrew: Got it. And you were thinking, “Hey, you know what? I think what I could do is if people are asking the same question like, ‘Where do I get a SIM card?'” just code it in using software and have the software answer before the greeters, before Ish does. And you were thinking about that? And you said, this is something that should be a startup?
Ish: Yes. So, that’s where [inaudible 00:11:11]
Andrew: Interesting. Okay.
Ish: Because the thing was the travel thing I was doing was becoming pretty operational, right? I mean, you need to have all these experiences conducted all over the country and whatnot. And I was like, “Can I build a software product?” because there was this fancy in me that when you build a software product, you don’t really have to do a lot of work because the software would keep running and you would keep pumping in money. Right? So, that was the idea, “Can we build a software product just focusing on this specific problem?”
Andrew: Okay. And so you started . . . You couldn’t do it yourself because you’re not a developer. How did you find a developer who could help you do it?
Ish: Yeah. So, Vinit, who’s my co-founder at Tars right now. He’s the one I started off working on this idea, right?
Andrew: How did you find him?
Ish: Yeah. So there’s this website called CoFoundersLab? I don’t know if heard of it.
Andrew: I know it. Yeah, yeah. The . . .
Ish: [inaudible 00:12:07]. So what I would do is, I would go in there and look at developers who have been working on something for a while and it’s not going anywhere. Like, there are a lot of these developers who would quit their jobs, start building a product, and not get even a single user. So I was looking at these guys and saying, “Can we meet?” And so basically, I would find them on CoFoundersLab, go back to LinkedIn, and start connecting and start meeting them. And this is how I met Vinit as well. So yeah, this is the whole hustle how I got to meet him.
Andrew: And what was his project that he had up on CoFoundersLab?
Ish: So, he was working on a text classification product for legal industry. He’s not from legal. He doesn’t know anything about legal, but he was doing something in the legal study industry. So he was building a . . . So, basically, you have a lot of data in the legal industry. So it could be about the timeline of a particular case or something like that. He was trying to sort of classify this data so that it . . . I mean, it’s similar that you can ask any question based on this data and it will quickly respond so that a lawyer doesn’t have to go through all of this data.
Andrew: Okay. And so the first version of the product what did it look like? What could it do?
Ish: So, yeah. I mean, so we didn’t really build the product. So, what we did is we did something over WhatsApp again. So, what we did is, we got this WhatsApp number because this . . . Okay. Let me take a step back. The problem we had was we didn’t know which segment to build for, right? Should we do it in travel? Should we do it in entertainment? Or should we do . . .
Ish: I mean, someone would say [inaudible 00:13:50] the movie I should watch right now. That’s a problem to solve, right? And can it be done over chat or should we solved something for travel? We didn’t really know that, right? So we said, “Let’s do one thing. Let’s get our WhatsApp number.” And you if you remember, there was something called Magic in the U.S. back in 2015. Right? So, we started doing something similar, but we didn’t want to do that. We just wanted to know what questions people would generally ask. Right? So we had this WhatsApp number, you could ping us and they were like four interns behind the scenes who were answering all of these questions. Even . . .
Andrew: So was it “Ask me anything” a site? Oh, not even a site. It’s a WhatsApp number that people can WhatsApp connect with and then ask anything and you wanted to see what questions would people ask, and instead of having software answer it, you had four interns just sit there and respond?
Ish: Right. I was one of them as well for a particular period, but, yeah. I mean, so we build that . . . So, we were doing that, you could ask anything you want. You want an electrician at your home, we would help you with that. You want pizza delivered, we would help you with that.
Andrew: All for free and all to see what would people ask software?
Andrew: Okay. And this was the whole . . . I’m looking at the Internet Archive. 2015, that’s essentially what the site was. It was here’s . . .
Ish: June of 2015.
Ish: June of 2015. Yeah.
Andrew: And for the whole year, essentially, that’s what your site was about. Connect with us on WhatsApp, ask us questions. 2016 things change and I’ll ask you about that in a moment, but let me understand, what did you learn from doing things that way?
Ish: Right. So, good question. So, we did that for about three months. The website was still on, but we had stopped working on it because both of us knew. I think the first thing a lot of founders make a mistake, and this is something we made a mistake as well is, it was not a founder product fit or a founder market fit because both of us don’t like to do something which is very operational. Like, we can’t run an e-commerce company because there’s too many people too much operations, right? Vinit was like, “I can’t do this.” After a couple of months he was like, “I can’t do this. I’m not doing this. I am away. You can keep running this with your interns, but I’m not doing this.” He started reading. He started studying about what he could build, right? But that is something we knew. The second thing we knew . . .
Andrew: Because he wanted to build things. He didn’t want to sit and answer people’s questions and try to figure out what the product is, right?
Ish: So, he wanted to build but he couldn’t figure out if we could build something with this experience because people were asking questions all over the place and we didn’t know what we could automate. Like, honestly, after a couple of months we really didn’t know what was the single biggest problem.
Ish: But what we did know or what was the good part about that experience was a lot of people were asking for a home services. Remember Homejoy back in [inaudible 00:16:42]
Andrew: Yes. For cleaning services. Yeah.
Ish: Exactly right. So a lot of people were asking us questions around, “Can you help us do this?” because we were primarily in Bangalore and these are the sort of . . . Bangalore I would say it’s like the first world of India where it’s, like, people don’t have small problems, people have these as the problems, right? So we were helping out people with all these questions around, “Can you help me get pizza delivered?” or, “Can you help me with a maid, electrician, whatnot?” And we were visiting all of these websites like Homejoy, there were a lot of websites in India, right? And while we had stopped working on that WhatsApp thing, all of these websites, the Homejoy-like websites they had a form, and it’s a very structured form. And we were basically saying, “Can we just automate this process?” which is a standard form. Which city are you in? What do you want?
Ish: Yeah. So that was the . . . The first customer was someone like Homejoy in India. It’s called Timesaverz. They were our first customer in India.
Andrew: Ah, okay. So, as you were trying to figure out, “How do we pivot towards letting people find home services like cleaning?” you looked at the competitors, you saw that their sites weren’t really great and you said, “We could fix their experiences with this.” And that’s how you found your first client. You just reached out to him, the way they . . . We’ll hear later on, you did a lot of cold emailing. You just reached out to him, you said, “Hey, can I find out about you? Can I create this for you?” And he said, “Sure.”
Ish: Right. Yeah. I mean, that’s what happened.
Andrew: And I just change his forms into a chat experience.
Andrew: And he asked you, “How much are you charging for it?” What did you answer?
Andrew: Just a different design. We’re not talking about brilliant coding at this point yet. We’re just talking about a different design for the form, one that looked more like a chat.
Ish: Exactly. I mean, I think if you’re going to Wayback Machine, you would be able to see the demo of it also on the website.
