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Episode

10

Personal Branding for Founders & Start ups (with Shruti Kapoor)

Shruti is CEO/Co-founder at Wingman, a leading conversational intelligence platform that merged with Clari last summer to drive really exciting revenue collaboration and governance products. We’re thrilled to have her on the podcast today to talk about personal branding for founders- CxOs, early stage Marketing, building a brand in a crowded category and Exit.

June 29, 2023

 Sri: Hello everyone! We have Shruti Kapoor here who's Ex CEO of Wingman now merged with Clari a billion dollar Rev Ops platform, Rev Ops forecasting platform. She is a very exciting SaaS founder who I have known for the last five years. She started up, scaled, exited to Clari and now she's working with Clari We are looking to talk to her for all things about scaling up a company, personal branding for CXOs and founders, early stage marketing, and all the way up to the exit and how life is after exit as well. Welcome here, Shruti. Very, very happy to have you on Factors Podcast.

Shruti: Thanks Sri. Thanks for the wonderful introduction.

Sri: Yeah. So Shruti, I've looked at your personal background as well, and also your career journey. I mean, very, very kind of a level which is like school, college, and Singapore, and then IIM Ahmedabad ,private equity firms, et cetera. How did, and how SaaS startup happen, where did the SaaS startup fit in here?

Shruti: Yeah, sure. So I think it was it was definitely a long journey in the making before I did the startup. For me you know, from a young age, technology had always been exciting, Right. And I think I didn't quite. Know you know, where and what and how in the technology world. But I spent eight years working for a fund that was investing in very early stage technology. And this wasn't like, you know, technology startups. This was actually like you know, research coming out of university. So that early stage and through that journey, I also met a lot of you know, innovators and thinkers and you know, some of them were building their own companies, and I found that very fascinating because, you know, that was kind of the vision of saying, oh, you come across something that you find really exciting as a technology that can solve a problem. And then seeing that journey of, you know, how do you actually take it to the market, you know, what needs to happen. I, I was very fascinated with that. And you know, at that point I felt like whatever you are doing, sitting on the outside looking in is. You know, it's, it's too boring. You don't have so much control. So I just wanted to jump in and do something. But you know, that was definitely after having worked in the corporate world for that long and having held well paying roles, I think it gets harder and harder to quit and do something of your own. So I decided to actually go work for a startup and then made the plunge.

Sri: Awesome. And how did you happen to meet your co-founders and how did that I mean was it set?, was it luck? Or was it planned luck?

Shruti: Yeah, I would say it was definitely luck. Right. So I was looking to start up and my friend knew about it. And there was a close friend of mine who was also kind of thinking whether he would, you know, want to start up with me. And you know, he introduced me to one of his classmates from IIT who, you know, then became my you know, one of my tech co-founders. And so we just got talking. At that point I was still working. I hadn't quit my job, but I knew that I wanted to start up and yeah, and I think we hit it off. We actually explored a few different ideas before we kind of. Settled on this one. But yeah, it was, it was definitely a one year dating period before we kind of decided to take the plunge.

Sri: Awesome. I would really like to understand about Wingman. What was the original idea? What were the other ideas which were discussed, and how did you narrow down onto Wingman and how did it evolve over a period of time?

Shruti: So, yeah, so I think you know, every startup kind of has this journey of people either wanting to start up or wanting, like they have one idea and they're like, you know, I want to make this happen. I think for us it was the former, we wanted to start up and it wasn't that there was one single idea that we were like, you know, this or nothing. And so, you know, we kind of looked at a few areas. We, of course knew that it'll have to be something in the tech space because that seemed like you know, kind of our founder market fit at the least. So, we looked at actually something in the customer support space in terms of you know, automating some of the processes you know, answering questions, building FAQs from support tickets, et cetera. Something to that effect. There was something in the logistics space which was around, you know, better routing. And then you know, wingman the idea came up because I was working you know, in that startup, in a you know, leading the go-to market function. And in that role I was personally facing this challenge of trying to bring sales and product and marketing, you know, on the same page. Also, just being able to understand like, you know, if there is somebody in my sales team who's doing really well, how do I replicate their success? Right? It was it's like as a sales leader, that's kind of your you know, your most important role and very often you have no visibility. But then just guessing saying that this I think is the best practice, or this is not the best practice. So, I think somewhere in that journey right, I felt strongly enough because I felt the problem. And so I think it was easier for us to convince ourselves that this was the idea we wanted to go with.

