EP 128 A Fireside Chat with the CPO and Co-founder of involve.ai - Saumya Bhatnagar
Saumya is the CPO and Co-founder of involve.ai, an AI-driven Early warning dashboard that helps companies predict churn and revenue growth opportunities using customer data. Before starting involve.ai, Saumya co-founded a startup right out of high school in New Delhi, focusing on using technology to reduce gender-based abortions in India. She did her undergrad in Computer Science and went on to earn her Masters in Computer Science from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with a focus on Natural Language Processing. She is a Forbes 30 under 30 alum, winner of the Stevie Gold Entrepreneur of the Year award, recognized as the 50 Most Powerful Women in Tech by the National Diversity Council, and is on the list of Top 100 Women in Technology IBM. Saumya is a strong advocate of more representation for women in tech and is the founder of Saakaar, a nonprofit in India for women empowerment. When not working, Saumya enjoys binge-watching Netflix, photography, and traveling.
Bud Farquhar 00:06
Welcome back to the few show everybody my name is bud. I am chief of staff at xFusion.io and co host of the few show I'm excited to be joined today by my guest, Samia Bhatnagar. Samia is CTO and co founder of involve.ai an AI driven early warning dashboard that helps companies predict churn and revenue growth opportunities using customer data. Before starting to evolve, ai Samia co founded a startup right out of high school in New Delhi, focusing on using technology to reduce gender based abortions in India. She did her undergrad in computer science and went on to earn her master's in computer science from the University of California Santa Cruz, with a focus on natural language processing. She is a Forbes 30 under 30 alum, winner of the Stevie gold Entrepreneur of the Year award recognized as a 50 most powerful women in tech by the National Diversity Council, and is on the list of Top 100 women in technology. So Amina is a strong advocate for more representation for women in tech, and is the founder of a nonprofit in India for women empowerment. Samia, there is a lot to unpack there. Welcome to the show. It is great to have you.
Saumya Bhatnagar 01:15
Thank you so much for having me. But yeah, that was a long 60 seconds but I appreciate it.
Bud Farquhar 01:22
Yeah, not a problem. Not a problem. So start off you met your co founder wore off in a coding class in India when you were fairly young. You were in a class of 160 students you were one of three female students.
Saumya Bhatnagar 01:43
It was I was that Yep. We talked a lot a lot of cricket which bored me to death that was for sure a lot of cricket conversations and but you know, I think it's important to just go ahead and do what you're doing it wasn't I would have loved to have more women there I feel it would have been a little easier. But I got a friend like work he is you know, a totally like a feminist friend so she was really helpful but yeah, you know, you at a very young age if you are minority in that respect. You start getting slights though, early, you know in very early so you start feeling I think they negative very early. So again, I was I became a stronger advocate of women empowerment at that time. Because my dad told me you can be whatever you want to be and then there are these people in this class was to pick on me I can't. So it was a different experience for lack of better word. When I'm at work, we were 15 it's really funny because now people tell us that we kind of know each other since the womb I practically known him half my life. But yeah, we were we were both great a nerds fighting over the front desk. You know, I won't let anybody I won't back down and neither would he. Eventually we were both turned out of the class the professor was like you're creating a ruckus go stand outside. But that's kind of what got us to kind of bond because we were standing outside having to do nothing and we were talking to each other. But that's where we shared our passion for coding. You know, we both realize that we're, we love it and it's beyond gender, you'd love something together and that's where we started working on our project we started working on it together It was a project back then which eventually became a company we were about 15 when we started but always we were very entrepreneurial since the beginning giving our poor parents like harder dogs left right and center because every three months like Our idea was to drop out of school and start something and they were like you have to study I need those certificates on the wall in order to show off to other parents that look my child is educated but yeah, we know each other since then there's no looking back since we've started two companies and hopefully we start third and fourth together too.
