[00:00:00] Bryan Pham: Hey guys, welcome to the Asian Hustle Network podcast. My name is Bryan
[00:00:04] Maggie Chui: And my name is Maggie
[00:00:06] Bryan Pham: And we interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals.
[00:00:13] Maggie Chui: We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.
[00:00:21] Hi everyone. Welcome to the Asian Hustle Network podcast. Today we have a very special guest with us. His name is Gaurav Bhattacharya. Gaurav is the CEO and co-founder of involved.ai, a customer intelligence platform to empower companies with AI-based customer intelligence that drives transformational growth. He actively participates in the Los Angeles Tech innovation Ecosystem through panel discussions and mentoring.
[00:00:45] Bhattacharya started his career by founding a medical software business while still in high school. He is a Forbes 30 under 30 alum, and an accomplished technology leader, speaking at major conferences and offering several publications in this space. Gaurav, welcome to the show.
[00:01:00] Bryan Pham: So excited to have Gaurav on today’s podcast. And this guy is an absolute genius, and we’re so excited to hear more about his story, but before we dig deep into that, Gaurav would you like to give an introduction on what was your upbringing like and how did that help you become an entrepreneur that you are today?
[00:01:16] Gaurav Bhattacharya: Hey Bryan, thank you for having me on the show. I’m excited to be here. I’ve been an avid listener for so many episodes, so I’m excited about the opportunity.
[00:01:24] A quick story about myself, Bryan. I grew up in New Delhi, come from a very humble, poor family. Lost my father to cancer when I was two years old and my mother was a blue-collar worker. So she would work really hard as to how immigrant moms are.
[00:01:38] She made sure that she worked many jobs to provide for their family. One of the biggest things that I think was impactful for me, was where I grew up, it wasn’t the best neighborhood and there were a lot of beliefs. And so I never liked going outside and playing. My brother was a big video gamer. One of my silver linings was just playing a lot of video games at home and being in my own bubble.
[00:02:00] I think that was my inspiration. I really felt that with video games, I can do whatever I want to do. I can be a character. I can be in scenarios. I would play a lot of games where I was in the United States or I was in Canada. I was in Europe and I was doing cool things outside my bad neighborhood where I grew up.
[00:02:17] And that just inspired me to do amazing things. I feel like I started coding when I was 10 years old because of it, I built my first video game at 12, which was just a game where you could take on and be any character and do anything you want to do to create your own world. I think that was my story.
[00:02:32] That’s how I became an entrepreneur. And as you were alluding to, I went to high school in a coding class. I met my co-founder. She’s a rock star programmer too. And we both were nerdy kids. We started our first company together and that’s our story.
[00:02:46] Bryan Pham: I think that’s really cool. And I think that despite your very humble background, I can also relate to that. I grew up in parts of east LA where it wasn’t too safe as well, but now I can admire that. The fact that you picked up coding at the age of 10, and built something by the age of 12. That’s insane.
[00:03:02] And I’m curious too, were your parents’ engineers? Did they push you, were they’re like, “Hey Gaurav, what do you do with your time? You got to go study right now”, or was it very like self-motivated away. Whereas one day you’re like, I just want to learn how to code. And did you have any mentors or advice or did you watch a TV commercial?
[00:03:19] Gaurav Bhattacharya: Thank you for that. I think, and it’s so funny that you say that, but my mother is very focused on my wellbeing, but not as much on education because she wasn’t educated. And I lost my father very young when I was two years old. So I don’t have very similar parents to a lot of my friends who are always focusing as like a lot of Asian parents and immigrant parents are focused on kids. Kids’ education. My mother was not so much, but she definitely is a disciplinarian and she definitely wanted me to wake up early morning, work hard, give my best, just like any other, immigrant parent.
[00:03:52] But growing up, I feel one of the best things that happened to me was, we used to have this game called Counter-Strike. Have you ever played that game? It’s a very famous old, like an old school. I played that game too, growing up, not old at all, but that was like, one of the coolest or the before Call of Duty became popular I believe. So they had this can, that you can modify the maps in that game. And I really wanted to create my own maps for that game.
