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Chasing the Entrepreneur Dream in Silicon Valley (Episode 128)

Indus Khaitan is the CEO & Founder of Quolum, a company funded by Sequoia and Nexus.

Quolom helps companies save 30% off their SaaS (Software as a Service) spending, by eliminating expenses that are unnecessary and wasteful.

Indus has 20 years of business growth, product management, and SaaS experience. He has analyzed SaaS buying for 20+ companies with over $500,000 in SaaS spend.

Indus grew up in a mining town where 2-3 homicides daily were the norm, and eventually escaped the India Coal Mafia that plagued his life. After moving to America, he decided to become a founder, a father, and a pilot. He now aims to help others make the same growth in their business and life.

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What you will learn

  • Why Indus left India to chase his American Dream
  • Indus’ first entrepreneurial venture, Bitzer, and the inspiration behind the business
  • Indus shares his first customer story after launching Bitzer
  • Unpacking the exit Lessons Indus took away from Bitzer
  • Secrets revealed: The crucial decision that cost Indus and his co-founders $6.5 billion
  • Discover how Indus identified the problem with SaaS payments that led him to build Quolum
  • Find out why SaaS spend management is important for every business
  • Plus much more!

Transcript

Jeff Bullas

00:00:03 - 00:01:18

Hi everyone and welcome to The Jeff Bullas Show. Today I have with me, Indus Khaitan. Now Indus is the CEO and Founder of Quolum, an On Deck Scale company funded by Sequoia and Nexus. Now we've heard of Sequoia. Indus has 20 years of business growth, product management and SaaS experience, and for those of you who don't know what SaaS means, it means software as a service because I don't like acronyms generally. He has analyzed software service companies buying for 20+ companies with over half a million dollars in spend and has been the leader of growth for a unicorn. Now Indus grew up in a mining town where 2-3 homicides daily were the norm and eventually escaped the India Coal Mafia, I'd like to hear more about that, that plagued his life and left for America.

So he's an immigrant and we do love good immigrant stories. He made the most of his movement, became a founder, father and a pilot. He now aims to help others to make the same growth in the business in life. And we're going to dive in and find out more and he's going to reveal a story and a decision that cost him $6.5 billion. So we look forward to finding what that is. So you can see the paint his face already. Welcome to the show. It's an absolute pleasure to have you here

Indus Khaitan

00:01:19 - 00:01:24

Okay, fantastic. Great, great to see you, Jeff, happy to be here.

Jeff Bullas

00:01:24 - 00:02:19

So you grew up in India. I've been to India quite a few times. I, there's one thing that blows me away every time I go is the energy and passion of the people. I remember the Bombay Institute of Technology and I ran some master classes in social media and content marketing. And after the class, I had people just come up to me, this young passionate students that came up and was like in your face just wanting to learn more, so hungry to learn. And I was, I've always been loved that experience and I've been there a couple of other times to New Delhi as well as Mumbai. So so tell us a little bit about what, where you grew up and what drove you to seek fame and fortune in America.

Indus Khaitan

00:02:20 - 00:03:09

Yeah, absolutely. And you touched upon very briefly, so I grew up in the mining town of India, it's a small town called in the eastern coal belt of India. Unfortunately during my growing up, the area was rife with corruptions, killings, murder rates. Well you know, 2-3 homicides every day. It was pollution. I vividly remember almost 200 dump trucks worth of coal, sand and debris passing back and forth in front of my home where I lived. And so you can imagine that time, but got lucky, got a college degree, moved to the United States and you know cliche but true chasing an American dream now.

Jeff Bullas

00:03:10 - 00:03:37

So you moved to, what is the cradle of american entrepreneurism, which is Silicon Valley and you're still there and really we're gonna ask you before, before we started hit the record button. You said you really never left. So tell us, so you did your degree and then when you landed and you’re 28-29, is that right? About that time?

Indus Khaitan

00:03:37 - 00:03:39

Yeah, yeah.

Jeff Bullas

00:03:39 - 00:03:47

So what happened when you landed, what was, what were you thinking? Were you excited? Were you a bit fearful? What did you feel like?

Indus Khaitan

00:03:49 - 00:04:52

I think at that time I was young and newly married and you know, it's a, you just cross over, take a plane ticket, you have a job and then you come to the United States, you know with an opportunity in your hand and lots of great ideas on your mind. And as an engineer, as a tech entrepreneur, now when I looked back, Silicon Valley was a dream, right? We read in newspapers and magazines about the greatest companies getting created, you know, such as Netscape at that time or Yahoo! or Google at that time. That basically was a source of inspiration. Hey, what would be like driving from San Francisco to San Jose on Highway 101 and you know, all the billboards on your left and right, that kind of pulled me in. Been here since then. Never left. Briefly in between trips to Bangalore and back to the Bay area and continue to remain inspired with the things that happened here in the Bay Area.