Bud Farquhar 04:28
Okay, so this conversation is going to go a little bit different than a normal conversation we'll we'll get into involve AI as as we progress here, but since since you brought this up Yeah, you guys started a company together at the age of 1516. Right. And that was it I yes. And you guys at the age of 1516 have a company, and that grew into about 40 employees? If I'm, if I'm correct, yeah. And then you guys sell that off around the age of 21. So go ahead and tell me a little bit about AGI. And what that was because I think that's an incredible company. And is that still going and then we'll we'll kind of talk about how that evolved into your next company and how that evolved into involve AI. Yeah, evolved into involved,
Saumya Bhatnagar 05:29
exactly evolved into involved. And so the first company that we started, was actually a lot based on my personal experiences. So again, I come from a family of two daughters, in a country where at that point, like not having a son was considered not a great thing. So I remember a lot of relatives looking at my mom with, for lack of a better word pity, and going, like, Oh, you don't have a son so bad, you don't have like, you know, an anchor in your family. And, you know, it was kind of silly, and my dad was 100%, a girl that he was, you know, not taking any of that. And he's like, don't worry about it. So that's where like, the idea started, where there was a law that came out in India, because of the gender ratio becoming extremely wonky. Basically, people would do a sex determination of the child while after 14 weeks, which is after which you can figure out if the baby is a girl or a boy, and they would abort based on gender. So, there was a point and you know, this is all like, very well documented online, which is entire villages in India did not have females. Because they just aborted all, you know, females because they wanted men. So this law came out in India, which was called a pn DTR, which basically banned sex determination. Period. There was so baby, you know, what is that the gender reveal parties are the thing in India because of that, because you don't so gender reveal is boss work. So what we started doing was we started creating this software for radiologists specifically, it kind of became like a documentation portal to get all the details of the patients who was a patient experience platform. But then we started running some very rudimentary machine learning before machine learning was cool. Based on demographic data based on socio economic data based on education level based on like, previous babies, like how would the gender of your previous kids, whether somebody is likely to abort based on gender, because there were a lot of people who were still doing it unscrupulously. So being able to report that to the government was what the product was, we would sell directly to radiologists. And it was a need because if there was a patient who was coming to a radiologist regularly and then aborted, that child of radiologists would be liable. So that was kind of what the entire product was. It was a very different experience, because again, we were doing it for the first time, obviously. But then we also learned sales. It's not just about building the product, it's about having conviction in it, and going and selling it and then understanding how revenue works and business models work. It was a lot to digest, and we fell on our face a lot. You know, you know, so again, maintaining good standards of the product, like you know, as developers, you don't know how to QA code, you just push it out. And you know, there were these small things that we learned, we understood processes, hiring, unfortunately, firing, building a team, it was, we were just I think at one point like waterboarded with like different information. We have a lot of advisors a lot of help. Eventually, the company sold. It was a small exit. It was enough for Gaurav, my co founder to buy a house for his mom, and enough for me to buy more shoes than I can imagine. So I was very happy. But resold the company. But the really great thing that happened from that was the company that we sold it to further sold the entire product to the Government of India to God mandated those across northern India, which was really funny because now my mom who's a radiologist has to use it. And she is pretty mad about it just like I should have nipped it in the bud.
Bud Farquhar 09:57
Great. Yeah, like thanks. Thanks, Samia.
Saumya Bhatnagar 10:01
It was like, thank you. Like, if this is what I have to deal with, I paid for your education. I gave you food. I gave you water. And this is what you
Bud Farquhar 10:13
say, No, I sold it before you were forced to use this mom.
Saumya Bhatnagar 10:16
Exactly. She's like, well, the money went in shoes. And we're not even the same shoe size. There's nothing.
Bud Farquhar 10:27
So, yeah, learn you learn lots of incredible lessons while you're young. Very young. Yeah, yeah. Wow, what an incredible story. Um, did you guys get lots of pushback in trying to trying to sell this and get this going? Because you guys were so young?
Saumya Bhatnagar 10:51
Yes. Short answer being Yes. The only I think positive that we had was, it was Greenfield in the market, there was nothing else like it. And the product. The product spoke by itself, there was a good product. Of course, I would, the when it got further adopted and got for this whole, of course, they added all the bells and whistles and you know, kind of made it software as a service and made it really great. But the product in itself was technology that somebody wanted to have. So that was the positive, we had a lot of data. Again, in India, HIPAA compliance has kind of been non existent. So we did have a lot of data about, you know, the signals that can potentially cause gender abortion, and it was a huge push by the government at that time. So people, of course, wanted to buy it. The m&a process in itself, I think, is something that's the hardest thing that we've had to go through. And I wouldn't say that it was me and Goro, who did it by ourselves. We had so many people were helping us through the process. I think, as much as our parents could help us, they did it. But yeah, that was, I think, till date, one of the hardest things that I've done so far.
Bud Farquhar 12:17
Well, good for you. Like that's, that's an incredible story. So then you guys sell that? Yep. And then do you guys start this next company together? Or did you come to the states and go to school? Well, while Gaurav starts the next company.
