Paul: Welcome to another episode of The App Guy Podcast. I'm your host, it's Paul Kemp. This is the show where we get some great founders, co-founders and we learn about their journeys with their apps, so it helps you as an app builder, as a maker, as a creator. In fact, what I do is I go all around the world and find the most inspiring app entrepreneurs and we talk to them about their journeys. Today I have some good friends of mine who are the co-founders of the Veloxy app. This is a wonderful calendar and Sales enablement app. Let me introduce Samir Majumdar and Sauvik Sarkar, They are the co-founders of Veloxy. Guys, welcome to The App Guy Podcast.
Samir: Hi Paul, thank you very much. This is Samir, co-founder of Veloxy. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to talk to you about our journey, about the app, what we have been doing, and about what life looks like in our trenches.
Paul: Yes, I love the way you say trenches, yes. And you've got Sauvik there, I want to say hello to you, as well.
Sauvik: Yes, sure. This is Sauvik, co-founder of Veloxy. We started Veloxy one and a half years back, and it's been a pretty interesting ride so far.
Paul: We're going to find out all about that, Sauvik; we're going to go through your journey, so let me, first of all, ask you how did you guys meet? How did you get together? Because we have learned on this show the importance of co-founders. How did you guys get together? Maybe you can start, Samir...
Samir: Sure. Let me tell you a little bit about myself. I worked at some big companies, as well as quite a few startups.In my last company, where I was vice-president of engineering, I worked with Sauvik there for quite a few months. I immediately found out that he's one of the best. Just to talk a little bit about the journey, in my previous company, Ingenuity Systems, I was one of the first ten employees. I was responsible for development of all products. During that time I had worked with sales executives and sales professionals.We implemented SalesForce, Marketo, and Informatica with our product line. At that time, I saw all the frustrations that sales people were having. In spite of us spending a lot of time and resources in integrating Salesforce with other products, people were not really using it. When they were in a meeting with the customer, they were not able to access right documents and they were not aware of a critical product issue that customer reported few days back. Disaster! All those issues were because information was scattered all around the place. Everything was not in Salesforce and it’s not realistic to think that everything will be in Salesforce. Emails and calendars have tons of relevant information. That's when I thought, "Hey, there must be a way to solve this problem", and when I met Sauvik, we started talking about it, and that's how this whole thing started. I will let Sauvik talk about his journey.
Sauvik: Thank you, Samir. I worked at big companies like EBay, Apple, IBM, and then I met Samir in one of the companies. While we were talking about stuff, we talked about sales people, both of us had the same experience. Although CRM spent is around $24B in 2015, research shows that CRM adoption is less than 50%. Sales professionals have no incentives to use CRM system as it does not help them in closing more deals. So we came up with the idea that there should definitely be a better way to do this and what better way to solve a problem where sales people are moving around and are mostly mobile, than with a mobile app. That's when we got together days and nights and brainstormed this idea of creating a powerful platform and a mobile app that solves this very basic problem - how to make sales professionals more productive, how they can use their time more efficiently. At the same time the app should make data entry to CRM systems seamless and automated where ever possible. Having high quality data in CRM system will be incredibly beneficial to sales executives and the whole organization who has invested so much money in the CRM systems.
Paul: So, Samir and Sauvik... You've picked up on a big theme, which is:
“solving a problem”
So many of the successful entrepreneurs actually come back to this theme. So, I wanted to remind the listeners/readers that it's so important. The thing I'd like to just ask you both:
“how did you overcome the fear of leaving your steady jobs?”
Samir: That's a very good question. Frankly speaking, I have been entrepreneurial for many years. Before Veloxy, I worked at another product. We even launched it. It was a marketplace for re-agents. The market is completely fragmented. Scientists don’t know where to find the best for their experiments. So we created a marketplace for reagents where we'd list reagents from all those vendors and scientists can come and buy reagents from our site. Although the company had enough traction, I did not take the leap of faith to jump full time there; that was a lesson. I didn't stop there either. When I met Sauvik, we started Veloxy. Life is too short. I thought, "Hey, I have to do this. If I don't do this, I will repent for the rest of my life." This is a problem that I'm very passionate about; it’s near and dear to my heart. I want to see people productive. These days there is no excuse for people not to be productive, especially with all the mobile phones and the access to data that people have. The unfortunate part is people are not taking advantage of that. So that's when I said, "Okay, let's do it full-time. We have domain knowledge and technical expertise. This is a problem that can be solved and we can solve this problem together."
