in Business, Podcast, Problem Solving, Product

S1 E9 – Arun Saigal

On creating a new future where anyone can develop apps, no code necessary and on investing in people and smiling more.

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Arun Saigal is the Co-Founder and CEO of Thunkable, the low-code/no code platform that enables anyone to build their own apps without coding. Recently named to Forbes 30 Under 30 for Consumer Technology, Arun has held a variety of leading roles and positions at technology companies, including Quizlet, Khan Academy, Aspiring Minds, and Google.

“Smile, we don’t do that often enough.”
Enjoy my conversation with Arun

Show Links & Notes

Transcript Follows

Madhav 0:01
Hello boys and girls, welcome to this episode of Seeking Sathya podcast. My guest today, Arun Saigal, created a no code app development platform Thunkable. I invited him here to talk about it and the future of no code platforms. He is an MIT grad and Forbes 30, under 30. And also an accomplished musician connects orchestra in San Francisco and plays the violin and the breathing room.

Thanks for coming on the show. Thanks so much for having me. Originally from Boston, Boston, born and raised lives there, went to high school there undergrad, grad school, so yep, Boston, Boston, great city, and all kinds of things happening there with MIT and Harvard, and all these great schools. But for you, as a kid growing up, were you influenced by and how you thought about, you know, education or ambitions and things like that?

Yeah, growing up in Boston, I think it was the best city in the world to grow up in because because of the, you know, huge influence of the universities and education system, there was a tremendous amount of intellectual diversity. And a lot of just, you know, expectation of great education there was because you could just walk the, you know, halls, the streets of Harvard of MIT toughs, all these fantastic universities that were just all in the Boston area, there was so much, you know, emphasis on education on learning on intellectual curiosity, made me always be more excited and more passionate about education. And when you want it to learn things, you could just go, you know, as a kid, I could just go listen to talks from MIT professors, or go have music concerts that I would listen to, you know, by the great musicians who were in and coming to Boston. And I think that was a, that was such a such a cool experience, to grow up amongst,

was it also a lot of pressure, in terms of like, oh, my god, there’s all these great schools. And if I don’t get into one of these, I kind of a loser.

I was very fortunate to grow up in a family. And in a town where you didn’t feel that pressure as much. I don’t think I felt as much of that there weren’t kind of expectations,

you know, the expectation was that you’ll go to college, and you’ll study hard, and you’ll do well. But it wasn’t, if you don’t get in, you know, you’ll be in trouble. I think that’s at least until my sister went to college, my older sister.

And at that point, she was very clear that if you don’t get into MIT, and I wanted to show you as a sibling, but before that, I don’t think it wasn’t I think it was because I grew up in a in the town I grew up in, in Burlington, Massachusetts was a was a pretty, you know, it was a cool town of what I would say very, you know, normal, awesome, fun people. And so the expectation was that you worked hard, and you did well, but kind of as long as you tried your artists did your best. You know, that was all you could ask for.

Madhav 2:56
You’re playing cements and you’re a beatbox specialist and Rob battler Twitter profile. Where does that come from? I would assume that from your parents.

Arun 3:10
Yeah, I do a lot of music. I it definitely comes from my parents, my mother’s a South Indian classical bharatanatyam dance teacher. And I think my parents are both big music, dance and arts kind of aficionados. So growing up, I learned viola, trombone, and the rhythm gum, the kind of Indian South Indian classical drum. And so throughout that, throughout those experiences, I, you know, got more involved in music started performing more in playing more these days, I conduct a symphony in San Francisco, the San Francisco civic Symphony, I conduct. I also play in an orchestra here on the viola. And then I also perform rhythm and rap and beatbox pretty regularly. So the music part of my life is, is pretty important. And it’s a pretty significant chunk of my time. But it’s always been a big passion for me. And I’ve been very fortunate again, growing up in Boston, you have some of the best musical institutions with the New England Conservatory in the UK called music, being right there, where I was able to grow up and do a lot of math and science, but also spent a lot of time learning music from some of the best in the world. And I’ve been very lucky to be able to continue doing music at a fairly serious level, both during MIT where I was involved in starting MIT ohms, South Asian acapella group, and even post MIT where I spent a lot of time throughout the Bay Area playing and performing.

