in AI, Books, Business, Podcast, Product

S1 E6 – Vijay Nadadur

On using machines to help humans to understand natural language faster, cheaper and better and on feeling comfortable with your life choices.

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Vijaykant Nadadur is the Co-Founder & CEO of Stride.AI. His expertise spans the areas of Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Understanding. He is also a mentor at Techstars Paris and Bangalore. He has lived in 6 countries and speaks 7 languages. 

Enjoy my conversation with Vijay

Show Notes & Links

Transcript Follows

Madhav 0:07
Hello boys and girls Welcome to this episode of Seeking Sathya podcast where I interview entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, writers, athletes, scientists, doctors and more from eclectic fields, in the hopes that we can put aside their superhuman stature and learn from their human abilities like building powerful habits, being curious and afraid to try new things and much more. Today, my guest is Vijay Nadadur. He’s the co founder and CEO of Strider AI. His expertise spans the areas of artificial intelligence and natural language understanding. He’s also a mentor at TechStars, Paris and Bangalore. He’s lived in six countries and speaks seven languages. Thanks Vijay for coming on the show.

Vijay 0:47
My pleasure. Thanks for having me here. Appreciate it.

Madhav 0:50
Cool. So originally from India,

Vijay 0:54
yeah. Firstly from Bangalore, India, the Silicon Valley of India. Yes.

Madhav 1:00
You shared a little bit about your growing up in Bangalore.

Vijay 1:03
Yeah, I mean, so Bangalore is a hometown back in the day was called pensioners paradise, but not anymore. I have seen Bangalore transforming from a mid mid size down to a very large city, which it has become today. I mean, you know, the Bangalore, which I grew up is very different from what it is today, but I mean, I’m glad it has grown big. I wish it could have been. It could have retained some of the soul charm. A lot of old timers would say we are missing that, but yeah, still a great city.

Madhav 1:39
Yeah. And so all your education growing up K through 12. And college

Vijay 1:44
is when you hit tangler. That would be

Madhav 1:49
how did you get interested in tech coming? Was there something in school or some someone in your family or

Vijay 1:57
your school was neat, like, I’m in school, naturally is one of the place where we all get motivated then family or like, I mean, I had one of my cousins who had been to studied at the Rutgers University and he was like, everybody is talking about him. And he did something with computers. And I was like, Okay, you know what, that’s really cool. And he’s a great guy. So that’s not a bad thing. Doing and that’s how I got into tech. And yeah, I mean, that was the starting point, I would say,

Madhav 2:28
playing games and what was it that

I mean, I will probably as a child, I was not cool enough to be solving great problems, per se.

Yeah, it started with gaming, but then a couple of things right, you know, got me started on some very simpler things like you know, if you do matrix multiplication, my hand it took so much time, but if you were able to write the logic ones, it just reduce your effort. I mean, that’s what I was like, You know what, I couldn’t bear the brunt ones but it gives me long lasting England.

So I probably would say the laziness is what is it to solve the problems and then I could solve it once and leverage it many times. Oh, yeah,

Madhav 3:13
that’s, that’s perfect. I think people I’ve talked to a few best friend of mine is also neurologist and I was talking to him recently. And he was Yeah, I said like, he is all the classes and pretty cool guy. I was like, What is the secret? He was like laziness, you know?

Vijay 3:35
greatest motivator

Madhav 3:38
awesome. And then I I briefly discovered about your interest in multiple languages and travels different countries or said all about

Vijay 3:49
well see, I mean, I’m not those good travelers, right, who wants to go ahead and explore I travel because of necessity. My life forced me to live in In Portugal, it was during an acceleration program called our challenge. I got to live in Portugal for four months, then Paris for five months. Another acceleration program called numa. And StartUp Chile. I lived in Chile for six months and then Holland also I have had a chance to live in Eindhoven, Holland, and then, of course, all over the US right from Athens, Georgia, to Atlanta to Lexington, Kentucky, Kansas City, California. I’ve been very lucky to travel all the good places, but not more for exploration more for business or compulsion. Yeah, that’s that’s been the thing. And in terms of languages, yeah.

So growing up in India, I was able to speak multiple languages like five languages. Yeah. And that was very helpful for me to you know, like take some keen interest on what I do currently, which is natural language understanding brand. So I kind of like it.