[00:04:17] So I started to learn code because of that. I was like, I have an opportunity, it’s open-source software that can create any role that you want to be in. That was my motivation. I think that was when I decided to start how to code.
[00:04:28] And talking about mentors. Let me ask you, have you had a lot of advisers like you’ve done a lot of amazing things. Did you meet people along the way that helped you?
[00:04:36] Bryan Pham: Yeah. I think mentors played a huge part in my life. They really helped me look outside the box, belief in myself. I was one of those pretty low self-esteem kinds of kids. I was like, man, I’m not going to be able to do great things. So yeah, like having mentors really played a role in helping me believe in who I really want to be.
[00:04:54] So I’m really curious about you, it’s like age 10, right? Coding at age 10 is pretty absurd, especially given the fact that this is probably what like 20, almost 20 years ago, I assume that’s a different time period to be learning how to code.
[00:05:10] What was the one catalyst that led you down a path where it’s as you mentioned like your mom was very strict, very disciplined of you. Who is a person that was like as you grew up?
[00:05:19] Gaurav Bhattacharya: I think I, I really look up to my brother. I would say my brother was a big mentor for me. Cause we were for a long time, our family was very poor, but he was very creative and I don’t think I’m that creative, but he has a creative gene in this family and he was always very entrepreneurial and very risk-taking. So he was doing things like he was the first person to migrate to the United States, in the family. He would always do things that are outside the norm and try to strive for them. I think he was definitely a big motivation for me to look up to. And I would say that he would be my first advisor.
[00:05:51] But just like you along the way, super lucky. I met incredible people. People when I was starting out, our first company people, I met someone who was a rock star at not just engineering, but she was really good at sales. So she taught me how to do sales, which is an incredibly hard skill to master, I believe.
[00:06:11] Then I met someone along the way for this recent company who became our venture capitalist. His name is Mark and he’s on my board and he’s teaching me everything about finance and venture capital and how to raise money, how to run a company. I’ve been incredibly blessed and very grateful for people I’ve met along the way, who’ve helped me get here.
[00:06:31] Bryan Pham: Definitely. What strikes me about your answer is how humble you are. And how much of a learner’s mindset you’re able to take in. I feel like that quality is so important in entrepreneurship or anything in general in order to be successful is that you have to be willing to learn. You have to be willing to take a step back and be like, I’m not the expert in this field. And that’s okay.
[00:06:48] I want to be able to learn from everyone around me. And I really liked the fact that you’re so humble to the fact that you view yourself, everyone else, sorta as mentors and mentees and learning for each other all the time. I really liked that a lot. And congratulations on the Forbes 30, under 30. I am not surprised.
[00:07:07] This is well deserved and I wanted to talk a little bit more about your current company, Involve.AI. What exactly is it?
[00:07:13] For a brief description, it’s a customer intelligence platform to empower companies with AI-based customer intelligence that drives transformation growth. Tell us about this product. What was the inspiration behind it? And how did you come about creating this company?
[00:07:26] Gaurav Bhattacharya: Yeah. So it’s company number two for me, and it’s a really cool story and how it started, but it also epitomizes how startups are and how you just don’t know what your future is.
[00:07:36] But like you said, having that growth mindset and learning mindset is just so important. We started this company with a very different idea. Our idea was we’re going to create a consumer company where we’re going to send people to have events and volunteer and do good for the community because we really wanted to do good and have a technology that supports anyone from anywhere in the world to be able to do something with their time and come together and helping nonprofits. Help communities, help NGOs succeed. And when we started that, we kind of I started honing on who our ideal customer profile is? Cause he had a pretty broad vision.
[00:08:12] And one of the biggest challenges we had, Bryan, was in a lot of companies sometimes you plan things to go a certain way, and then it didn’t fit that good product-market fit.
[00:08:21] So we would lose, even though we had half a million users. We would almost lose 8% of them every month. So drop-off is really high. Churn was a big issue for us. In order to solve that, being engineers, my co-founder one of these nights, I think we were having wine, we were really upset. We were just disappointed in how where we wanted to go into. So we just started coding. We took out our laptops and we were like, let’s try to figure out, which users are our best users. So we can really double down on those users and forget about everybody else. Who’s not sticking around on the platform.