Sri: Awesome. I think I mean at this point in time, it looks very, very obvious to have a product like that. Given that there are also multiple other competitors or similar companies like wingman in the market, how was it in 2018 when you actually started? Of course I think one, one other company existed gong or a few others. Very much in the early stage. How was it at that point in time for you to get conviction into this idea and also getting that early product market fit and early customers? How did that happen?

Shruti: Yeah. So actually you know, at that point and, and you're right, like, you know, today the world looks different and you kind of assume certain things, right? One is at that point there was gong and chorus, but both of them were very, very early stage right. So, yeah, when we started thinking about, this was 2017 they had started in 2016, right? So it  wasn't like they were already big success stories, right? So it was still a question mark whether this would succeed. And honestly, the feedback that we would very often get on the ground wasn't very encouraging. And there were kind of two parts to it. And funnily enough, both those things have changed dramatically. And I would say largely due to external factors, right? The first part was the behavior shift that this technology needed to get adopted. And the biggest you know, resistance we would get was like, you have to be out of your mind if you think that salespeople will be willing to record their calls. Right? Like people would tell us all sorts of things like. Don't, you know, what kind of things get spoken about in sales calls? There are kickbacks, you know, lots of things happen. Nobody will be okay to record their calls and you know, even if my salesperson is okay, I'm sure the customer won't be okay. Right? And so it was such a big resistance that people thought like we were being stupid to even think of that idea. They were like, you know, yeah, this works in customer success because, you know, in customer support people don't have the choice. You know, it's like a very different dynamic and you are looking at B2B sales right. If you want to build this, go build it for the contact center. So it was a very big behavior resistance that we were seeing. And then the second part of it was just from a tech perspective. You know, while transcription. Had begun to, you know happen. One, it was extensive and two, it wasn't so accurate, right? Like, I think even today we have this experience. If we ask Alex or something, we'll get complete garbage back, right? But people kind of instinctively knew that if they looked at a transcript, it would be at best, maybe 70% accurate, right? And this is assuming you are in a quiet, clean environment. You know, you have good microphones, all of that. So what people were like saying was, oh, if your transcript is 70% accurate, and if on top of that you're going to tell me topics or be able to do search on it, and that's going to be maybe another 70, 80% accurate, then net your accuracy is going to be, you know, less than 50%. Right? And so why should I pay for something which is going to be less than 50% accurate, and I'm going to get. So much resistance from my salespeople. So, yeah, I mean it, it definitely didn't seem that obvious that this space overall would take off. Forget about any individual company.

Sri: One thing is like, which was pretty peculiar is like one the category got created and there was this covid also and lot of multiple companies coming ahead and being big. How was early stage both customers and also early stage marketing for you? If you can look back.