Heard that help. I spoke five languages it was helpful came from a different part of the country. I mean, lived in all places and had neighbors from various states. Yeah, I think it’s not very common in India right? I mean, we pick up more than one language very quickly. And then having lived in both Portugal and Chile I was I was kind of interested in knowing the Romans languages and fundamental grammar. It’s, it’s a indo European family of languages. So it’s not vastly different from some of our root languages like Sanskrit. It’s not vastly different objects have certain genders and what you call it if I may be allowed to use some formal words. It’s a linguistic type biography off language is not very different. So that that’s how I got into languages.

Madhav 5:49
Yeah, I was gonna say, I think that probably had some influence on your current NLP anala. We’ll get into that. But before we jump into the really exciting part of your career, Life with, I wanted to briefly touch on some of your entrepreneurial as you grew up, are, you know, during college or Was this your first venture? strike?

Vijay 6:14
I mean, if I’m allowed to say that the first entrepreneurial venture when I was in school, we used to have this crazy thing about collecting the stars. We didn’t have access to internet like the kids have today, right? So I would kind of like, you know,

I used to have a guy who had a printer and he would print for me all these various photos and I was able to kind of replicate that and I was a middleman making money. I was like,

Hey, you know what, one day you know, I was making somebody. I mean, that was good enough for me to kind of like, you know, my, you know, as school snacks or whatever you call it. So that’s how it’s I mean, if I’m allowed to say something about

Madhav 7:01
Yeah, that’s that is super cool. I’ve never heard that. But I mean, I yeah, I mean, I’ve heard of people exchanging Pokemon and game cards and all that. But this

is, this is really cool.

Vijay 7:14
On a serious note, like, I never expected to be an entrepreneur as such, because I was more inclined. Left to me, I would have been an academic sometime at the university. But yeah, I mean, I don’t even want to talk about it. So what happened is, the idea was very concrete in terms of tech. And and the use cases that we found where this could really be a game changer, especially talking more specifically about what people are trying to do with AI. So there is one cool element of a robot talking to you and shaking hands. That’s one part. The other part of it is the boring part, right? I mean, no one wants to read hundreds of pages. So I mean, when you automate something like reading hundreds Some pages of contract and what people consume two hours into hours can be consumed in 10 minutes or less, is much more productive in terms of operations as opposed to a robot coming and shaking hands. So I thought this is something aligned with my personal goal. garden only got started in this. Okay.

Madhav 8:21
Cool. I, before I jump into the stride I want to touch on briefly I’ve I think you started something, if I’m not mistaken, called tatian M, is that right?

Vijay 8:31
That would be correct. Yeah. That was

Madhav 8:32
a little bit about that story. Yes. Any lessons from that?

Vijay 8:36
Oh, yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So let me tell you what happened is so I had a job waiting for me in California. When I graduated from Kentucky, and my my team and my current co founder and another friend of mine were like, Oh, you should move back and spend some time in India and see like if you can can start something on your own. And that was one of the starting So I moved back and we just wanted to start something but not sure what it was. Either. That’s the crazy phase of life, right? So one of the things which was clear was like, You know what, let’s have something concrete. And maybe in future that will work. But for the time being, we need to make money. So we started a data science and AI consulting platform wherein we were able to grab a bunch of corporates on the platform, so that we could do training. But again, that was not scalable, because we were doing it in person training. And, and and companies are not very receptive to automating the training part of it. Or I mean, just the video tutorials because they want to have that in person experience. So because I had taught at the universities, it was an interesting job for me to kind of do it. And actually that was, that is where I learned a lot about how companies operate, how the corporation’s work. I was able to enter some of the biggest corporations in India and around the world. Because of this fact, and that not only gave me the exposure also gave me the capital to go ahead and take the next bet. And as attention died in early 2015, we had side born in mid 2015. So that’s how it worked.

Madhav 10:17
Oh, great, great. What was the single biggest lesson you think that you took away from him?

Vijay 10:23
The single biggest lesson was, so the number one success factor is going to be the product market fit.

No one cares about your idea. No one cares about how smart you are.

You need to stitch a team together and make sure that the product that you’re going to build as a market, so unless you do the validation, it might be a poor decision to go ahead and do something like yeah, I want to be an entrepreneur. It’s not the coolest which you know, people read about you please throw it out of the window and get back to the basics. So under You have the product market fit of some sort.