Andrew: I’m on the site. Now, January 2016, the whole site changes. It now says, “Form filling on mobile simplified. Enable your users to fill forms on automated mobile messaging.”
Ish: Yes, exactly.
Andrew: Now, I’ve got to tell you, one of the things that I’ve see about this is you guys are just not great at, like, marketing communication. That is not . . . It’s not super clear. Form filling on mobile? I don’t even know that that’s like grammatically correct. Right? You’re hustling, you’re working hard, but there’s a thing that’s missing there. It’s that marketing communication. Am I right? Is that too insulting for me to say?
Ish: Not really. I mean, so I totally agree. Right? I mean, we were good at building a product. And I personally had zero experience of doing anything B2B. Like, I think I had used probably a couple of B2B products before that, but because I was in B2C all my life before that, so I didn’t really know how to sell a B2B product. We need to ask a PR developer at that point of time. So, we weren’t really good at marketing. Yeah, we weren’t. And I don’t know if we’re good at marketing right now. Like, back then we were not good at all. Yeah, totally agree.
Andrew: You’ve gotten better, but I do see some rough spots in the way that you guys communicate that it’s clearly not like a marketing. I don’t know. It doesn’t feel like you guys are great at marketing the way that some of your competitors are just unbelievable marketers and communicators even if their product is not as good, right?
Ish: Yep. They are definitely good at marketing for sure. Yeah.
Andrew: But you’ve got to freaking hustle, and so you said, “This is our thing. I now know what we are. I’ve got to go out and get clients.” How many different founders did you reach out to?
Ish: So, the only . . . So, the thing with the product was, nobody was actually looking for it. Like, nobody was saying, “Can I convert forms into a chat?” Like, nobody knew about this, right? So, the only way I knew was reach out to people, send them cold emails, send them LinkedIn messages and try to reach out, right? And I think over the next six months, January to a June or July of that year, I think we reached out to some 3,000 cold companies. So, we had this intern who was essentially his job was to build lists, right? And he would build lists. And I think I spoke with some 500, 600 founders over the next six months. And I . . .
Andrew: Spoke with?
Ish: Yes, spoke with.
Andrew: So, that means he’s sending out thousands of offers, hundreds are saying yes to you, they’re interested in this crazy thing that you guys are coming up with enough to see what it is. You’re talking to hundreds of them and it’s your job now to close these people that he found on email, LinkedIn, etc.
Ish: Right, exactly. Yes.
Andrew: Wow. And I know you had a process for responding to them. What was the process? It was just doing a demo?
Ish: So, the . . . I mean, let me take a step back again, right? The people we were reaching out to were simple. Reach out to those startups who had recently raised money.
Andrew: Yeah. Because if they had funding, then they had enough to spend on you.
Ish: And they wanted to experiment with something new, could be to show investors, could be for something, right? The marketing guy has to show something to the team because he’s been hired recently. So, that was the idea, right? But the process was simple. Mail goes out, these people respond, we have a call, do a simple demo. I mean, and even the people we were reaching out already had a form on their website. So, we had a list of these demos which were specifically built for those industries. So, I would just showcase them from the demo. Yeah.
Andrew: Yeah. Got it. All right. Let me take a moment here to talk about my first sponsor and then come back and see what happened as you were making all these calls. First sponsor is a company called HostGator. What did you use HostGator for? I know you were a customer.
Ish: Right. So, I built my first website I think back in 2008 or ’09 which was an education-related website and I hosted, it was the platform or the . . . I was hosting my website basically using HostGator.
Andrew: What was the website?
Ish: It’s called Eduarena, E-D-U-A-R-E-N-A. It’s not active right now because it’s almost 10 years. I think I recently canceled my HostGator subscription. I was a customer for 10 years.
Andrew: Because of that website that you launched.
Andrew: And did you experiment beyond it or was it just that one website?
Ish: So, it was one website, but I was running multiple subdomains, multiple different domains of . . . Every subdomain had a different industry running. I didn’t have multiple domains and stuff, but . . .
Andrew: Wait. So you had this one product and you said, “I want to position it differently for each different potential client, so I’m going to create different sub-domains.”
Ish: Yeah, sort of. Yes. Different market, different sub-domains, but everything was running on HostGator. But yeah, I mean, I made a decent amount of money back in the day when I was still in college and used HostGator because it was simple, right? I mean, you could just post it one time and not care about because I didn’t know . . . Like, I don’t think there was AWS software. Like, AWS wasn’t so popular back in the day, 10 years back. And I still I don’t know how to host something on AWS, but I still know how to use HostGator.
Andrew: I’m with you. Exactly. Exactly. So, for anyone who’s interested in doing this, I’ve been talking about this a lot, HostGator has on this web page that I’m about to give out three different plans. Obviously, they have way more plans than that, they will scale up with your business, but if you go to hostgator.com/mixergy, yes, I keep talking about how you get the lowest price available, but you’ll see that middle plan called a Baby Plan, it has unlimited domains. I should also say it’s also unlimited subdomains. So, you pay that one price and you get to fire off as many different ideas as you want. So, if I wanted to create a website for each person in my family, if it was what? andrewwarner.com as my personal site, I could also create like shepherd.andrewwarner.com, my son, olivia.andrewwarner.com, my wife, and just create a different domain for everybody and let them all play with it or maybe create a different site for each one of them.
Or if I wanted to meet you when I was coming to India and I said, “You know what? I don’t really know him.” Obviously now I know you. I could create ish.andrewwarner.com and then have a separate website for you saying, “Ish, I’m coming to Bangalore. I’d love to meet you. And I’ve got your photo and the whole thing.” And it looks like I customize something to you because I did, but in reality, it’s one-click install, one-click on HostGator and the whole thing is up and ready to go.
If anyone out there has an idea, they should bring it to hostgator.com/mixergy at the lowest price possible. Just unleash your creativity. The thing that I love about it, Ish, is it’s like having a brand new notepad for an artist. An artist might have a brand new notebook, just sit draw and toss out paper or save the ones that they like. Just sit and draw. When you have HostGator, you have these unlimited domains which is like having unlimited paper to explore on. Who knows what ideas will come to you? And if one of them does hit, understand beyond what they publicize on their website, they have lots of new plans that will just keep scaling and growing with your business, but the price will always be low and the experience will always be there. Go to hostgator.com/mixergy and you’ll get all of that goodness and I love that when people use that URL. They’re supporting Mixergy and I appreciate it, guys. Thank you for constantly doing that. It means a lot to me.
All right. How did you do as a salesperson reaching out to hundreds of potential customers in the first six months?