Madhav 4:42
The interesting thing is even now, being busy with getting your startup going and scaling it, you’re continuing to do that. And I’d like to probably touch on some of that later in the session on some of the routines or tactics that you do to manage all these things. I think that’s something that people find challenging. Do you have a passion but then you don’t have time for it? Definitely want to get into tangible and the whole story around that and your vision for it and all that. briefly before we jump into that, like you’ve then moved on, you went to MIT, as you mentioned, you did your bachelor’s and master’s at MIT. Was that a dream of yours to go there? Was it pressure from unretire sr? How did you end up going there? Sure.

Arun 5:25
So growing up, I knew from a fairly early age that I wanted to be an engineer, both of my parents are engineers. And I liked the idea of building things with my hands, I was always a, you know, big tinkerer, I was a Legos kid, I used to build all kinds of things with Legos.

My mother tells a story of when I was a kid, and I wanted to understand how VCRs worked. And so I didn’t know if it was just the shape of the object that you had to put into the VCR, peanut butter jelly sandwich and stuck it in the VCR and tried to hit play to see if that worked.

Because the shape is approximately right. And then when that didn’t work, I, you know, disassembled and dissected the VCR, and of course, made a whole mess of the thing. But I’ve always been a fairly, you know, curious engineer type individual. And so when I went to high school, and I started thinking more seriously about where I wanted to go to college, I think, you know, MIT being both so close to where I grew up, as well as being many would say, the best engineering school in the world, it seemed like, hey, if I can get in there, that would be awesome. In retrospect, I couldn’t have asked for anything better. Both in terms of the faculty I got to work with, I think that was so incredible, working with some of the people, especially in computer science, who some of the fundamental, you know, godfathers creators of what we do.

My lab was advised by, you know, Hal Abelson who’s a big, you know, founder of the Creative Commons and was somebody I did a lot of work with. And actually, my, you know, co advisor was Tim Berners, Lee invented the World Wide Web.

And these were just the people I got to sit with and work with and spend time with every day and, and that Chandra casa, and he was another one of my advisors. He’s now the dean at MIT, you know, one of the most cited electrical engineers in history, and to just have those people be your colleagues be people you work with, and not even in computer science. But, you know, I did things like I studied some linguistics. And so I got to have dinner with Noam Chomsky and talk to him about linguistics, and just to be able to do that, and whether it’s music or English, or literature, or art, having that kind of resource in that all in one concentrated place was just, you know, a fantastic kind of

Madhav 7:34
opportunity of a lifetime go there to pick up technology and Tinker and things like that, but you actually learn all rounded a lot of other things. And also, one of the other things I wanted to touch on was you put a sandwich in a VCR. I mean, like, Where is that kind of curiosity coming from? Right? I mean, people don’t seem to even experiment. That’s the best way to learn, break things and try to break them apart and learn and build them back. Where you always like playing with all kinds of things and trying to break things or a hacker quote, unquote,

Arun 8:05
it was some of both I was I was always, I was always good in school. I liked school, I thought, you know, I liked learning things I liked doing well in school. And you know, again, having an older sister who was also always she was always really good. And I always thought she was just cranking everything. And so I wanted to try and be like her. So there was that aspect of me. But there was, I guess you could say mischievous side where I was always very curious to push things to the boundaries. Another thing my mother always makes fun of me for is just asking too many questions. Always ask questions about everything. Folks who know me now even still say I asked too many questions.

But I always was just curious about how things work, why things work as they do. And it doesn’t have to just be machines, whether it’s about politics, or religion or art. It’s always something I’ve questioned, you know, the how and the why I’m naturally a fairly curious person.

And I love learning things. I love learning about people, I love learning about my surroundings, and kind of understanding it as much as I can. And so the VCR you know, incident was my question would leave me Leave me to do mischievous things? Yeah, like the VCR incident, right? Well, how does this work? I guess I’ll have to try it because I wanted to push it to the to the edge. So I would sometimes get in trouble. I would sometimes, you know, climb up too high on something and not know how to get down. I put peanut butter and jelly in the VCR I would unplug all the wires to see what happened. And then, you know, maybe we you know, the lights aren’t working or something. But there was always just kind of a curiosity and a questioning kind of got me into the trouble that I would get into.