Shruti: So, I think like we heard we, we kind of learned a lot of lessons the hard way during those early days. Right. Partially because we didn't have A natural network in the space that we are trying to sell to, right? So we didn't have any connects. And so that always kind of makes your life hard because what you want to do is ideally get through to your first, you know, five customers at least. Maybe not everybody is people that you know directly, but at least through some contacts, right? Mm-hmm. For us, we didn't in some sense have that luxury. So what that meant was, you know, we did get some early customers through our connections, but a lot of them were not our ideal profile. Right. So when later on we kind of realized that either we were getting a lot of pushback we are waiting a lot of feature requests or they were going to churn away, they were not very happy. Right. So, so that. Balance can be quite hard, especially in the early days, and you're still trying to figure your way out. So one lesson was, you know, even if it is harder to find the right you know, ICP customers but, you know, try and focus on those rather than just getting whatever customers you can get. Right?.Or even if you get the other customers, don't worry as much about them and make sure that your product roadmap, you know, is focused on your ICP customers. From a early sales and marketing standpoint, what. Work for us was we then of course, you know, tried everything right. We tried outbound, we tried networking. We and we tried to scale some of those as well. So we hired like a big agency in the US to actually do outbound at scale for us. We hired somebody as a part-time sales. Head for us in the us. But again, what we realized was none of those things got us the results either, right? They got us some meetings maybe, but we didn't get conversions and revenue from it. And the reason for that, again, was that you know, None of those people had a way to build trust with the product and the company. Mm-hmm. Because we were early stage, there were no you know, success stories to speak of. There were no case studies, there were no customer testimonials. And so it was very hard for a complete stranger to come and trust us. Right. And therefore, the lesson that we learned was that, you know, as you scale the company, the biggest thing is about how do you scale trust. Right. And you have to start with building that trust as individuals first, and then you scale it through, you know having, you know, other testimonials, case studies or building the brand, right? That's kind of ultimately where it is. Like nobody cares who's the CEO of Pepsi. They'll still buy Pepsi because they trust the brand. Right. You know, before that, maybe you are at a stage where people go to G2 and say, oh, this person has a good rating, or this company has a good rating, so I will buy this product. Right? But even before that is the stage where somebody is buying the product just because they look you in the eye and they're like, okay, I want to support this person. And I think that this. Person can do something big, right? So I think and that part of the journey is often not very visible to the rest of the world, right? So so yeah, I think that was kind of our learning and we then had to reset and kind of think of it from first principles.

Sri: Thanks for actually mentioning that. And it also leads me into the next set of questions, which just like they always say a person changes when he becomes a founder and starts selling as a founder, which is there. And I believe everyone goes through that transformation in some way or the other. Either how they position themselves, how they write, how they speak, or how they actually interact, et cetera. How did what was that journey for you and how did also, one other thing which I want to lead into is like personal branding, right? As you mentioned, it's like people have to look into your eyes and trust, because this is before a G2 crowd. This is before a kind of a, any kind of customer testimonial or a branding, which is there. So how was it building the personal brand and also associating with, with the company and getting through that initial customers for you, and how did that happen? What are the things which you did and what are the things which we can learn from?

Shruti: Sure. So I think the personal branding piece kind of happened partially by accident and partially I think by the frustration and the motivation that existed coming out of that frustration. Right.  I'll talk a little bit about both. So one was that I was beginning to realize that you couldn't hide as a f ounder, right? You needed to put yourself out there. And even though that might not come naturally, right? So so it was kind of a little bit deliberate and forced upon, right? It wasn't a natural personality fit, at least for me, where I was like, Hey, I want to go out and, you know, talk to multiple people or you know, interview on a podcast or write a LinkedIn post, right? Like, none of those things would come naturally. But what you know, the motivation behind it was realizing that if you you know, if somebody needs to be able to look you in the eye and trust you, they need to know a little bit more about you. Right. And therefore you need to have a public profile that they can look at. So that was kind of the motivation. And the accident by which it happened was you know, I was in San Francisco for a Dreamforce, which is of course the largest sales tech conference. And because I was in a different time zone away from family, away from the team, I was like, you know, this is the best time for me to maybe start just posting on LinkedIn every day for the next 30 days. And I was going to be there for like two, three weeks anyways. So so what that thing of saying that I will do this every day for the next 30 days, did was it immediately brought down the barrier in terms of. You know how much you would overthink about the quality of what you're posting because then you are like, okay, I have to post something today. It doesn't matter, you know how good or bad it is. But it did many other things. I think one was, it just became a motivation for me to spend more time on social media. Right? And then I started learning from other people, hearing from other people, and actually building relationships with people. So there's so many people who have only met on LinkedIn, but you know, I've then later in the last two, three years, actually had coffee with them or, you know, done some work with them or, you know, something has come off that relationship. And the other thing that it did was it. Forced me to you know, start questioning and debating my own beliefs or thoughts in a more public space. So I was also open to, you know, getting criticism, getting feedback, and learning much faster. And my intent going in was more, can I learn faster and can I understand how people think, you know, in my space? So I think those those things kind of did become quite worthwhile.