[00:08:49] So in order to do that, we built this kind of dashboard, which is like one of my first mock-ups, how it’s going to look like. And we started taking a lot of data from multiple sources just to try to figure out which users are happy and healthy. And what can we learn about our customers from data that we already have. It could be utilization methods, how people use the product. And how much time are they spending on our media, on our social media, on doing different events and the results were phenomenal, Bryan, like what we found was incredible.
[00:09:15] And at that moment, we knew that as the company grows, you cannot get away from your users and your customers. But do you have like Slack messages with them, emails with them, phone calls, zoom recordings, just these behavior patterns and how they use your product. I can tell an amazing story and that’s what we built. So we decided to pivot almost like Slack.
[00:09:34] Slack was a gaming company for many years and they built this collaboration tool internally. We decided to pivot. And that’s what Involve.AI is. It’s a simple platform that can take your data and democratize customer data. Tell amazing stories about your customer, on how happy and healthy they are, how unhappy they are, what are they thinking? What are they saying to that executives and leaders in the company know exactly what’s going on with their customer base and customer-facing teams can be very proactive and data-driven on how to solve these day-to-day customer issues that can happen.
[00:10:04] Bryan Pham: That is awesome. I think that the very silver lining is that when you’re frustrated, just cold,
[00:10:09] Gaurav Bhattacharya: hard drink, right? hard drink.
[00:10:11] Bryan Pham: Let’s talk a little more about this. And the biggest takeaway I got from the answer is. I think that for most first-time founders, early-stage founders, it’s like, it’s really hard to focus on one thing because essentially you don’t really know who your target audience is at the moment and what you’re building. We know what you’re trying to do with that product but sometimes what you think is the audience is not quite the audience.
[00:10:31] So my question is like when you realized that the chop-off rate is decreasing 8% month-by-month. How did you refrain from everything to realize that, this is our target audience profile? What kind of factors, did you list all the age groups, demographics, professions, industry locations? How did you pinpoint that customer profile?
[00:10:51] Gaurav Bhattacharya: Yeah, I think it was surely hard. It definitely was extremely hard. Cause we had a lot of hypotheses, Bryan, and a lot of times our hypotheses would be proved wrong. Like we had this hypothesis – college students would be a great profile. Then we pretty quickly figured out that’s not working.
[00:11:06] Then we move to companies and we’re like, okay, the young tech professionals are going to be the best people who are going to be doing it. And then we disqualify it or disprove that hypothesis. The next one was executives like VPs, VP of marketing. Like they would be extremely motivated to help nonprofits and community, and that worked for certain areas and demographics, but it didn’t for others.
[00:11:27] So I think we did a lot of experimentation. And I would almost say sometimes like our lack of focus helped us find the answers. So even the focus is extremely important. I feel there’s this creative process that you almost have to go through where you don’t know what you’re going to do in your life moment when you’re 20 years old or 18 and you’re trying to figure it out. Am I going to start a podcast or am I going to be an engineer somewhere? You’re just trying to figure out what you’re going to do in life. And until you do that thing, you don’t really know if it’s going to work or not.
[00:11:59] So I feel as much as the focus is extremely valued, I feel there’s also an important thing to just have, find them and go through your creative journey and figure out the right answer.
[00:12:11] Bryan Pham: Yeah, I’d say that everybody goes through that moment in their life of what am I doing? I would say that a moment of un-clarity and unfocused is probably one of the best and worst times of anyone’s life.
[00:12:21] Gaurav Bhattacharya: You said it perfectly. Do you have any moments like that?
[00:12:23] Bryan Pham: Of course. All of us do. A lot of us are still realizing that I can be anything I always want to be. At the same time, it’s once you start working towards that goal, it’s am I really happy? And that are the two things that it has to be aligned because like you had to feel happy about the direction that you’re going towards.
[00:12:41] With figuring out your product-market fit. Originally it’s I think it was the customer is no longer a customer. And now we have to pivot our company. This is like the worst, the best time, except that you’re always under pressure because you’re running a company, you have to make payroll, you have to generate revenue and be sustainable. So there’s a lot of pressure.