Madhav 9:33
That’s a good kind of trouble for sure. I’m from from MIT. Where did you end up? I think you went on to work for Quizlet. Is that the next bad? Yes. So

Arun 9:44
I had done a bunch of work in education technology at MIT. I had worked on scratch, which was a tool to teach kids to code that’s, you know, become very popular and use. I worked on App Inventor which was the predecessor to Thunkable which will you know, Talk about afterwards, I had spent time working in Google on kind of some open source education initiatives. I worked at Khan Academy. So had a lot of experience working in education, technology and a lot of passionate about it I love similarly, as I love questioning things, I love kind of helping people answer their questions. I love teaching. So I spent a bunch of time in education technology. And then Andrew Sutherland, who’s the founder of Quizlet, was a good friend of mine from MIT, and he left MIT to go work full time. And so when I was finishing up MIT, he reached out and said, Hey, you know, you have a lot of passion for education, because it’s in our very early days, I think when I interviewed, it wasn’t there, maybe five people there. And, and you know, it’s going to be something big. And I looked at Quizlet, and what it was doing, and I said, this is going to be something that’s going to be really impactful on on the world and society.

I mean, with five people they already had, you know, 10s of millions of users.

And it was such a phenomenal platform. And for me, as someone who is excited and curious about startups and kind of being on small teams, I said, Okay, what a great opportunity to both, you know, work on a product that I think is super impactful in the type of environment that I want to work well on. But also get those kind of learnings that you can only get from kind of being at a startup, thinking about business models, thinking about fundraising, thinking about where do we invest our resources, when we’re very resource constrained? And so, you know, Andrew said, Hey, you should come spend time with me and do this. And for me to be able to do all that. And work in education, which is something I had a passion for, seemed like a no brainer. And sure enough, I went and did that. And it was, it was a fantastic experience. Yeah,

Madhav 11:38
I mean, Quizlet is phenomenal, like mentioned, I mean, they have so much study material. And they have now covering like a gamut of not just K through 12, but all over in terms of human professional education or whatnot. It’s any particular lessons that you took away as not a founding member, but actually being part of this rocket ship that was blowing up.

Arun 12:00
So I will say, when I interviewed, there are five people, they hired a couple more before I started because I had finished my master’s. But it was still pretty early takeaways, I think, close it was a

really good example of kind of product market fit and really good building something what your users want,

you did a fantastic job of saying, Hey, here’s and it started with, you know, the founder, Andrew had a problem where it was hard to study for he was studying for a French test, and he couldn’t memorize all the words. And so he wanted, you know, some technology that would remember what words he studied and helped him etc. And so he built a little basically flashcard type thing, which, which was the kind of predecessor or the first, you know, kind of version of Quizlet, if you will.

And what was cool about it is it was solving a very simple problem that a lot of people faced, full focus on kind of getting it right for the user, and making sure that the user comes first.

And if they have a problem we had built, you know, we were only a few people, we had a full inbuilt Customer Support Center. This was before kind of a lot of these plug and play customer support tools. We built our own Customer Support Center, where we would listen to questions that people wrote in, we would answer every question that came to us. And we would really kind of focus on that. And what was cool, there was for a while, you know, we didn’t totally know what the business model was, we didn’t know what the monetization was. But we were solving a problem that really, that really affected our users. And that. And that allowed us to kind of experiment, you know, over time with business models with different features, and so on and so forth. Because we had a product that people really cared about and really loved. And that I think, you know, just learning to have kind of a maniacal focus on the user above everything else, I think, was something that was really good that that came out of Quizlet,

Madhav 13:46
Forbes 30, under 30, did it come after or before while you were actually still at MIT? or How did that happen? And what does it really mean to you?

Arun 13:56
We got into Forbes after starting after starting Thunkable. It was based on the work we had been doing it thinkable as well as the precursor that we had built at MIT, which was called MIT App Inventor. And the recognition was, you know, we were very, very blessed to get recognized for the work that we had done in building Thunkable. And, you know, myself and my co founder way, along with a huge team, you know, we were just two small parts of a huge team and huge effort at MIT, that built at MIT. And Google actually was initially a collaboration between the two that built MIT App Inventor, and so it was, you know, really, you know, it was a great honor to be recognized for a lot of work that we had been putting in, basically, since my undergrad days. And I think you recognize both the work that we put in, as well as the potential kind of going forward of the impact that a tool like thinkable and that comfortable specifically, will have and now, you know, a few years later actually has had

Madhav 14:57
great I think nice segue into tangible effects. can think it, you can dunk it.