Jeff Bullas

00:04:53 - 00:04:57

So you've got your first job? What was that?

Indus Khaitan

00:04:58 - 00:05:45

I worked for a company called Hewlett Packard, HP and I broke that down on the acronym and HP had acquired a company called Verifone, which is now reborn as a payment provider. So Verifone back then was the very early provider of payment products such as the past terminal online, you know, payment gateways and sort. So I was part of the team, you know, came to the United States, you know, worked here for a couple of years and then found another job and then, you know, one job after the other and the life just continued but very vividly early days of online commerce was what I saw when I joined Verifone.

Jeff Bullas

00:05:46 - 00:05:51

It was very fun, very much a mobile based organization?

Indus Khaitan

00:05:52 - 00:06:18

It wasn't back then. This is, you know, early 2000's that we're talking about, right, so Verifone’s claim to fame was a terminal where I would rip out my credit card and then swipe it and that's the terminal Verifone would make us hardware and then it would have all the back and software pieces to communicate to Visa, Mastercard, communicate to the issue of banks and all of that infrastructure behind the scene.

Jeff Bullas

00:06:19 - 00:06:25

Right, so you're pursuing that corporate career as a tech engineer, is that correct?

Indus Khaitan

00:06:26 - 00:06:30

As a tech engineer, I was a java programmer. I was writing code every day.

Jeff Bullas

00:06:31 - 00:06:40

Okay so your first entrepreneurial adventure. Where did that idea come from? And what was it?

Indus Khaitan

00:06:42 - 00:07:51

I'll talk about Bitzer, the entrepreneurial adventure that made me lucky. If you remember 2007, 2008, the iPhone came out and every large company executive would say hey I need my corporate email and my corporate documents on my iPhone, why don't you allow it? So they will throw the phone back at the face of the IT saying I need access to the internet and the internet is not accessible on iPhone because Apple decided to not support it. And we found that as an opportunity saying hey why wouldn't a CEO be only carrying Blackberry for his email but carrying an iPhone to communicate with his family members because guess what his IT department would say hey we don't have a policy for iPhone because it's not secure, only Blackberry is secure.

So we took that up as a challenge, found a hack, now as I would call it, to enable the big company executives to access their corporate internet and that was the niche, that was the idea that we built Bitzer upon as a company

Jeff Bullas

00:07:51 - 00:09:18

Right. It was an interesting times. I remember my partner, I remember she woke up in bed one morning and said I'm in love and I said she doesn't say I love you very often. You know what she's talking about? She was talking about her iPhone. And it's true, 2007-2008 was the transition from the crackberry, okay the blackberry market but it's called the crackberry because it was addictive. And it was the tool of choice for the executives and it was a really rare interesting times whereas the iPhone democratized the smartphone. It brought the phone to the masses and the masses started knocking on the door and you saw an opportunity obviously to give access to the phone to the corporate elite and much more.

So you saw a problem which is quite often that's what happens like Uber started because the founders were stuck on the side of a cold wet street in Paris and couldn't hail a taxi. They said there's gotta be a better way. So you obviously said there's gotta be a way to solve this. So how many of you were actually involved in starting a Bitzer?

Indus Khaitan

00:09:19 - 00:10:11

There were three of us. Myself, my co-founder, Ali, who was the CTO and then Naeem, who was a CEO, he was the third co-founder and the original idea was my CTO, co-founder Ali's. He was thinking hey mobile is interesting, here are some of the problems my friends are telling me about that hey they cannot do X. They can't build an application, they can't access the internet. Is this worth solving? Is this worth committing? 5, 10 years of her life and chasing this problem. And the kind of brainstorm called up a few friends who are working as executives in the big companies and said, yeah, I have two holsters, one on my left, as my blackberry and one on my right, which is my iPhone, I don't want to carry two phones. Can you make something happen? And that was an inspiration moment.

Jeff Bullas

00:10:11 - 00:10:20

Yeah, it was very much like that, wasn't it? So in other words, your private phone and your corporate phone and you had your pockets full.

Indus Khaitan

00:10:20 - 00:10:26

Yeah. And your private phone was of course, as you mentioned earlier, people were in love with it, it is the iPhone.

Jeff Bullas

00:10:26 - 00:11:05

Yeah. I clearly remember her saying, you know, I'm in love because she was looking at her iPhone and I've actually got, I think either the first or second version of the iPhone in my top drawer, which I still have. And I've never left the fold of Apple. In fact, I'm recording this on a Mac. As I said, you get a Mac, you never go back. So how did you grow the company, what was some of the, I suppose stages that you went through?

