This interview was hosted by Upekkha Partner Thiyagarajan Maruthavanan (Rajan). Edited excerpts

A project to help friends fund college led to Almabase

Rajan: Awesome! Let's get started. So, okay, Kalyan, you're profitable, and, according to the G2 crowd, you are one of the world's number one alumni management system; you're the leader in your category. How did this journey start?

Kalyan: Sure. I guess I'll maybe quickly walk through the story of how Almabase started, and, as you would imagine, I get that a lot because someone from India, solving a global alumni relations problem is not what you would wake up and expect somebody to be doing.

So, essentially, the seed of this idea started with a certain situation that me and my co-founder faced while we were classmates back at NIT Warangal where there was a certain period of time where some of our classmates and friends were being forced to drop out of college because the college had increased tuition fees, and there were several students who couldn't afford that. They had no choice but to drop out, which didn't make any sense to us. We were like, "It shouldn't be happening, you worked so hard to get into this top-tier engineering college, just because you can't afford fees for just a couple of semesters, you shouldn't be forced to drop out."

Something about that didn't make sense to us and what we ended up doing at that point - without realizing that this could have obviously a larger impact at that point - we started our a non-profit foundation while we were in college and the job of that foundation was to essentially fund scholarships for students who had that financial need.

And how would we get the money? We would get the money by reaching out to alumni because the idea was simple. NIT Warangal has 30,000 alumni, we know so many of them are doing so well and at their skill or at their earning capacity it shouldn't be very hard for them to actually fund scholarships for a student, knowing that they're helping someone get through their education.

We thought it was gonna be pretty easy, it turned out to be harder. But anyway, we were able to persist and get enough money to fund scholarships for those classmates in that year and then further went on to fund more and more scholarships over the years and that continued to be like something that both of us were doing in the background along with some of our friends.

So that, I guess, was the seed of the idea for us saying, 'Hey, if an alumni community can be leveraged properly by a university, so much is possible,' because suddenly at NIT Warangal, education became more affordable for those students just because alumni were involved and alumni were engaged back to the university.

But at that point, we didn't see that vision or see that this could be a larger impact, but over the years after that, other colleges were starting to reach out to us saying, 'Hey, this foundation that you guys started, how did you do it? We have the same problem with our college, students are being forced to drop out. Not enough students are getting scholarships. It's becoming too expensive,' things like that. So we were like maybe there is something here that we could do, which creates a larger impact.

One of the key learnings through that journey for us was the fact that universities do a really poor job of keeping their alumni engaged.

If you think about the relationship of a student with the university, it starts when they get an admission or when they start looking for an admission, and then it's ideally a life-long journey; that remains their alma mater. But universities, unfortunately, think about it in a very short, like those three or four-year time frames, where you start as a student, you end as a student, and then you happen to be an alumnus.

If that changes, and if universities think about alumni at the center of their thinking, 'How can we leverage alumni throughout the journey,' then it creates a lot of impact, not just in terms of donations and funding scholarships and better facilities and things like that, but also in terms of mentorships for students and providing better internship opportunities. So that's how Almabase came together.

Lessons on the $0-1 mn ARR journey

Rajan: What are the top three takeaways. I talk to a lot of the Instagram and the Twitter generation, they first want to know the first three things, and then they want to know the details. So in this journey, what are the top three takeaways from a Value SaaS perspective or the founder journey perspective while building a SaaS business as a category leader?

1. "It was far easier to sell the Almabase solution rather than teaching our customers that the problem exists"

One of the pivotal moments for us was when we learned that we should actually shift focus from selling to Indian colleges to selling to global universities and colleges, especially the US. The thinking was that we had a very broad understanding of the market and we said that everybody in the US already knows how to do alumni relations, they're already raising millions and billions of dollars, they already know how to do this. We just need to learn what they are doing and bring that secret sauce to India and then we can be successful in sort of creating this alumni culture in India, right?