Ish: Yeah. I mean, so I don’t think I was a good salesperson especially at B2B when we started off because, like, I remember my first few calls I had the script ready. I was super nervous when I was doing those calls. I would never cold call. Like, even now I don’t know if I can do good cold calls, but these were people who have responded and stuff. Now I can just enter into any call and then be like totally okay. Even if it doesn’t convert, that’s totally fine, but I can still have a conversation, right? Back then I don’t think I was a good salesperson at all, right? And I think it took me about a year especially because people were coming in from very different [inaudible 00:26:48]. I don’t know what this intern was doing, but he was reaching out to people in South America to Western Europe and [inaudible 00:26:54]
Andrew: What was your schedule like then? You’re talking about . . . Like, right now you’re staying up past 10:00 with me. It’s 10:00 p.m. for you, 10:40 p.m. For me it’s 10:40 a.m. What was your schedule? Were you up late nights, early mornings?
Ish: So, my schedule has been pretty much the same still. It’s the same, right? So, I come to office at about 2:00 in the afternoon and I will be up till 4:00 in the morning.
Andrew: So, can you have a personal life like that? Like, can you go out with friends?
Ish: You can because people don’t usually go out on a weekday, but weekends are usually okay, right? So, I think . . . Yeah, I mean, if you have a team who can take care of it, yes. But I think in the initial days I had to do that because . . . I mean, it’s not just about you closing the sale, but the fact is you want to actually talk to people, have those conversations, try to understand the customer and whatnot. Right? So, yeah. I mean, but still . . . I think that’s sort of a thing you would have to do if your customers are in a different job altogether. So even though right now it’s totally U.S. for us, but we have to build it and sell it from here. So yeah, I think that that’s totally fine because selling in India is relatively hard compared to selling to the U.S. Yeah.
Andrew: Were you closing sales?
Ish: Yeah. So we . . . I mean, we wouldn’t have grown. We wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t closing because I was the only salesperson for I think, almost two years. Yeah.
Andrew: And your technique was, “I’m just going to show you my software. Give you a demo. I’ll show you here’s the problem. Here’s my demo.” And then what?
Ish: So, I wouldn’t generally enter into a demo with something already created for them. Like, if I . . .
Andrew: Oh, really?
Ish: Yeah. So, if I was, say, having a conversation with an Allstate Insurance, I would actually turn around one of their forms into a chatbot and then into a conversation.
Andrew: Got it.
Ish: So, basically, what he wanted to use was already there and I was like, “What’s the next step?” The next step could be you actually experimenting, you experiment, you get results, and then you start paying us. Yeah.
Andrew: What did you learn about their problems and the way you communicate by having all those calls?
Ish: Yeah. So, I think people have the problem . . . Like, the problem . . . I can talk about the problem that we’re solving at this point of time, which is a pure conversion rate optimization problem, right? So, people do know about the problem because everyone is spending a good amount of dollars every month and people click, and people don’t fill out the form, right? So they do know about the problem, but the thing is, they don’t know that there is a solution like this that exists.
So, what they’ve been thinking is . . . So, this is the post-click optimization space, right? Like, after you click, which is what an Instapage or Leadpage is . . . Actually, Instapage says that, right? Which is what they would be focusing on and using something similar. And a lot of marketers still don’t care a lot about post click, right? So, yeah. I mean, they do know about the problem. I think that’s become easier for us at this point of time. And the good thing is, we’ve been sort of riding the whale as well because people want to experiment with chatbots somehow, I don’t know why, but people want to use chatbots.
Andrew: They do now, right? Because it’s becoming kind of a topic, a thing.
Andrew: But one of the things that you realize it seems like is, they may not be looking for chatbots or they weren’t back then, 2015, 2016. What they were looking for was a way to optimize what happens after people click an ad or a search result to their site. And that’s how you learn to position yourself. Right?
Andrew: You learned about different industries that need this. In fact, if I go on your website right now, you guys are really good in an area that a lot of other chatbots software companies are not. You have a ton of templates. So, I can go over which I did right now, and I could see real estate template. And you’re not just telling me, “Here’s how it works,” or, “Click this link to get it.” You’re showing me the experience. I can actually even . . . Oh, yeah, look, I can even type in. So, I went to the real estate template, it says, “Hey there, thanks for getting in touch with us. To get things started, may we know your full name.” And I would type in the name “Andrew.” Oh, I meant to type in “Andrew.” Oh, look at this. It give you a full name because I just typed in Andrew.
Ish: [inaudible 00:31:07]
Andrew: Andrew Warner. Wow. There you go. And now it says, “Hi, Andrew. We’re excited to help you find your next condo residence. May we have your mobile number? This will help us get in touch with you later.” Got it. And I just keep going through. I love the way that this show. So this is . . . It feels like this is one of the things that you learn by having all those conversations.
Ish: Yeah. I mean, so I think the biggest problem we were facing last year was in terms of what to focus on, I think, because chatbot, in general, could be used in any particular segment or industry or domain. And we would like to know what’s that one thing our customers care about. And we went back and realized that 99% of our customers had been using our chatbots primarily for lead generation. So, they would do these marketing campaigns that could be an SMS or a text campaign, it could be a push notification, it could be a Google ad, Facebook ad, native app. It could be anything. People are clicking on something on a link and they’re landing on a chatbot, and these guys were getting really, really high conversion rate compared to whatever they were using earlier. And it does make sense if you have a form in your process, in your marketing funnel. We can turn it around into a chatbot, and so basically qualifies.
Andrew: You know what? You talk to our producer, Brian Benson, and you explained that one of your problems was trying to figure out what segment to work on. And so most people when they hear about what segment to work on, they think, “Should we go after real estate owner . . . real estate . . . What’s it called? Real estate brokers or should we go after plumbers or someone else? That’s part of what you considered, but it’s interesting that you ended up not picking a specific industry but instead picking a specific problem to solve which is forms stink and we’re going to improve forms. What was the process of getting to that realization?
Ish: Right. So . . .
Andrew: It’s just hard.
Ish: Right, right, right. So, I think . . . So, like, one thing I would add to that is when you think about a segment, it’s not just industry. There are multiple parameters when you think about a segment, right? So one could be industry which could be real estate or insurance or mortgage or something like that, right? But the other parameters could be, what is the use case? Do I want to go after lead generation or do I want to go after customer support? Do I want to go after employee engagement? They could be different verticals, right? Now, do I want to go after the jobs do I want to go after? Right?
So there are a lot of different parameters. I mean, at one point of time, I was counting and we had like five different moving parameters. Like, everything was moving and we couldn’t figure out the right messaging, right? And we were like, “Let’s narrow down our segment.” And we would focus on a specific problem which is the lead generation. We would focus on a single-value proposition which is higher conversion rates, but then we couldn’t figure out which industry should we focus on.