Indus Khaitan

00:11:05 - 00:12:24

I didn't believe, the strategy was pretty clear. So three of us got together, we honed into an idea. Hey, let's solve this problem and me and my other co-founder, Ali, we were engineers so we decided, hey let's just start writing code. He would write the core pieces that ran on the mobile device which is the iPhone, I wrote the backend pieces which is a server infrastructure, the dashboard, the admin control panel. And then we had a first prototype, I would say 5 or 6 months and every day or every week the other co-founder, Naeem, would say, hey are you guys done? Can I show it to someone and we would shout and say, hey go away, we're still building it. And that's how the company got kicked off and you know, we raised a very small angel round and you laugh at this because now the evaluations are crazy back then we raise that $230,000 at 1.5 million valuation which is you know kids that are graduating out of high school can command, you know, in the markets that are today and and it was not no looking back. So we talked to a few customers and started prototyping the product and then the journey continued from there.

Jeff Bullas

00:12:25 - 00:12:39

So one thing I'm curious about is did you do this while you had, were holding down your corporate day? Did you do this initially that way or you basically leapt into the void and said we're gonna do this startup? Which was your, what was your approach?

Indus Khaitan

00:12:40 - 00:13:39

Left in the void. You know, I had learned the hard way earlier, trying to build something while hanging on to another job. It was not possible. You know, unless you're committed full time, I'll give you the reason why, unless you're committed full time. When you go into a customer meeting, the first question the customer is going to look at you, will not ask you, are you, as an early stage founder, are you committed to this business that you're starting? If you go to an investor as a pitch meeting, if they find out or if they get an idea that you're still brainstorming this, you're coming to their office to validate the idea, they are not going to put any money on you because if you are not committed as an entrepreneur as a full time gig, nobody else is going to be. So we decided, hey, we're doing this full time, looks like this is gonna happen. There is business to be built, there is money to be made, there are customers to be acquired. We're all in.

Jeff Bullas

00:13:40 - 00:14:07

Okay, that's interesting. So yeah, in other words, by leaping into the void and getting committed. You are showing that you are serious, and that's very important for raising money. If you had maybe enough money yourself in the background, maybe you wouldn't need to do that. So now, so the question I always like to know to ask is how did you acquire your first customers? What was, how was that done?

Indus Khaitan

00:14:08 - 00:15:28

That's a very hilarious story. So my co-founder, Naeem, was at an event. I don't remember the location now, I think it was in Santa Clara and the deputy CIO of Chevron Corporation was speaking at that event and he went there attending the event to network and you know, potentially talked to a few customers and fortunately for him, he alluded to this point about his company has iPads and iPhones, I think iPads were also out. Yeah, so he, the CIO alluded to him not being able to use iPad because his network directors will not allow him.

And Naeem, after the session, after his keynote just went to him and essentially grabbed him and saying I'm going to solve this problem. You know, two of us will fly to your office. I think they were based out of San Ramon here or Houston, I don't remember now, but I think he was in Houston and their offices in San Ramon and we basically chased Chevron for at least a month. Give demos to pretty much everybody in their IT team. They were the first customers. $950,000 as the check for the first customer.

Jeff Bullas

00:15:28 - 00:15:29

Wow.

Indus Khaitan

00:15:30 - 00:15:52

70,000 users or employees of Chevron used our product in the first 6-9 months and incrementally onboarding, he was incredible for us, incredible validation of what we're working on, of course, a customer of that size and then of course the idea that made us happen as an entrepreneur. Just amazing.

Jeff Bullas

00:15:53 - 00:15:57

Yeah, so you go from basically 0 to hero.

Indus Khaitan

00:15:57 - 00:16:02

0 - 950k in less than 12 months in revenue.

Jeff Bullas

00:16:03 - 00:16:06

So are the margins good?

Indus Khaitan

00:16:06 - 00:16:37

The Margins were good because at the end of the day, yeah, it's software and you know of course services to provide customer support. So I don't recall the exact math but you could say 80-90% easy margins on that business because you know you're deploying software on an employee's phone at an incremental cost of deployment of a piece of application and then incremental cost of you know infrastructure on Amazon to manage that application for them. That's it.

Jeff Bullas

00:16:37 - 00:16:52

So quite often, especially in the past, onboarding is basically a big issue. So was onboarding, in other words, onboarding clients at that scale, was that, you must have learned a lot from that onboarding.

Indus Khaitan

00:16:53 - 00:16:59

It was. So consider this, we were 17 people, had raised less than a few million dollars and Chevron was the world's second largest company with more than $50 billion dollars in annual revenue. Their IT team was 600 people.

Jeff Bullas

00:17:20 - 00:17:20

Right.