That's what we started with. And then funnily enough or maybe predictably enough, two or three years down the line we hit a wall. A lot of the top-tier colleges, like IISC Bangalore, IIT Bombay, Christ University, LPU in Punjab, all of these large universities which had a good alumni community were using Almabase. Anybody beyond that were like, 'What exactly did you say? Did you say alumni? What does that mean?' It just didn't make any sense, and we were struggling to change that behaviour.

Coincidentally, we happened to get a reasonable amount of interest from the US. And then we started to explore the US opportunity. To our surprise - and this is actually a key learning that I would want other founders to learn as well - we realized that there are actually a ton of challenges with respect to how alumni relations was being done in the US as well. Though the US was definitely far better; they at least knew that they had a problem relative to Indian colleges that were like, 'We don't even think there is a problem.' It became far easier for us to focus on selling the Almabase solution rather than teaching them that the problem exists.

The lesson for me, which I think is translatable for other founders thinking of selling globally, is that we often sit in India and make assumptions that everybody in the US knows better. We assume that their problem is already solved, or I can't sell to them. All that is actually true, unless you go and talk to them physically and figure out what it is that they are struggling with and what is preventing them from hitting their goals.

2. "Know what to say no to and just focus on one type of customer and solving one type of problem"

So whereas that was one of the key pivotal moments, I think the other lesson I would say in the top three, especially in the initial journey of 0 to 1 million ARR, is to figure out what to say no to and just focus on one type of customer and solving one type of problem. And then just doing that because that's usually sufficient to get to a million ARR, as long as that problem is valuable enough to solve.

But often I come across founders who are trying to do too many different things because they're essentially spraying and praying and hoping that something sticks. We were also doing that; we continue to do that in various ways. But I think we know a little better now, and that's something that I would hope that other founders can learn from.

3: "Focus on delivering value to customers in the first one million ARR journey"

This is always true, but especially in the first one million journey. The leverage that we can get by making customers happy above and beyond, whatever is on the contract, is actually significant and actually can play a big role in making sure you get to the one million faster. You also get a lot of good reputation in the market for being helpful to customers and then they spread the word and they give you ratings on G2 crowd.

All of those things add up organically. So having a very, very heavy focus on making sure each customer that's trusted you is being successful, is super important for founders. Founders shouldn't be thinking just about, 'Okay, we built this product, they came and bought this product, best of luck.' If founders just stop at that that, I think is a recipe for disaster.

I think focusing on making sure value is being delivered to customers is super important in the initial stages.

Stepping into the potential customer's shoes

Rajan: You talked about the US to India shift, and that was like a critical learning or a critical moment for the company's history. What were some of the most memorable experiences in that change, like many challenges that would have come, which one was the most memorable?

Kalyan: India to US.  I don't know how, sometimes I hesitate saying this publicly, but one thing that I did, which is memorable for me is when we first started focusing on schools and colleges in the US, we were trying to understand their craft better. Like if somebody is an alumni relations professional or if somebody is an annually funded professional, what exactly do they do day-to-day? How do they prioritize? What are their tasks? What are their goals? Who do they report to? What are their fears? How do they get promoted? All of those kinds of things.

It was getting really hard for us too when we reached out as Almabase. Very few people were willing to talk and they weren't opening up as much. So one of the things I did is basically I created a new email ID with a new name. And I said, 'I am a final year senior graduating out of San Jose State University, and I'm looking to be an alumni relations professional. I need advice from you on what is good about this job and what is bad about this job. Can I call you?' And I e-mailed lots of people with that pseudo email ID.

We got tons of calls and they opened up much better with me because they were no longer speaking to a vendor; they were speaking to someone who wants to be in their shoes. So people were a lot more open about what are the challenges of this role? Why it's not easy to do what they do? All of that which gave us a lot of insights that helped us shape the product from there.

Going to the US: Breaking mindsets and challenging beliefs

Rajan: Wow, that's very interesting. So what were some of the other challenges from a go-to-market perspective that you faced in the India to US transition? You talked about the myth that we think that we cannot sell like global products selling sitting from India. So what specific challenges did you face? Can you speak one or two of them?

Kalyan: Initially, it was daunting to be honest. While I talk about that being a myth, it was daunting initially. But I think that changes once you get past that initial phase of inhibition.