[00:12:58] So the question I have for you is, I understand that you probably would do your fair share of ups and downs. How have you and your co-founder worked together to overcome these challenges? And how are you able to work together cohesively, for you to be able to take in his opinion, your opinion and make that work and how do you guys compromise whatever it is.
[00:13:19] Gaurav Bhattacharya: Yeah, I think that’s a really good question. Sounds like what you’re asking is what’s the recipe for a conflict resolution, right? Like whenever ideas don’t align with your co-founder or with the person you work with.
[00:13:31] Bryan Pham: Especially with the pivot, that’s difficult as heck. So how do you make that work?
[00:13:36] Gaurav Bhattacharya: Essentially, I remember there was this one day, where we knew that things are not working. I just had it in my gut. We had customers, we had real customers. We had people who are using the system. We had companies who were paying us. I think we had about two to 3 million in annual revenue already from what we were doing.
[00:13:53] So it wasn’t that we were down to zero. I think it’s always amazing when you launch something and everyone hates it and no one uses it. You have a clear sign, but the worst is when you have big signs, right? Like that’s everywhere, but almost had this one day. I remember I had this feeling it was not working.
[00:14:09] And I went to my co-founder, the question she asked me was what are we going to do next? And I pitched her this idea that, let’s do what we have built internally. And she said, I understand it is exciting, but it’s unproven. Like we don’t know, even if that’s gonna work. So somehow I was able to convince her and figure that out.
[00:14:28] But the biggest problem we had was we had employees and staff that I had done super excited and motivated them on a vision. Waking up every morning to make the world a better place saying this is the vision we’re going to help communities and nonprofits, and then add VCs and venture capitalists who had taken money from and sold them on this vision.
[00:14:50] So now we had to go back to them and almost unsell them on the earlier vision and sell them on this new vision that in our core and the bottom of our heart, we knew may or may not work. That was so hard. We had incredible imposter syndrome. I just remember being depressed for hours and days, just thinking about how am I going to realign everybody towards this new goal where we don’t even know if that’s going to be successful.
[00:15:16] I think that was incredibly hard. So I don’t know if I answered your question or not, but just reliving those days, I feel conflict is hard and it shouldn’t be awaited. And I think the only way to have a good conflict resolution is to have open and transparent conversations. And that’s what we did.
[00:15:33] We went to our board and we told them that this company we feel is not working out. And here’s why, and we have two paths. We can either return the capital. We have left so that you guys don’t lose all your money. Or we can try this new thing that we don’t know if it will succeed. We have some early signs, but it’s not proven yet. We did the same thing with our staff and said, anyone wants to leave, can leave, or people who want to stay, can go on with the second journey with us.
[00:16:00] Our board was incredibly supportive. They said, Hey, we backed you guys as founders, not the idea. And some people left in our team. Like some people walked out the door and said, help us find other jobs. Some of them stayed. I remember like six people stayed and eight people left. So it was incredibly hard to go through that journey. But I think being transparent and open and being vulnerable really helped us go through that conflict.
[00:16:25] Bryan Pham: Oh man, that story. It does make me feel like, that punch in the gut feeling where it’s oh man, that’s hard,
[00:16:32] Gaurav Bhattacharya: It’s relatable. I’m sure everyone goes through. Have you had an incident like that where you had to make a really hard decision?
[00:16:38] Bryan Pham: Of course, it’s a part of business, right? It’s very doable. And I want more and more listeners to hear about the struggles and stories because I feel like nowadays it’s like entrepreneurship, so glamorizing media where it’s yeah, the nice car is nice food and it’s truly whatever it is, the fine life.
[00:16:54] Yeah. It’s like very 1% of people actually get up there. So they fail where it’s like super high. And I feel like it’s you sharing, the tough conversations, the management, the pivot, the communication with your co-founder, it’s all crucial to be successful. But the most important part is what you said was right as early-stage investors, like Angel investors, invest not into the idea, but you, right? And I feel like that’s probably the right decision because you look at a lot of successful companies out there. They make pivots all the time. But the one thing that is very uniform is that the founders don’t quit the founders always find a way to make things work.
[00:17:32] And fortunately, and unfortunately, as long as you don’t quit, Gaurav, the company will not fail. Obviously not, if we run out of money and whatnot, and then you fail. I think that where every company is really plugged into your ecosystem, we understand the market really well. And you understand your audience. You’re going to find something that works overall.