Indus Khaitan

00:17:21 - 00:18:24

So you can imagine the asymmetry between these entities but we solve the problem which forced the hand of the buyer. I very clearly remember the procurement person who was doing due diligence into our business. He said how did you get selected by IT because you guys are not in business for even three years, because you know that's the rule by default. If you're not around for three years, you do not have $10 million dollars in the bank, you will not exist. Hence, you're out in the procurement cycle. And when he raised that flag, we forwarded to our buyer or the decision maker or the guy who was bringing it in saying hey can you help resolve this? And you know there are a lot of overrides because the executives wanted their devices to be running on, of course, to be having the corporate documents and access to the internet and you know we were solving the problem.

Jeff Bullas

00:18:25 - 00:18:54

Yeah and your timing was brilliant and also you were tapping into a real need and motivation of an executive that's going I don't care about the rules because I want to use my phone and because I love the Apple iPhone. It's the story I told about my partner. I think that was felt almost by everyone about the iPhone and so you had high motivation by the decision makers to actually make it work, didn't you?

Indus Khaitan

00:18:55 - 00:19:16

Yeah, I think that was our driver if not for the decision maker or the executive who wanted to bring his or her iPad and and not just him but a group of executives. I don't think we would have Chevron ever as a customer because we will never compete with other vendors, will not get into the procurement cycle, and will be kicked out on day one.

Jeff Bullas

00:19:16 - 00:19:33

Right. So you've done very well. You've landed a whale. And it's, that's given you the, I suppose the street credit now to approach others. So did you create a sales team to go out and sort of do that or was it word of mouth from there on more?

Indus Khaitan

00:19:34 - 00:20:48

We create a sales team and guess what's the second customer you got and you're gonna laugh at this. We got ExxonMobil as a second customer, which is another large, you know, gas and utility company. Largest. So all we did, we said, hey, guess what, you know, we solve the problem for Chevron. They have a problem like this and we kind of know your infrastructure is very similar, wouldn't you want this? Copycat, you know, us and we sold the solution to another large vendor like that and then basically then got a sales team and replicated across mid-size companies. We've got other companies of similar scale, not as large as Chevron, but you know, banks that were bigger utility companies, services companies, defense contractors and they were all in the same lines, how can I get my app working on iPad? How can I access data while my app is working outside of the corporate office, very similar problems. And then we found out, we discovered we started solving the problems and we kept getting newer customers.

Jeff Bullas

00:20:49 - 00:21:31

This is a really good story. So now, but there's a happy ending to the story. But there's also an interesting angle to this and we're just gonna dive into this now. And we did allude to it at the beginning of the intro. So you're what 5, 6 years in and you've got big customers, you're solving a problem that's driven by highly motivated senior executives who want to connect to their internet and use their phones and networks. So someone came knocking on the door to buy you. Who was that?

Indus Khaitan

00:21:33 - 00:21:37

That was one of the largest software companies in the world, Oracle.

Jeff Bullas

00:21:38 - 00:21:39

Right.

Indus Khaitan

00:21:39 - 00:21:43

And guess how they found out about us?

Jeff Bullas

00:21:43 - 00:21:44

At a conference?

Indus Khaitan

00:21:44 - 00:22:39

One of their customers was our customer and that common customer calls Oracle says you are telling us there is no way to enable your apps to access internet. You guys are lying because look at this small company out of Sunnyvale, they just solve this for other applications. And somebody from the product team then reaches out to us saying, hey, how are you guys solving this? I thought you know, Apple devices do not allow single sign on into the, you know, I'm gonna use some jargon here, which is the Microsoft active directory authentication system. And they said yes, look at this company. They have solved this problem. Why don't you go talk to them? And that's how Oracle comes knocking. And you know, rest is history. We, you know, negotiate for six months and then Oracle decides to acquire us.

Jeff Bullas

00:22:40 - 00:22:43

So can you reveal what that number was when you sold it?

Indus Khaitan

00:22:44 - 00:23:00

We sold it for less than $100 million. Not a huge number, but enough to make my wife happy. And allowing me to do some more stupid experiments after that.

Jeff Bullas

00:23:00 - 00:23:06

So your wife was happy. She maybe got the Mercedes instead of a Volkswagen.

Indus Khaitan

00:23:06 - 00:23:11

She got a MINIi Cooper. She loved smaller car.

Jeff Bullas

00:23:11 - 00:23:18

Okay. And you've given yourself time to play because you had some money in your back pocket now. Is that right?

Indus Khaitan

00:23:20 - 00:23:32

Time to play and a card that I could use in future with my wife saying, hey honey, look, I told you I was not stupid, although I was doing stupid things. Can I do some more of these?

Jeff Bullas

00:23:33 - 00:24:06

Right. So you bought yourself, I suppose, a bit of time and also you've got some emotional equity in the bank as well now. So now there's another part of this story which I find fascinating. And so Oracle ended up selling that company that was selling your company later on. Tell us a bit about that. And maybe a message that you received from one of your co founders.