Sri: And how did it result in immediate revenue? Because like that's something which founders also worry about. Like, yeah, I can do that, or I can have someone help me do that, et cetera. But what is the revenue result and in your case, what was your experience and how did it help?

Shruti: Yeah, so I think of course you know, as people think of this advice, a few things to keep in mind. One, you know, this is LinkedIn in 2019 was very different from LinkedIn today. It was, I think, much more possible to form real relationships. Right. Back then. Secondly, I think depending on who you are selling to it depends right, whether that persona is actually on LinkedIn or not, right? Or whether there are people who, like a person with a public profile or care about that or not. In our case, because we are selling to salespeople, they do tend to be you know, very present on LinkedIn. So of course, you know, those things have to check out the way it. It doesn't, and it's hard to kind of immediately translate that into revenue, right? Mm-hmm. But the way it helped us was a few things. One is we actually were able to leverage that to create you know, a little bit more of a aura and a halo. So we did a few things. One. We actually got invited to speak at a few very well known podcasts in sales, right? So I got invited to the John Barrows as a very well known sales influencer very early in my journey. Within the first two months, he invited me to be a guest on his podcast. And that had a very amplifying effect, and that resulted in like, you know, three, four other people reaching out and inviting me to be on their podcast. So that, you know, triggered a whole set of chain reactions. And then what happens is that once people. See you enough they automatically build trust with you, right? Because if Helo somebody else has trusted you, this person I trust. So let me the second thing that we did was we actually used that as an option to also engage with other sales influencers. So we kind of did a ebook. We wanted to understand at that time the pandemic was starting, so we just wanted to understand what differences people were saying. So we reached out to like, you know, 30, 40 people. We got quotes from different people and that. Both helped us learn how different people were thinking about the space, but then we were able to compile that and share that back. And you know, all those people also kind of shared that. So it created, again, like a halo effect. So I think there are multiple ways to create the halo effect, but you know, those were a couple of things that we did, but they really helped us in suddenly building the brand and we started seeing a lot more inbound traffic. Right. And to the effect that. Till you know, we sold a company more than 80% of our revenue was inbound. So, you know and, you know, most of it was not coming through paid ads.

Sri: Cool. So it's like organic or social based Revenue driving, which you had. Yeah. One thing which is also you had gong . They had gong and chorus though. They had been started just a couple of years before you, which had started I think soon they evolved to become pretty large companies as well. I think Gong at least had a certain amount of rocket ships. Chorus eventually got acquired by the likes of ZoomInfo and others sing. When up against kind of companies, which could became very big. It's one, it's a good positive vessel because if there is such a large company with similar technology, it can also become at least a certain scale of them, that's for sure. But it'll also be in a daunting task from the marketing and the branding and the visibility side, which is there, how are you able to handle that? How are you able to kind of push across your branding messages? Any lessons on those links?