But one thing we figured was, you know, most of our customers are B2C customers, like it’s a B2B2C. We don’t focus a lot on e-commerce, for instance, because e-commerce wants you to actually buy. We don’t do that. Like, so all of these industries that you would see on the website and the templates, you would realize that all of these industries have long forms on their website. Think about legal, real estate, all those guys. Yeah.
Andrew: So, it’s all people, all businesses communicating not with other businesses but with consumers, and all of them have a lot of not just long forms, but a longer sales cycle. So, it’s not just “Hit my website and buy,” it’s, “Hit my website. You probably want to know something about me first. I definitely need to know something about you too.” And that’s where you guys decided to come in. I’m wondering, was there . . . I don’t think that’s obvious. I think a lot of people think I’m going to pick an industry to focus on. Did you guys try that and didn’t work? Were you thinking that way?
Ish: So, that is something we’re doing right now. So we’re focusing . . . We’re focusing on one industry at a time right now. We do get interest from all those industry, but we’re like, “Can we go into . . . Can we narrow down further? Go into a particular industry. Go very deep into that industry and move to the next industry, next industry, next industry.” Right? So, that’s the approach right now. So, I think we will go even more narrow down approach in terms of the industry go ahead, because . . . I mean, we’re trying to just make our lives simple and easy in terms of marketing because if you know that you have to go after real estate, where do these people hang out? Who are those people? You get 1,500 customers in a particular domain. It’s very easy to get the next few customers, right? And you can activate a multi-million sort of ARR business in each industry. So, it’s not like the market is small. Yeah.
Andrew: Let’s go a little bit further back in your history for a moment. You’re someone who worked hard, you went to school, your friends went to school, they worked hard. You decide, “I’m going to go out and be an entrepreneur.” Your friends went out and got jobs. What was that like watching them go off and get jobs?
Ish: Good. Good question. So I started working on . . . I told you about the education website back in college itself because I felt like I should do something which is different than what the other people were doing because I don’t know if it was sort of my way to just satisfy my ego or whatever it was, but I just didn’t want to be part of that entire crowd which was just going to school and not doing something on the side. Right? So I wanted to have that side hustle running. And I think that was . . . I think that was something I was doing the second year or after the first year of college. So, yeah. I think that really helped the last three years of my college when I was actually working or doing something on the side. That was a good motivation. And I knew I could make money. It wasn’t like, I’m going to be jobless if I leave my job. I knew I could make money. It was just . . .
Ish: Yeah. Because I was actually making money while I was still in college.
Andrew: With the side projects that you’re talking about?
Ish: Yeah, because I used to get about a million hits on my website and on a monthly basis.
Andrew: Which website?
Ish: The Eduarena website that I’m talking about. It used to get 30,000 visits a day. And this is back in 2010. I was . . .
Ish: So, I mean, I don’t know how much you know about the Indian education system, but there are these few exams that almost every kid after they pass high school they have to appear for, and I was building content for that. And I learned how to do SEO and stuff like that. And I was focusing on a market that a lot of other players weren’t. So, I was focusing . . . So, think about this, right? You have 1 million people applying to a certain exam. Other people are focusing on the first 50,000 and you focus on the rest 900,000. So, I wasn’t building content for the first 100,000, I was building content for the last 900,000. And I think I was able to make around $2,000 a month using just ads. I didn’t know how to make more money, but that was good enough for me and that was good savings as well. But yeah, I mean, that is not . . . But I knew like $2,000 is a decent amount of money even at this point of time for someone to survive.
Andrew: And still you watched all your friends who didn’t have this skill, even though you knew how to make money, you watched them go off and get jobs with certain money, right? You watched them go off and get jobs while you were not doing as well. And you talked to our producer. He sent me a note about this. He said, “You were thinking, “What am I doing with my life? Am I actually making the right decision here?” Right?
Ish: Right. So, I think . . . So, that is . . . So, I spoke with Brian and I was talking about the period when we were doing the first version of Tars which was June and we stopped doing that in September. And that September to December period was when I was thinking, “What am I doing because all of these other kids from my college are now . . . ” They’ve even passed out of their B school because this was like three years out of college people just go to a B school just after their undergrad. And they were in good jobs.
And I was back to square one because I had stopped working on the plan we started working on. This was going nowhere and I was like, “Shit, man. I’m three years out of college and I don’t really know what to do next.” But I think that was a time if I had . . . I mean, that was the time when I could have gone back to any job, basically, or probably go to a B school and this wouldn’t have happened. But yeah, I think that was a point where I started thinking that, “What am I really doing with my life because it’s not going anywhere?” But yeah.
Andrew: By the way, you mentioned that you were good at SEO, so I went to Ahrefs, I typed in your domain, and I do see that you’re getting a lot of . . . There’s a lot of interesting clicks. Like VentureBeat did this post called “11 Chatbots Created at Y Combinator’s Online Startup School.” You’re in that freaking post even though you didn’t go to Y Combinator. How did you get into posts like this? How are people writing about you?
Ish: Right. So, I think we reached out to a lot of people. They don’t just figure out about us all of a sudden, right? Like, most of the listicles that you would find us in, we had actually reached out to them. Like, they didn’t just figure us out. But I think what we’re doing with the SEO play is all of these, I think, templates that we’ve been building, a lot of people search for chatbot templates, right? So that’s why we’ve been doing a good amount of stuff on the templates page. Like, if you go to . . . If you search for, say, a legal chatbot or a mortgage chatbot, real estate chatbot, if you search for doctor appointment chatbot, we would be in . . . The doctor appointment one, I think we should be at the top depending on the geography. But then, yeah. I mean, we rank for pretty much all of those keywords.
Andrew: I’m searching it for right now. By the way, I love how Ahrefs also gives me links to just about all the chatbots on your platform. I don’t want to reveal too much, but I can see here, credit21.hellotars.com that’s your domain, creditmaster.hellotars.com, apcredit.hello . . . You guys are big in the credit space, but it goes beyond. I can see legalloanssingapore.hellotars.com. And it just goes on and on and on. I could see what the variances are like. And it’s pretty interesting. So, what I’m noticing is a lot of people are sending traffic directly to your site using a sub-domain directly to the chatbot. Not on their website, it’s not that little thing that appears on the bottom right, but it’s a full-on landing page replacement.
Ish: Yes. So, it is the conversational landing page or a chatbot landing page where people are like . . . I mean, so when you were introducing me, I think this is what I wanted to add in it.
Ish: It’s not just . . . Like, I think 80% of our customers want users as a widget on their website. They would take people directly to the chatbot.
Andrew: That’s what I was seeing in your face that I was off. I sensed it. Got it. All right. I should talk about my second sponsor and then we’ll get into how you grew once you figured out what you were about. We’ll talk a little bit about Product Hunt, a little bit about AppSumo and then this platform that you built.