If not a product market fit, I use a term called product market direction, which kind of gives you a nudge that something is coming. Unless you have those things. Please do not ever start a business. So that was my lesson.

Madhav 11:15
Awesome. That’s a great lesson. They are just maybe sidetrack a little bit. But I want to know if there’s a background of that context or backstory to this in relation to this book called punishing the vulnerable.

Unknown Speaker 11:29
Oh, yes, yes.

Madhav 11:31
There is an association.

Vijay 11:33
That is that is that is that is written by my best friend, Dr. Jeremiah, also, who was a friend, a collaborator on research projects. So Dr. Olsen and I went to Kentucky together. He was a PhD student at the political science, public policy and political science department. And he’s now a professor at Michigan. He wrote a book I mean, like, you know, we did some statistical analysis. Together we publish a paper. So in which we applied, you know, the AI techniques on very different area than what we do currently in our business in which that was Dr. Olsen’s hypothesis on what’s the what are the factors that create a, you know, a which prompt a punishment decision within the prison system of the US. And if you categorize people as vulnerable based on several factors, and mostly the vulnerables are the ones getting punished. So I was kind of like, you know, I have zero percent contribution in that book, but like, yeah, I mean, I had, I had a sneak peek of that. And Dr. Austin was gracious enough to dedicate the book to me along with his wife, I

Madhav 12:53
didn’t realize there is a connection with some of your research work as well actually. That’s very interesting. That’s very interesting. That’s a nice segue into stride. And I know you started talking about stride a little bit. Could you share a little bit about how this idea came up? And what was the initial vision?

Vijay 13:10
Hmm, absolutely. So, so be I, if you are an entrepreneur listening to the, here is the first thing that you want to take away. This is exactly not how you start a company. Okay? We had a good tech, it was very academic in nature. We knew that there was application to this, but we didn’t know where it was, right? I mean, again, the lesson being, unless you have a product market fit, please do not go ahead and start anything it’s going to it’s not going to work unless you’re extremely lucky. Like it turned out for my team and I. So what happened is the idea was, we know some of the tasks are very challenging. So one simple task is summarizing content. Now, if you look at a summary, right, let me try to define what a summary is. summary is concise, non redundant way of representing the original content. I mean, even a 10 year old could write a summary, right? But what makes a summary very challenging is if three people write summary, none of them are going to write the same summary, right? It’s very abstract. So we could can we use machines to do these kind of tasks, or identifying sentiments and complex sentences, complex backgrounds, this is where the whole idea came. And we had a suite of text analytics product, or text analytics algorithms to be more specific, yep, which were able to accomplish these tasks. But then our product market direction was in banking, and we had some data sets for banks, the banking and financial services sector. So there was some focus, but the thing didn’t really materialize till we started working with a French bank called associated unit. During their catalyst program in 2016, and that was our first aha moment, we were like, you know what? We’re no longer a cute technology startup, but we are an actual solution provider or product company for banking and financial services. And I guess that’s how things got started.

Madhav 15:19
When you started describing it. It felt like it was a hammer, looking for nails.

Vijay 15:23
Oh, yeah, absolutely.

Madhav 15:24
Yeah. But then you switched into you found some part product market fit with banking. Yeah. How did that leap? Oh, boy, that that’s

Vijay 15:33
a good idea. You You got me on that. So let me tell you one thing, the bad idea was to find a nail. The good idea was to deconstruct the hammer and build different tools for a different problem. What happened that subject was they prompted us to solve some of the problems which we felt were trivial, right? Like information extraction, enterprise KYC, we could easily do this. Just based on the algorithms we had, but the whole idea was that we would have been, we all are technologically purists. Right? Like, we were like, oh, aren’t we deviating from this, but then the deconstruction of the essential for our existence today. We kind of like put things together based on the requirement it turned out to be simpler than it is. And that’s how we kind of figured out and we got a chance to work with several bangs speak to number of analysts right from the CEO to analysts, we spoke to everybody and unless you know the customer requirement, you cannot build something. So that’s how things got started in a more in more depth.

Madhav 16:42
You found something the customers actually said this valuable. He had a technology was just you at this point, or how did you

Vijay 16:49
know we had about seven or five the instrumental players were my co founder, send our CTO print the head of product cyber, these guys Instrumental, I mean, they were able to wear the needed hands to talk to the people learn about it, and kind of like, you know, a ball. And then it was about applications, right? We knew the after almost working with several bank for about a year, we pretty much got to a point wherein we had an equal blend of tech understanding as well as the banking understanding about what banks really wanted. At one point, we’ve been very lucky to even prescribe to banks like this is how you should be approaching a problem because that is when it will make more sense. So it took time to get to that level.