Indus Khaitan

00:24:07 - 00:27:33

This is like, again, one of those, you know, funny things that happen in Silicon Valley. Founders build a company and then say, hey looks like it's time to exit. You know, collect some cash, take some money on the table, buy your spouse a MINI Cooper maybe or something equivalent. I think we had that moment, you know, four years into the building of the business and you know, we're growing, but we're not growing as in, you know, doing 10 x growth every year because we're selling to large companies, a Fortune 5000, Fortune 500, there are only 500 of those and 2014 when we sold the company we decided, yep looks like a great exit. But what we did not realize and now I can kind of read the tea leaves of 2014, the software market was emerging very rapidly, newer businesses were agreeing, created what is now famously assessed business model, a lot more consumer businesses were coming out with your tech ready. They all needed a similar set of single sign on problems that we were solving for the internet access. What we did not realize that we had attacked, but we did not persist enough to go and look for adjacent market to grow. You know, where we targeted 500 companies with Bitzer. In the initial days, we could have easily targeted probably another 50 to 100,000 companies and you know, we could have made probably $50 to hundred million dollars in revenue in 7 or 8 years after that. But you know, as fate would have it, we sold it to Oracle and as we look back, new businesses were getting born, a company that came out by the name, Art Zero got acquired by Octa for $6.5 billion. Exact same tech what we had back in 2014, but they were very smart about targeting midsize businesses, fast moving consumer and business startups and that basically grew revenues for them very rapidly from 0 to 50 million in less than seven years and hence the very large exit. The day that exit happened, Ali, who is my co-founder, sends me a text message all full of F words and expletives that I cannot reveal and says, hey, can we grab a drink in the evening? And of course, it was a morning session for us saying, hey, aren't we stupid or did we do the right thing? And as a reflection, you know, as a moment to kind of stitch that wound that you know, got open that morning with that announcement. So I think, you know, the story there for me is software is growing very rapidly, you know, SaaS and Cloud are still very early days. So as an entrepreneur, the tech founder, you cannot count your winnings early, you gotta persist, you're gonna play for the long haul because the outcomes are gonna be 10 or 100 times more magnitude that we could see in the present.

Jeff Bullas

00:27:34 - 00:30:38

It's very interesting, you mentioned the long haul game and there's a quote by Bill Gates and said most people overestimate what they can do in 12 months, but underestimate what they can do in 10 years. And that's something I keep in mind all the time, is to enjoy the journey. It's not about necessarily exiting. And maybe you would have been bored stupid at any rate after if you hadn't sold it because you gave yourself some time and money to play in an industry that you love obviously. So, so we fast forward to your latest venture, which is Quolum. Tell us a little bit about that and what you identified as another problem and I've experienced this problem myself.

So, tell us, and I'm actually gonna tell you a story that's gonna introduce maybe what you ended up doing, which is brilliant. I had another solution to this problem and I'm going to explain what that is.

We live in a software service environment. Now, in other words, it's a subscription model. In other words, you don't buy a product right now. So even with Microsoft products, you don't buy Microsoft Word, you buy a subscription to this Office suite and you pay so much per month or you can do annually and gets renewed. The thing that happens is these sort of, especially the smaller companies don't have the governance is that these subscription products just sort of just disappear and turn up on your credit card and you sort of seem to forget about them. And I remember, I think I'm spending too much on the front. I don't even know what they are. And so what happened was my credit card came to the end of its time as it was going to be renewed for a new credit cards. In other words, it had to be renewed and so consequently my subscription software payments started bouncing. So I solve the problem of paying too much of subscription software by having my credit card expire and identified. So that was my solution. Yours was a technical solution, we will get in that in a minute. But the reality was, I ended up and I'm not a big company compared to some of the big companies you're targeting and save them a lot of money when we get into that, is that I identified I was spending about $2,000 a month on completely useless subscription as a service software that I didn't need anymore, had bought when I needed it. Of course nothing's forever. So that was my solution to paying too much for, paying for things I don't need. So tell us how you started Quolum and how did you identify this software as a service subscription payment problem which you do for big enterprises. How did you identify this?