Saumya Bhatnagar 12:39
It was really funny, because when we sold it, we were we skipped school for a bit to be able to sell it. And we talked about retiring for a little bit, because it was it was emotionally exhausting for us. So we were like, do we want to go back or not? We're like, Okay, let's go back to like, some semblance of normalcy. Like, kind of, like, do people do stuff, what people our age are doing, and see where that takes us. So Gaura, got it. He had, we had an advisor, at PwC, he got or have to come to DC. And he was at PwC. There. I completed my bachelor's, I did my masters, I came to the US and did my masters. At UC Santa Cruz. I always loved to code. And you know what, this whole realm of ml natural language considering I talk so much, of course, I had to go into a natural language processing, but actually enjoyed that process. And then I got a job offer at Google. Google comes recruits a lot of people from UC Santa Cruz, which was great. So I met Gaurav, for coffee. He was there too, he came to visit me check out the campus. He's like, I want to see what you banana slugs are all about. But matter. We met at a cafe. And the goal of that meeting, was me to review my contract with her. And we're like, what does this look like, you know, everything's checked out for me. And he had like, extreme FOMO. He's like, if you go there, and you go to their cafeteria, and you eat their food, you're never going to go back to a startup. So he's like, we need to start our next company. And I hope we have all of these ideas. And the same meeting which was supposed to be my contract review meeting turned into let's figure out what to do next meeting. And I then take that offer, and we started our next company.
Bud Farquhar 14:44
Well, good deal good for him too.
Saumya Bhatnagar 14:47
Good for him. I keep telling him that after a day.
Bud Farquhar 14:52
Yeah. He knew what he had. Yeah, I'm not gonna lose you.
Saumya Bhatnagar 14:57
Exam like I can offer you Yeah, fancy Google cafeteria food and like the amazing culture as like. Okay,
Bud Farquhar 15:09
so then in 2016, you guys start. What was it just? Was it just called involved then?
Saumya Bhatnagar 15:21
Yes. So, okay. Yeah, in 2016, we started involved. It was something that we felt closely about, it was a community engagement platform. So basically, it helped b2b company to help companies set up like community events. So it was like, meetings, you know, volunteering events, events around by community engagement. So that's kind of what the entire system did. It did really well, we had, we raised a seed round on that idea, which was a fairly big seed round. For Southern California, it was the largest seed round for that quarter, there was about two and a half million, we had some really good PCs, backers who still backers, which is amazing. But COVID, eventually. And if an entire platform is around event, and meeting each other, everything came to, you know, a standstill. I think that was I think the second hardest time when we have to really think really hard, what to do next. We had some very supportive people on our board, they told us that we back us people. And whatever you do, we're going to do a great job. So for sure, you can figure it out no pressure, which was pretty cool. But you know, when somebody says no pressure, you feel the pressure, which is it's very counterintuitive, but we thought to what to do next, we had very good net dollar retention, Ubuntu COVID. That was one thing that we had, for our business, we were expanding customers, we were renewing customers, we had 120% net revenue retention, which is unheard of in the SAS world. So what we used to do in our customer successes, we had this, we have Python scripts that would take in different data elements of the customer, to tell whether it's part of usage or support tickets or interaction. And basically we would spit out a number which would be their health score for us to know if this customer is at risk proactively or not. So during the two COVID time, what we did was we gave that out to a couple of our CEO friends who were dealing with the same thing, like COVID, kind of very, you know, rudely stopped everything in everybody's world. So our CEO friends tested this out on one, like, we love this. You know, this is amazing. This is gonna like I already know which customers address. Why don't we productize this. And that's where we were like, yeah, this is a great idea. We need to give this to more people, especially. Because COVID is show unpredictable, we really don't know, we need as much data driven customer intelligence, to be able to let people know which customers to save, which wants to expand. So that's what that started the inception of involve AI It was about exactly a year ago, that we decided to pivot. And we both involve AI. We grew tremendously. We grew 40% month over month since September, still growing at that pace. And yeah, that's crazy. no looking back. Wow.
Bud Farquhar 19:02
That's awesome. Yeah, so you just you never know,
Saumya Bhatnagar 19:06
you never know.
Bud Farquhar 19:06
I mean, you. You have you have issues that you find internally, you're like, we got to fix these. And then outside influences. COVID. Like, okay, so we have all this. And you say, Okay, I think we have a solution. And then you just share it with a couple people and they're like, your solution works. Yep. Mike. Okay. Well, I guess it's time to pivot. Exactly. And now you have this incredible Yeah. This incredible platform. So I mean, good for you guys. Wow. No. At the age of, I don't know you're not bad old. No, I'm not coming up on 30 ish. You have more entrepreneur entrepreneurs. real experience then a lot of people that we've had on this show, and I mean, that's that's a fantastic story.
Saumya Bhatnagar 20:10
I appreciate it. Yeah.