Shruti: So, I think for a large part, we you know, we kind of looked at it more as a rising paid tide, you know, lifts all boats. So we were not necessarily trying to pull other people down as you know, the things were moving up. What we did want to be very clear about was what was our, you know, what was our differentiator or what was our. Philosophy in that space versus, you know, any of our competitors. And so the good thing for us was very early on we had figured out the differentiator and that always resonated with the market, right? So in our case, it was about saying, can we be a platform that is not just about giving something to sales managers in terms of, you know, better visibility, but can it actually be something that helps sales reps? Act on the information and actually help sales reps close modules. And that was philosophically a big difference, right? In how we were thinking about the platform. And I think that helped us in kind of holding our ground. So You know, we, we did not kind of try any gimmicky tactics, I would say, in terms of, you know piggybacking on others. But we did kind of use that to call out what our difference was. What I think, you know, when a category is being created, what it does is. Mm. You know, you no longer have to educate people on, you know, the problem and the solution and the benefits and everything, right? You get very quickly a shorthand on saying, you know, this is the space in which we are. And when you say that this is a space in which we are, people automatically understand, this is what you do and this is the problem that you solve, right? So it, from a communication standpoint, it becomes much more efficient. Right. In some manner. But of course we we kind of never had the budgets to, you know, directly challenge the large competitor. But we definitely were able to very smartly use the fact that that tide was rising and to use that to also call out what our difference was. Right. So so I think it's, it's useful to be clear whether your strategy is, like, is there a differentiation that you're going after. Is there just a value argument that you're going after and whatever it is, then you know, you kind of just double down on that because very quickly, as soon as people know you're in this category, the second thing in their head is, okay, so why should I talk to you versus them?

Sri: And within this as well, it's like, let's say with all the wisdom of the last five years, if you go back. What are the couple of things which you would do or you would change to do or something like that, which could have given you even more higher momentum than what you had at that point in time?

Shruti: That's a good question, and I think it's a tough one. I think what we what we could have done differently. I think one is we would've we spent a you know, more time and energy in. Creating good case studies and testimonials right. Much more early on in the journey. Right? Very often we feel that those things have to be organic and, you know, when they come, they come. But I think literally it's helpful to say that from the first five customers, what I'm really going to get out of this is you know, Good product feedback and a strong testimonial or a case study. Right. The other thing was that we were also very shy with doing customer references, right. We would kind of never offer it up. If somebody came and specifically asked for it, then, you know, we wouldn't make the connect. But I, I would say that very often it helps to just say that I'm, you know, happy to set. Very often people won't take you up on that offer, but the fact that you offered it will in itself build a lot of trust for them.

Sri: Awesome. And is there a, I mean, given that you did compete and pretty well with, against pretty large competitors and you were also able to rise with the tide, what were any sales or marketing tactics? Which could be implemented at very low budgets given that you were a budget constraint, you couldn't compete this thing. So there should have been some good gorilla tactics that you had used to actually kind of become visible, hold your fort.  Is there anything that you can share on, on those slides?

Shruti: Yeah, so I think one thing that worked very well for us was we went very deep in understanding where our community is and where do they spend time. And what we were then able to do was use those platforms as an opportunity to actually get our customers to post about our product. Right. And that has a much bigger impact than we can imagine. Because what happens is if, you know, if you're in a, say a Slack group, somebody asks a question if the founder says that, Hey, yeah, you should check out my product. It's like, yeah, you know, yes, the founder will always say that. Right. But if your customer goes and says, oh, by the way, I use this product and, you know, I really like it, and these are the two reasons why I like it. The person who's asking the question takes note, but you know, the other 50 people who might not have asked the question are also taking note of it. Right. And if that comes up like three, four times, then in the mind of that community, you become the defacto trustworthy product. Right. And that was something that I think we did very successfully. Right. We kind of just figured out what the communities were. We would frequently scan them for questions related to our space and then we would have the right people kind of respond to those questions. And we also discovered that Reddit can be a powerful tool for something like this, right? Very often people like to ask questions on Reddit because they can be anonymous and they won't get hounded by salespeople. But then you also get a lot of frank advice and opinions on Reddit. So we also use Reddit to our advantage.

Sri: Awesome. That's good. I think that's totally at no cost you are able to do marketing the same. One other thing of course you did mention in the past, and I was circling back to it, it's like almost 80% of your revenue scheme inbound and organic, either through a direct channel or organically . Did you ever start spending on ads? Which set of channel of ads? What was your earliest stage experience around ads spending and the ROI from ads? Were you, did you, were you able to start looking at those metrics as you were scaling up?