I think a lot of the founders tend to think that, 'Oh, traveling the US is expensive,' it's not, relative to the overall spend of the company. Actually going to the US is not that difficult. Getting a visa is not that difficult. Like none of those things are actually real challenges.

So I had a lot of inhibition in terms of like when we would go to a conference, the conference would have, let's say, 500 people. In those 500 people, I would literally be the only brown person, I thought, or maybe one of my colleagues. Everybody was slightly older than us and everybody looked different from us. It was very daunting initially, because we were like first of all, we set up a booth, nobody wants to ever come to a booth in general anyway. On top of that, there's this guy looking weird, younger, like a student, but also looking like he comes from a different country, a different nationality. So nobody would come talk to us right, like, who is this guy?

We had to actually literally step out of the booth, interrupt people having a different conversation and try to get into the conversation. And then get them to the booth and all of that. Because otherwise there was no ROI from the conference right? And that was super daunting initially, super intimidating. But over a period of time, once we got a little more comfortable with it, it actually led to a lot of good learnings. A lot of initial customers that we got was through these conferences that we went to. So that was a huge, I would say like barrier that we were able to cross over a period of time as a challenge, when we went from focusing on India to focusing on the US.

I think the other thing that is not as challenging, but is useful to think about, is just figuring out the bare minimum. Like compliance and legal stuff that's necessary in the US, both from a company incorporation perspective as well proving that whatever data you're getting is secure.

It's easier to earn a dollar than a rupee

Rajan: So as a founder, what are some surprises this startup journey has thrown at you? And talk about the most crazy one that you can think of.

Kalyan: One thing that I think I continue to joke about with other folks in my network is like we usually think that at the stage we are at - and whatever that is _ that if we get to the next stage, things will become easier. And then we get to the next stage things will become a little more easier because either we'll have more people to work with us, or more money to spend on certain problems and things like that. But at least in my experience, it is not getting easier; it continues to remain equally challenging, if not more.

The lesson for me from that is just the ability to adapt. I think it requires us as founders to have different skill sets at different stages. And unless we can adapt it's gonna be really challenging.

So for me, that's one of the surprises I would say. Because I genuinely felt like, 'if we get past a certain stage, if we have a slightly larger team, etcetera, things will become easier." But it's not been, it has been equally challenging.

Also a surprise for me was just the ability for us to sell in the US. Initially, I had a lot of inhibitions just like everybody else, I would think that, maybe they'll ask for other things that we can't build, maybe their requirements for a product will be much more complex. All of that, none of that turned out to be true.

One of you folks mentioned a saying by Sridhar Vembu of Zoho, "it's easier to earn a dollar than a rupee," and that turned out to be true. Although it is counter-intuitive, at least for us, it's very, very true. Right now, to sell a $10,000 subscription in the US is much easier for us than to even sell a Rs.10,000 subscription in India.

And so it is... Yeah, that's been a surprise, to be honest.

Raising money: Optionality, unit economics and skin in the game

Rajan: So initially you raised a little bit of funds and then you were going down the path of following with further fundraise, and somewhere in between you took a different turn. I mean these are two different available paths, so what led you to make those choices and how did you navigate those?

Kalyan: Yeah. If I have to be completely honest, I think the whole thinking around raising a little bit of money upfront and all of that was two things, one is just blind faith in the process because everybody else was raising money, we were also like, 'that's what every startup has to do right?' So we didn't even think too much about, 'is this the right thing to do? How much should we raise?'

Honestly all of that maturity that I see in founders right now, we didn't have back then. So it was just lack of maturity in one sense, but also just survival. Neither of us started with a lot of money to invest into the company to start with. So even just to keep it going, even just to pay everybody's salaries, we needed to raise a little bit of money, so we did initially. Only much later, around the time that we started talking to you guys at Upekkha and working with you guys, did we think in terms of 'what does founder optionality even mean?' When you guys first spoke about founder optionality, I'm like, what the heck is that, right?