But first, I’ll tell anyone. If you’re listening to me and there’s an idea for a project that you’re getting from one of these interviews, and maybe you don’t have the bandwidth for, your team doesn’t have the bandwidth to actually go and implement it. One of the things that I’ve noticed by listening to my interviewees who have used Toptal, my sponsor, is they’ll say, “You know what? Our people shouldn’t do this. Let’s get somebody who’s done this before and let’s just sic them on the problem.” And so they’ll go to Toptal and they’ll say, “You know, I heard about automated . . . I mean, I heard about AI, artificial intelligence, or I heard about machine learning and I think there’s a way that we could apply it. I need somebody who’s done it before, who’s done it like I want to do it for different business. I want to hire them.”
You go to Toptal, they’ll set you up with a matcher, the matcher will understand your problem, matcher will see what they have in their network, and then they’ll come back to you with two or three different incredible developers, the best of the best. That’s what Toptal focuses on. You get on a call with them. If you like them, you can hire them, often get started right away. If you don’t like them, no harm, no loss.
So, all you have to do is go to toptal.com/mixergy where you can sign up. And if you go to that URL, you’ll get 80 hours of Toptal developer credit for free when you pay for your first 80 hours in addition to, get this, a no-risk trial period. So, here it is. Top as in top of your head, tal as in talent, toptal.com/mixergy. And of course, Mixergy is M-I-X-E-R-G-Y. Thanks, Toptal.
What did you do with Product Hunt? I saw a lot of Product Hunt on Ahrefs.
Ish: Right. So, I think when we launched our . . . So, there are two parts of product, the frontend chatbot and then there’s a builder, the chatbot builder. So, I think we did the first launch on Product Hunt in 2017 starting and I think we got a decent amount of interest from that. Like, I think we got about 950 upvotes something and I think we got the initial boost from there because for the first one year I think most of our customers were from our geography and this was the first time when a lot of these marketers from the U.S. were coming in and testing out the product. And we had just launched the product, so it was good thing that people were coming in and testing out a product and telling us all those bugs that existed. That was one. And the second thing was we . . . Yeah. Sorry.
Andrew: I do see two different . . . Oh, I see three different things that you guys listed for. One is called “Make chatbots to replace your regular old web forms.” That’s what we’re talking about, right?
Ish: So we’ve done a lot of Product Hunt launches because we see . . . Product Hunt has worked out sort of as a lead gen channel for us. So, if you go into my profile and look at the submitted or the makers one, you would see . . .
Andrew: I can see the other ones. Okay.
Andrew: You did that.
Ish: We’ve done a meme generator bot. We’ve done like [Giphy 00:45:14] bot. And we’ve done quite a few of them and some of them have done recently. Recently, we launched the templates on Product Hunt, but we’ve got a decent number of . . .
Andrew: I see that. Tars chatbot templates also listed on Product Hunt. Got 275 votes and a bunch of people engaging with it. Got it. Yeah. And then I see another one. Meme creator bot. It got 294 votes. And so you just keep going back and saying, “You know what? Our product can be used for a lot of different things. We’ll focus on creating different versions of it and then submit it in here.” So the first thing that you did was just replace web forms, right? Here’s this. No. No, wait. I do see that you also submitted Tars appointment booking chatbots. Is that the first one?
Ish: No. The first one would have been somewhere around 900 plus upvotes.
Andrew: Nine hundred plus. Okay. I see Tars. “Make chatbots to replace regular old web forms.”
Ish: Right. That must’ve been the first version of late 2017. Yeah.
Andrew: Okay. And so that sent you a bunch of traffic, a bunch of interest, you were number three on Product Hunt for the day and that got you customers. Is the next thing that you did, is that going on to AppSumo and doing an offer with them?
Ish: Yes. So, I think the first . . . So, we did the Product Hunt launch on February 21st if I’m not wrong of 2017. And the next month . . . Because . . . So, I’ll tell you the numbers. We had, like, 100 accounts, 110 accounts when we launched our builder.
Ish: And AppSumo give us 2,000 accounts.
Andrew: Two thousand accounts from being on AppSumo?
Ish: Yeah, because . . . And it’s not just about the accounts because what really matters is 2,000 people actually coming in and making stuff on what you’ve built because if you had done the normal stuff, it would take a lot of time to get even a single user. I mean, you can launch a new product, nobody is going to comment, even play around with the product, right? Now, someone has paid to actually use your product, right? I mean, we didn’t care much about the money we will make out of it, but what we really cared was these people were coming in.
And look, I have two conversations, like I have two calls. I had just had one call and I have another call with a guy who signed up during AppSumo and I keep reaching out to all of these people just because I want a better sense of their industry. Like, I would reach out to them as people are super helpful. They would have calls with you. You can actually do some sort of co-promotion because all of these are marketers, marketing agencies and whatnot. So, it sold out really well. I think that was the . . . I think we did this in April of 2017 just two months after Product Hunt and that gave us the initial boost. Yeah, that . . .
Andrew: Got it. So, you’re getting sales, but you’re also getting people come in use your software and that helps. What’s the next thing that you did to the product? What’s this platform play?
Ish: Right. So, I think for the first year, the 2016, Vinit was actually hard-coding all these bots, right? I mean . . .
Andrew: So, people couldn’t go and create their own form. You created for them?
Ish: Yes. So we hard coded all the chatbots all by ourselves.
Andrew: And then if somebody needed a change, could you change it for them or . . . ? Like, if I wanted a form for my site, I would come to you and you would code up my form.
Ish: I would code up your chatbot, essentially, and then if you . . . And you would basically give us all of this data in a Google Doc. We would . . . Vinit would hard-code all these stuff. So, we didn’t build stuff for a long, long time. Yeah, right.
Andrew: Wow. So he’s sitting there hard-coding it for me. If I say, “You know what? I want to change the language,” I would come back to you and say, “Can you change it? I don’t want to use surname. People don’t use the word surname. They use last name. Can you go in and do that?” He would go in and change that language himself for me.
Ish: Right. I think it was for the first six months, then we built the platform, but we didn’t still use it for like, three, four months, because we wanted to use it and only And then we were like, “Is this platform . . . ” I can tell you the numbers again, right? We had 100 accounts around 225 bots when we launched the builder, the chatbot builder. On Product Hunt we were at 255 bots. I think we have more than 26,000 bots at this point in time. So you can see the difference. If Vinit was hard-coding all those bots, would not be able to scale up. So, I think that . . .
Andrew: And the idea was you wanted to do it in yourselves, but you knew eventually you’re going to have your own builder so anyone can go and create it.