[00:17:52] And I commend you and thank you so much for sharing that experience too. About how you pivot and resolve issues with your co-founder. Cause it’s not an easy thing, right? So I know earlier you mentioned that at one point you were generating two to $3 million per month, I believe.
[00:18:08] And that’s absolutely crazy number to realize that this isn’t working. So, at what point did you make that decision? And what kind of metric did you look at? Oh, wow. Even though we’re making this amount, we’re not having a product-market fit. And I think you’re absolutely right about that. When you mentioned that, sometimes when you launch a product, you want it to fail because then you know exactly what doesn’t work.
[00:18:30] But when you launch a product for someone that works but doesn’t work completely, where do you even start?
[00:18:35] Gaurav Bhattacharya:
[00:18:37] Totally. I think it’s like another analogy and I was talking to someone else and I’m sure you’ve seen this too, is that one person on your team who is brilliant and you love him and you will keep them, right? And there’s one person in your team who’s a complete idiot. And everyone saying that person is a bad fit. And you know exactly that person’s a bad fit, but then there’s that one person who is average at their job and they can grow this potential, but they’re not performing really well. They’re actually a nice person like you love and you like hanging out with them. How do you let that person go or make a decision on what to do? That’s the hardest. I feel just giving you that analogy here. And I think I’ll go back to one thing that you shared with me.
[00:19:19] There was a time when. We had a lot of growth hypotheses and we built a spreadsheet, which literally said, and the spreadsheet started with what is one of our hypotheses is like reduced churn rate as an example. And then the second column was like, how important is it? Like on a scale of one to five? How important is this? Like the work and the hypotheses, like five it’s really important. The next column was. And pardon my French where we said, how f*cked are we going to be? If it doesn’t work, that was a one to five. And we said five and every time. And then we just spent one by one kind of like iPod correct. If you’re doing it’s called a lean philosophy, there’s a book by Eddie crease, the lean, the lean startup. That’s the philosophy. So you’re trying to just figure out what works, what doesn’t work and really bias your opinions on data.
[00:20:07] And some of the results we were getting is that we just don’t have a good product-market fit. Now either we can try a few more things and try to make it work. And I think I just went back to say I’ve been at this for four years and we’ve tried so many things. And a lot of it was me not being an expert and us not being a great team to execute on this, but then you just de facto is maybe the market’s not ready and the market’s not there. And maybe it’s just not going to work out. Even if Steve Jobs was trying to do this, or even if Elon Musk tried to solve this problem, maybe it’s not us. Maybe it’s the market, and the market’s telling us something. So I think that was a decision.
[00:20:45] I think I’ll also go back to one point you made is also about happiness. I feel like I’ve tried so much and failed again and again. Just didn’t feel happy. Like I remember with my co-founder and some of our key staff, I built a few more tables of things we could try. And there was just a sense of unhappiness. We were not happily trying to solve these problems again. And that was the moment where we knew in our guts, that’s not going to work out. It probably period is the best way to go or maybe closing doors.
[00:21:14] I remember I was reading this blog about “How to shut down your company?” and as like a checklist, and it’s the hardest feeling like I’ve never done that before, but it happens, right?
[00:21:25] Like people don’t talk about it, but there are so many companies that shut down and so many founders who have, would probably search for that and follow a checklist, which may include sending a goodbye email to your users, returning capital to your VCs, how to do public-facing things, how to do compliance things internally. I was ready to do that. It’s a hard feeling and doesn’t get talked about, but it happens.
[00:21:49] Bryan Pham: Yeah. That’s just gut-wrenching things to hear because there is always some sort of relate-ability with that. I think as founders. The highs are high, the lows are lows. And the fact that you, unfortunately, was looking into that as I can’t imagine how tough that was for you to feel. Oh man, I know, I run my own startup myself, so that’s, I fully understand that feeling where these are great audiences and not great. And the moment they switch from good to bad is instant.
[00:22:14] Gaurav Bhattacharya: And the worst part it can happen on the same day. And an amazing thing and a really bad thing. Same day.