Bud Farquhar 20:12
Saumya Bhatnagar 20:14
Thank you for coming adrenalin junkie, you know, it's like, you know, if it's, something's not happening, something's wrong. Yeah, it's, yeah, it's the, you know, I think startup people are always startup people. difficult challenges are what we thrive on. And you know, I'm sure you know that as well. Like, if it's not challenging, and it's not challenging your brain enough, you're just, you know, something's just not right, you know. So it was interesting, it's stressful, but it was interesting. But it kind of like, we're paralleling it to you know, how slack started as a gaming company. But then slack was their internal communication tool. So you never know, when you find hidden gems. It was, but I think you always need a supportive group around you. And that's one thing that I think or have, and I have done a very good job, we start we started off with getting lucky, of having this group of really supportive cheerleaders around you. And we went on to replicate that as we kept going, which is, we don't want naysayers. We want people who are obnoxious, Lee optimistic and know that this will work, irrespective. And I think that's what keeps you going. Like, of course, 90% of the people will say, this won't work. But, you know, that's not what we thrive on.
Bud Farquhar 21:43
That seems to be kind of your motto. I was looking through your league, LinkedIn. And and there's a quote that you put down just a couple of weeks ago, and it says the three things that keep me going on a difficult day are passion, optimism, and gratitude. And it says mindset is what separates a good day from a bad one. And I am grateful that my stumbles are an amazing learning opportunity. Yeah, and, yeah, that's your quote. That's awesome. Yeah,
Saumya Bhatnagar 22:12
that is completely true. I, literally, we, I have both recently started very consciously living by that, I knew that those are characteristics that I have. But the days when things are bad, you have to look around and go like, things could have been worse, you know, we could have been dying with no money in our bank account, we recently raised a series a call on this, it was a $16 million round, which was we were very grateful for it. But you know, on the same day, of course, an escalation has to happen. That's just how it works. And you know, you're like, all your negative, you know, energy goes on to that escalation, you're like, life sucks, and this sucks, and you're like, you know, thanks could have been worse, you could have been dying, you could have had no money, you know, there could have been a lot of things your product couldn't have been working or, you know, there's so much that can happen. So, you know, you have to be consciously grateful, and consciously optimistic. I was reading a study somewhere, where they said that they did the study between people who are optimistic people who are pessimistic, and what we call is realistic. And they said that people who are optimistic are actually closer to being realistic than people who are pessimistic. Because pessimistic people won't even give it a shot, even though it might be possible, because they think it can be done, as opposed to optimistic people were. So you know, who always think that something can happen. So, which was pretty interesting, you know, it kind of makes sense. But, you know, I never thought about it like that.
Bud Farquhar 23:57
It is, Can you recall where that study was? Can you recall that off the top of your head?
Saumya Bhatnagar 24:02
So I did. I don't know this study. But I did this course, with growth at USC. And it's about entrepreneurial mindset. So basically, it was the No, I'm missing the name, but it was this neuroscientist and basically, he made the study of athletes people in the military, and tried to see what separates the really good athletes, the really good people in the military against the best of the cloud. And these three things which I mentioned, optimism, gratitude, and purpose, these three are exactly what translate into you being successful versus not. So he was kind of putting the same thing into an entrepreneurial mindset going like you. These are the three things that separates someone who will be exceptional versus not So which so he was the one who talked about the study of optimism versus realism.
Bud Farquhar 25:09
That's very interesting. Interesting. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, yeah. Yeah. Entrepreneurs are kind of like the the top athletes in the, in the business world. I mean, you can you can see it after talking to you so many of them may not have the physical abilities, but definitely the the mental capacity is there for sure.
Saumya Bhatnagar 25:34
Yeah, well jock when it comes to the mind.
Bud Farquhar 25:41
I like it. I like it. I think we're leveling go pull that one out and play put that somewhere in the dock when it comes to the mind. I like it. Yeah. So just for our viewers out there, go go to involve AI, it's, it's a great looking website. And you can click on the story. There, they're a little story, how they got their series a raise. That's an awesome, awesome read. And we went over some of it so far in this in this conversation, but there's so much to, to dig up and go over there. That's a it's a very, very cool story. Um, I would like to pivot a little bit and, and go over, like I said, there, there's so much to uncover in your bio that we read. Let's, let's talk a little bit about, like, you're the founder of a nonprofit for in India for women empowerment. You know, there's just, there's so much there. So let's, let's start there. Let's talk about that. That nonprofit, and, and what's going on there, what that's all about, and then we can go from there.