Ish: Exactly. So, I think we took time in building the first version of the builder and everything, but I think that is what helped us. And some of the features that are there in the platform are just because we knew people would need it at some point of time. We built that because Vinit was actually doing that and all those bots. Like, if you have to do like a webinar called an API integration, it’s not really possible with a lot of other chatbot platforms, but we built it in the first version itself just because our customers had already been using it and Vinit didn’t want to actually do that. He was frustrated with all the stuff he was doing. So yeah.
Andrew: I’m on that first site. It’s cute. You’ve got different buttons that I can press to see different types of chatbots and you’ve always been really good about showing people what it looks like. I do think the phrase “bot” or “chatbot” is really confusing for people. But on the left side of your landing page, there is like a cartoonish robot for ordering and booking. And I could hit that and I can see what it would look like if Domino’s had a chatbot with you and I could actually kind of engage with that and press vegetarian pizza which is what I would want and I could see that it says, “Okay. Pick one. Which type?”
And I like the way you guys make it look. I can . . . It’s different chat elements. When we say chat too people think they have to sit and type in, but it’s not a lot of typing in it. If you say “What kind of pizza do you want? Meat or vegetarian?” each one of those becomes a different button. I just press Vegetarian. If you say, “Okay. Now pick one of our many different vegetarian options,” you’re now giving me a scrollable image description for each one. So, I can see that there’s a Roman vegetarian supreme, and then I see what’s included in it, but I can scroll to the right and see that there’s the . . . What is that? Pepe or popi? Paneer. Oh, that sounds really good. So, I could select that and send that over to the bot.
It’s really well done and I like the landing pages that you guys have created mostly, mostly. There’s still some things that you don’t feel like American. Like, you still use “May.” That’s very much an Indian thing to say. You’re being extremely polite. May I have your first name? What’s your first name?
Ish: Right. We are humble. Yeah.
Andrew: Yeah. Humble and nice. It’s almost like you’re subservient, “We are here to serve you,” instead of, “Give me your first name.” I do see even early on there was . . . well, for a while there there’s something called startup accelerator, the MongoDB startup accelerator. What is that? What were you guys doing with them?
Ish: Right. So, when you’re early you want to use all the free credits, right? So, Mongo gave us the free credits, I think. So, we use Mongo as the backend and we use pretty much the Mongo Atlas and stuff like that as well. So, I think that is their way of . . . That’s their growth hack. Like, if they give you free credits and you just have to add it on the website and we really wanted to add because, like . . . I mean, we really appreciate the products people had built, so you would find all those mentions, even the places where you can build bot images from, we actually mentioned where we’re using those bot images from. You would see that.
Andrew: Because? Why are you mentioning where you got the bot images? Because you get it for free if you link to them or you just get credibility by linking to them?
Ish: Because someone made this and we want to let people know that there’s some maker out there who actually worked on it.
Andrew: Got it.
Ish: So, if you do this, like, it’s not our art. It’s someone else [with this 00:53:01].
Andrew: Yeah, I see it. Robot image graphics lovingly delivered by robohash.org. I see. So, MongoDB will say to new companies, “We’ll let you use our software for free. Just put a link to us so that people know that you’re using us.” And you’re doing it and also gives you a little bit of credibility because it doesn’t just say MongoDB gave us free credit on their site. It says “Startup accelerator” which gives you a lot more credibility. Got it. Got it. I see how this is . . . I see how this is playing out for you.
So, here’s the thing that I was telling you before we got started and I want to hold off. I feel like there are other companies like Drift who are just so good at communications. They are spot on. You guys are working hard. They’re working hard too. But they’ve got this like, swagger with startup space. Intercom, same thing, they created their own chatbot system. They’ve got this way of communicating that you guys I feel are lacking. What do you think about that?
Ish: Good question. Okay. So, I would definitely say . . . I wouldn’t say . . . I wouldn’t place Intercom and Drift in the same league in terms of both the product and the market.
Andrew: You mean in the same league as you?
Ish: No, no. I’m saying the same league among themselves, like, between themselves as well.
Andrew: Because it’s two different products. What Drift wants to do is sales qualification and Intercom wants to do more customer service or what are you thinking?
Ish: Not in terms of that. In terms of marketing as well. Like, we would see Intercom’s marketing is very different from how Drift would do their marketing. Like, Intercom’s marketing is more product-focused, like they would write long form blogs, they would build a really good product, their customers will talk about, and stuff like that, right? Their marketing has not been about a lot of swag or a lot of lending or a lot of videos. They haven’t been about that. They have done pretty educational marketing, right?
Drift have been totally on the other side. And I really appreciate what they have done. Like, I really like their marketing because everyone is talking about them, so definitely they’ve done a good job. But I think even when you say that everyone is talking about them, it’s actually in a certain niche. Like, for instance, I was in the U.S. in November and I could only . . . Like, when I was talking to people about my product, nobody brought up Drift and it happened only when I was in the West Coast.
Andrew: Because here people were thinking about them, but marketers are not necessarily thinking of them. They’re thinking of Leadpages, for example, or ClickFunnels, and that’s what they’re comparing you guys to.
Ish: Right. So, they would compare us as against a form. And, like, people . . . I usually used to think that everyone in the U.S. at least a marketer would know what a chatbot is. Like, the people in the B2C, like, the kind of industries we focus on. Nobody in the real . . . Nobody in the market space knows Intercom, for instance. They don’t have Intercom on their websites.
Andrew: Okay. Got it.
Ish: They use lenderhomepage.com. That’s their website builder, right?
Andrew: What is the web?
Andrew: Oh, I see it. Got it. And these guys are creating landing pages for lenders. I see. It’s like ClickFunnels for lenders and that’s who they’re comparing you to.
Ish: Right. They would talk about, “Can I have the 10 or 3 form converted into a chatbot?” Right? They would talk about something very different. And even if you go after auto dealerships, people don’t use Intercom. They use something called a Gubagoo.
Ish: So, they use . . . And the Gubagoo is a pretty big company that’s like 250 employees based out somewhere in the East Coast Miami, Florida, I think.
Andrew: What is it called? Qubaboo?
Ish: Gubagoo. I don’t know how to pronounce it, but it’s G-U-B-A-G-O-O. And it’s rebuilt for auto dealerships, basically.
Ish: So, it’s a very specific . . . It’s like Salesforce and then Veeva. Veeva is doing something similar only in the pharma space and you can actually build really good businesses. So, I think everyone is doing their job, someone is really good at certain kinds of marketing, but you don’t really have to do . . . Like, you don’t have to appeal to the Valley crowd or a B2B tech company, right?
Ish: Not other people have money as well, so you could focus on those guys and make really good businesses. But yeah, I don’t know if that answers your question, or would I . . .
Andrew: Yeah. What you’re doing is you’re helping me see that my question even could be a little bit unscrambled, that it’s not about the ones that I’m thinking about, it’s . . . I get now where your customers are coming from and how it would be different. I still think that there’s a little bit of marketing something that’s missing. So, that brings me kind of to talking about operating outside of San Francisco or outside the U.S. The language is the same. You’re speaking English. You were probably born . . . Were you brought up speaking English?