[00:22:21] Bryan Pham: Yeah. It is a very common theme with all startups, not just yourself, by the way, you have a lot of people on the podcast that very common tea. But overall, it’s the founder that makes a huge difference.
[00:22:31] Are you still having fun with your stuff,? Are you still passionate? Because once I pass, it runs out, your company will die. But once you have that passion you’ll overcome any challenges even no matter how bleak, everything seems, you’re going to find a way and solution to make it work. As long as you don’t give up your mental health. Good.
[00:22:47] So I’m curious too. As your activity, your product, and you found a new niche and you didn’t quite know how it works yet. There are two parts to the question. How did you convince your investors to believe in you? Did anyone ever pull out when you made that pivot? And the second part is, what was your user acquisition plan? I’m also curious about it.
[00:23:05] Gaurav Bhattacharya: Oh man. both are good questions. So I’ll give you the candid and real version of the first part. I remember, I had a lot of stockholders, some were VCs, some are early angels, some are just early staff members. And I think it’s a matter of belief and it’s hard. I feel when we vent to our VCs and our investors, everyone follows what the lead investor is doing.
[00:23:28] That’s very common. If you see in companies, the leaders that are closest to the company, they know exactly what’s going on. They spend the most time with the company and they have the most equity they’ve put in the most amount of money usually. So our lead investor was extremely convinced that we can succeed as founders, which we’re incredibly blessed to have because even though we didn’t work as a company, they believed in us and they believed in me.
[00:23:52] So they signaled to all the other VCs that this can work and they saved anyone causing legal troubles or trying to pull out or get equity back or all of those things. But there were people who I had worked with, Bryan, who had spent a lot of years working and trying to sell this product, and build a company together who didn’t believe in it anymore.
[00:24:12] And they had the opportunity to sell their stocks. And a lot of them did. And a lot of them did at really low prices, like extremely low prices, just like someone had a big chunk of the company. And I don’t share this that quite often, but. They got about $10,000 or something like that, cause they felt that is more than anything that the company can ever become.
[00:24:36] So that’s just a hard feeling to go through that and a couple of angels backed out as well. And they, they wanted their money back, so you to try to be in a loan or do whatever form the company finance to make sure that we can do the right thing for everybody. I think that was hard.
[00:24:49] That was really hard to see the dispassion that some people had towards failure. And just thinking that since you failed once, you’ll always fail, I think that was hard. I think that was your first question.
[00:25:00] So the second question you were asking is how did we learn about user acquisition?
[00:25:04] I feel that the approach we had, Bryan, was the feedback we really wanted to learn. And generally, we were curious about the new market because we were not experts in it. And this time we just spent, cold emailing people, a LinkedIn message that audience like our thesis was that, Hey, SAS companies, they go through a lot of churns. They’ll be our ideal buyers. People like CEOs and chief revenue officers and chief customer officers could be really good buyers. So we just called restock to people and said, Hey, this is what we’re building. Do you have some time for a feedback?
[00:25:34] And a lot of them, as our pitch got better, they started saying on feedback calls. This is really interesting. If you have it, I may even check it out. And we’d say, “Great, we actually have a demo we can show you”. And that’s how we landed our first users. It was just like cold outreach, not trying to sell anything, but understanding and learning from the market.
[00:25:54] Bryan Pham: Hopefully you guys have a really good pitch because we’re trying to check on LinkedIn, you got hundreds of fishes, just what is this?
[00:25:59] Gaurav Bhattacharya: Maybe you search for my name and I may have pitched you like a year ago.
[00:26:03] Bryan Pham: At some point, you had to play the hustle, that works, right?
[00:26:07] Gaurav Bhattacharya: You could always ask, right?
[00:26:08] Bryan Pham: It is a network effect, right? Because once you get enough users and critical mass, it starts growing on its own. And that’s the best feeling because that’s the quote-unquote called product-market fit, right? Because people, retention’s high, interest is high, growth is high, pride market. That’s awesome.
[00:26:23] But I think for most misconceptions about building your product, is that when you put it out there, guess what, your first week, two weeks you’re not going to get any traction. And it sucks that feeling where it’s oh crap, like building something that no one wants to do.