Shruti: I don't think we kind of looked at it very closely in the sense because it was a small list channel for us overall. And we always realized that it was going to not be as scalable. Mm-hmm. And the reason for that was the. Category was very early. And it's funny, it's just the dynamic of this category, right? Because the category was just being formed. And there was another category name, which was very confusing. So there is conversational intelligence, which is the space in which we are. And then there is conversational intelligence, which is the chat bots, right? And, you know, half the time people confuse the two. So anyways, like, you know, if you're trying to go after the category name The volumes of the category names are very small, right? Like nobody's searching for conversation intelligence. What has happened is instead they've gotten educated by you know, the category leader and the search volume for the category leader is actually more than the search volume for the category name. So I think because of all those dynamics, we always knew that being able to do targeted ads, bottom of the funnel was not really going to scale. You could very easily burn money, but you know, beyond a point there was diminishing returns. So that was the reason why we, while we you know, the lowest hanging fruit usually is around your competitors, right? . Putting ads as alternatives to the competitors, et cetera. But we knew that that wasn't going to give us a lot of volumes.

Sri: Got it. And At as you were growing, at which point in time you started investing in some form of revenue operations or the data operations, kind of a team where you are able to map out the entire buyer journey, how much time does it take for a buyer to convert? Which are the key kind of which set of customers give you the highest ACV? How do or which geographies give you the highest ACV? Did you, when did you start mapping it out and what was your journey towards finding the. Kind of the operations match and the kind of a consistent GTM motion.

Shruti: Yeah. So I think ironically for us, we you know, we kind of didn't hit a stage where we actually hired a sales operations person, right? Mm-hmm. Or a marketing operations person. So it was, it was, we kind of never got to a stage where it was a specialized role. Because we were still quite early when we got acquired. But when we hired you know, our marketing leader he was very good with the marketing operations part of it. And we hired our marketing leader you know, roughly, I would say 2020. So roughly like two and a half years into our journey.  And at that point we had some visibility into knowing, you know, where. The leads were coming from and, you know, what were the good sources? What were the bad sources? How much are we scaling if we scale our ad spend, et cetera. But it was fairly rudimentary.

Sri: Good. And moving into the last set of questions, of course, for any founder eventually to exit and to maybe exit at a early stages, always a very conflicting decision. It's like what could have been versus. Take what is there and build around it and make it good for all your investors and employees. What was the journey towards exit? How did you make it happen? How did you prepare for it and what is the journey beyond it? If you can share that.

Shruti: Right. So I don't think that yeah, I mean, I think, like you said, right at a very early stage it's, it's kind of hard to make that call, right? Maybe as the company matures, you think of it as a more likely outcome. Mm-hmm. For us, we you know, we had been fortunate enough to have had multiple inbound interests in acquisitions from a very early point in the company. And so, you know, at that point we had always been very clear that it wasn't something that we were looking at and it wasn't something that would also be worth our while at, you know, at a very early stage. When this specific opportunity happened. It was a combination of how we were seeing our space develop, and I think also how we were seeing the larger economic contest context develop. So a lot of feedback that we were getting both from. The customers in the market and also from the investors and potential investors who said they were seeing a consolidation coming up in this space. And so, What was happening was that we were beginning to realize that while today, you know, there are these two competitors who are larger than us and who we kind of are trying to compete against you know, two years down the line, it won't be that there are and smaller companies that we are competing with, but it's very likely that there might be, you know, five larger companies who now have this as part of their product suite. And that you know, I think was a fundamental shift that we hadn't seen over the last four years that that was going to happen. So I think that was something that gave us some thought right. And we were like, you know, is where do we want to be on this battle, right? Either you then need to be a product suite yourself. So that if a customer's looking to buy a solution, then you know you can provide that complete solution or you need to, you know, be, become part of a product suite. So I think that became clear to us. Of course, could you hold off and do that two years later? Could you hold off and in the next two years, try to raise funding so that you , you know, be the company acquiring other companies and building a product suite like those options existed. But just given the stage at which we were given the market dynamics, it felt like the better outcome was for us to become part of a product suite.