Indus Khaitan

00:30:39 - 00:34:03

Yep. And I'm gonna just, you know, quick on what you just mentioned. That's a very easy and a good trick to get rid off monthly pay event, you cancel your card and boom, you save like $2000-$3000 you know, absolutely, you know, but you know jokes apart, I think that's possible in you know small businesses when you have like one individual and probably 20-30 services to manage. But when you are a large company with, you know, $10-$50 million in revenue, team of 5200 and hundreds of services, if you cancel the card, guess what other people will start calling, hey why my HubSpot is down? You know, it's not working, you know, have you run out of money? Why aren't we paying? The story is very similar to how we started our previous company, Bitzer Mobile. I actually ran growth for a unicorn called Chargebee before starting Quolum and my team was spending a lot of money on software and when you are a fast growing SaaS startup like Chargebee and your team basically has unlimited expense account, hey spend on marketing services, you know, buy the tool that you want to buy because you as a company are indexing for customer acquisition, your indexing for growth, you don't watch your bottom line that hawkishly. But somebody else is, your finance department is, your CFO is. So the poor guys would come to my office and say, hey in this, can you forward me that invoice or the receipt for the $600 payment you just made. And I said no, I didn't make the payment. Guess who made? Somebody from my team had access to my corporate card and which I give willingly saying, hey, you know, go buy this whenever you need it and you know we'll expense it or we will submit the receipts. But again you get busy as a team, you don't know who bought it and you know where the invoice is. If you have a team of 20, is Hannah buying it? Is Jill buying it? Is Mary buying it, who's buying it? You have no idea. So I think that was the genesis and we had and then when I talked to the finance person they said yeah this is the problem. We use a spreadsheet to track and then we kind of figure out and many times we do not know what this product is because one of the hidden things in your statement descriptor is the name of the company which will be as obscure as ‘ABC Star Block’ and your finance team is trying to decode what is this tool, what does it do? And we talk, hey this is a problem. We don't have enough companies who are friends of the buyer. If you look on the other side, you have hundreds of marketing tools, sales tools helping you sell more. What we found there were zero tools helping you buy less or helping you buy thoughtfully or responsibly. And I left Chargebee and then started Quolum with a grander thesis of how can we be on the buyer side and help them manage, help them pay less, help them be responsible about software purchases and that's how Quolum was born in 2019.

Jeff Bullas

00:34:04 - 00:34:22

So your solutions would be different to mine. So mine was a very simple solution and very non-technical, the credit card that no longer works.

So what was your solution?

Indus Khaitan

00:34:23 - 00:35:39

We do 2 to 3 things. So the credit card which works but if you desire I don't want to pay to this merchant, we can make the credit card not work for that merchant. So you can actually block the merchant from charging that's like a one feature. But overarching we issue a card which is only designed to pay for SaaS and Cloud and digital. So using our card, you can't buy a Starbucks coffee, you can't pay for an airline ticket, you can't take an Uber ride, but you can pay for Sigma, you can pay for Jura, you can pay for Zoom or HubSpot or Zendesk or AWS or any other Cloud tools and this helps us optimize not just the payment flow but whether you're using the products or not. So if using the card you bought 500 licenses for HubSpot and then 300 people are never logging in. It will alert you and say, hey Jack in marketing, can you cancel 300 accounts and save us that money. It kind of optimizes from the payment side and the consumption side it kind of brings it together.

Jeff Bullas

00:35:40 - 00:35:45

That's very interesting. So you've basically got a financial as well as a technical solution, is that correct?

Indus Khaitan

00:35:46 - 00:35:47

That's correct.

Jeff Bullas

00:35:47 - 00:36:03

Right. So is this a SaaS credit card as part of the solution? And so your software to text whether the software is being used, the SaaS as a product. So is that a dashboard that you provide? That dashboard provide that?

Indus Khaitan

00:36:04 - 00:36:33

Yeah. So you get, it's all self service, let's say today you want to become a customer. You log into our tool. You do the US, you know, federal government mandated, you know, onboarding, which is, you know, real person, real company, real business and you get a card in less than five seconds and you put the card on Zoom and then our software will track your usage on Zoom. It will alert you if you're not using, it's all self service dashboard on what you're doing and what you're supposed to be using on.

Jeff Bullas

00:36:35 - 00:37:22

So I love this solution, that sounds great because I had a problem with it. But yours sounds a little bit more elegant and thoughtful. Mine was more about forgetful. Yeah. So, what's some of your estimates of how much you're saving and obviously you're targeting bigger organizations with largest subscriptions for for HubSpot for example. So, not that you want to cancel HubSpot because it's such a good tool, but so what some of the savings you're producing in terms of dollars and maybe percentages, maybe both would be good to know a little bit.

Indus Khaitan

00:37:24 - 00:38:31

Yeah. So on an average we have seen companies saving close to 22-25% on their annual SaaS expenditure. And this is across all the tools, not just one fast product, but you know, a company with, let's say 10 million in revenue, I would say $1-$1.5 million in SaaS expenses. They would save quarter million, add that money to the bottom line very easily minimum. So 25% easy. We have seen companies save $15k-$20k on the day of the onboarding. So they come on board and they connect some of these tools and boom, you know, curiosity, you go to the dashboard say, hey, we bought this to last year again not naming a specific tool. Why did we not start using it? It also happens. Somebody paid $25,000 and never started using it and the renewal happened and we catch it and that money then gets added to the bottom line because then cancellation happens.