Arun 15:01
That’s it?

Madhav 15:03
What was the initial idea? How did you come about that idea? I know you’d worked at Quizlet. And you have a long history of working on educational projects. So I can see how it might have culminated maybe, but I’d like to hear from you like, what was the initial idea? And the vision for bankable?

Arun 15:23
Absolutely. So I started at MIT by working on this product called MIT scratch, as I mentioned. And so at the time, it was, you know, very early stages, we were kind of figuring it out. Now, scratch, I think last year had, you know, over 100 million people use it. So it’s just in the last year alone, it’s, it’s, you know, become kind of the default way that kids learn how to code. And I think that was really cool and powerful for me. And it was. And so we were thinking about,

hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we could do something like scratch, but actually enable anyone to build something outside of the scratch world, something in the real world, and that became mobile apps, we made a bet that, hey, mobile is going to be in the future.

You know, we made a bet that many folks that saying, we think smartphones are going to be the future, if we can empower people to build for their smartphones, that’s going to be so powerful. And so we teamed up with the team at Google led by a gentleman by the name of Mark Freedman, and we talked to mark and said, Hey, want to be cool to do that. And Mark kind of came back and said, Hey, you know, I’m working on building the Android operating system. And even I find it really hard to build Android apps, I would love to make it easier for anyone to build Android apps. So we built this thing, App Inventor and launched, you know, really fully to the public around 2010. By 2014, we have pretty much grown to be the largest app development tool in the world for non developers. We had some four and a half million people with built 10s of million apps in all of the in all countries, I think, outside of North Korea. And we said, well, this is really cool.

And this is way more powerful than just a cool, you know, to be able to code tool. So we started interviewing our users, and we say, Hey, who are you and what are you doing?

And a bunch of them said, Hey, I’m you know, I’m just goofing around here. I’m learning to code I’m tinkering. But a large percentage of them said, Hey, I’m a professional. I’m a business person. I am somebody who has an idea don’t know how to code. And I found App Inventor as I’m using it. He said, Okay, well, why are you using us? And they said, You’re the only tool that’s powerful enough that it does, what I’m trying to do, but simple enough that I a non software engineer can actually do it. I said, Okay, do you want more things? They said, Yes, we would love it. If it was cross platform worked on iOS, if it was a lot prettier, if I could make money off my apps, all these things that we weren’t going to do as a research project, but as a company made total sense to do. So fast forward to the end of 2015. And we said, okay, you know, what, it’s, it’s time to take this out of academia, if this is going to reach its full potential, it needs to be a standalone business where, you know, we’re not just taking grant money, but we’re actually getting our users to invest in us, so that we can give them the tools that they want. And at that point, kind of I talked to a number of folks who were in the lab, who had been at Google, who were close advisors of mine, and I was very fortunate that a number of folks were willing to start working with me kind of in part time and advisory capacities. And then way, my co founder, who was still in Boston at the time said, Hey, I’m ready to do it. Let’s move to the Bay Area. And let’s get started. And so he moved out to the bay where I was when we did Y Combinator, and you know, kind of the rest is history.

Madhav 18:27
Well, a couple of things I wanted to touch on were the initial founding team. And like the product market fit. Seems like you didn’t have to struggle for it. But maybe that’s not true at all. It looks like so rosy, you had a product market fit as part of Google App Inventor project. And then you said like, let’s scale this and make it real business. Could you share anything around? How did you go from zero to one? And were there any struggles to get to that?

Arun 18:55
Yeah, so there were certainly struggles. But it is a little different than kind of maybe what the the more standard story is. And that that really comes around the zero to one part where when we, when we started, the company had a sense of people who would use us and find us useful. And we just made basically a better version. And I would consider a better version of our of our predecessor. We made it a little more pretty, a little more functional. We added, you know, some nice features. And so there were a bunch of people who came over to us, I think, you know, within the first month, we went from zero to 10,000 users or something like that, which was awesome. The difference though, is because we came from a horizontal product, ie a product that had everyone from kids in schools, to big giant companies, to small businesses, to you know, people within the US people outside of the US, people who spoke English people who didn’t speak English, versus in a lot of companies.