Saumya Bhatnagar 27:12
Um, so the nonprofit that I started, I started it when I was 18. It was kind of it was the first time that I think without any help, I was able to do the entire paperwork by myself, which I'm really proud of, like, no help from, you know, of course, some help from words, but no help from my mom, who was like always breathing down my neck before that. So it was like a lot of fun. But, again, I feel very strongly about women being in tech, and about women being treated equally. It's not
Bud Farquhar 27:52
simply give that nonprofit, a shout out. Yeah. That nonprofits
Saumya Bhatnagar 27:56
called soccer. And I'll send you the link later. So you can kind of check that out. But yeah,
Bud Farquhar 28:03
we put that on the landing page as well. That is,
Saumya Bhatnagar 28:07
I appreciate it. So we did. We started that, again, there was about eight really amazing women on the board. There were lawyers, and there were people as government officials who came on the board who all felt really strongly about it. And what we feel we all collectively discussed about women empowerment is something so broad, like, you know, it's it can be anything and everything. So we wanted to focus on something where we thought like, where we started seeing a difference between men and women like when people start treating us differently. And we thought that that was more on the not the middle school level. So that is the time when you know, you get started getting treated more like a girl specifically that you should be you know, not doing boy things you should not be going outside. So we started going to schools, which were underprivileged schools, and that was literally what we did. We grant training seminars for parents, of girl children in underprivileged schools because that is the time when a girl children tend to drop out the most. It's so it's not at the primary level. It's more at the middle school level. So a lot of the girl children if you see the conversion rate of, you know men, kind of finishing high school versus women. It's enormous. There's an enormous difference. Because women start dropping girls start dropping out in middle school level because that's the time They can start doing chores at home. Thus they can, they can start taking care of the younger siblings. That's the time you know, when they can help you know, begin go and start earning money like they can be house helping somebody has, you know, they can start doing these things on their own. So they will be father use them for that then get them educated because they don't think there's a bad there's value in getting a woman educated. So that's where we started. So the entire goal was to run very, very organized training seminars for the parents of these girl children. And the outcome of that has to be that you need to keep them in school, talking about value of like if they're educated and used to give examples, like, if they're educated, they graduate high school and become a teacher, they can earn a way more for your family than what they can right now. So again, we would try to break it down, not in terms of like, this lofty idea of women empowerment, and you should treat men and women equally, because families that are underprivileged are just trying to make ends meet. So if they see value of getting money into the household, now, they will make sure that that happens. So that was kind of like the training seminars that the nonprofit would run. So it was amazing. We went to so many schools across Delhi, ogra and Jaguar, which was a very different experience, because there are so many different languages that you have to get used to have to talk in different dialects of Hindi. I think my Hindi became really strong then. I was, I always had a very weirdly accented Hindi and I don't know why. But I had to really, really fix my dialect.
Bud Farquhar 31:58
Yeah, it's Yeah, that's the same kind of going around the United States sometimes here too. Yeah. I think I'm sure it's a little bit different, but kind of the same.
Saumya Bhatnagar 32:11
Yeah, it's, it's pretty much like I think it's exactly the same, like, you know, how it's like, it's still English, but you know, there's certain words that are pronounced so differently. That's exactly how it can be goes. So yeah, it was fun trying to, like get them to understand what I'm saying. Like, there was a lot of times like, somebody would go like, shut up.
Bud Farquhar 32:38
Okay. Oh, thank you.
Saumya Bhatnagar 32:42
public speaking, like, I'll do it. But you know, I don't know that that survey, like people would rather there was like a study of like, what people are most scared of? And the list was like, public speaking. And then self immolation. Like people would rather set themselves on fire than speak in public. I'm like, I'm pretty, perfectly happy. Thank you. Good talk.
Bud Farquhar 33:06
Yeah, that's, that's just crazy. I don't know, I've never had an issue, making a fool of myself in public. But that's just me.
Saumya Bhatnagar 33:18
Oh, no, don't worry. I'm in the same boat. As you. I spoke once at high school, and it was some debate or something. And I was like, trying to like, you know, you hit on the podium to try to show like, you know, that you're passionate about it. The podium fell on the people. I was like, Oh, no.
Bud Farquhar 33:39
It's, it's all good. So you have you have done some amazing things, Forbes, 30, under 30. Stevie gold Entrepreneur of the Year, 50 most powerful women in tech, the list of the Top 100 women in tech. That's pretty, pretty awesome and amazing stuff to get on one of those lists. You're on all of those lists. So I mean, you've you've done that. How does that make you feel? And I mean, was that a goal of yours? Or did all that just kind of happen?