Jeff Bullas

00:38:32 - 00:38:46

Yeah, because you're actually just, you're basically giving back like just mentioned, quarter million dollars plus your typical client $10 million dollars revenue market. That's huge. That really is huge.

Indus Khaitan

00:38:47 - 00:39:01

And especially in today's market, you could use that money to not fire people, not do layoffs because you know that quarter million could be depending on where you are, it could be 5 to 10 people's annual salaries.

Jeff Bullas

00:39:02 - 00:39:12

Right. Yeah, it's really cool. And so what's your pricing model business model for this? SaaS?

Indus Khaitan

00:39:12 - 00:40:12

We work, we quack like SaaS, we work like SaaS and you walk like SaaS so it's a subscription business. You become a customer, pay us month by month on a tiered pricing model and you know we actually guarantee a one X savings in the first year for example to reveal our pricings, we let you have a million dollars in spend, we will charge you around $30,000 annual for our subscription fees. You know roughly you know $1000-$1500 a month or $2000 a month. And if we do not meet your savings guarantee of at least $30,000, we will refund 100% of our fees back because we're confident and we have seen that we are confident because we've seen data that companies are wasting so much money, we can easily recoup you know 10-20%. So one X of our fees are added back to your bottom line. If you do not save that much money.

Jeff Bullas

00:40:13 - 00:40:34

Correct. So you got that important guarantee. Yeah, which helps with I suppose sales. So I'm just thinking as you mentioned that you quack like SaaS, you look like SaaS, you sound very sassy. A bad joke.

Indus Khaitan

00:40:34 - 00:40:40

It's that, that joke and customers love us because we are sassy.

Jeff Bullas

00:40:41 - 00:41:14

That's terrible. I don't know if I'll actually write that down, but I might so where are we up to today? How many customers do you have? Can you reveal that? And is there a product roadmap that you're thinking about as well? Because now you realize that exiting after three or four years is maybe not a good thing. It's maybe best to play the long game. So as growth and, and yes, house growth going for you guys. And how many customers up to, if you can reveal that, if you can't, that’s fine.

Indus Khaitan

00:41:14 - 00:42:50

Yeah, we will share some numbers. So we build a product, we started selling, we had some beta customers last year, we started late fall August, September timeframe when the first version of the product came out. And you'd be surprised we, we sell to finance. So we are in Ops or CFO office facing product and in our outreach of the last, you know, from last year, you'd call upon or send emails to or get introduced to finance folks and they're like ‘Interesting, I'm not interested in saving money right now. We wanna hit our revenue numbers, we have enough money in the bank, we'll talk to you later.’ Fast forward to 2022 June, they said, hey I remember you called me but I never called you back. Can we chat?

What has happened in 2022 is, you know, stock market has taken nosedive. Evaluations have corrected and there is a mandate from the board, go optimize on your spend, you know, go save money, cut costs and then people have started reaching out so fast forward to the story. We have close to 50 customers today. The growth has started in the last three months and you know, increasingly we are signing up customers every week. Looking forward to a healthy end of the year this year. Thanks to increased awareness about being responsible citizens in the business community. Not like spending like crazy. I think good times ahead for us.

Jeff Bullas

00:42:51 - 00:43:37

I think it's a very simple product to explain as well by the sounds of it and you're saving money and also, yeah, so the mark at the moment, but what's happening around the world is that it's not just about raising money or making revenue. It's also about making sure that you reduce expenses and you guys look, I already know that how important it is and $2,000 to $3,000 a month is important, but $200k- $300,000 a year? That's a big number. Like you said, you could hire more sales staff if you wanted to or whatever you want to do or the CEO can retire in the south of France. Maybe that's the other option.

Indus Khaitan

00:43:39 - 00:43:44

Yeah, I'll give everybody a brand new iPhone with 250,000 dollars.

Jeff Bullas

00:43:45 - 00:44:21

That’s right. Exactly. So what have you learned along the way? You've obviously realized that playing the long game and having and being patient and also what you learned from the lesson that you revealed, which is you thought you only had 500 potential customers. In fact, there was hundreds of thousands of customers. So what else have you learned along the way in terms of being an entrepreneur and also being a founder of a tech company? What are some of the things that you'd like to share with our listeners and viewers?

Indus Khaitan

00:44:22 - 00:46:02

I think from the previous story, I think that’s the paradox of loss aversion, which kind of confounds every entrepreneur, every founder that hey, is this done, is this the last leg of this particular business? But you know, in hindsight, you know, there are always very large adjacent markets, you know, I think you alluded to the Uber story briefly, Uber started as a black car on demand. Their business actually caught up 100 X when they started doing Uber X because every small, you know, passenger or a corporate traveler, they needed a car on demand rather than waiting for a taxi. Uber's business, you know went 100 X when they launched Uber X as a model, not the black car. Black car was just for the elites, right.