When you start you say, okay, we’re building a product for this one user, we’re only going to target these users. And that’s it.

Because of our legacy, we started with a whole broad base of users. And I think it was actually a benefit for us in the early days, because there weren’t that many kind of low code, no code platforms. And so we became a tool that anyone who was trying to build an app could come to. And, you know, if we, if we had the features they needed, they could build an app with us. But it also meant that we had to kind of, you know, satisfy a lot of different users and use cases, instead of just being laser focused on Hey, this is the only use case that we

Madhav 20:30
have to focus on. You’ve mentioned Y Combinator for a sec. What was that experience? Like? I know, it’s great. People say it’s amazing, being part of that cohort. And, you know, having the experience of Demo Day and whatnot, any takeaways that you might pass on to people who are aspirants of getting into Y Combinator, it’s like getting into Harvard and MIT now. So

Arun 20:54
it is, it’s amazing how selective it’s become and how competitive it’s become, just like universities, it’s not Y Combinator, it’s, it’s a fantastic program, I was really, you know, happy to have taken part in it and would definitely recommend it to anyone. I think the interesting thing is Y Combinator, people think, Oh, I get in. And you know, it’s all just great. And it’s like getting into college I used to I got into MIT, it’s all great, I got a target, it’s all great, you still have to work hard and call yourself to do well, you have to take advantage of the opportunity. You can coast by fail out of college and not interact with any of the people and it doesn’t it’s of no value. What it does, though, by getting into MIT by getting into Harvard and any of these other I mean, any any really University in America, they’re all pretty great to kind of it gives you kind of presents you more opportunities than you previously had, but still to you to take advantage of them. And so with Y Combinator getting in is awesome. And I highly recommend it to anyone who’s considering starting a company, but just by getting in, they’re not going to build your product for you. They’re not going to get your users. That’s your job. What is really good about it, I think there’s there’s a couple things. First off, you are in a group of people who are going through the same struggles as you and are around the same place.

So having folks to commiserate with people to give you advice on Oh, I faced that problem last week, here’s how I solved it. And people who can just kind of show you, hey, you’re not alone, like this is something that everyone goes through your struggles or my struggles. It’s really nice and refreshing to have that.

That’s, that’s one thing. thing. Number two is there’s just a lot of really good mentors, who can just really help you succeed in your business. And when you get kind of confused and you don’t know where to turn, you’re like, Hey, I have this question about legal something. Well, there are lawyers who can just sit down with you and help you. And the last thing is they’re just, there’s a lot of random things to running a business that aren’t, you know, the things you talk about. When you’re talking about starting a company, you’re usually talking about, oh, the product and the vision. And all that stuff is you know, your job as the company founders. But Y Combinator helps you a lot with like, you need to deal with accounting, you need to file taxes need to incorporate your company, like Who should I talk to? How should I do that? They’ll give you advice on all of that. And there’s probably another Y Combinator company that has been built to solve that problem. Yeah. And so it’s just a great network of folks that can help you out and kind of all those things together, make it kind of tremendously valuable experience.

Madhav 23:20
Do you consider yourself as a low code or no code?

Arun 23:26
We definitely fall in the low code. No code world depends on the the case that you talk about. You don’t need to write any code to use thinkable. So we’re often considered in the, you know, no code conversations

Madhav 23:39
going on if people actually are sort of intermediate to advanced programmers, but don’t have the chops to build a mobile app or don’t have the time or whatnot. Can they do interesting stuff as well? Or is it more catered to people who don’t know how to code at all,

Arun 23:57
we definitely see a lot of intermediate and advanced programmers who a lot of them who don’t have mobile app development skills, and some of them who even do and just say, Hey, boy is easier, faster, better than writing the code by myself. The nice part about thinkable is we spit out under the hood, native code that then turns into your APU that’s built nicely, etc. It’s not obvious that it was built with Uncle vs, you know, built with just regular native programming. And I think that’s something that is really great. And as a result, we have a lot of programmers who come to us and say, Hey, you know, I don’t know how to write kotlin or Java, or swift or Objective C, but I know I want to build an app. So I’m just going to use some people. And because they have a programming background, they’re actually just really fast at using it. They know exactly kind of how to think about building a product and software. And so they’re just very fast at building with us. But we do intentionally have a lot of advanced capabilities, both in terms of the kind of functionality you can build as well as in the design capabilities. Awesome. Okay,

Madhav 24:57
could you give just to give a perspective to the are, you know who is interested in this platform? Like, could you give a range of like maybe a very simple app versus a very complex app? That’s possible?