Saumya Bhatnagar 34:29
Good question. I'll start. It wasn't definitely a goal. But it was definitely a nice to have. And it was really I think Forbes 30 under 30 was like super exciting. And I think that kind of like snowballed into the rest of it. But now, it was never quite a call, but it feels really good to be recognized. It's really fun that you know, When I got like, for example, the Forbes 30, under 30, it's like I knew that I was being considered. And that was about it. So you know, you have that anticipation what's going to happen like it becomes a goal when you know you're getting considered because you want to win. Sure, that was kind of like the when I was told that I was in the running for the Liske. And it was really exciting because for enterprise SAS, Eric won the CEO of zoom was one of the judges. And he's like, and that kind of made it like, even bigger for me, because he's like a person, personal idol of mine. I absolutely love him. So it was really great that you know, I got selected. But I think that's like the entrepreneurial mindset, I would say, like, which is like, what the minute like, you overcome one thing you're like, on to the next. So I never like there was like, no puggy or there was no celebration, not even in my head. But I was like, Yes, like I showed, like blood this moment, like, sink in and get super excited about it. I'm like, okay, it's done. What's next? So that's kind of like, overall, like, my thought process around it. But I'm incredibly grateful. I mean, it doesn't. It's not easy. It doesn't happen to a lot of people. And I recognize that. So I feel very happy. I think my parents feel happier. You know, some stereotypes are not in Indian parents are true. with mine. They're like, they have like this coffee table book and they have these certificates that are on the wall. And it's like, it's not even like subtle like when guests come over. They just hide that coffee table book over. Shameless,
Bud Farquhar 36:56
calm down. Hi, how you doing? Nice to have you over for dinner? This is my daughter.
Saumya Bhatnagar 37:02
Yeah, it's so every time like an article comes. They have got this, you know, at the printer guy like who's like who does the professional print. It's got the Gotham on retainer, because they send that over, he makes a print of it. They're laminated and then added to that book. So it's so there's like crazy, like my biography without me even knowing. But it is sad. It's not It's not even I can't even call it a humble brag. It's like a shameless brag. So they've got my name on Google Analytics, which is really funny. Because every time like my name pops up somewhere there the people to tell me that Oh, did you know you got this support? Let me send it on all the WhatsApp groups. And I was like, Oh my God.
Bud Farquhar 37:56
I wish you don't have to brag for yourself.
Saumya Bhatnagar 37:58
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, and they're like if they had a superpower, you know, you know, I wish I were a superhero. I wish I could fly. They already have their superpower. Which is like the humblebrag Nobody does it better than them. Just hilarious.
Bud Farquhar 38:18
Oh, good. At least they've got it. They've got it covered.
Saumya Bhatnagar 38:22
I love them so amazing.
Bud Farquhar 38:25
But that's that's good. That's good. At least you don't resent them that's that's a good thing.
Saumya Bhatnagar 38:33
It's like so funny. They're like the characters in my life. Like there's, it's it's cool because you know what I was talking about, like having these group of like fanatical supporters around you. Like, that's what they are. Like, even on my bad day. They're the ones who are like showing me this article making me feel good about myself, like on the days when I don't you know, that's awesome. You know, they're like the biggest cheerleaders and they're like, you can do no wrong. Look at this article. And look how awesome you're awesome again. Yeah.
Bud Farquhar 39:06
That's awesome. Okay, I want to go back a little bit in what you said. Just a few minutes ago, you said there, you get done with one thing and you're on to the next you're on to the next job to the next. So I want to see like are you just always on to the next or do you take some time for yourself? Like do you have any hobbies interests? Do you have you know like a work life balance? Are you just always on to the next thing? You've been doing this since you were 15? Are you just always on go? Or or do you have some break time built into your life?
Saumya Bhatnagar 39:51
I was I want to say about till about three years ago, I had no work life balance. None at all. I have When I had 18 hour days start at five finish at nine, like best and literally like, my whole world was that very recently I've started and that's just the kind of person I am. I've always been like this. Like, I am very OCD about completing something like I need to get it done and I'm a perfectionist. And you know, sometimes it's not always possible in like the entrepreneurial journey but that's like my basil mindset, which I've had to tweak over a period of time. Now I would very happily like to say I do have very good work life balance, because I feel it's important. I meditate regularly, which I feel is has been one of the most game changing things for me. As I think as pressures grow, anxiety isn't always is always a part of your journey. imposter syndrome is always a part of your journey. You know, there are days when you go like am I even bad to do this? Am I even good enough and you know, when something's like going really downhill think meditation has really helped me through that, which is just nice focus on the now focus on today. You're here, you know, you're breathing, you still have the capability of getting out of the problem. It's not it's not the end up towards the end, you know? So that's really helped me. In terms of hobbies, I am the best trashy show Netflix watcher on this planet. I am so good. I can get through entire seasons of absolute garbage in a one weekend. It's like the show is longer than like the number of hours in the day, but I got through it.