It didn’t happen overnight. It took us a year and a half. But then we also got a lot of mentorship from various bankers and that was extremely valuable.

Madhav 17:50
So if you had to put this sort of like in layman terms, how AI is being applied by you guys to help bankers banking companies? How would you describe that?

Vijay 18:03
So let’s let’s begin with the definition of ai ai is machines ability to mimic human intelligence. Now human intelligence comprises of various components, ability to deduce the ability to reason and ability to infer ability to extrapolate. So if you give machines these abilities, what could banks do? For us? banks are spending way too much time and money on some of the very necessary processes like compliance regulations, operations on a day to day basis, reading heaps of documents. I mean, think about a bank spending two hours reading a contract, another one hour doing the QC three hours, that’s a valuable time. And if they were to do it, maybe 1000 times or 10,000 times a month, they’re spending a lot of man hours. What if we could automate that in order to bring that time down from three hours to let’s say, 30 minutes massive productivity game Operational productivity gain. So our systems or our technologies essentially directed to make banks operationally more productive, intelligent, consistent and reliable. So any back office work for any large bank, or any process that deals with what we call it, cognitive abilities, ability to reason and infer ability to decide, we come in and automate that particular part using a.

Madhav 19:28
Okay, excellent, cool, because I think that that helps a lot. And then the team that you mentioned the seven people could you share how you actually went about bringing the seven people

Vijay 19:39
was that Yeah, so my school, my co founder, Sandy and I have been buddies from school so we have known each other for 19 years. So we pretty much put up with each other. We do a lot of things about each other. So yeah, that’s how it was easy. saga sauger and critique were amongst my interns when I moved back to I kept in touch with the academic world. And I, during my nine to 12 months of stint in India, I was able to keep in touch with the academic world. And these people really helped me implement some of my crazy ideas. And it all became part of their academic projects. And not only that, and these people were all they all had lucrative jobs, right. I mean, some of them got hired by like, you know, Citrix, Microsoft, big retailers, big banks, and believe it or not just one phone call from me when things got serious, and they were like, okay, it’s about when we are quitting. That’s it. It’s not about our recording. We’re not not even a word us, and especially critique and cyber, a critique didn’t even join the company which he had lucrative offers from him. It was he was under tremendous pressure because you know, all these fears were going for Google big at large companies. And here is a guy working As a tech lead, and then then we were interviewing a bunch of people who could be our CTO, because I didn’t want to do tech anymore. I was focusing more on the business, but we felt he was the most suitable guy to be the CTO, he was very, very young, like a 22. But we felt he was the most suitable person. And that’s how we brought him in as a CTO.

Madhav 21:22
Any lessons or stories from that, like how you build a team and

Vijay 21:27
how you build a team, right? I mean, so if you are going to build a team purely based on skills, it’s going to be a recipe for disaster, look for cultural but look for people who trust you,

I mean, the more human elements you focus on, the better it is for you in the longer run.

The obviously that is followed by naturally, I mean, they need to have skills, right? I mean, and they need to have the basic attitude and the intellect. I get. Don’t blindly focus on Oh, this person knows Python. This person knows Angular. Don’t do that. But it can this person stick around Before long term, will this person stick around with me during the thick and thin? I mean, I guess that’s how you build at least the first 10 people. Your job as a CEO will be handpicking them and building and kind of embodying the culture, right? I mean, you need to represent the company with the culture that you believe is sustainable. And then it still doesn’t become a self driving machine. But then you have these 10 representatives who could further guide 10 more and so even until you reached 100 number, you can still retain the culture. Yeah,

Madhav 22:32
yeah. On that note of culture, how do you think about culture? I mean, you think it’s something you like a mission statement and construct down or bottom up or,

Vijay 22:42
I guess, all that would be a little anecdotal. But for me, the true sense of culture is, if I may explain in a very simple terms is like a place where people feel comfortable, passionate, and responsible for their work, right. I mean, they need to be monitored. They don’t need to be kind of forced to work. They enjoy the work. And also they do things a wall. Interesting. Yeah. Yeah, the ownership, the freedom. So it’s a reward and risk both right? I mean, they need to know like, if they go to work hard, the rewards are going to be a direct product of the hard work. So they need to feel appreciated. They need to feel comfortable. They need to feel safe working at a place against all these are the components that drive the core of the culture. And again, then you have more interesting definition like is it like a party hard culture? Kind of we do party hard, a little bit? Like, yeah, we don’t force people to party hard. It’s an optional thing. Normally 99% people pick the party.