Arun 25:10
Yeah, I’m happy to do that. We can also talk about kind of some apps that everyone may know. So Instagram, for example, people use what is kind of the main function of Instagram, you take a photo, you can upload it, you can share it with a group of people, you can have a way to log into your account, that kind of stuff. All of those capabilities exist in linkable all of those capabilities you can build. Similarly, let’s say ride sharing app and Uber or Lyft. The app basically, when you open it, it displays to you prices that it’s fetching from some back end, it’s displaying to a map with some cars on it, of where they are. And then when you push the Request button, it says, Okay, here’s your vehicle. Again, something that, you know, it’s pretty straightforward to build on thinkable. What’s cool about Uncle, I think, is we extract a lot of the complicated concepts that are simple, but implementation is complicated. And we try and extract a lot of that away. So just taking an example of like image recognition. If you’re a software engineer, and you’ve ever built anything that uses image recognition, you probably know that it’s fairly hard to do, especially if you’re on mobile, you have to first plug into the mobile native hardware, ie the camera, pull up the camera, take a photo, then send it to a service, it’s going to do a bunch of things, it’s going to give you some results. Um, when I’m, when I’m in concept, image recognition is simple, take a picture, go figure out what’s in the picture. But in implementation, it’s actually very complicated. That’s something that we’ve tried to really abstract out. So we say, you know, when I click a button, take a picture, and we just, you know, naturally we plug into the camera, we open the camera, we take the picture, then you say, go do image recognition, we have our own, you know, we have an integration that does image recognition. So you just say, and then when the response comes back, tell me what it says.

And boom, like, you know, five blocks of code in three minutes on Thunkable, you build a fully functioning image recognition app.

And I think that’s what makes linkable, so powerful. And so exciting is that these concepts that are simple, that take developers, hours, days, weeks, months to build, because in practice, they’re hard to build, we tried to abstract that all to make it kind of as easy as possible.

Madhav 27:15
I’m so excited, just the passion that you have for this. I mean, what makes this local Norco important to you, I mean, like, maybe touch on the vision of why this is important to you, and why this is important for the world.

Arun 27:29
Totally. So the world of low code, no code is important. Because until recently, the we’ve had, we win, we all carry on Basically, these supercomputers in our pockets. Yeah, these mobile devices that have gigabytes and gigabytes of storage that can do that have incredible processing power that can, you know, communicate with any other device in the world. And in seconds, the only people who can actually harness the power that the phone has is are these few elite software engineers. And, you know, there’s some stats out there that I think say, you know, only one of the 1000 people can or will ever learn to code and that mobile app, and that,

to me is mind blowing that one 10th of a percent of people will be able to control the device that they have in their pocket. To me, that seems not only unfair, but it also doesn’t kind of unlock the human potential around us.

And I can give you an example of what I mean, you know, in Silicon Valley, we have I don’t know how many different food delivery apps to deliver any kind of food that we want. Why? Because those are the problems that the software engineers in the valley are facing. But well, let’s take an example of an app that was built on Bunker Hill. So there’s this guy in Yemen, who didn’t know how to code and, and wanted to build an app. So you see, Yemen has been in Civil War since around 2015. Because of that the energy grid has been relatively unreliable.

So in 2016, this man Anwar found that a lot of solar power was actually being used in Yemen, because solar power was reliable. It was Yemen.

No sun, it was you know, and it was actually a good mode. There was a good kind of movement to get solar panels installed all over, which was great. But no one knew how to deal with their solar panel. So how much energy did I have in my solar panel? How do I tilt my solar panels during the day? You know, will it last me during the night all this stuff? So Anwar, who didn’t know how to code decided he wanted to build an app to kind of help him manage his solar panels. And he did that. And the end result was over half a million people in Yemen have now used on wars app to manage their home in business, the Minister of Energy, gave them an award for helping solve or at least, you know, alleviate Yemen’s energy crisis. And this was all this is affecting the entire country of Yemen. And none of us were working on it, because we didn’t know that problem.