Bud Farquhar 41:58
That's definitely What's your favorite trashy show?
Saumya Bhatnagar 42:02
I just finished marriage versus mortgage, which is amazing. haven't even heard of. I know you won most of them. And then the other one that I just finished binge watching or to a two seasons of the circle. Have you seen that too?
Bud Farquhar 42:21
Well, I watched the movie The circle.
Saumya Bhatnagar 42:25
No, that's that's, that's good. Tom Hanks not the trashy, this circle. It's like a show. And it's a social media. It's like a social media experiment where basically people it's like, I don't know, have you heard of Big Brother. It's like Big Brother. But without them ever seeing each other and it's all avatars of social media avatars. They're just interacting with each other. So I recommended it to a couple of people who could not sit through it. They were like, What is wrong? So yeah,
Bud Farquhar 43:04
probably cuz your brain is always on go. Yeah, see something to let it go.
Saumya Bhatnagar 43:08
Exactly. And I'm a big fan of Bollywood. Like, I am like a, you know, a, like, you know, there is a genre in Bollywood, which is called BB or brain at home genre. Like, you know, it's like people flipping cars like jumping off, like from one building roof to another, like, it's crazy stuff, like, a guy gets like acid thrown on him, and just the shark rips away. But the body's intact, like that kind of stuff. And I would watch that day in and day out. So I recommended it to a couple of my engineers, and they were so horrified. They were like, I don't think I can have meetings with you anymore.
Bud Farquhar 43:53
I liken that too. We have a doctor here in town who's just, I mean, he's an he's an old fashioned doctor, right? Like he does house calls. He works with our elderly patients here. And he I mean, he's just always on go. Great. Nice. And he's a fantastic doctor. And he's got a fairly good sized yard. And he moves it every four days by with a with a push mower. We're like, why don't you get a riding lawnmower, he's like, because I just need to do something physical and dumb, that I don't need to think about. And he just loves doing it. He just every four days, he just goes out and Moses yard, and it's just something that he can just do. And when he's done it just looks like a carpet. Amazing. And I mean, it's just the same. I think it's the same type of thing that just needs to do something. That just is exactly yeah.
Saumya Bhatnagar 44:51
Yeah, I think um, I was talking to somebody and I do that I have a dishwasher, but I don't I had washed dishes. It's just, it's, you know, I think people, everybody likes control. And in certain jobs, especially if you're a doctor, if you don't have control, you know, you can do your best, but then something's out of your control, same as entrepreneurial journeys. And I think just doing these mindless tasks, it's a checklist. It's a complex task that has a start and an end. But you can control the whole thing. And it's like, it's, it will lose anxiety a lot. So yeah, I would totally do that. Because I had washed dishes. When I am like, extremely stressed, I go on this crazy like cleaning, you know, spree. I'm like, cleaning everything with the bathroom, the bedroom, like you name it, it's like sparkling. But it's just something physical that, you know, also helps the others in process. They were like, Why isn't she more stress? You should clean the bathroom? I mean, my bathroom cleaned? Nice.
Bud Farquhar 46:02
Well, we'll kind of get back on on topic here. I'm loving this, but we're gonna have to kind of get back on topic and bring this thing in into a close here.
Saumya Bhatnagar 46:16
Bud Farquhar 46:18
in your mind, what makes what makes for a good leader? And, and how, how do you? How are you working on this? What what are you working on this in this category?