But yeah, understanding that these are the different paths, and then what is the potential path that we are comfortable with. Because that's not the same as what some other founder is comfortable with - depending on the industry, they're serving, depending on the economics of the business and things like that.

One key lesson, when we started talking to you guys was unless we know that money is the bottleneck for growth, let's not go ahead and raise money blindly. And so that's when we realized that even if we raised $10 million right now, we don't know whether that's the bottleneck to actually grow. There are other challenges that we need to fix. And that led to seeing, 'Okay, let's not worry about raising money, let's focus on the unit economics, let's focus on making sure we can actually do this profitably.'

One of the things that we also learned as part of the big in an accelerator program in the first few months was also that we can actually significantly raise prices because the value that we were delivering was higher than what we were capturing back. And so we went from sort of selling 3k per annum kind of thing to 6k, 6k to 9k, now about 10k. And that journey certainly was helpful for us to continue to remain profitable.

Over time we realized we need a certain amount of capital in certain seasons of the business to be able to fund the cash flow for growth and invest ahead of time. But we were able to do that with debt in the last few years, wherever that was necessary, rather than actually diluting more equity. And honestly all of those choices we learned only over the last three, four years. So that's been, I guess, the evolution in the thinking, at least for us as founders.

Rajan: And what are you thinking now, for your next level of growth and how you're thinking about those choices?

Kalyan: Yeah, right now, I think again, for the kind of growth that we need to plan for, we don't need significant capital. But I think the thinking now is more in terms of, can we raise some capital strategically from partners that we will want to have skin in the game? So it's more about can we get some important folks to have skin in the game than raising a lot of money? So I think we may raise a little bit of money but think more about it from a strategic angle, rather than from a raising a large amount of money. Because I think we can continue to grow this business profitably, with good unit economics from here.

Radical routes to customer discovery

Rajan: Kalyan, what was a crazy moment in your entire startup journey? It could be personal, just the most craziest and the weirdest moment.

Kalyan: I don't know if this is the craziest, but I do remember one of the things that was helpful for me initially during that whole customer discovery phase after we made the shift from India to US. I spent time actually staying in dorm rooms on university campuses and literally just eat food from the canteen, all of that. Just saying, for example, there were some prospects in our pipeline where we had just pinged them and said, 'Hey, can I just stay on your campus for five days? I just wanna observe what you do?' It was a super helpful experience.

Again, we had to really push ourselves to even make that ask. But it was amazing. I would go back and do that any day, right now. It's probably much easier now. We have a lot of customers who are okay with that but it wasn't back then.

I remember a moment where I stayed in in Louisiana, Nicholls State University. I stayed on the campus for about a week or so. And by the fifth day, I see this guy who cooks food in the campus restaurant come up to me and he's like, 'I see you alone every day. I feel really bad for you. You eat food alone everyday, are you a student? Do you need help? Can I do anything for you?' And I was like, 'Man, this is so different from what I was expecting.' But that was an interesting moment for me. He thought I was a student on campus.

The Value SaaS way of building global teams

Rajan: Awesome. Great story there. So Kalyan, one of the things that is the biggest challenge for everybody today is building a team, especially when you have hyper valuations going on, and then the salaries are going through the roof. So talk about how did you build your initial team? And how are you going about doing your recruitment right now? What are some of the things that people can take away when you're building a Value SaaS business on building teams? And also I know that you have teams, which are geographically co-located, so you have folks working out of US as well. How do you continue to build the team? Some light on that.

Kalyan: Initially, as you would expect, we leveraged heavily on our alumni community. We used Almabase for our own college to start with. So we deployed Almabase for NIT Warangal, built out our alumni community through that, we obviously did a lot of work for them to build out the community, beyond giving them the software. And then we used that community to reach out to folks that we thought were doing interesting work and use that alumni community to actually find folks who had a common connection with us, in the sense that they went to the same college as us. And then were interested in the purpose we were behind.