[00:26:37] And the fact that it takes you back and has that growth mindset, see continuously reiterate, audit, improve upon it is extremely important. To find that the extreme part of market fit and really as assessment product. So it takes like grit and grinds, more than people ever think it’s going to be.
[00:26:52] So as a second-time founder, I’m going to have to ask you this question. Do you believe focusing on the products is more important or distributions are more important?
[00:26:59] Gaurav Bhattacharya: I know. Oh, man. I think I’m a product-focused founder. So, I would say the product is more important than distribution and it doesn’t have to be the world’s best product, but it has to be the world’s best product for your audience, right?
[00:27:13] Like it has to be the audience you’re trying to serve, or at least the starting audience you’re trying to serve. They need to find incredible value with your product. And I think that is just phenomenally more important than having great distribution. That is my thesis because I’m product-led, founder distribution is extremely important, but it’s all, it’s so much easier when you have a great product and a value proposition that resonates with your users. Then you’re just selling a vision and a dream. And you’re just using psychological tricks on people trying to convince them to buy, my opinion.
[00:27:47] What is yours? I’m curious now, what do you think? What is more important?
[00:27:50] Bryan Pham: Like wanting that good user experience, but also feel like distribution is equally important, but not as important as the product itself, because if your distribution is strong, but your product doesn’t quite fit then guess what? You’re going to fail. But sometimes I feel like with a great product if you hustle enough it’ll look like it’s a great product because it really is.
[00:28:10] But it all comes down to understanding what you said earlier, your audience, do you understand your audience? Does this take care of and solve the problem at hand? And as a solid problem, it probably would’ve pissed off the users who use this product because is it slow? Is it comfy? Is it hard to use? Is it hard to understand? All of these things, right? Given nowadays, there are so many resources out there. You can ask for everyone’s opinion, not everyone, you don’t want everyone’s opinion. But you know as enough of the users redefine and re-done product, because just what we all want the best for you. We all want a product that’s easy to use. So I agree with you. I think product, she comes first. Definitely.
[00:28:46] And I have a question too. I feel like running a company is extremely difficult, but how do you time manage your time and time blocks? Your day where it’s this is girl, time is work time. This is whatever fun time. I do find that most founders, especially startup founders work seven days a week, 60 hours a week, a hundred hours a week. And I feel that in a hustle culture can be very detrimental just because oh, we can’t stop. We got to keep moving. You got to keep going for your personal self. How do you find time to carry yourself?
[00:29:16] Gaurav Bhattacharya: Yeah. It’s very hard. Wow. What a great question. I feel bad about it. I think I’m really bad at time management. Cause I like to wander, I really enjoy wandering on topics and things, and I like to think about things and I’m always late on delivery timelines.
[00:29:37] I feel just because I get really engaged in topics. And that’s sometimes these are a lot of original thinking. Like I was reading somewhere that Martin Luther King didn’t come up with, like all the phrases that he used that became so iconic, like until 5:00 AM in the morning or the same day.
[00:29:55] And there’s a lot of studies that show procrastination and being lazy or delayed on things can actually help you be more creative, which I don’t know is true or not but I am like that. I am, which doesn’t help because I feel a lot of founders are like that and they spend tons of time on things, but they’re not really working that hard. But they’re just wasting time. And then they end up working 80, 90, hundred-hour weeks. And I do too. Sometimes I work 10 hour days for seven days a week. Yeah. But I don’t think I’m working hard on like I’m not working every single day being completely productive. So maybe there are some people who are very productive and they know how to manage their time.
[00:30:41] They probably can do it sooner. I don’t know what their best, I’m digressing here, but I think it’s hard. I don’t think I am efficient with my time, but I enjoy not being efficient with my time. And a lot of founders do, and that’s why they waste a lot of time and ultimately end up working 60, 70, 80, 90, 120 hours a week. They could have just done it in 20. What do you think?
[00:31:04] Bryan Pham: I really appreciate your level of transparency and letting us know that this is something that you still working on, which is awesome for us to hear it. Which is the authenticity that we can relate to. I personally think that everyone works differently. And you gotta find what’s best for you. Some are fast, some people like to work slow, but at the end of the day, it’s can you get your stuff done at the highest level? That is the part that matters the most because you can’t use a cookie-cutter motor, like ultra near that works really fast, really efficient, and works really hard.