So I think as founders, we have to learn to look slightly away from our current zone of where we are selling the same product could be used in different areas. That's one of my biggest learning. Its software is still growing rapidly. You know, automation is still not done. You know, so many. If you look at my desk right now, it's partially paperwork. And of course a lot of things that are old school, you know, receipts, there's a DMV registration that I just completed. So there's a lot to be done in tech. I don't think as entrepreneurs, we should give up that easily like in four years you're done, but play for the long haul for 10-15 years and it will compound very sharply in future. So I think that's the one learning I have.

Jeff Bullas

00:46:03 - 00:46:08

So you're targeting companies that are $1 million dollars plus in spending. Is that right?

Indus Khaitan

00:46:08 - 00:46:10

That's right.

Jeff Bullas

00:46:10 - 00:46:30

So is there a market for managing the smaller end of town as you mentioned that every one of us is actually as individuals, we're all paying for the subscription software as a service products. The trouble is that that's so time intensive maybe and might not work, but I'm sure you're thinking about it.

Indus Khaitan

00:46:32 - 00:47:16

I think the longer haul, if we, you know, make this software onboarding friction less and, you know, do some more AI/ML to detect malicious charges or inadvertent expense line items in your statements, we can detect and automatically go cancel. The trouble is the automation between what appears on your charge versus the cancellation process still manual, you know, the APIs do not exist. I think when we find that we can bridge that gap from your statement to cancellation, I think it could run for anybody, you know, one person business or 100 people business, you could just figure out the charge, you know, go automated, figure out if you're using an hour and go cancel.

Jeff Bullas

00:47:17 - 00:47:25

So maybe it's going to be available at some stage, it's just a matter of the technology catching up to deliver that, isn't it?

Indus Khaitan

00:47:26 - 00:47:28

That's correct.

Jeff Bullas

00:47:29 - 00:47:45

So any wise words to entrepreneurs around the world wanting to start a business, that you've obviously had a lot of experiences beyond play the long game and anything else.

Indus Khaitan

00:47:45 - 00:49:19

I think at least in tech entrepreneurship, I think two things matter a lot. So I remember listening to this very popular investor, I'm forgetting his name and he quoted when you start a business, think about whether you're building a better banana or you're creating a new fruit, because if you're creating a new fruit, your ride is going to be tough for the first 3 to 4 years because, you know, you have to create the demand for that fruit, you have to make people taste it before you can scale it, if you're building a better banana, everybody knows what a banana, it cracks like a banana looks like a banana, it is a banana. Yeah, it's a shorter banana, longer banana, you know, colorful banana. People know what a banana is, but you have to tell them yours is slightly better, so you, as an entrepreneur have to figure out what is your business, is it a better banana or better or a new fruit and then tune it accordingly, whether you have to raise money from venture capital, can you self sustain it with small savings and run it forever? Are you looking for that particular outcome, which is, yep, you know, 0-1 in two years and 100, 200 million in 10 years. So design it alongside, as you're thinking about the product, you know, banana versus the fruit, and then think about whether you can scale it to that level, I think many founders get it wrong, they kind of do all of those things, every business they think is a venture scale business, but in reality it is not, I think being self reflecting about that question is very important.

Jeff Bullas

00:49:19 - 00:50:22

Yeah, I think that's a very important differentiator and I think a lot of entrepreneurs become solo preneurs, because they really haven't thought about building processes and systems in tech to actually help scale their business and they end up trading time for money. So you've obviously got a business that is scalable and also the other thing that's good about software as a service products, which I don't think we've alluded to, but you mentioned, I think along the way is that they can be incredibly profitable because once you've built the software, it's just a matter of people onboarding and that can be very simply done if you think about it correctly.

So it has been an absolute pleasure, mate, to talk to you. As I say in America, thanks buddy. And I look forward to actually catching up with you in Silicon valley one day. So thank you very much. Is there anything else you'd like to like? How do people find you? What's the best contact point?

Indus Khaitan

00:50:23 - 00:50:49

Yeah, you could find me on LinkedIn, Indus Khaitan. You know, fortunately there is only one person by that combination. I'm on the top of Google. If you type in my name in this case or go to Quolum.com, you'll find my coordinates there, connect with me on LinkedIn. Find me on Quolum.com and as in America, my kids would say thanks bro. Good chatting with you, Jeff.

Jeff Bullas

00:50:49 - 00:50:57

Thanks. And this has been an absolute pleasure, mate, and enjoy and I love hearing your stories and what you've learned, Thank you very much.