Sri: Got it. And did your personal branding and building over a period of time around your organic visibility how did that help in your kind of like both in terms of inbound conversations and also planning for an exit at the same?

Shruti: Yeah. So I think that you know, we were definitely much more visible in the ecosystem than you know, what our size would've dictated. So in fact, many times people were very surprised that, oh, it's only, you know, you only have a team of these many people, or you know, you, you're at this scale. It definitely helped. In fact you know, we got multiple inbounds at for the acquisition around the same time. You know, one of them was Clari and it did, you know, kind of come through the social channels. But I think once we knew that we were looking at this as an option, seriously, we did go out and reach out to you know, a few other buyers who we thought would be relevant for our product. And we were surprised by how quickly you know, they connected back. There was good recall for the brand and for me personally to be able to kickstart those conversations. So I think it definitely helps to have visibility and context in the ecosystem in which you are building. You never know in what shape or form that becomes you know, useful. You can't always I think go at it with an angle of saying, you know, I will build this relationship because I might want to get acquired by this company. But I think just engaging meaningfully helped.

Sri: Awesome. I think, yeah, that's one part of like how you kind of lay the foundations to create luck or make luck happen rather than waiting for the lightning to strike in someplace. That's right. This has been pretty amazing in terms of both as a founder, I could see like both, I could go back to like what other things which I can do both from a social or personal branding space, communities customer references. How do you use your own references or your existing customers to promote your brand in the right way? So I learned a lot on those lines. And also kind of like starting from the beginning, like mentally preparing to how you build and what are you what are the kind of key milestones or mental milestones that you need to cross or mental barriers that you need to cross to get through that. So that's something which has been pretty amazing. So moving aside from the serious talk more into a general talk. Of course as with anyone who would've been in social and in also in LinkedIn and other, other things, you would have had certain icons which you would really look up to or who you would have wanted to imitate in some level. Can not be just in social, but also in general. So who are your personal  or who are your favourite personal brands which you had looked up to when something like started working on when you had started?

Shruti: I think there are a few folks on LinkedIn who I you know, whose content I enjoy quite a bit. And I think it's, it's for different varieties of reasons. One is this person called Bilal. He writes largely about sales, but I think his advice is so, it comes from a very real place and it's so easy to use it. And he's day down to earth. And like I said, you know, I've had the opportunity to also then interact with some of these people offline. He's really good. I think you know, of course if you're looking to build your personal brand and looking for notes on that Justin Welsh has done a fabulous job of you know, creating the community around it. I've of course seen him from a time before he, you know became the brand on LinkedIn when I was just following him because he was a sales leader. And then I think the other person is Kyle Coleman. Again, very, very relevant, down to earth. content you know, for outbound. Yeah. And it kind of comes from a place of a lot of experience as you can see when you read that content. So yeah, I think I generally like content that is more applicable versus more generic. So yeah, some, some of those people have been pretty good to learn from.

Sri: That's great. Of course this is one thing which also another thing which I wanted to ask, and a lot of my friends, and also maybe your friends also would have this thing. Many people coming from IIMs in MBA colleges and pretty big technical institutes and others end up in banking or consulting jobs or even general strategy roles or middle management roles and they always want that kind of like, jump to the other side, becoming an entrepreneur themselves and building their own company or working for themselves kind of an aspiration. Given your own experience, given you had been through pretty plush, high paying jobs and then made the switch into startups and then successfully exited that as well, what would your advice be for people who are looking at startups as a next carrier option, what are the things which you would advise them or you'd ask them to look at?