Madhav 23:46
Do you think that you have a product market fit or a direction right now or do you think you’re still?

Vijay 23:51
I mean, like, yeah, we’ve been in business for over four years and we work with some of the biggest banks in the world. Yeah, it would be safe to say we have a Product Market Fit. Maybe it was until 2018. That wasn’t the case. But now it is because based on where we stand in terms of our revenue in terms of where we are, unless we screw up for next three more years consistently, not right out of business, that’s a good way to define product market fit like yours You know, do you screw up only then you go out of business, right like in that terms like yeah, we have the necessary revenue streams covered. We have the we have contracts which are being run on three to five year basis. So we are fairly secular and hence, it would be okay to say that we do have

Madhav 24:44
no that’s congratulation. That’s that’s one of the toughest things for sure.

Vijay 24:50
But thing is, it takes a lot longer, right. I mean, we started in 2015 and maybe 2018. Towards the end, we could make the plane. So it’s not like an overnight success. It’s, I mean, selling into banks, you probably know how hard it is right? I mean, long and and the you have to fit. I mean, you you need to have the resilience you need to have. I mean, like, unless you are strong enough, you can’t deal with it. bureaucratic delays. So you have to account for all these things. And in during this

Madhav 25:25
time, I mean, it must have been tough to for several reasons. I mean, like you mentioned, your friends are all doing well with, you know, six, seven figure incomes and whatnot and big homes and cars or whatever. Here you are, like, out of a suitcase.


What goes through your mind. I mean, how do you handle some of that pressure?

I mean, see, I feel it’s about feeling comfortable with your choices.

I mean, let me ask it this way. Like, you know, again, this is not just an ego booster to feel better. But all I mean, I have several friends who are doing phenomenally well, I’m really, really proud of that. I do not want to trade my life for them. But there are few people who could trade their life for mine. So I, I’m feeling good about that right, I must be a good individual choice said, you feel good, right? I mean, and also, I also have one more safety net, I feel at some level, because the worst case scenario for your life as an entrepreneur, who has had some degree of exposure and experience is that even if things don’t work, you, you will end up with a fancy job in a good company. So that’s the worst case scenario. I mean, and that’s the best question. That’s better than many people scenario for many. So yeah, I mean, extremely lucky to be in this position. So yeah.

Madhav 26:52
Which I mean, so what is the black clock you have a PMF and you have customers in place. What’s happening? This model that you think is actually

working for you right now.

Vijay 27:05
So for us, the business model is simple, right? So we do so we work with banks, very traditional 150 year old hundred year old banks, right. So these are not your, it’s not like downloading a cool app and feeling good about it. We need to build deployed on prem. So typical business model that has worked very well for us is there’s a small one time implementation fees. And then there’s annual recurring license, which for which the banks pay if they pay a premium license, and if they get support and maintenance, if they have a basic license, they don’t get the support and maintenance. So it’s a very classic business model, which I don’t see. it going to be very different from any other large enterprise company. But again, we are in a very conservative regulated sector, the scope for innovation or other experimentation. A little less. We’ve seen some banks comfortable in terms of going on cloud, but that’s like handful, maybe on use cases. So mostly, it’s like a typical enterprise b2b software when you pay annual license, one time implementation support and maintenance, something interesting. It’s very

Madhav 28:19
similar to I had worked in a healthcare company for a few years. You know, and there’s a lot of regulation and HIPAA and compliance and if I may ask, so you probably are, of course starting out with finance, but there seems to be some nice our labs with problems in healthcare other spaces to is

Vijay 28:41
absolutely there are a few places in a few areas that we think are going to be useful like legal or a, you know, insurance, healthcare. So

there’s two parts a

way for us to go to that level. need to feel that you know what the market is big and we have some sizable share of the market in the financial services industry so that we can spread our wings in the other direction. And also, now, right, because of the credibility that we have built, and we do the same things over and over again, it’s the sales cycles are lesser customers trust us faster, and we are able to generate good quality of outcomes in limited period of time. So I guess that’s the thing that stops us from trying to experiment and other industry. Yeah, so for applicability there. Yes, there is a lot of applicability of what we do in the other areas of

Madhav 29:40
guarded, guarded visual. How are you funding your venture right now?