Ish: Yes. Yeah.
Andrew: So, it’s, you’re speaking English, we’re speaking English, but it’s different culturally. And I’m wondering about some of the challenges. So far we’ve just made it seem like you might as well have been in Queens, New York building your company, right? What are some of the challenges? What are some of the differences in creating a company in India, the good and the bad?
Ish: Right. Right, right, right. So, I can talk about the good part first because I don’t see there a lot of bad things about being here. But I was actually talking to a friend of mine just yesterday, right? So he’s moved to Toronto and he was talking about his life and stuff like that. And he’s like, “You can’t really build . . . It’s very tough to build a bootstrapped business at least in the first couple of years if you’re in the U.S. because your expenses would be too high.” We were just a couple of founders. We could do this because our expenses were like super low. Like, my expense back in the day would have been $300 a month. Right?
Andrew: Wow. For rent too?
Ish: For everything.
Andrew: For everything. Rent and food. And what do you get for $300 a month? Give me a description of the lifestyle that you have.
Ish: You would stay in, say, a good flat. You would obviously share, but you would get a good room. You would work out of a co-working space. You would eat good food. You would have a cook at your place cooking food. You don’t have to cook food.
Andrew: What do you mean at your place? At your flat?
Ish: Yep. You would have a cook who would cook food for you.
Andrew: So you could stay healthy. You’re not going to McDonald’s and loading up on fats . . .
Ish: No, no. Not at all.
Andrew: . . . and salt.
Ish: So there would be a cook who would cook food for you two times a day. You would have a maid who would . . . Like, you don’t have to wash your dishes yourself? They’ll be a maid who would do that. And you could do that all for $300. Like, even now I think my expense would be what? $670 a month.
Andrew: Wow. Okay.
Ish: So, you could . . . So, the point was you could build a really neat product with very minimal expenses. Right? If I had to do the same thing in the Valley, it would have been . . . It would not have. I don’t know if that’s possible or not, but I was there. Like, I’ve been to the U.S. only once. I’ve been to Canada a couple of times and other spaces, but I found it super expensive. If you have to drink coffee, you spend some $7 to $6. Right?
Ish: You can spend your entire day.
Andrew: You know what? Let’s say less, $3 to $5 if it’s just regular cup of coffee. If you’re adding a . . . Like, if you’re getting a latte and specialty drinks, absolutely.
Ish: Right. [inaudible 01:00:42]. If you have a pour-over, you would spend more, right?
Andrew: Right. Freaking pour-over. Yeah. And for anyone who is bootstrapping and starting out and getting a freaking pour-over at whatever, just come on, you got to stop that. It’s not just about the money. It’s the time and attention that the person has to spend pouring over. Like, get the freaking coffee and move on with your life. Wow. Okay.
Ish: But that is the good part. The second part is good talent, right? Like, you would get really good engineering talent at least in Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, right? And again, it’s not that expensive. I don’t need to . . . I was in the Valley I was talking to another chatbot company and they were raising around just because they had to hire four more people. I was like, “Really? That doesn’t make sense.” Because every new member you’re spending 100,000, 150,000, here you would be spending 10,000. Right? So, it’s a [inaudible 01:01:34]
Andrew: Wow. Yeah. Ten thousand for how long? A year?
Ish: Yeah, exactly. Yeah.
Andrew: I got to just emphasize that. I think that there was a time there I think around when Tim Ferriss started writing about going to Argentina where people were saying, “Okay. I could live in Argentina and work in the U.S.” And it was eye-opening. And I went there. And living in Argentina was cheaper, was friendlier, was like a better lifestyle in many anyways, and it was eye-opening.
I think that we need to start having our eyes open to the fact that we could both live and start companies outside. Now I haven’t talked to someone who’s left the U.S. and started a company outside, but I’m seeing the possibilities. The life doesn’t have to be so hard.
Like, when I look at Neil Patel. He says the reason that he has this quiet comfort is because Neil paid for his houses already. He’s not having to pay the mortgage every month and go, “Holy crap, what do I do if I don’t . . . ” There’s a sense of calm that comes, but he had to work 10 years to get there. You had that sense of calm. Day one, $300 a month. I could find a way to do it.
And it’s not just you. I was just in Singapore where I talked to the founder of Saleswhale. I said, “You got to Y Combinator. They not only invested in you, but they have . . . They have lawyers who can help you stay in the U.S. Why didn’t you do it?” He said, “Dude, do you understand how cheap it is for me to hire developers even in Singapore which is not known for being an expensive? Why would I spend money living where you are even if Y Combinator wants to make it easy for me when I could get these developers and live this type of lifestyle?”
And by the way, the lifestyle for him isn’t as cheap as it is for you, but I think that there’s something that comes from knowing that he could work as late as he wants because his wife will understand because culturally it’s supported that you’re in hustle mode and you could work late and there isn’t this sense of shame that why are you working so late. So, low prices, different culture, we shouldn’t necessarily say, “Let’s just go fly out there,” but we should realize there is a world of possibility.
Give me one other benefit before we go into some of the challenges because I don’t want to make it look like this is all butterflies and roses.
Ish: So, I think . . . In terms of product, that is good. You can build . . . I think cost is one, talent is one. I mean, even for us we . . . The guy who you must have seen in the video on our website he works out of LA. So, he’s based out of Los Angeles, right? He’s not . . . We do have a couple of people in the U.S.
Andrew: You mean on your homepage you have a guy who’s in Los Angeles.
Ish: Yeah, he works out of LA. He’s an Indian guy. He’s been working with us for three years now, but he’s great. It’s not like our team is completely based out of India, but yes, most of the people do work out of Bangalore. And we eventually want to build a remote company as well because when you build a remote company, you can have processes built-in and stuff like that, right? But, yeah.
Andrew: Wait, wait, wait. Let’s talk about that. So, I should be done with you with this interview. I’ve got another call, but I can’t let you freaking go. Okay. I just got back from running remote in Bali. A whole bunch of people who are sitting, learning from other companies who are running remote like them. Before then I thought the only benefit of being remote team is that you get lower prices, you get to hire people from cheaper places, you don’t have to spend for office.
What I learned is, it’s not necessarily about that. For many people, they’ll spend more. Like, the founder of Help Scout said, “I will invest whatever money we save by not having office space. I’ll invest it in regular company meetings where we fly everybody out because I think that it helps. And I’m not trying to save money by having a remote team,” but he said there are other benefits of remote team. And several people said what you said which is you get better processes when people aren’t in the same room. Explain that. What do you mean by that?