And we weren’t on the ground. So even if we had come up with a solution, we wouldn’t have built it in Arabic, which Anwar did, because that’s the language that people are speaking

and so by Enabling, you know, folks like Anwar to build apps, we are making the world a much better place. We are empowering people to solve their own problems. And we’re also unlocking creativity. What’s great about Anwar is not only was this a, you know, awesome story where like, cool, what a great societal impact, but he made a real business out of this, this was a company that he made, right. And so not only is he having a good impact on society, he’s also growing a business here. And by empowering kind of people to be creative, and create businesses that solve their local needs and problems. We’re kind of unlocking and unleashing the potential that’s latent in everyone around us. And all they need is kind of a smartphone and a platform to code on. And it’s amazing actually, the the penetration of smartphones these days, the number of people, the billions of people in the world that have smartphones, we have this powerful technology in our hands, why not use it to help solve even these basic problems? Like how do we get energy

Madhav 30:55
guy puts it in perspective, how powerful this is, and how you’re trying to disrupt or make it what you call that democratizing coding, if you will, democratizing

b2c versus b2b, or are you actually like focused on helping the consumers to sort of develop apps, like Connor, are you also looking at how you can help businesses build, for example, there’s app sheets that was acquired by Google recently, just trying to understand where you fit in the landscape?

Arun 31:26
Yeah, I think we’ve been in a cool spot where we see users across the board, from the b2c to the very large enterprises. Our sweet spot is kind of the entrepreneurs and small, medium sized businesses who have an idea, need an app to fulfill this idea, but don’t necessarily know how to code, nor do they have the kind of crazy money that it requires to hire a software engineer, a software engineering consulting firm, to build the apps that you need. That’s kind of where you see a lot of value being driven by us. But we’ve seen use cases from the kind of very consumer app all the way up to large companies who say, hey, I need an app, especially, you know, internal tools, I need an app that enables this process, I need an app to solve, you know, this inefficiency that we have, and use that. So I’d say, you know, if you take slack as an analogy, or Dropbox, where both of those are companies that, you know, I use slack with my friends and I use slack at work, I use Dropbox with my friends, and I use Dropbox at work. I think that’s the type of analogy you see where, you know, we have this, I think the term that I don’t know if I like it or not, but the kind of prosumer term is thrown around with this word, both for the professional and the kind of sophisticated consumer, I think that’s kind of the sweet spot where we like,

Madhav 32:42
how far are we from, let’s say, creating a fortnight on bankable?

Arun 32:46
Yeah, so we have made, it depends on again, this is one of those, you know, we try and be complete in certain ways. And then there are things that miss that we don’t necessarily do. So for example, if you want to build a game on thinkable, you can build a fairly sophisticated game. And we’ve seen, you know, apps being built on thinkable that have launched that I’ve gotten 100,000 Plus I may use million plus I may use, we’ve seen that. So in terms of being able to scale, I think, you know, we already have that, I think in terms of being able to be you know, kind of a high quality app depends on what you’re trying to build with kind of a fortnight if you really care about, you know, super high quality super fast, like graphics and things like that, you know, we’re not necessarily we haven’t developed a gaming engine or anything like that. But if you’re talking about a good, you know, 2d gaming system that has good physics and all that stuff, that’s something that you know, we have today, and we’ve seen a lot of really great games, you know, the Flappy Bird type, things like og, etc, those type of games have been built on thinkable, and in a very nice way. There’s an alien invaders game that I saw last month that I really liked. Whereas, you know, shooting down some aliens. So those types of things you can already build on thinkable. And so that’s kind of I think, you know, where we are, we’ve already seen a lot of that, but we’re always working to be better in terms of being more robust, making, you know, better features, better design capabilities, all that stuff. That’s something that we’re always working on. And I don’t think we’ll ever stop working on or will ever be at the point where we’ll be satisfied. But we’re always trying to push the boundary of, you know, How big can your game get? How much can you collaborate? how, you know, how good looking can the app be? Right design is such a key thing to any technology that we use these days, that, you know, we’re always investing in, how can we make it look prettier, look nicer, etc.

Madhav 34:35
Oh, just to give a perspective of how big are you and like in terms of the team size and also in terms of the user base, like, how do you see that evolving?