Vijay 29:44
Uh, yeah, I mean, we got some government grants. And we had, we just have raised very, very small sums of money from a couple of acceleration programs. We are a tech startup company so TechStars money, the new mom didn’t have money, so do the Only two stakeholders announced then we got government grants in Chile, Portugal and family friends and fools for some initial part. So we were very lucky not to raise a lot of money we are funding ourselves by the revenues so we are good I was

Madhav 30:16
gonna say what a great way to do it

Vijay 30:21
may not be a cool way to do it but we believe it’s a very good way to do it.

Madhav 30:26
So yeah, it’s the fundamentals

Vijay 30:29
Yeah, so yeah, I mean like that’s what we are the boring people with like, a solid fundamentals nothing experimental crazy about us. A lot of people might consider us less cool. sob. sob.

Madhav 30:45
We are not this real estate company was valued at $40 billion, and

Vijay 30:54
neither are we a taxi company claiming

Madhav 31:00
Awesome, awesome. That’s, that’s really cool. I think very few companies, but there is a trend I’m sure. I’m a big fan of a company that you might have heard of called base camp that is seven signals. Those guys talk about, you know, less is more and keeping it small, not just going crazy with VC funding just because you want to grow big. They’re 100 million dollar company, you know, doing project management and a bunch of other cool software. I think that their, you know, recommendation for startups is if you can defer taking VC funding forever, just do it.

Vijay 31:38
Yeah. I mean, if you look at the current large players, right, I mean,

whether it’s Microsoft or your articles or your Facebook didn’t take a lot of VC money before they became what they became they are I mean, like, you know, it’s it’s a trend right. I mean, the trends necessarily on the Cool, but they may not be correct. And that’s what we are seeing in general. Now the trend is, maybe two years later, we will have a different conversation. They’re like, Oh, you’re so smart ahead of time. Right. So I mean, catching the trend. If it works for you, good. If it doesn’t work for you, please don’t do that. Right. I mean, you take cognizance of that, and then decide for yourself.

Madhav 32:22
Yeah, we just so far, everything you’ve talked about looks like hunky dory. Can you share any dark moments that you felt like we’re done? I think we should. trying to hide that for a long, but you got to be again.

Vijay 32:34
Yeah, I mean, I’ll tell you. So recently, I put a tweet across there, which read something like this, right?

The difference between a early stage startup and somewhat stable startup is that the number of highs and lows you have for early stage startup is alternate days. And for us, it’s alternate weeks, right?

It’s like It’s like this, just do it down. It’s it’s Part of its so integrated, so I don’t even want to talk about it. But yeah, let me give you some anecdotes. So there is a few instances where we lost some of the customer projects or being to our own stupidity and and it’s very disappointing, right? You you potentially expect a few hundred thousand dollars in revenue and did you get zero after working hard for that long? Then you probably like you know, what you do is like you have two options, either a vent the frustration on your team, which is never a good idea, or is the other is take a step back review and do things better the next time around. So yeah, losing customer projects. where things are promising is it’s a big downer has happened a few times. Sometimes, you know, people quitting at interesting moments and you feel a little deserted, that has happened and then we were able to cope up with it. These are the two primary adopters. Then, one more thing in the enterprise b2b game is people don’t pay on time, right? Large companies don’t pay on time. And it could kind of squeeze out the resources and like, you know, you’re living a minimalist life size. Again, unless you have those 10 or 12 customers and little more stability. These are, I think things which are bound to happen to any entrepreneur. So, nothing special. But yeah, I mean, I don’t believe things have been always hunky dory. It’s like, have you gone through the grind? I mean, we’ve taken the thousand beach before we acquired some shape.

Madhav 34:39
So how do you deal with that kind of loneliness at those low points? Having a tactics or routines that you do like,

Vijay 34:46
yeah, I mean, I do a little bit I try to kind of like you know, take a 15 minutes time for some introspection and calm music to make myself a little bit regulated on a mental level. Then I try to read things that gives me motivation, right? I mean, I like to read stuff that gives me some kind of positive energy could be as simple as your teenage stories or as complicated as your philosophers like Jiddu Krishnamurti. All those complicated stuff. Yeah, I mean, I tried to read something that gives me aspirations and positivity.