Shruti: I don't know if I would firstly advise anybody to do a startup If you know you have a cushy job and you don't want to I think purely from a, like a financial calculation perspective, it. You know, it, it doesn't necessarily make sense because it's, it's not a game that's going to pay you in averages, right? It's either going to be you know, a zero or one. So yeah, I, I, one is like, I think if you're putting your analytical cap on and saying like, oh, this, these are like the two reasons why I should do this, and, you know, this is what my bank balance will look like if I did this after 10 years. I think it's very, very hard to predict those things. I mean, I think irrespective of, you know, how talented you are and everything else, like you all underestimate and undervalue the role that luck plays in success. Right. And it's like, like I was describing, right? Like there were so many things against us, right? Like the behavior thing changed because of the pandemic, right? Like literally overnight, everybody was like, screw what the customer says. I need visibility on what my salesperson is doing. You have to record your calls, right? So like, You can't, you can't say that that was anything that we could have done. Right. And, and you know, similarly, like now with the whole chat GPT, suddenly that technology has become so much better and so much cheaper. And like you know, that's again, like a one in a century thing that's impacting our base. So I would say like a lot of. Things that you would rationally think of. And if you're very analytically thinking about it you would never come to the conclusion that you should do a startup. And I'm not kidding. Right. I think it, it doesn't make rational sense. I think the reason to do it or why you would consi or, or what you should think about when you're doing it is, you know like think about your non-financial motivations of why you want to do it. Right, so that, you know whether it succeeds or fails in a, in monetary terms, right, a lot of the other non-financial motivations, you'll still be able to. Succeed on. Right, for me personally, when I was thinking of doing the startup, like one of my biggest things was after so long in a corporate job, I felt like, you know, my brain was only functioning half the time. And I wanted to literally, like my words were like, I want to feel fully alive, right? So you of course realize that when you sign up for a startup, you are more alive than ever. You're also not getting enough sleep. So I think like, yeah, it's important to kind of go back and think about like, Hey, what are my motivations? And because it's going to be a hard journey and it's going to be a long journey. I think the other thing is like, very often people think of it as, oh, you know, if it doesn't work out in one or two years, I will go and do. You know, I'll go back to my job or whatever, but the thing is, very often in one or two years, you have no freaking clue what's even happening. Right. So even for you to know whether it's working or not, you probably have to dedicate like four or five years to it. So yeah. I mean, I think on many logical levels it doesn't make sense.

Sri: Thanks a lot. It's very practical advice which would conflict many people around. Last question, one favourite movie or movie character and book.

Sruthi: Yeah, I'm you know, not as good with movies. I think my husband is better at it. I think book is easier. So I, I have really enjoyed this book by Chris Voss. Never split the difference. It's you know, he's negotiator for the US Defense. And he is negotiated on many hostage situations and stuff. But I, I think just the way he talks about the different stories and the experiences, you and those, those are all coming from like real life examples. You really get Very different take on how the human psyche works, right? Like we are also used to you know, the, the title never split. The difference is very simply that, you know, if I say that I will give you five rupees for this, and you say that, you know, you want 20 rupees for it, then I will kind of say, okay. You know, let's find the middle ground. But the title is that you shouldn't find the middle ground, and that's not the way to negotiate. Right. Because then both people will feel like losers to some extent. So so yeah, I think that's, that's been a book that's been very useful. I think many people on my team have also now read it multiple times and they go back and read it before they have to get into a customer negotiation situation.

Sri: I mean, customer negotiations to hostage negotiations are very, very different. But yeah, that's pretty interesting on what you would do. But non-fiction fiction. Non-fiction is good.

Sruthi: Fiction. Fiction. That's interesting. I oh yeah. I recently read this book called a Man called Uber. And I really loved it. It's, it's like a slow story about this middle-aged person going through life and but yeah, it's, it's very beautifully. Right. Nice. Thanks a lot that's something for a readable list to start with.

Sri: Finally, thanks a lot Shruti, for taking time and talking about your journey what you did, the mistakes you did what are the key inflection points which you had and also all the way up to your exit. Lot of noteworthy me material for me and also including the advice for people in cushy jobs. Thinking of becoming startup founders, et cetera, which is a gentle bug, which happens. But thanks for kind of taking off that itch in many ways and it's been a wonderful conversation. Thanks a lot for time.

Sruthi: Thanks Sri.