For us, even though the company, the product and a lot of those things have changed, one thing that's never changed is the mission. And the mission, right from that original thought of, 'Hey, let's not allow our classmates to drop out of college' to now, the mission is still, 'How do we make education more affordable?' And the path we're taking to that is by leveraging more alumni, by creating more engagement with alumni, being more alumni-centric, universities are able to get more alumni to contribute back and use that for funding better scholarships, creating better facilities, etcetera, right? And so, one of the things that helped us in the initial phases is, one, leveraging our alumni community, but to bringing people that were aligned with the mission of the company, people who were interested in saying, 'Hey, I'm willing to take a lower salary, I'm willing to work with you on this, as long as we're able to achieve this mission'. So honestly, a lot of the initial folks were from an NIT Warangal, because that was our approach to hiring at that point.

I think when we were 10 people, there were probably six people from NIT Warangal. And then, through their networks, now we are a little over 40 people. And the strategy has always been find people that have innate curiosity, people who are always trying to figure out stuff, rather than people who just want a job. And look for people who have the ability to hustle and get stuff done. Those are two key things that we look for.

Over time, what we realized is we've got really good at the ability to assess those skills or those personality traits and ended up actually hiring a lot of folks who were just graduating or had maybe one-year experience. And today, out of the 40 people that we have, the average age is about 23 years. It gives us a lot of satisfaction as well, that we're able to help get their career started and create an environment where they're learning from each other. And like, you know they are honestly amazingly smart people, way smarter than I was. So yeah, that's been our way of thinking about it.

For me, when we talk about Values SaaS as well, we talk about value being delivered to customers, obviously, to stakeholders, to investors and folks like that but I think as a founder one of the biggest satisfactions is when you see people grow from your company, people who trust you, people who join your company and get the value out of this experience, being exposed to different situations, being exposed to really hard challenges, working with other people, learning from other people, just becoming better people along with developing their skills. And that value is also, I think very critical in the whole Value SaaS system.

Rajan: So, how much of that amazing cook that you have at the office and the dog friendly culture play a part?

Kalyan: So, we've written a lot of culture blogs talking about what we do at the company and things like that. And it's unbelievable how many times I go on interviews and one of the questions is, " Why would you pick Almabase over another job offer that you get, say Microsoft or whatever?" The number of times the candidates tell me, 'I saw your blog on Pepper the dog. I saw your blog on Janak, who makes amazing food.' So, I think that's actually played a huge role in just celebrating who we are and not trying to be someone else and talking about what we value and things like that.

Even from a retention perspective, the kind of food that's available for people at the office and the kind of environment that's available for people in general, just makes it harder for people to go and look for something else because they're having fun, they're enjoying the journey, they're learning, they're growing. The whole experience is good. So, honestly if some of these folks go and I have to hire same people again, given the hyper-inflation that you're talking about in terms of funding and all of that, it's gonna be super hard.

Rajan: Right. I certainly miss Janak and the Alma parties. Amazing environment and culture. Culture is very, very critical and the environment that you create where people feel that they are able to do the best work of their life. This is critical to attract and retain people. And that is perhaps the only weapon that any value SaaS founder today, can have because everybody has access to capital and then, they are throwing it at people and it's just made the market very crazy.

'The thing that really helped is that stereotypical customer obsession'

Rajan: So, I wanna shift a little bit. We initially talked about how Almabase is the world's most loved alumni software - you're category leader in your respective category - so how did that come about? And as you explain that, how you were able to establish that brand superiority and take the number one spot? It would have initially started with, overcoming trust issues, right? As in, you are somebody who is trustworthy for your customers to believe that. How did you overcome the initial trust/branding issue and what led you to become the number one?

Kalyan: I think in the initial phases the thing that really helped is that stereotypical customer obsession. Even though everybody talks about it, I think, really going deep is important. We stayed with them in the university, we called hundreds of people, we spoke to them. We met hundreds of people at conferences, we're able to really go deep in understanding like what are their day-to-day challenges. And then once we delivered the product to whoever bought it, we worked closely with them to make sure that they are successful. And so, that level of customer support, focusing heavily on making sure customers are successful, because our job is not to sell the product, our job is to make customers successful. And really sticking with that.