[00:31:36] It’s not everyone, right? Not everyone fits into that boat and you have to find things that work for you. And sometimes we see people are like, oh, should we go 5:00 pm? We do this and that.
[00:31:45] I think it’s not myself, I’m a boring person. But trying other people, it’s like some people can’t function at five, for me, I can’t function past 10. So you have to find what works for you. You have to find what works, where you’re sitting at your desk, and redeem the great work that you do. And that zone is your zone of genius.
[00:32:03] It doesn’t matter how you get there. As long as you get stuff done and your mind says great, and you don’t have self-doubt and productivity. Some people enjoy working a hundred hours a week, that’s fine. As long as your mental health is great.
[00:32:13] Some people like having boundaries and working very set hours. It’s great too. As long as your mental health is great, it’s just that you who you are as a person. What’s worst for you doesn’t work for you. It’s not a one-size-fits-all, right?
[00:32:24] The biggest thing it’s like, is there a north star? Good. Are you getting your work done? Are you putting out to create products that you think they can happen? Because great work takes time and everybody works differently. That’s my opinion.
[00:32:35] Gaurav Bhattacharya: I like that. I really enjoy our feedback.
[00:32:38] Bryan Pham: Of course, man. So we have one final question.
[00:32:40] Gaurav Bhattacharya: Genius.
[00:32:41] Bryan Pham: Yeah, I have one final question, Gaurav. And that question is if you can give advice to your ten-year-old self, what advice would that be?
[00:32:52] Gaurav Bhattacharya: One just comes to mind and it’s so cool that you asked that question because I’ve struggled with this a lot. I feel I struggle a lot with the imposter syndrome and I think a lot of immigrants, Asians do, right? If you think about it, we have a lot of imposter syndrome because of circumstances, how we grew up, and trying to fit in.
[00:33:10] Just believing in yourself is one advice I would give. It’s just so incredibly generic. What does it even mean? I think that’s something that I could have used a lot at every 10 years old, at 12 years old at 16, at 20, at 30. And I bet even when I’m 90, I could give advice to my 40, 50, 60, 70 year old to just believe in myself. I think to believe in yourself would be one thing I would tell my younger self.
[00:33:36] Bryan Pham: I think that either you believe in yourself or you have found someone else that believes in you that unlocks your true potential. And that goes a long way. And I feel like what you shared, it’s like very typical of, especially like an Asian immigrant mindset where it’s a lot of times where you’re your parents wanted you to fit in. And sometimes that might not be your zone of genius. So that’s actually destroyed your self-esteem and know you don’t believe in yourself, but it really takes out one person that believes in to you that you can do it. And in actuality, I firmly believe that everyone out there is capable of doing great things. It’s just sometimes that unfortunately people aren’t in Albertini or an environment that believes in them. So I do agree with your answer and I liked that a lot.
[00:34:17] So Gaurav, where can our listeners find out more and reach out to you?
[00:34:21] Yeah, absolutely.
[00:34:22] Gaurav Bhattacharya: My name is Gaurav Bhattacharya, I’m on LinkedIn. I think that would be the easiest way to connect with me. But I’m also at gaurav@involve.AI. If anyone has any questions, I can answer, help them with their careers, or anything that maybe I have gone through that you’re going through right now. I would love to hear from you. And help on, I think those would be the two best places to reach me.
[00:34:43] Bryan Pham: Awesome. Gaurav, thank you so much for sharing your story. Your startup journey with us. He’s an inspiration. Can’t wait to see what you’re gonna accomplish in the next 5, 10, 20, 30 years. Thank you for being in the podcast today.
[00:34:56] Gaurav Bhattacharya: Awesome. Thank you so much. Thank you, Bryan. Thanks for the time.
[00:34:59] Bryan Pham: Hey guys, we hope you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe to the show.
[00:35:04] Maggie Chui: We would like to get to the top 10 on iTunes. So be sure to leave us a five-star review. We release an episode every single Wednesday. So stay tuned.
[00:35:11] Bryan Pham: Thank you guys so much.