Paul: Yes. Sauvik, again, the same question to you because, as Samir says, in his words, you are the world's best from the technical standpoint, so I'm guessing that you could have your pick of jobs. I mean, you've already been working at EBay, Apple, IBM, they're all wonderful companies. So how did you overcome your fear of quitting and doing your own thing?
Sauvik: Absolutely. My thought process resonates very closely with Samir. I created a lot of apps in the past, mostly as an individual, and I also tried to involve other people in there, but one of the most important things, I have noticed and also felt that you need a really good partner to have a great startup. There are exceptions, of course, but at least, there should be two people in a startup. Both partners/co-founders should be very passionate, so that's why when I met Samir I felt that he has got this in-built passion for doing new things and solving real problems. When I talked to him, we kind of resonated with the same feeling about productivity and the opportunity that it provides. We have both seen that sales people's lives can be improved dramatically using the latest modern technology on the mobile platform.
Paul: Sauvik, before we leave this thought, I just want to say that what I've learned is that it's important to have a good co-founding team where you both believe in the problem that you're trying to solve... I've really learned that. So let's talk about that problem because I think the listeners still need to understand what it is you're trying to do. Give us an example of a sales person and how they would use Veloxy to solve the problem, and what the problem actually is.
Samir: Sure. Sales professionals are typically very busy. They have back-to-back meetings, and they have too many things to do and too little time. Research shows that they are wasting 65% of their time in non-selling related activities like looking for documents, team meetings, meeting with their boss, updating CRM and other administrative work. They are spending only 35% of their time doing real selling - the selling that will make them money, that will help them reach their revenue target, that eventually will help their company. There are a lot of things that they're doing which are not directly contributing to their bottom line, and that's where Veloxy comes into play. Veloxy helps them in organizing their day, organizing their meetings, e-mails, deals pipeline, leads, tasks and more. Veloxy aggregates relevant data across SalesForce, Google, Exchange, and your local phone. Veloxy also integrates social networking information from LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Plus, CrunchBase, Google Scholar and other sources into one place, contextualizes and presents it to sales professionals in a very user-friendly, easy mobile interface. Veloxy proactively notifies them about very important things that might have fallen through the cracks. No longer sales professionals have to worry about missing out things. Today, sales professionals are trained to look for information. We are changing that paradigm with Veloxy. They no longer have to look for information when they use Veloxy; Veloxy will take care of that. Some very simple examples: let's say they are dealing with 20, 30 deals. Out of those, some deals might be at a very late stage, but we don't see any activity on different systems. Based on our proprietary “Touch Point” score algorithm, when Veloxy determines that a deal is at risk, it sends a notification to the sales professional. "Hey, what's going on?" Maybe the deal is on track, but at least, we are watching out. When they receive an important e-mail from somebody, Veloxy notifies them. If they forgot to respond to an important e-mail, Veloxy notifies them. When someone changed something for one of their deals in SalesForce, they get a notification. We are changing their behavior, where they no longer have to constantly look for information. Another typical example - sales manager sends too many e-mails to their sales reps asking "What happened to this deal? Did you update that deal? Is that deal going to close on time?" Using Veloxy they no longer have to bother their sales reps. The manager gets immediate notification when something important changed in a deal of his/her team members. Thanks to Veloxy, now they can use their weekly sales meetings to discuss strategy on how to close different deals rather than asking for deals status.
Paul: Yes, let's just jump in here, because I think we're getting the examples... Is this really an enterprise app? I mean, is this primarily for companies to distribute amongst their sales teams, or do you see it as a consumer app that is going to be independently downloaded by sales people?
Samir: We are seeing it both ways. We are seeing individual sales professionals downloading the app and using it by themselves. We have thousands of users, and we are getting very good feedback, and they're really liking the app. The other model is... Enterprises are loving it too. We are talking to Director or VP of sales or sales ops executives; they very quickly start to realize the value Veloxy brings to the whole enterprise and roll it out to the whole organization. So the model is working both ways.
Paul: That sounds like a terrific model as well, because who wouldn't want a load of sales people spreading 'word of mouth' about a great app that's helping them close deals? So I can imagine the spread of this is going to be quite rapid when it starts to get traction. Sauvik, maybe we can jump to you as well and ask you about what you feel is a good user example of someone using Veloxy?