I'll give you an example of what I mean by that. Like our internal tracking of a customer support rep's performance is not on time to respond or number of tickets closed or anything like that, it's based on ownership. We go to each conversation and rate, 'are they able to actually own the problem and help the customer beyond just responding and closing'. We look at tone, we look at are they really being empathetic. Are they actually genuinely trying to help the customer or are they just trying to close the ticket. So that's an example of what we mean by internally setting the culture of actually saying, 'Hey, our job is to make sure the customer is successful. Our job is not to sell the product and close the ticket.' I think that for us the undercurrent of everything that we've done over the last few years has been that. That's what led us to having a really good ratings on G2 crowd and becoming the number one in the world in the alumni management category.

Today, I think for us the deposits that we made over the years in focusing on customers are still paying off for us well.

Raising prices 'and' beating competition

Rajan: Kalyan, you talked about raising prices. And that allowed you to unlock  a growth lever for you. Then, when you raise prices, how did you beat competition?

Kalyan: So initially, when we were selling in the US, we were less expensive than some of our competitors and we thought that that could be our advantage or that would be our entry to the market. But what we realized is people cared more about making sure that whatever vendor they choose, whatever software they buy, it's a long-term relationship rather than trying to pay a little less to start with. And so essentially, we raised prices and sorted out competition.

As long as we're able to deliver value, we're also capturing more of that value, and one of the biggest levers that helped our growth in the last couple of years especially, has been introducing a new component on charging for every donation that gets processed through the system along with the subscription fee, along with the implementation fee. That's unlocked a new layer of growth for us which we'll continue to invest in.

As far as competition is concerned we realized that especially in the US, the professionals who were responsible for making a decision that would impact the university or the school, weren't fighting penny for penny. They were just focused on, 'who can I trust for the long-term'. So we focused a lot more on building that trust and delivering a better product, delivering better customer service than trying to compete on price and it was good for the market because everybody was able to capture the value.

Rajan: Why did customers choose you over the competition. Was it customer obsession that you had or was it a certain feature?

Kalyan: I would think the number one reason has been customer service. And like I say, if you go to G2 Crowd right now or Capterra or anywhere and just look for Almabase reviews, people talk about, 'This feature is great, this feature could have been better, etcetera, etcetera.' But the one thing that's consistent across all hundreds of reviews is amazing customer service. Really, really good customer service, something that we've never experienced before. So that, I think, has been our number one reason why people chose us over other competitors and continue to choose us, and they're continuing to make more investments in that directions as well.

If you were to it all over again.....

Rajan: So if you were to do another start-up after Almabase in SaaS - given what you have learned so far, how would you think about coming up with the idea and getting that initial traction and what are the choices that you would take. Would you want to do India, would you want to fund-raise, or do you even want to do SaaS? What would be your choices...

Kalyan: First of all, I think that's a great question. I think that's a great way to sort of narrow down the learnings because, yeah, it sort of focuses on what I would do given the learning.

Global definitely: First of all, I would definitely do SaaS. I think I understand this space much better now than I did when I started Almabase. I would definitely do global. For me, the question doesn't even arise - India or global. I think it doesn't matter where you are, you have to be doing global is what I think. Unless for whatever reason the problem that I pick is only available in India and nobody else has the problem, which is very unlikely, but I would definitely wanna do global.

I would want to pick a market that is very, very large: I think that's another learning through this journey as well. Pick a market that's very, very large and has some sort of tail winds given external factors that you don't really control as much.

I would focus on one type of customer & one type of problem: A lot of SaaS companies start with, 'Hey, we have this cool technology, we have this amazing tool. You can use it for so many different things.' I would stay away from that part and I would focus on this type of customer, this type of problem. I know how to solve it, and I care about solving it. That's what I would look for if I were to start another company again. And I'm hoping I will after Almabase.

Rajan: And about team building, how would you go about team building?