More importantly. So this is the problem with the founder journey is very lonely, right? I mean, not only in terms of downtime, but also when so we had an amazing news coming in,

right I was in California, and my team was based in Bangalore, India, and and some of them were in Europe. So I got a great news at California, nine, four o’clock in the evening. I wanted to share it I had absolutely no one. I was like, you know, what do I have a little bar and get a bit of a load

is really annoying, right. So I think

Madhav 36:00
That is not only the lowest but the highest.

Vijay 36:04
It is hard It is very, I mean, I guess, think about the highest time you are not able to call your family or friends or by yourself. You’re like hell happened to be. Yep. So yeah, something like that. True, I guess. So I guess I have been very lucky to have a co founder who’s not just a co founder, but a friend with whom I can say stuff in a very personal way and he’s always there to listen. He’s also kind of like, you know, be try to be each other’s counselors help each other out, I guess. It’s very important. And then some mentors and friends. The cohorts of tech stars, some founders have been a great help. So you always live by the cohort. You know, the people who know this journey, right? You talk to somebody on the outside, they don’t get it. So you need to know somebody who actually gets it and lose by probably live through the sucky times.

Madhav 37:00
Yeah, it’s a roller coaster for sure.

How do you switching gears a little bit about your How do you think about your competition? How do you think about, like these big multi billion dollar companies who have invested a lot in NLP and image recognition and voice and whatnot?

Vijay 37:19
So let me put it this way, it would worry me tremendously if there was no competition, right? That means either we were the geniuses, we were the only people doing it, but that doesn’t seem right, then we would be the areas in the wrong things. And that scared me a lot. So it’s a good thing that there is a competition that keeps us posted. In fact, today, I was on a negotiation call with one of our customers and they said, like, we have three options, and you’re probably the third option, give us the best deal, right? So I said no, I mean, take the other two if you think they are better than that, but that gives us like, you know, the competition is a good thing. It’s not a bad thing.

So one thing I would tell Any founder listening to this is don’t worry about the competition, just make sure there is competition and you know what they’re doing. But don’t frame your strategies based on what they are doing, how much money they have, and what kind of marketing they do. I guess if you do a good job, and especially in the b2b context, if you’re able to genuinely deliver the value, make sure you deliver real value and then the customers do like you and the customers customers are reasonable, they’re not unreasonable. You are delivering the value.

I mean, and do it faster, do it cheaper, do it better, and know the customers pain points and work with them. So I’m sure sometimes you will win.

Sometimes your competitors win but that’s the nature of business. But keep in mind, I mean for us specifically the market is so big, that there is no one large fish which could eat all the like in a meet in the world like that. It has to be distributed to the market is big. Enough for multiple players exist. You could see them as competitors on some occasions. But sometimes you will be operating in a green field, there wouldn’t be any competitors, because there is sufficient resources for everybody. So I think that’s my viewpoint. And that’s be working out pretty well for us.

Madhav 39:18
Like you said, I mean, there’s it’s a big market. It’s not a limited pie, you’re expanding the pie as well with newer innovations.

Vijay 39:26

Madhav 39:28
So how big is the company right now?

Vijay 39:31
We are a team of 24 people right now. We will hopefully be able to hire eight more people by end of this year. That’s the plan. And earlier next year, we are going to have our team expanded in Europe as well. Because we have some solid contracts coming up in Europe and it’s about time we build a customer success teams in Europe and America as well. So next year is going to be mostly our international expansion. That’s good. Yeah, and I, again, I don’t necessarily agree with the size of team as a factor to measure, right? You don’t need a lot of people because it just what 15 – 20 people had built Instagram. Live in a very different world in today’s you know, size of team is certainly a good healthy indicator of how stable the company is. But not probably not the only parameter on which you measure the company’s success, right?

Madhav 40:28
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And then taking this vision forward. What do you see as your moonshot?