Sauvik: Yes, sure. You know, one of the things that Samir mentioned was closing deals, and the other thing where Veloxy helps is opening new deals. One of the typical use cases that we have seen is people are traveling all the time, and they're at a certain location, they meet with a client/customer and they have time to meet with others in the same area, but they have no way to find out what other customers are there, that they can meet. That's where Veloxy comes very handy. Veloxy quickly shows them what other customers or prospects are there. In addition to the customers, Veloxy displays all contact information on a map, and they can see which set of customers are right at that location. They can also do a quick research. Veloxy automatically researches customers, their geo-location, their Twitter, their real-time LinkedIn profile, and also gets information about their e-mails that are going back and forth with the customer, so that the rep has a clear context within minutes so that he/she is ready to talk to the customer. I think that's one of the biggest features that a sales rep using Veloxy finds.
Paul: I'd love to pick up on one thing, which I know will help all those app entrepreneurs that are wanting to learn from you the good things and the bad things you've learned yourselves, because none of us have a roadmap; we don't know what works, what doesn't, but we can only learn. You mentioned at the start that you've been working on this for a year and a half... Can I assume that a lot of that time is on the technical aspects of the app, rather than on user acquisition and getting feedback from users? Have you actually focused more on the technology side up to this point?
Sauvik: Initially, of course, we focused on the technical side, built the product. We have been working very closely with the users and getting their feedback. We try to be very proactive and put those feedbacks back into our pipeline and try to make sure that we actually listen to all our users and deliver a product that is useful to them every day, several times a day. Most of the time it has been technical, but the product has also grown over the last year.
Paul: Samir, maybe I'd ask you then - what have you learned from that? Because I'm guessing that you've actually funded this whole thing yourself, between the two of you... Am I wrong? Did you get funding for the company, or is this all bootstrapped?
Samir: We are completely bootstrapped. Sauvik mentioned, along with the product development, we have been focusing quite a bit on the customer development. As a lean startup, both of these go hand in hand. Initially, we had to do quite a bit of platform development work. Sauvik worked on it by himself for quite a while, and once we had the MVP we started engaging with users and have been getting feedback on a daily basis. We get their feedback, we incorporate the feedback that is aligned with our long-term roadmap and the cycle goes on. The thing that has been quite rewarding is to see how appreciative the users are and how much they love Veloxy. They say, "Hey guys, we love Veloxy and we're going to tell other people about it." That is very satisfying and gratifying and there is nothing that can replace it. Seeing your users using the product that you built from scratch, it's like seeing your baby grow... It's surreal, seriously.
Paul: So, Samir and Sauvik, I want you to imagine this right now: there are two people listening to this who are at the start of their journey, where you were a year and a half ago. What would both of you recommend to those entrepreneurs that are just about to start out? They quit their jobs, they've got an idea, they're about to start working on an app, they are doing it using their own money - what's the biggest advice you could give them, based on what you've learned over the last year and a half? Samir, maybe you can start with that.
Samir: I think one should spend enough time validating the need, and going a little bit deep into figuring out what is out there. As you probably know, Paul, this sales enablement or sales productivity field is quite crowded. There are a non-trivial number of companies who say "We solve this problem, too. We solve that problem, too." We have done thorough research and the reality is:
"nobody has solved this problem".
Everybody claims that they solved this problem. Everybody's trying to do some part of it here and some part of it there. Can you imagine a salesperson using six, eight or nine applications for their job? They simply don't have time. They should be using only one or two apps, at the max, to get their job done. So I think for entrepreneurs who are starting their journey, understanding what the pain point is and really validating it before they jump into building something is something I would highly recommend.
Paul: Okay. And Sauvik, what would you recommend?
Sauvik: I definitely agree with Samir. New entrepreneurs definitely need to make sure and vet out their idea and make sure that it solves a real pain point of somebody. The other thing I would probably recommend is - as I've experienced, and Samir definitely has experienced - you know, life in the entrepreneurial field will be very stressful and there will be a lot of ups and downs. So you have to be very resilient and make sure you put more than 100 percent every time and stay positive. If you know that that is a real problem, just make sure that you keep on working on it. There will be times when you don't see a lot of results, and there will be times when you will be overwhelmed with results, so just make sure that, from an entrepreneurial perspective, you just keep steady and keep on working on it.
Samir: One more point I would like to add is - I think Sauvik alluded to that - I cannot stress enough the importance of having the right co-founder. Finding the right co-founder is extremely important, probably way more important that the problem that you are trying to solve, or what you are going to do. This is a stressful journey, but having someone who you can trust 150% is absolutely important. It's not that we don't argue... There are times when Sauvik and I argue for two or three hours. I'm serious. I will tell you, my wife jokingly tells me "You have never talked to me as much as you talk to Sauvik." This is the truth. We fight, we argue, but again, this is for one mission: to build the best sales enablement app for the sales professionals. The alignment has to be there, otherwise, things are not going to work.