Arun 34:46
Yeah, we’ve got, we’ve got about 15 people on the team. But I think our team is a lot bigger than that because we’re very fortunate to have a super robust community on phone calls. So if you go to community dot uncle comm, you’ll see you know, 1000s of times Dozens of people who are, who have accounts who are posting questions and giving answers and supporting each others and sharing the apps that they have built and sharing their designs and offering their consulting services to help.

Madhav 35:13
I saw that.

Arun 35:14
That’s such a big reason why Thunkable is able to be where we are today. It’s because of our community and the support. You know, we’ve been super lucky. We’ve even hired people who have come from the comfortable community who we’re thankful for. And you know, who knows it better than our users. And so we’ve been very lucky to have that. probably close to around a million plus users at this point. I’ll build on Thunkable, which is almost every country in the world. Yeah, you know, we’ve seen seven year olds, we’ve seen 70 year olds. cool to see kind of,

Madhav 35:49
yeah, yeah, I think we are coming on top of time here. Just wanted to ask you a few quick questions. Start with what is your moonshot? If you were to sleep tonight and wake up after five years? And if you have the tangible vision sort of completely sort of evolved? What do you see the world? Like? I mean, the moonshot for tangible?

Arun 36:10
That’s a great question. I think where I see us, you know, in a few years is where what I would say, the future app ecosystem. So we are basically empowering anyone to solve the problems around them through technology. So we want to help everyone develop, distribute, and grow. They’re kind of app based solutions to problems. And that’s, you know, whatever platform, you know, is the platform of the day, whether it’s you know, your iPhone, or Android or it’s, you know, your Oculus, or you have a thumb chip embedded at some point, I don’t know, whatever it may be, we should be the cool that allows you to kind of build the apps that allow you to kind of harness the power of the technology around you, and create the whole ecosystem around it allow you to build the apps, distribute the apps, share the apps interact with them, we should be that kind of Central ecosystem that enables that

Madhav 37:07
love to be in that world. I really wanted to spend more time on some of this stuff, hopefully, we’ll have a chance as a follow up in terms of your routines, how you manage things, so you can pursue your passions, both personally and career wise, or business wise. I think you said your bike to work type of guy on some place I saw maybe,

Arun 37:33
like each way that’s, that’s, that’s the way I get in my exercise. I try and bike everywhere. I am lucky to be in San Francisco, which is a pretty bike friendly city. And so I can bike, you know, to work to my meetings, all that stuff. And that way, you know, I’m kind of getting an exercise during the day, and doing a little part in saving the planet. So all of that is a good reason.

Madhav 37:54
Yeah, it’s a routine. And it seems like some of these routines help you sort of even to get away from stress, or have the space headspace to think about things and ideas and so on. Are there other tactics or teams that you found useful for yourself that could help people stay focused on their goals and achieve them what you what they want to achieve?

Arun 38:18
Yeah, I think I have a few things that I do routinely,

I’d say one is kind of in, in the morning and at night actually praying, that’s like a good kind of thing. It just kind of sets your mind on kind of a higher thing.

Think about kind of the things you’re trying to accomplish. And kind of in conjunction with that meditating, also just spending a little time clearing your mind, I think it’s super important to kind of give yourself that mental calm. And then I think probably the two other things that I tried to do is at times just kind of block off uninterrupted time to work, I think especially in the world we live in, it’s very easy to be distracted by your you know, by the distractions that get you whether it’s you know, your phone, Facebook, politics, whatever. But also just being in in the work society we work at, people are very comfortable walking over and saying, Hey, can we talk? Can I help you? Can you help me and, and, you know, blocking off time for yourself. And then the last thing, which I think I do,

which is probably the least intuitive is that I spend time kind of focusing intensely on something that isn’t work.

And so for me, that’s music. So and the reason I think that that’s so important is it really lets you get away I think if you you know, if you say hey, I’m going to take some chill time and not think about work, but I’m going to watch TV, you know, there’s still work going on in the back of my mind. But if I’m trying to conduct a symphony and make sure that the you know, trumpet and bassoons are coming in at the right place, like I’m not thinking about work, I’m trying to make sure that the bassoons come in, right. And so by doing something else intensely, it allows you to kind of really think about something else. And clear your mind and then kind of come back to work and approach approach it with kind of fresh eyes and fresh. Very interesting. That’s been one of the most helpful things for me is just doing something that isn’t work very intensely. But intensely.

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