Vijay 40:36
I would ideally want to see this right like so what we sell ultimately is the productivity gain, right? I mean, whether we do it through AI NLP, that’s, that’s regardless. So where we are seeing a bottleneck is still customers have to depend on us, or training. An eighth floor building more complicated models, I would expect an ideal machine to be built out in which the customers have to do limited training. If they do it, they’d have to do it visually, not by entering stuff in your Excel sheets or any other data models. And if they do it visually a few times, the system is clever enough to learn and help them give a working model. They should be able to test it deployed themselves and have have it in production themselves. So eliminating the so right now we have eliminated the six to eight months efforts to 60 we made it six to eight weeks, I would like to see in either world that efforts being reduced to six straight hours, which means you can have automation, cognitive automation at massive scale, and companies become more and more productive. But that that’s the ultimate moonshot I would have is.

Madhav 41:49
That’s great. That’s great. Just to that’s that’s, that’s awesome. Just wrap up in the last. I mean, I wanted to ask you a few quick three, four rapid fire questions you don’t have to ask

Do you have any

favorite books that you have gifted to people?

Unknown Speaker 42:16
I am I am

Vijay 42:20
there are just quite a few there is one by Ray Dalio it’s called the principle principles here. I love it and that’s one of the books I’ve gifted to few people. I’ve gift I mean so I read the two kinds of books one is the self help kind of the ones that are motivating you. And the other ones are just like in a pastime like you know, they mean nothing right? I mean, they just read it for fun on the on the fly. There’s one more book called I think I forgot the author, but it’s very popular book called our iceberg is melting. It’s a small fable. I loved it. It’s like you could read that book in an hour and and anybody reading it would really appreciate it. And then there’s this old classic book of Friend of mine had given Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I enjoyed that book a lot. I’ve presented multiple copies of this book to people

Madhav 43:08
are great, great, great. Yeah, I don’t know two of the three. If I look them, I think so nice. Yeah. And if you could write this is probably a crazy one. If you could write something on a full moon, and the whole world can see what would you write?

Vijay 43:25
Oh, I would put our logo up there.

I would love to get some marketing or marketing. I would put our logo up there.

Madhav 43:38
Don’t a logo. Go Go. Let’s take every opportunity to spread the word around.

Knowing what you know now if you were to advise your younger self, what would you advise?

Vijay 43:55
Okay, businesses work more on relationship as well as on human factors, you may think that you are your technology is the greatest thing. And that’s what companies are buying you, you should be clever enough to

understand why they are buying what they are buying and who they’re buying from. And you need to sell that what they are buying, if they’re buying operational productivity, you shouldn’t be selling a car, you should be selling on the operation productivity, I guess that’s something I would tell my younger self

so that it would have saved me a lot of time and effort on so many things. And also it would have made me more focused on knowing the customer journeys, in depth and in the more in a compassionate way. Right. I mean, you need to empathize with the customer, you need to know their pain points, rather than saying, Hey, you know, my technology is awesome, please use it. Then like no, this is something I know you have this pain point, alleviate your pain point. So I think that’s something the biggest technology is an enabler. It’s not a solution. Its solution is something different and if people are seeking solutions, provide them that instead of focusing on the enabler, which is technology, I think that’s one advice. I would like to you know, the younger self

Madhav 45:09
perfect. Yeah, I think putting yourself in their shoes and talking their language and their legs a lot of sense. Perfect, perfect. Thanks a lot, which I think, really, there’s been a tremendous 45 minutes. I really appreciate your time order to end with a couple of things. One, if you wanted to say anything that we didn’t touch on, that you want to bring up as a parting words to our listeners.

Vijay 45:35
Oh, my parting words to the listeners is? Yeah, I mean, I hope this is motivating enough for you to think about certain things. It perhaps my best takeaway would be if you go ahead and make an attempt, or given a shot to start up something, even it could be your side project, right? I mean, kind of put it in the framework and try something And see if it works. If it works, maybe let me know I will be happy to help you in some ways.

Madhav 46:06
Perfect, perfect segue to if people wanted to be in touch with you after this. What’s the best way?

Vijay 46:12
Yeah, I mean, people are welcome to connect with me on LinkedIn. Once you connect with me on LinkedIn, they could ask me for my email or phone number, I’m happy to share, I respond to 100% of the requests. If people want any kind of help from me, I mentor at a few programs including the TechStars parasitics or Bangor, so happy to help any upcoming entrepreneurs in whatever ways I can they write from, I know only a few things now Okay, the legal part of it. I had no idea how to deal with people. Don’t ask me tech help, but I don’t do that anymore. But I’m happy to help in whatever ways I can

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