Paul: Yes, I'm almost thinking back to the growth of Twitter. I don't know if you've read the book about the founders, but they were all falling out...
Paul: So look what happened to Twitter. I mean, constructive feedback and being passionate about your idea is what I'm learning from you; this is really a very important point. There is one more thing we like to do on this show, before saying goodbye to our founders. One is we love to discover new apps, and I'd love to know if there's an app that you can recommend that's really helped you and your business. So maybe you have to pick up your phone, have a look at it... Sauvik, maybe we can start with you. Pick up your phone and let us know if there's an app that you can recommend, that you think is maybe one that we haven't come across before.
Sauvik: Yes, let me think... So we have used for our product backlog an app called Trello; we have used it to keep our backlogs. It's pretty handy, and two of us, or other people can also use it, and you can very quickly create backlogs and segregate by type of product, features, and it's very handy when you're on the go, because it's mobile-friendly; there's an app and then it's also available on the web. I have used it, and I think Samir has also used that pretty much every week.
Paul: Great, okay. That's Trello, there will be a link to that in the show notes of episode 414, theappguy.co. Samir, I would love to get a recommendation from you for an app that you tend to use. It can even be impersonal if you want to give us something cool.
Samir: Sure, we have been using UberConference quite a bit. We love it. It's for setting up meetings, getting user feedback... It's a conferencing app, and they have a web-based product, as well. We mostly use the web-based product.
Paul: Yes, I've used that once before. Have you ever tried recording over it? I must admit, my first experience of UberConference was quite poor quality, but it's very easy because there's not software to install. I seem to remember just going straight to a browser...
Samir: Yes, we have not recorded it, but we just use it for giving the demo. What we do is we use the QuickTime Player app and then we can do the live demo using that, and people can see it on the other side.
Paul: Great, there will be a link to that in the show notes - UberConference. Have they been successful, those pitches, demos? Who have you actually shown them to, potential users, or investors?
Samir: Absolutely... Investors, we mostly go and talk to them in person, but all the demos - I'm telling you, Paul, users are loving Veloxy. This product has legs, and we are going to really take it to the next level. Our goal is to reach out to thousands of sales professionals to use Veloxy. One thing I probably haven't mentioned, Veloxy not only helps sales people closing more deals, it also helps organizations significantly because using Veloxy sales people are able to capture 150-200% more data into SalesForce, and data quality is significantly higher, which eventually helps organizations doing predictive pipeline forecasting. Unless you have enough high-quality data, no matter how good your forecasting algorithm is, it's not going to work. So Veloxy is a win/win situation for organizations as well as the sales professionals. It's a good time to be in this space. We are loving it!
Paul: I was just thinking, actually... It must be quite challenging, as well, because I can imagine the hardest people to sell to are sales people themselves. [laughter] This has been a great chat, I'm sure it's going to inspire others to do the same as you have done: find a great co-founder, come up with a great idea, both believe in it, and then quit whatever you're doing and passionately pursue it, because you need to do it. I love that - you just HAD to do it. So there will be links to you guys in the show notes of episode 414, but in the meantime, maybe Sauvik, you can give us your contact details. How can people reach out to you? And Samir the same, how can people reach out to you, as well?
Sauvik: Sure, so I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Samir: Same for me, I can be reached at email@example.com. The last thing I want to probably mention quickly is although our app is mainly targeted for the sales people who are on the road, we do have an excellent calendar app, we call it “Your calendar in steroids!”. Paul, do you remember Tempo AI? It was a calendar app. In Veloxy, we have built a calendar on steroids. Anyone can use our calendar app. To all Tempo calendar lovers, try out Veloxy. You will love it.
Paul: Okay, so what you are saying is you can use it for the calendar, as well?
Samir: Absolutely, this is one of the best calendar apps out there, check it out.
Paul: Terrific. In fact, I would endorse that because I was always a big fan of Sunrise, the calendar; then they got bought by Microsoft, which is always a downside...
Samir: Yes, and Tempo was acquired by SalesForce, and they shut it down. Any Tempo users out there, we would love to have you try out Veloxy.
Paul: Yes, and actually there's just a final thought that I have to throw in, which is you get all these wonderful apps that seem to have rapid growth and you just love them; I'm thinking Mailbox for my e-mail. Then they get taken over, and it's just an acquihire by the company, and then they shut the thing down, which is really frustrating. I can't believe they've shut Mailbox down, that's just crazy. It was one of the best ever... I can remember the waitlists, you had to get on a waitlist to get on this thing. I thought that was crazy, but that's what big companies do, I guess.