Ish: So, I’ll give an example, right? So, the guy I’m talking about who works remotely from LA he does . . .
Andrew: Arnav. Arnav Patel.
Ish: Yeah. Arnav Patel. He’s somehow connected to Neil Patel I think but he doesn’t actually . . .
Andrew: Everybody is. Okay.
Ish: But, yeah. So, he does marketing, especially content-specific ones, right? Now, I have a certain process, like, I know what he’s going to work on and it’s very much document. Like, if a new person joins us in content marketing, they can just go through the entire log of last year because every call is documented, everything is documented. And there’s like a . . . We have an 80-point checklist for every video that we create, right? It’s a very documented process because . . .
Andrew: Because if you were living in the same space, you could just tell him, “Here’s how we do it.” He’ll be able to ask you and understand. But if he’s in a different time zone, different city, you have to have it written down so he doesn’t have to wait for you to wake up and be available.
Ish: Exactly. And the second part is, I have to know what he’s doing. So, like, those processes have to be built in so that there’s a clear communication between both of us. The other people in the team would know what Arnav is doing because otherwise, people will be like, “I don’t even know what he’s doing.” You would want to have more communication within team. But right now the other processes we’re just trying to build because everyone was working from here, right? We don’t have a written documentation. So, I think if we think about building the team from remotely from day one, I think we’ll be better off, better processes, better everything.
Andrew: Okay. And so how about one challenge. Let’s be open.
Ish: The challenge is you want . . . Like, I have . . . We’re not good at marketing. Like, I don’t see . . . Like, honestly, if you go through our newsletters, I . . . If you scroll down to the page, you would see our newsletters, and I would say we’re really good at newsletters. This is something I would boast about because this is people recognize us. People know me just because of our newsletters.
And Arnav is the guy who does our newsletters and people really respond to it because they are like, pretty funny, humorous. We don’t care about the language we’re writing in. They’re not like the usual regular newsletters, but I see . . . You won’t find very good marketing at this point of time. At least for B2B space, you won’t find good . . . Like, you might, but it’s not as good as what you would find in the U.S. Yeah. So, that is one for sure.
Secondly, is there still not many success stories, so you don’t know. Like, it’s just building up, the whole community is building up, but you would see a lot of people who’ve done a 20 million, 30 million or say a 50 million exit in the B2B space in the U.S., right? Not many in India right now. So, still early is an ecosystem. There are people . . . Like, there are a lot of people like . . . a lot of people in Chennai, Chargebee, Freshdesk, all of these guys, Kissflow, doing a lot of events around to build a community, but still early. So, I think that is possibly an advantage people in the U.S. would have because there are a lot of people who’ve done that before.
Andrew: Right, right. And I remember we mentioned Clay Collins before we started, the founder of Leadpages. He said he didn’t have this sense of creating a software company until he heard it on Mixergy that this was a possibility and then that opened his eyes. And you’re right. When you’re surrounded by people who are doing something, it does change the way that you do things. Like, if you’re surrounded by people who have nothing but buy lattes for eight bucks, that’s all right. This is a natural thing for me to do. [inaudible 01:08:42]
Ish: When I was listening to Clay Collins in your podcast, I was like, “Clay and you Andrew, like, this is so simple.” And you could just send an email to all of his subscribers and you would have a lot of customers. We don’t have that advantage. We need to build that from scratch, right? So, I mean, that’s the problem with being because, from a different culture, you speak very . . . You can’t connect to a lot of stuff. Like, I don’t know a lot about how real estate works in the U.S., but I have to learn all of that from scratch because I don’t know.
Andrew: Right, right. You weren’t born with that experience around you. I have to tell you, though, by talking to so many people, you’re getting it, you’re understanding the software they use, you’re understanding the words they use. I feel like what you guys have done really well is talk a lot to your people, talk incessantly to your people. Your blog does that. You do it on calls I think still to this day. Yeah, there it is on the site, on the homepage. And you have a blog and everywhere else. You’re emphasizing schedule a demo get on a call with someone. Why is the company called Tars? I saw someone on Product Hunt say, “This is a great name.” I go, “Why? What am I missing?” What does Tars mean?
Ish: So, the name has been the same from day one even when we were B2C WhatsApp-based thing. And when we started, we wanted to keep it around the bot. And if you remember the Interstellar movie, there’s a bot called Tars.
Andrew: Oh, okay.
Ish: We just picked that, but then people started asking us, “Is there like a full form or a sort of an acronym?” And we said, “Yes. This is an acronym which means Text Automated Response System.” It doesn’t mean . . . Yeah. But, yeah. But it’s just the bot’s name and that we couldn’t tars.com so we were like, hellotars.com. Yeah.
Andrew: All right. It is hellotars.com for anyone who wants to go check it out. Explore I think the templates. It’ll show you a lot. I’ve been incredibly high on the whole idea of chatbots. I think this is the future of business to consumer communication. I think that this is what people are more used to now and we need to address them where they are. By the way, I even created a whole site to try to teach this because I’m fascinated by it. It’s called botacademy.com. You guys can go check it out.
And I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen. Dude, Ish, I’m so glad that we were able to talk. I freaking love the story. I love talking to you. The two sponsors who made this happen, HostGator, check them out at hostgator.com/mixergy, and toptal.com/mixergy.
Finally, I’m incredibly proud of the work that we’ve been doing at Mixergy Premium. I’m seeing people sign up. We just got Arie on our team call yesterday said, “Andrew, did you see the email from the guy who said that he’s been a subscriber for years and didn’t know you even had Mixergy Premium?” I said, “No, I didn’t.” She sent it over to me and I’m realizing people don’t know that we do this.
I bring back many of the entrepreneurs who’ve done interviews with me to come back and teach courses. Like, we were just talking about how to document the process for a team. There’s an entrepreneur who runs Trainual software for creating training manuals for your team. We brought him back to talk about how to organize your team using documentation. It’s available at Mixergy Premium.
Who else was it? I’ve talked to a lot about how I needed to have a company culture. I brought back the guy who did the best company culture second to Tony Hsieh to teach how he does it. It’s part of Mixergy Premium. If anyone is listening to me and they have not experienced Mixergy Premium, you should absolutely try it. I highly recommend you go to mixergypremium.com and go just sign up. If you don’t love it, we’ll give your money back, but I’m incredibly proud of the work we’re doing. I especially love that we are now improving the video quality and pumping these things out every other week just about we’re doing it.
All right. I’m proud of it. I’m glad that you’re here, Ish. I’m glad that everyone is out there. Build your company, Ish. I hope the two of us will get to meet in person and ideally I would love it for me to come to you and see you in person.
Ish: That would be great. Yeah.
Andrew: I got to get out there. Thanks so much.
Ish: Thanks. Yeah.
Andrew: Bye, everyone.