Saumya Bhatnagar 46:31
God? So quick question, I stole my definition of a good leader is transforming every three months. And I think depends upon. So here's my theory of good leader at one stage of the company might not be a good leader at another stage. So the leader has to be a stage fit for the stage of the company is that in the very early days of involve, when we were 10 employees, a good leader needed to be a player coach, like that person needs to be able to do the task while training other people. So in the beginning, when I was running tack on product, I had to be able to code, I had to be able to design product elements, I needed to be able to run user does, you know, so everything that my team was doing, I should be able to do it too, so that I can train my first layer management. So that's what I think an early stage leader looks like a mid Stage Company, I want to say series A Series B, I think that changes have good leaders, somebody who can run good one on ones with people who are managing other people, the managers of managers. So you're not directly managing people and telling them what to do. You're UK, you need to direct managers, for running other teams. In that I feel a good leader has to be optimistic, has to be motivational has to be able to hire has to be able to fire, it has to be able to have a really big vision. I think that vision is what becomes the hallmark of, you know, the entire company. For us, we realized that when we raised money, and we grew suddenly, and we literally grew from 10 to 45 employees in three months. So it was massive for us to suddenly like the small changes, like your resume cannot fit the team anymore. Like you can't have town halls anymore. So your entire processes that were working at one stage have to disintegrate and you have to create new ones to be able to accommodate for these changes. The one thing that we didn't realize is Greg and I were so used to being clear coaches, that being able to give up that control, the ultimate control that if I say deploy, then only you will deploy the code. If I say no, it needs to stop. Giving up that control and giving it to somebody else was really hard. So that's one thing. I feel that would make a good leader. The second, I think was really important. And this has to be at every stage and we started doing this is setting company wide, fairly strong goals. So we're a big proponent of okrs. Everyone needs this. So we have two things that we do rigorously every quarter, set goals and give everyone accountability. Everyone needs to know what is what their goals list and how that ties into the bigger vision of the company. So we bid quarterly goals and then we build milestone goals, which is every quarter, why are we doing this? How does that roll up into the milestone that we want to achieve? And then who is going to be playing what part and how well, that's the okrs that we do. And the other thing that I feel a good leader has to do is build strong areas of responsibility. There needs to be nobody needs to have confusion about who owns what piece. So if x needs to happen, go to y person, nobody else. So we build every quarter, very strong iOS, that we strictly update every few months to setting goals, motivating people, and pushing them to be their best version, I think has to be what makes a good leader
Bud Farquhar 50:59
is one of the best answers I've gotten from that question.
Saumya Bhatnagar 51:04
Bud Farquhar 51:06
Yeah. What advice would you give founders or soon to be founders that are watching this, this conversation.
Saumya Bhatnagar 51:20
It's not just about hard work. It's about smart work, and a little bit of getting lucky. Sometimes you don't get lucky. So there's always a way around it. I feel the most if you're assumed to be founder, the only advice I can do is do your customer research. Make sure that the product is a painkiller, and not a vitamin. And that somebody will. It's it's, it's harder to build and grow a company when you realize it later. But this is a vitamin A not a painkiller. So do your customer research, be open to criticism early, as opposed to later so it's better that 100 people shoot down your idea, as opposed to 100 people shoot down your product, no hurt way more. So you can start to it's easy to pivot, it's easy to morph an idea into something else. It's not that easy to do that with a product. That is for soon to be founders. And for founders, I got you. If you ever need a shoulder to cry on, I'm there. The most the most important thing is perseverance. The being I think, for founders, like being a first principle thinker is most important. bigger problems, always advice, break it down into smaller ones, and you'll probably see a light at the end of the tunnel. And the other thing is, everybody is feeling exactly what you're feeling. The days you feel you're not good enough the days you feel this is too hard. Why did I do this? I should have just gotten a job at Google. Everyone has those thoughts. And founders have this mentality of not sharing their fears. And only sharing successes, because you need to project find other founders to talk to because they're probably going through the same thing that you are. Yeah. Awesome. Awesome.
Bud Farquhar 53:29
You hear to hear like she's got you. back,
Saumya Bhatnagar 53:33
please reach out to me on LinkedIn, and I'll respond.
Bud Farquhar 53:38
Which brings me to my very last question, what is the best way for viewers to get in touch with you? great segue.
Saumya Bhatnagar 53:46
There you go. There we go. Um, I am on LinkedIn. Like, I'm like, people are on Instagram. So please reach out to me on LinkedIn, I'll respond and usually respond to messages. And if you need help, let me know. And also just make sure that the title is you show so I know that you listen to I'll make sure that I respond. Awesome.
Bud Farquhar 54:13
Samia sowmya It was awesome to have you. That was a great conversation.
Bud Farquhar 54:19
I enjoyed it very, very much. You are full of insight. And your story is is amazing. Great job on involve AI and everything else that that you have been doing.
Bud Farquhar 54:39
If you're watching this, go to the landing page. We'll have information on remind me the name. I'm sorry. Remind me the name of your nonprofit
Saumya Bhatnagar 54:57
Bud Farquhar 54:59
Soccer will have the information for that on the landing page along with all the information for Samia. It was awesome. Awesome to have you thank you so much for being
Saumya Bhatnagar 55:12
on the show. And but you have to watch the circle and tell me what you think.
Bud Farquhar 55:18
Are you able to well? Oh, I'll turn it on my wife and we'll see. We'll see what happens. I'll let you know. All right, you have a fantastic day. You too. Bye bye.
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