Kalyan: I think I would focus a lot on culture-fit, especially in the first 10 folks or so. Really spending time putting down what does it mean by culture fit at the company, what are the values that we look for, spending a lot of time making sure not just looking for those when we are hiring but also continue to sort of measure whether we're actually true to what we feel we are. And I would definitely focus on that heavily if I were to re-do as well. But I think the one thing I would do differently, compared to what I did at Almabase, is in the first 10-15 people, I would probably hire some folks who already have some level of experience and hire leadership folks early on rather than completely building from down up.

"Value SaaS is making sure we're building a business where there is value for all stakeholders"

Rajan: Kalyan, we've been talking about Value SaaS. A lot of people ask this question, what is Value SaaS and you also talked about optionality, so if you were to explain that in very simple words to somebody who is totally new to this. How would you say what they are?

Kalyan: Value SaaS is making sure we're building a business where there is value for all stakeholders. That's where I think it all starts. So making sure your employees are getting value out of this experience, making sure investors are getting value, making sure customers are getting value, and obviously making sure the founders are getting value. Making sure that it's a balanced game in some sense. That is the essence of it.

I think chasing fundraising games, series A, series B, without focusing on whether everybody in the equation is getting value is what you wanna try and avoid. And that for me is the Vanity SaaS kind of route where you're only chasing valuation after valuation after valuation with each round without too much focus or attention paid to the actual value being delivered in a unit economics positive way.

So for me, if you want to be a Value SaaS company, one making sure all the parties, all the stakeholders are getting value out of it. And then two - you mentioned like founder optionality as well. From a founder perspective it's making choices that retain more options for you as a founder without getting into a path where all of your options are cut. Then you only have one path to go after where you either live or die. And take a very, very small probability bet.

The Upekkha Community helps me feel everything will be okay

Rajan: So Kalyan, you are one of the super earliest superheroes of the Upekkha community. And you still help with a lot of folks inside the community. Also, just in your words, what does Upekkha community mean for you?

Kalyan: Yeah, it's funny how in the last couple of years, I've been super-connected with all of the other Upekkha SaaS founders. Honestly, till about 2018 or so, I was the type of founder who was like, 'I don't wanna talk to anyone. I wanna sit in front of computer 24/7, I just wanna focus on what's important for the company. Not talk to anyone,' without realizing what I was missing out on.

2018 onwards, I realized there's so much of what we do that other people have already figured out that we are trying to figure out again. Both from a problem-solving perspective but also from an emotional perspective, just saying, 'Okay, everybody is screwing up in different ways. Everybody's trying different things, everybody's equally clueless.'

That kind of emotional thing has also been super helpful for me with respect to the community. And apart from that, obviously like, " how did you solve, let's say, a specific problem? How did you scale up one particular channel?" And somebody who's already two steps ahead of you, it saves us months of time trying to just learn from them, rather than repeating every step and figuring out every step along the way.

So for me, the Upekkha community has been massively helpful, both from a learning perspective in terms of skill, but also relying and leaning on certain people from an emotional perspective, just knowing that it's gonna be okay. I think that has also been equally helpful to me.

Rajan: Awesome, so just this final part. Is there anything that I should have asked that you would like to share with first time founders but I didn't ask? Is there any closing thought that you have?

I would probably just double-click or triple-click. You already asked this, but I guess just to summarize towards the end is - just the inhibition or fear against growing for going global is what I think people need to really re-think. I know a lot of founders who I spoke to, who said:

'Oh man, we don't have the money to go to the US.'
And I'm like, 'How much do you have in the bank?'
'Like 50 lakhs.'
'Do you know how much it cost to go to the US? How much it would cost to spend four weeks there?'

Honestly, I think people should focus a lot more on global as long as the problem that they're solving exists elsewhere. And the investment, both in terms of time and travel and money will definitely pay for itself and pay much more as well. So I would probably just reiterate that there is some inherent fear that people have, which is actually not true when it's implemented practically.

Rajan: Awesome, thank you so much, Kalyan. Everything that you said, I know it's worth its weight in gold. So thank you for sharing the journey. I learned a few things about some of the crazy experiences that you had and inspiring moments that you had. So, thank you for sharing that. I hope some founders have taken insights, and if we could have, in fact, through this session even one founder to go global sooner, I think this video would be success. So thank you for doing that.